Roswell, New Mexico is The CW’s latest entry into the reboot and revival craze that’s brought back so many old TV shows, whether they should have been resurrected or not. As a fan of the original Roswell series, I had mixed feelings going into this version. After watching the pilot, I think that if viewers can focus on this version and leave behind expectations based on the original series, it’s an enjoyable show. Roswell, New Mexico has the potential to live up to some of the early promise that the original showed, before it turned into a charming mess.
We (Metamaiden and Metacrone) loved the original Roswell fiercely. We own the DVDs and have watched the entire 60 plus episode series ‘I don’t know how many’ times. Actually, we should probably write a Quick Review of the series and recommend essential episodes.
Keep an eye out for that review. It’s HERE.
We also own the original Roswell High Series of 10 books by Melinda Metz. The original TV series was commissioned based on the first book, so the two series don’t have much in common beyond the basic premise.
What we’re trying to say here is twofold: This is a major fandom for us, and Roswell has always been a story with multiple versions. The novels and the original series were written at the same time. So which is the real cannon? Neither. The story works best if you’re open-minded about many things, from “mixed relationships” to different versions of stories about aliens to reinterpretations of beloved characters.
Stories stay alive and vital because they are periodically reinterpreted. The Roswell story has been around since 1947, but stories about alien invaders have been around for even longer. Jason Katims and Melinda Metz didn’t invent the basics of this story. They wanted to make a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, based on Shakespeare (who is no stranger to reinterpretation) and settled on an alien story, as a distinction that would still pose issues between two people who are in love.
Let’s give executive producer Julie Plec, the creative force behind the wildly successful Vampire Diaries franchise, and Carina Adly MacKenzie, Plec’s young protegé and the showrunner for Roswell, New Mexico, a chance to take their shot at this timeless story of strangers in a strange land and true love that must beat impossible odds. And let’s applaud The CW for continuing to support female showrunners, and giving young women a chance to prove themselves.
The Pilot’s opening is narrated by Liz Ortecho, who introduces us to her hometown of Roswell, NM, site of the infamous alien spaceship crash which took place on June 14, 1947. The ship’s crash landing, which happened on Foster Ranch, in the desert outside of town, is summarized in images, while Liz discusses its impact on the town. We’re shown a meteor-like green glow which has a high-speed collision with the ground. The glow turns out to be an alien spaceship. It breaks into glowing pieces which are investigated by local and military authorities.
Liz tells us that the crash has drawn in tourists and seekers ever since, searching for answers to their existential loneliness. While growing up, Liz was searching for something in Roswell, too, until she realized that it’s really just a mundane small town, full of small-minded people, living small, petty lives. She couldn’t wait to leave, and never looked back.
Switch to the present day, and the action happening in real-time.
Liz is alone in her car, driving back to Roswell, late at night, when she is stopped at a police checkpoint. She assumes she’s being stopped because she’s a Latina. Max will deny this, but I’ve seen it happening at checkpoints in southern New Mexico, and that was before the immigration issue got crazy.
If you want to move illegals around without getting stopped, ask a middle-aged Anglo friend for help. Youngsters are always suspicious in a state with drug issues.
The cars are supposed to drive slowly through the checkpoint, so the police can look at their license plates, registration stickers, the people inside, and anything else that catches their eye. But this is a made for TV moment. Only the Feds check immigration status in New Mexico. Other branches of the justice system leave the Feds to their business.
Liz rolls down her window, already making a speech about her rights as a citizen and the call she’ll be making to the ACLU, as she pulls out her passport. She stops cold when she sees that it’s Max, and flashes to a high school memory. They realize that it’s been 10 years since they’ve seen each other. Max has stayed in town. Liz seems surprised. Max seems happy that she’s back.
Sheriff Valenti, who is the mom of Liz’s ex-boyfriend, Kyle, interrupts them. She assumes Liz is in town for the ten year high school reunion, and is the same good girl that she always was. She lets Liz go without further ado.
Liz goes straight to her family’s restaurant, none other than the Crashdown Cafe, where the food has an alien aroma to it and the waitresses have little green antennae. An alien conspiracy theorist is podcasting from a booth in the diner as we speak. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which kind of illegal aliens he’s referring to.
“I know you think you’re safe, but you’re not. Aliens have already ruined your life. Aliens are the illuminati. They’re conditioning us. You ever tangle with a Beyoncé fan on Twitter? Relentless. They’re brainwashed by subliminal messaging in the music. And soon, the war for the soul of America will be on. This is the Gravity of It All Podcast. Now a word from our sponsor, Alpha Testosterator gelcaps.”
Liz enters the diner just as the podcaster finishes. They strike up a conversation. When he asks if she’s a believer, she tells him that her great-grandfather was abducted and impregnated by an alien in 1947. Ever since, only the men in the family have been able to carry children.
Liz’s father, Arturo, catches her teasing the customers again and can’t believe his daughter is such a miscreant, after he carried her for 14 months before giving birth. 😉
They have a warm reunion, then Arturo goes back to work. Liz tells him she went through an ICE checkpoint (ICE= Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and suggests, again, that they move to a sanctuary city where his immigration status wouldn’t be such an issue. Arturo doesn’t want to leave his home and his super cool business, which he obviously couldn’t transfer anywhere else. Liz just wants to sleep at night knowing he won’t get deported.
Not going to happen for the next few years.
Arturo asks how the drive was, and Liz sarcastically says it was awesome, since there’s so little to look at between Denver and Roswell.
The New Mexico and Colorado natives always think this. There are actually spectacular mountain and desert views, plus you go by Colorado Springs, Santa Fe, other small cities and a couple of casinos.
Liz gravitates to a bulletin board on the kitchen wall, where a funeral notice for her sister is still hanging. It says, “In loving memory of Rosa Ortecho, January 17, 1989- June 1, 2008.”
Liz sends her father to bed, promising to finish the shift for him and close up. After a bit of negotiating, she wears the antennae that go with the waitress uniform. Once everyone is gone, she puts her favorite song, Mrs Potter’s Lullaby by Counting Crows, on the jukebox and dances to unwind.
Max slowly makes his way in, watching her dance and clean up the dining room, but not wanting to be too creepy. After a minute, he coughs a little to let her know he’s there. The music fades, because they only have eyes for each other. It may not be a teen romance, but they’re still soulmates who’ve been separated for ten years.
I’m holding back on those crying emojis, ok? Imagine original Max and Liz being separated at the height of season 1, supposedly for their own safety, and her mind being wiped by Isobel or Tess. Then they meet up again 10 years later. That’s roughly the situation we have here.
This reboot moves beyond Romeo and Juliet, to give us Persuasion, my favorite Jane Austin novel. It’s so much more meaningful when grown ups who’ve suffered find love than when it’s teenagers who don’t know what they’re doing. I have nothing against teen romance, but grown up love is so much more complex, and a love that’s been lost and rediscovered has so many obstacles to overcome, but also has so much depth.
Nathan Parsons is really nailing that whole soulful staring at Liz thing that made Jason Behr a heartthrob. I could cry just watching that.
Remember when I said this was a major fandom for me? I may be happier to see it return than even I realized. But I will attempt to be a professional, if unpaid, recapper from here on out.
Max explains that he came by to tell her that one of her running lights on her car is out. That’s why he stopped her at the checkpoint, but she didn’t give him a chance to mention it. He wants her to know that he’s not one of the bad guys. He makes to leave, but she’s been doing her own soulful staring, and doesn’t want to let him go. Just as he’s on his way out the door, she asks him if he wants a milkshake.
Liz makes him something green and offers to put a couple of shots of bourbon in, to make up for the way she treated him earlier. He tells her not to worry about it. Immigration has been pestering them, but he didn’t join the force to tear families apart. Liz asks why he did join. He wanted to protect people. It helps him sleep at night. Liz remembers that he wanted to be a writer.
Max notices the song playing on the jukebox. Liz explains that it’s her favorite song, the song that picks her up when nothing else can. It was her sister Rosa’s song, too, and Liz always copied her big sister.
Max asks where she’s been lately. She tells him she’s been in Denver, working on an experimental regenerative medicine study. They were onto something special, but their funding was redirected to building an unnecessary border wall, and she lost her job. So she came home, and now she’s sharing a milkshake with her high school lab partner.
Just as Max starts to get serious, several shots are fired through the front window of the diner. Max pushes Liz down to the floor to protect her, but he’s a few seconds too late. She’s already been hit in the chest, on the left side, and is bleeding out quickly. He puts his hand on the wound and heals her, but she’s mortally wounded, so it requires an immense amount of power. Max draws power from the environment around him to supplement his own. Apparently that includes the power grid, since lights explode and the power goes out, but there also looks to be a small earthquake.
As Liz starts to regain consciousness, Max breaks open a bottle of ketchup and pours it over the wounded area to disguise the blood. He makes sure she’s alright, then races out of the cafe to pursue the shooter. Liz tries to understand what happened to her, and discovers the bullet hole in her dress.
The Roswell, New Mexico title card comes up.
There were definitely sparks when they began their relationship. And blood. And ketchup. There must be some significance to that combination.
At least he’s not a vampire.
There’s a lone gunman, on foot, but Max is too depleted from healing Liz to keep up with him. Max follows the perp into an alley, then collapses to the pavement. He uses his special alien psychic communication powers to let his sister, Isobel, know he’s in trouble.
Isobel is having a date night in with her husband, Noah, and trying something new. Noah is tied to the bed and wearing a red eye mask, while Isobel has on a black Teddy and stockings. Noah has agreed to obey her all night long. When she tells him she has to leave for a while, she also says that it’s part of the thing, possibly called “hoverboarding” (she’ll have to check the book), and he’s not allowed to question her. She puts on her coat and rushes out to find Max.
After the noise and excitement, Arturo has woken up, and is cleaning up the dining room. Liz asks why he stays in a town where people hate them for no good reason. He disagrees, pointing out that they have a reason. Rosa did drugs and drove, got in an accident, and killed two innocent girls, along with herself. The ten year anniversary is coming up, which is bringing up memories for everyone, and putting people on edge.
Sheriff Valenti arrives at the diner to make sure everyone is okay. Liz goes on the attack, wondering why no one is protecting her father and his business.
Isobel finds Max in the alley, still on the ground, and hurries to bring him a bottle of nail polish remover. He drinks it as fast as he can. As he does, the power comes back on, so he must have still been pulling whatever energy was available from the grid.
But what’s the deal with the nail polish remover? And how did they, as tiny kid aliens, figure out they needed to drink an otherwise poisonous substance, then convince their parents to buy it for them? Did it smell good to them? I hope it tastes good. Shouldn’t Max keep a flask of it on him for emergencies, like you’d keep an epipen for a serious allergy? So many questions about this development.
As Liz gets ready for bed, she notices a red mark on her shoulder where the bullet entered. She goes to see her ex-boyfriend, Kyle Valenti, who is now a surgeon, at the local hospital to ask him to examine her and do some scans. She remembers getting shot, but obviously she didn’t, so maybe she has a concussion or she’s going crazy. Kyle suggests she’s suffering from trauma because of the gunfire and orders the scans.
At dawn, when Max is done with the night shift, he checks in with Sheriff Valenti, who tells him Liz seemed okay after the shooting, though just as mouthy as ever. She orders him to write up his report, then go to bed. And shave. He replies that he knows how she feels about patriarchal dress and grooming standards, and he’s just supporting her feminist agenda. She’s amused, but not fooled. And, by the way, there’s a surprise for him in the drunk tank.
It’s not that much of a surprise, since Max’s alien brother, Michael Guerin, is a regular and a ne’er do well. He’s also in the process of using telekinesis to steal the keys to his cage so he can escape. Max grabs the keys and reminds Michael of the cameras. Michael has insider knowledge that the cameras are all malfunctioning, darn the luck. Max still mildly suggests that Michael follow procedure for getting out of his cell.
Michael wonders what’s up with Max, since he would usually get a lecture along the lines of: “Why you got to cause a scene, Michael? Why don’t you drive the speed limit, Michael? Why don’t you spend your nights like I do, crying and masturbating to Russian moralistic literature, Michael?” It almost sounds like a song, doesn’t it?
Isobel joins the party, looking for an explanation about the night before. She tells Max he has 30 seconds to start talking, or she’ll melt his brain. Michael, who is a total gossip, is all in on the conversation, and dying to hear what Max did. When Max is done explaining about healing Liz, both Isobel and Michael have fits at him. Isobel can’t believe he risked their secret after 20 years, especially for Rosa Ortecho’s sister. Michael blasts his way out of the cell and blames Max for putting heroics over protecting his family. He blasts Max across the room and walks out.
Isobel remembers the cameras in the room, but Max tells her not to worry about them. She goes into a vicious rant: “Don’t worry? I have been worried my entire life that someone would find out about us. That we would end up dissected, imprisoned. I am married to someone who can’t ever know who I am, and that kills me. But I keep this secret, because you, me and Michael swore that we would. And now in one moment, you’ve thrown that all away, on some girl you had a thing for in high school. I hope she was worth it, Max.”
So, call me crazy, but don’t all of those burdens she just listed apply to Max and Michael as well? Isn’t Isobel, in fact, the only one who isn’t alone? And that last part was just mean and cold. The narcissist red flag is rising on this one.
Michael goes home, which is an airstream trailer on Foster Ranch, the same ranch where the alien ship crashed. His landlord and some military men are waiting for him outside the trailer. The landlord tells him that the Air Force has acquired the land, so Michael needs to move and take his trailer with him.
Michael sees another man peeking in his windows and goes to pull him away. When he does, he discovers that it’s Alex Manes, just back from a tour of duty in Baghdad. He came back minus a leg and is working with his father, Master Sargeant Jesse Manes, who is nearby collecting samples.
Michael’s too caught up in seeing Alex again to think about the implications of the Air Force acquiring the crash site and collecting samples. I’m thinking it’s not a coincidence.
Alex asks what Michael is doing in the trailer. Michael baits Alex by telling him he’s doing weed and casual sex. Plus, “Covert plans to violently overthrow the government. Quick, Alex, run and tell your daddy.” It sounds like there’s some history there. Michael goes inside. He has spaceship plans all over the walls, and some sort of sparkling, rainbow colored solution in a plastic bag.
Liz drives out to the site of Rosa’s car crash, where there’s a small memorial set up. Before she gets out of the car, she remembers telling Rosa about Max, just before she graduated from high school. Liz realized she cared deeply for Max and didn’t want to leave him behind when she left town. Rosa tried to convince Liz that she was already gone and shouldn’t weigh herself down with any baggage from Roswell.
There are three small wooden crosses at the site, with the names of the three victims on them. They all have flowers and rosary beads, but Rosa’s has been pulled up out of the ground and tossed aside. Liz puts the cross upright in the ground again, noticing that there are friendship bracelets on the arm of the cross.
Liz goes back into town and brings Max a milkshake. She waits for him outside of the police station, while Michael watches her from his truck. When Max comes outside, Liz tells him the shake is to make up for the one that got interrupted the night before and to thank him. He insists he didn’t do anything special.
Liz tells Max that her mother and her sister both had mental health issues, and she’s worried that she’s developing them, too. She was hallucinating, and thought she was shot. She even went to see Kyle at the hospital, and had him check to make sure there wasn’t a bullet still in her body. But there wasn’t, so she must be going insane.
Liz turns and starts to walk away. Max calls her back, but before he can say anything, Michael blows out all of the windows in a nearby car. There’s a woman in the car, so Max has to make sure she’s okay. Max knows this was Michael’s doing. Liz puts a plastic bag over the milkshake straw to protect the DNA in Max’s saliva, and hurries away.
Liz visits her high school best friend, Maria, who now works as a bartender at the local townie bar, The Wild Pony. Maria does fortune-telling, and is just finishing a palm reading for Hank, who makes a nasty, racist comment about Liz when she walks in the door. Maria calls him on it and sends him on his way. Then she tries to send Liz to the town’s tourist bar. Liz thanks Maria for leaving something at Rosa’s memorial. They drink a toast to Rosa.
When Max gets home, he finds Isobel waiting for him. She needs a photo of the three of them from high school for the reunion. She coos at the photo Max gives her, then goes straight to a cutting remark about Max and Liz. Max tells her that he’s going to tell Liz the truth. At this point, it will be less dangerous than leaving Liz in the dark. Isobel loudly insists that he can’t bring a stranger in on their secret. Max yells back that he’s not asking permission.
He immediately apologizes, having surprised them both. Isobel asks, half jokingly, if he’s in love with her. Max says that he hasn’t seen her in ten years. Isobel reminds him that there are too many secrets that Liz, in particular, can’t know. Being with her would just be too complicated. He needs to find someone, anyone else. Max sadly tells her that it’s been ten years. If he were going to move on, he would have done it by now. Several emotions cross Isobel’s face. Remorse, and the awful realization that she might have ruined his life for good, are in there somewhere.
Maria thinks it’s romantic that Max and Liz went through a shooting together. Liz notes that Max doesn’t seem to have any romantic interest in her. Maria tells her that the cure for rejection is sex with a rando. Liz has had a few shots by now, and decides that’s her cue to leave, before one of the townies in the bar starts looking good.
She goes outside to call an Uber and runs into Kyle. He asks if she wants to spend the evening together and forget about whatever’s bothering her. She takes him up on the offer, which turns into car sex, though he was up for whatever she wanted to do. I guess she’s a cheap date.
He tries to stop things at one point, thinking that using each other for random sex is a bad idea, but Liz wants to keep going. A minute later, he sees the telltale glowing, rainbow alien handprint where Max healed Liz. When he asks what it is, Liz cuts the date short.
Great job playing it cool, Liz.
The podcaster is back at the Crashdown Cafe, sure that the blackout was caused by aliens who are out to takeover the town by raping, murdering, and stealing their jobs.
Liz looks at Max’s cells under a microscope and discovers that they aren’t human. She goes looking for him, but finds him looking for her. She shows him the handprint. He asks her to take a drive with him.
Kyle calls Jesse Manes, because, before he died, his dad drilled into him the mantra, “If you see the handprint, go to Manes.”
Max and Liz go out into the desert, where he takes her into a boarded up cave. She fusses the whole way there, sure that he’s actually a stranger who’s going to serial kill her and lumping him in with the way she feels about the rest of the town. Max reminds her that he’s not a stranger, he’s a decent guy who stays in Roswell because he likes it there and the people have been decent to him, even though he knows people treated her badly after Rosa died.
Inside the cave, Max shows her three glowing pods that are floating, save for a spot where they’re tethered to the ground. They think the pods are the reason they survived the 1947 crash. They woke up 50 years later, in 1997, looking like 7 year old children, and wandered out into the desert. They were found by a trucker, then Max and Isobel were adopted and Michael went into foster care.
Liz is actually relieved to find out the truth, because it’s better thinking she’s going crazy. She’s already proven to herself that his DNA isn’t human, now he’s just confirming it. Max explains that keeping their secret has always been the most important thing to him, until he realized she was dying. Liz promises to keep the secret, too.
Jesse Manes also takes Kyle for a drive so that he can explain some things. He tells Kyle that after the 1947 crash, the Valentis and the Manes started an organization together that’s dedicated to maintaining the safety of the town, the country, and the planet. He uses a digital palmprint reader to open what looks like old, metal storm doors on a derelict old building. Inside, it’s a huge underground facility, which Manes calls Project Shepherd.
At the high school reunion, Isobel and Michael are plotting the best way to ruin Max’s life, for the second time. Michael wants to make sure that Isobel is prepared to use her mind-wipe powers on Liz to take away her memories of Max, should Liz betray them. Just like Isobel did ten years ago, when they made her leave town without Max.
Liz has lots of questions about aliens for Max, but he doesn’t have answers. He’s just a guy from Roswell who happens to have powers. He did consider leaving town once, ten years ago. If it wasn’t for Michael and Isobel, he would have followed her- followed in her footsteps, that is.
He has to leave to go to the reunion, because it’s important to Isobel. Liz decides to go with. She asks about the other times he’s saved people, but he never uses his powers to save anyone. Liz realizes that he did it because it was her. She asks why.
He responds by asking if she remembers the first time they met. She doesn’t, but he does. He offers to show her by connecting through the mark, but he has to touch it. She tells him to do whatever he wants. He’s a gentleman, so he just steps forward and touches the handprint.
Through a montage, he shows her images from their childhood and teen years. They were close friends who spent a lot of time together. She often shared her music with him by giving him one earbud while she kept the other.
When it’s done, she looks at him and says, “After high school, you would have followed me.” He replies, “Yeah. Anywhere.”
She tries to kiss him, and he wants to, but he stops her. He explains that the handprint is part of a temporary psychic bond they share because he healed her. It allowed him to show her his memories. What she’s feeling right now are his own feelings, coming through the bond. Until the handprint and the bond fade, he won’t get involved with her, since they can’t be certain that the feelings she’s absorbing from him aren’t masking her true feelings. He won’t take advantage of her like that.
It will take a few days to a week for the handprint and the bond to fade. Liz decides that she’ll wait and kiss him then, when she can prove her feelings are real.
Back in the bunker, Jesse is about to initiate Kyle into the family conspiracy business. He and Kyle’s dad were close friends, and everything he shares with Kyle in this room is fact.
The Facts, as Jesse knows them: The 1947 crash was real, and what crashed was a ship full of monsters. Most of the monsters died the night of the crash (he doesn’t specify if they died in the crash or if humans killed them afterward). But at least one survived. If Kyle saw a handprint, the violence isn’t over.
What I love about the way Jesse talks about the aliens is that it’s clear that the humans were and are the perpetrators of the bulk of the violence.
At the high school reunion, Alex confronts Michael about his trailer. The Air Force chemical engineers found high levels of phenyl-2-propanone around the trailer, which would be present if Michael were cooking meth. Michael stands up, and says that it’s not P2P, but it’s something similar. Alex gets right up in his space. As Michael tries to brush past him to walk away, Alex grabs his hand. Michael asks if Alex is trying to hold his hand. Alex asks if he ever gets tired of doing his macho cowboy thing. Michael asks the question right back and walks away. Alex watches him until he leaves the room.
Their lips were about two inches apart during that exchange, in case the actual conversation wasn’t enough to convince you they were hate-flirting. Michael is a cat, or a Klingon, and all romantic endeavors must begin with a heated, possibly violent, argument.
When Liz and Max get to the reunion, people stare at her and make rude comments. She and Max are ready to leave, but then Maria proves she’s a truly great friend by getting the band to play Liz’s favorite song and dancing in the middle of the floor. Liz knows she has to join in.
Max remembers watching Liz dance to the song in high school with her sister and friends. She was inside the diner, while he stood outside. As has happened several times throughout the episode, words and lines from windows and reflections cover his face and mouth, a reminder that he’s trapped by circumstances he can’t control, and things he can’t say.
Alex adjusts his prosthetic in a room off to the side of the reunion. Michael finds him there. Alex says that he thought sure Michael would have left town by the time he got back. Michael asks if Alex wants him to leave. Alex thinks that what he wants doesn’t matter, since he’s not a kid anymore.
As they’ve been talking, Michael has been slowly walking toward Alex. Alex sort of gravitates closer to Michael, and they finally smash themselves together, kissing like they’ve been starving without each other.
Isobel finds Max, who’s watching Liz dance with Maria. She guesses that he told Liz. He admits that he did, and explains how well it went. He’s sure they can trust Liz. Isobel scoffs at him.
When the trust breaks down, as it inevitably will, it’ll be Isobel’s fault.
Jesse, still talking to a rapt Kyle: “They are a violent race. They despise compassion. They despise freedom, love and they thrive on our tragedy. They are at their very core, killers.”
Michael and Alex are just existing in each other’s space and letting it bring them back to life for a few minutes.
Isobel asks if Max told Liz about the other thing, and he cuts her off before she can finish. Liz can never know the truth about what happened to Rosa.
Liz touches the handprint, which is close to her heart. Then she pulls Max out onto the dance floor with her.
The Alien Diaries* Roswell, New Mexico has a 13 episode season, of which 5 are directed by women. The pilot and one other episode are directed by Julie Plec. Shiri Appelby, who played Liz Parker in the original series, directs episode 9. Paul Wesley, from The Vampire Diaries, also directs an episode. There are female writers credited on 8 of the episodes.
The regular cast includes Jeanine Mason as Liz Ortecho, Nathan Dean Parsons as Max Evans, Lily Cowles as Isobel Evans-Bracken, Michael Vlamis as Michael Guerin, Michael Trevino as Kyle Valenti, Tyler Blackburn as Alex Manes, Heather Hemmens as Maria DeLuca, Trevor St. John as Jesse Manes and Karan Oberoi as Noah Bracken.
Recurring characters include Rosa Arredondo as Sheriff Valenti, Carlos Compean as Arturo Ortecho, Riley Voelkel as Jenna Cameron, Amber Midthunder as Rosa Ortecho, Sherri Saum as Mimi DeLuca, Claudia Black as Ann Evans, and Dylan McTee as Wyatt Long.
I’m looking forward to seeing Claudia Black as Max and Isobel’s mother. Amber Midthunder plays Kerry Loudermilk on Legion. Though she’ll only be seen in flashback, since her character passed away 10 years ago, it’ll be fun to see her in a new role. Michael Trevino appears to be playing another character that I just can’t bring myself to like. I’m sure he’s a lovely person in real life, but the werewolf and now the jealous snitch both get on my nerves.
They left out Liz’s childhood cupcake dress, which is in both the books and the original series. That was a chance to show a little levity and put their own twist on a beloved image, while providing continuity with the other versions.
Themes in this episode: Dangerous secrets; What helps you sleep at night; Protecting people; The varying ways hands touch people- with good or bad intentions; The positives and negatives of loyalty; The meaning of home and how much it’s worth sacrificing to stay in one’s home.
Personally, I might draw the line at dating someone who smelled like nail polish remover. Too many chemical fumes. I’ll still fight for their equal human rights, obviously. But my chemical sensitivities probably preclude a relationship. However, I do miss the addiction to hot pepper sauce that the original trio had. It made sense for New Mexico, the chili pepper capital.
Mysteries and Potential Storylines
What really happened to Rosa? We saw her trying to convince Liz that Max wasn’t worth getting fussed over. Did Isobel control Rosa’s mind and force her to say that? Is that why Rosa thought she was crazy? Did Isobel and Michael drive Rosa to her death, then Max helped cover it up, and let Liz go to keep peace in the family? What about Rosa and Liz’s mother? Did an alien also cause her to think she was insane? Do interactions with aliens run in the Ortecho family, instead of mental illness?
It looks like it’s the Manes and Valenti families who have issues with hereditary mental illnesses, especially illnesses involving obsession, delusions, extreme paranoia and anxiety. Those guys have been feeding their hate and fear off of ancient history for decades. Neither Jesse nor Kyle’s father would have ever even seen an alien.
Now Jesse’s initiating Kyle into their cult, and it looks ike Kyle is buying into the lies. Of course he is. He told us earlier in the episode that he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough, despite his good looks and accomplishments. Joining a secret warrior cult puts him a step higher than everyone else, making him feel important and special. Giving him a specific target for his free-floating hatred and anxieties let’s him release those feelings against a real world target, which is very satisfying in the short-term. In the long-term, a cult that’s devoted to hatred can eat away at your core until nothing good is left, just an angry shell that follows cult leaders’ orders.
Whatever Isobel and Michael did to Liz and Rosa, they didn’t understand how serious Max and Liz were about each other. Whatever the other reasons for wiping Liz and killing Rosa, part of it was to keep Max for themselves and put something between him and Liz that could never be overcome. Now, ten years later, Isobel, at least, realizes the seriousness of their actions, and how badly they screwed up. But Isobel is a defensive person who doesn’t admit when she’s wrong and doesn’t like to share Max with anyone but Michael. Realizing her mistake may cause her to treat Max and Liz worse instead of better.
It’s ironic that Max and Isobel are so worried about Liz, and apparently always have been worried about the Ortecho sisters and Max’s connections to people in general, but don’t give a moment’s thought to Michael’s connection to Alex. Michael saw Alex looking into his windows and Alex told him there are military chemical engineers investigating him. But Michael thinks he’s too smart for anyone to figure out what he’s up to.
Meanwhile, his ex-boyfriend distracts him from the nefarious alien hunting and investigation activities of the Air Force and Project Shepherd. It doesn’t seem like Alex knows about Project Shepherd, but he could be using Michael. Or, Jesse could be pushing an innocent Alex toward Michael for the purposes of distraction and incidental information gathering. Jesse doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d be okay with a gay son or a handicapped one, neither being manly enough for him, so using his son wouldn’t be a problem for him. He wants Kyle, the straight, able-bodied hero-doctor, as his replacement son.
Roswell, NM kept each character’s specialized powers from the original show, which wasn’t in the books. In the books they all have the same powers. In the old show, their powers are related to their previous positions as royalty on their planet. The way that they are doing each character’s personality feels like they might be planning to do something with that aspect of the storyline, even though it was part of the messed up plotlines that didn’t really go anywhere. There are many directions you could take a story about exiled alien royalty. I wouldn’t mind seeing where it could go, if done well. The Roswell novels that followed the series did follow up on that storyline in a more gratifying way.
I would bet good money that the experimental regenerative medicine study that Liz was working on was based on alien DNA from the aliens captured in the ’47 crash. That thread will be picked up again, sooner or later. And the scientists will want fresh DNA to work with. Could they have hired Liz because she’s from Roswell, then have laid her off hoping she’d go home and lead them to an alien?
Roswell vs Roswell, NM
The original Roswell pilot was one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen. I still go back and watch it sometimes. Its climax is at the Crash Festival, where all of the story elements come together. The visuals are amazing, speaking to questions of identity and the nature of what makes us human. The Dave Matthews song “Crash into Me” is used as a centerpiece, highlighting the tragedy that befell the aliens’ parents, which is now celebrated as a tourist attraction, but has left them alone and hunted.
So far, Roswell, NM doesn’t have the visual pizazz that the original had. In the new pilot, the high school reunion replaced the festival, and it’s visual and musical styles were workman-like, using a cover of a song when we’d already heard the original and a space that was indistinct and industrial, like every other poorly lit space on TV this year.
Roswell, New Mexico is obviously trying to forge its own way and not copy the original’s big moments, which is both a good idea, and frustrating. There are some iconic elements that they didn’t change, like Liz getting shot in the diner and Max healing her, but they changed much of what surrounded the moment. My guess is that scene plays fine, if you aren’t comparing it to the original, which had a song playing over Max healing Liz that became iconic, and witnesses who became a big part of the story. But “fine” isn’t the same as creating new iconic moments of their own.
They seem to be focusing on making Roswell into a drab little town, so the cinematography also comes off as drab. Maybe that will change as Max and Liz get closer and the aliens explore their powers. A world that feels more magical should look more magical, and there were touches of that in this episode, in the pods, the handprint, the sparks outside the Crashdown Cafe, and Max and Liz alone in the diner.
They did use several big songs at key moments, and the showrunner has said that her dedication to the soundtrack is her homage to the original, which also had a great soundtrack. But if the show is going to work, they also have to be able to do what I asked viewers to do in the beginning of the recap: Put aside the original, and let this show be something all its own. If it makes sense to highlight a moment, do it, even if it was also an iconic moment in the original. If the show is worth watching, it will develop its own audience, who won’t care about the moments from a 20 year old show.
In the original pilot, the scene where Max reveals to Liz that he’s an alien is unforgettable. Even Mr Metawitches was looking for those iconic lines. I didn’t mind that they were changed, but I did mind that the scene was played down to the point where Liz decided that it was no big deal that Max is an alien. She’s a scientist. She should feel some excitement and wonder looking at those pods and hearing what Max has to say. Her reaction shouldn’t be emotionless interrogation of a man she cares about and has known all of her life.
Max and Liz have a sweet, passionate chemistry. Michael and Adam have intense chemistry. The actors who play Liz, Michael, Alex and Max all work as the characters they’re playing. Michael Trevino seems like he’ll work out as Kyle, especially if he remains conflicted or turns against the aliens. We didn’t see enough of Maria for me to form an opinion of Heather Hemmens. Rosa is an intriguing character and I love Amber Midthunder, so if there’s any way to bring her back to life, I vote we go for it.
Isobel is a bit of a problem, since the actress and character come off as petty and selfish. She’s married, but Max can’t be with Liz, who she’s already driven out of town once? She seems like the type who pulls out her claws every time a woman comes near her brother, with the excuse that they have to keep their secret, and he can’t be trusted. That’s a soap opera-level downgrade of the high-strung but generous and intelligent character Katherine Heigl originated. I hope this Isobel will grow into a better person, fast.
The adults who we met in the pilot seemed well-cast. I like the switch up of making Sheriff Valenti a reasonable Latina woman, and bringing in military man Jesse Manes to play the evil alien hunter that Valenti was in the books.
Project Shepherd and the underground facility are straight out of books (though Project Shepherd has a different name), so that may be the biggest way that Roswell, NM intends to differentiate itself from the original series. There’s a wealth of material in the books, that the original series didn’t touch on, for the new series to mine for inspiration. I’m excited at the prospect of Roswell, NM going in that direction.
Original Roswell’s giant failings were its plot and consistency. Showrunner Carina Adly MacKenzie says that she has a detailed 5 year plan already laid out for Roswell, NM. A showrunner with experience in making a supernatural/scifi show, with a plan and a show bible, and a network that’s on board with that plan, is much more than the original show had at any point in its run.
This show knows what it is and where it’s going, which should help it avoid accidentally reinventing itself every season and contradicting what’s come before. And help keep Roswell, NM from succumbing to plain old silliness, though sometimes that’s too much to ask for on any show based on speculative fiction.
Still, if Roswell, New Mexico is going to compete with original Roswell, it needs to go big or go home. It’s off to a good, but not great, start. Hopefully, with a little time to find its own rhythm, it will grow into something amazing.
Carina Adly MacKenzie did an amazing interview with Collider.com in conjunction with the series premiere in which she addresses all of the typical viewer concerns. As far as I can tell, we couldn’t be in safer hands.
Related items from Amazon.com:
Images courtesy of The CW.