Roswell, New Mexico: Pilot

“Every small town has a story, but my hometown has a legend.”

Before we get started, let’s address the elephant in the room. This is not a reboot of the 1999 WB show Roswell.

It is a show based on the same Roswell High books as the ‘99 show. So yes, there are similarities. And if you liked the show, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. But if you thought a high school drama built around star-crossed lovers trying to hide the existence of aliens from the government and their parents was on the cheesy side, you may still want to give this a shot because while the themes of otherness and acceptance are still there, the characters and plots have all grown up. And if you never saw the original but science fiction that’s heavy on alien metaphors with a side order of science is your jam, you’re in for a treat.

I promise I will not spend every episode comparing the two versions. Art is a product of its place and time. The expectations viewers have for the shows they watch have changed. Therefore, each iteration must be judged on its own merits. What are they trying to say and how well do they achieve their narrative goals? For all their similarities, these two shows are saying something very different.

In many respects, the original show’s focus on Liz and Max’s love story sucked up much of the narrative oxygen in the room. The larger themes of alienation and acceptance, when they occurred, were almost solely through the metaphor of the aliens on earth. Here we address similar themes from multiple angles. By embracing diversity, in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, immigration status, and, yes, human vs. alien, they hammer home the idea that being “other” doesn’t necessarily make us different.

The feelings of otherness are not limited to our alien friends. Liz doesn’t fit in not only because of her father’s real, and her suspected, undocumented status but also due to the town’s residual hatred regarding her sister Rosa’s actions. Alex is a military man from a military family in love with a man who despises authority and refuses to conform. On paper, Kyle looks perfect. He’s a good-looking doctor from a respected family but he’s so lonely he’s willing to have a romp with an ex in his car while knowing she’s using him. Each of them is desperate to find a connection, and that desperation has the potential to lead down some dark paths.

Don’t get me wrong, at its heart this is still the love story of Liz and Max; two outsiders with an undeniable attraction for each other but separated by facts that would give Romeo and Juliet pause. At least those two were both human. Yet if not for Max’s love for Liz, we’d have no inciting incident. Liz would have died in a random shooting and he, Isobel, and Michael would have quietly continued their existence in Roswell with no one the wiser. Instead, Liz returns after a 10-year absence and Max refuses to lose her again.

His actions are not without repercussions. Liz is no longer a half-smitten high school student. She believed she was shot, her uniform had a bullet hole, there is a handprint on her chest, and no visible injury. No self-respecting scientist would let that mystery go uninvestigated which only leads her to more questions.

Thanks to her aborted fling with Kyle, he knows something is up too. Unfortunately, for all involved, Kyle goes to a far more dangerous source for answers. Now the secret Max, Isobel, and Michael have been harboring for over 20 years, that they are the aliens from the 1947 crash, is in danger of coming out.

Add to this the mystery of Liz’s sister’s death. As far as the residents of Roswell are concerned, Rosa, as her father put it, “took drugs, and she drove, and when she died, she took two innocent girls with her.” We know that’s not true or at least not the whole truth. Max, Isobel, and presumably Michael have something to do with Rosa’s death and whatever that truth is would spell an end to Liz and Max’s budding romance. So, of course, she’s going to find out, right?

Regardless of whether the trio is responsible for Rosa’s death (and does anyone really believe Max and Company deliberately killed her?) their fears of exposure are both real and well-founded. Chief Master Sergeant Manes and Kyle’s dad were involved with Project Shepherd. According to Manes, this project was created to protect humans from any threat that aliens might pose. However, Manes has already made that determination. And he isn’t subtle about his position on the monsters that landed in 1947 or the killers he believes they are.

What Have We Learned:

For starters, we know that Max can heal, Michael can move objects with his mind and Isobel can affect people’s thoughts. We also learned that Isobel used that ability ten years ago to send Liz away when she started reciprocating Max’s feelings for her. And apparently, Max isn’t the only one who’s been carrying a torch since high school. In Michael’s case, there was a lot more to the relationship than simply mooning over Alex from afar.

I happened to love the original show and I’ve always been skeptical of reboots. So, I approached this with a healthy dose of curiosity and very low expectations. However, the complexity of the characters, the adult themes, and the not-so-subtle commentary on the differing views on aliens of all stripes left me impressed. Consider me all in.

4 out of 5 glowing handprints

Parting Thoughts:


I loved the nods to the original, such as Crashdown’s waitress uniforms.

Project Shepherd is a military exercise, right? Was Kyle’s dad in the military too?

Liz’s confession to Max regarding her mother and sister’s mental issues sounded like a legitimate plea for information and not just a line to get Max’s DNA. Please tell me that’s going to get explained at some point.

While we’re on the theme of things they better address, Michael has a chemical similar to meth coming from his trailer. Huh?

And what’s Maria’s story? She got the short end of the stick as far as storylines go. I want to know what’s with the fortune-telling?

Quotes:

Arturo: “I like it here. I like making milkshakes for tourists dressed like little green men.”

Max: “I’m not one of the bad guys, Liz.”

Max: “So, where you been?”
Liz: “Denver, working on an experimental regenerative medicine study. We were onto something special, but of course we lost funding because someone needs money for a wall.”

Kyle: “So, we could do the awkward exes small talk thing, but I’m guessing that’s not why you’re here.”

Valenti: “For God’s sake, Evans. Shave.”
Max: “I heard you ranting about patriarchal dress codes and grooming standards last week. I’m just aligning myself with your feminist agenda, Sheriff.”

Hank: “Isn’t that the Ortecho girl? I thought she went back to her own country.”
Maria: “Uh-uh, Hank. You’re not distracting me from my money with your thinly veiled racism.”

Isobel: “The good old days. Just three happy kids who aren’t in danger of being dragged off to the Pentagon by men in hazmat suits because someone couldn’t keep his superhuman healing hands to himself.”

Isobel: “Fall in love with someone else, Max. Anyone else.”
Max: “It’s been ten years, Iz. If I could have, I would have.”

Kyle: “This is probably a bad idea.”
Liz: “I thought we were ignoring that in favor of the whole sex thing.”

Liz: “This is probably a bad idea.”
Kyle: “If only someone said that earlier.”

Kyle: “If you see the handprint go to Manes.”

Liz: "Michael outscored me on every AP exam. I thought he would get some scholarship, change the world.”
Max: “I don’t think Michael likes the world enough to bother changing it.”

Max: “She can never know what happened to Rosa.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Awesome review!

Shari said...

Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed it.

Billie Doux said...

I'm giving the series another shot, since I didn't give this pilot much attention the first time when it felt a bit too different from the original 1999 series, which I enjoyed back in the day. I was also weirded out by the CGI that was trying to make Nathan Parsons look like a teen in the flashbacks. But there are possibilities, and as you mentioned, Shari, some interesting references to alienation. And not just alien alienation.

Billie Doux said...

Let me add that I just don't understand Julie Plec's obsession with Michael Trevino.

Anonymous said...

I liked this more than I thought I would. I've never seen the previous show, but maybe that's not so bad while seeing this. Plenty of good actors here..and Michael is cute.
mazephoenix

Shari said...

I realize this show is probably not for everyone but I like the more sophisticated take on a show that I already loved.

That said, I'm right there with you on Trevino. In my opinion, he was the wink link in Vampire Diaries, and I haven't seen much improvement here.

At the moment, my favorite thing about the show is actually the Michael/Alex relationship. As I said in my review, there was obviously more to the relationship than watching from afar. And there is certainly more going on than simple attraction now.