Roswell, New Mexico: Barely Breathing

Safety is a feeling you only value once it’s been stripped from you.

This episode stripped most of our main characters psychologically bare. From Max’s loss of control to Isobel’s inability to trust her own mind, to the price paid by Jesse Manes for his obliviousness of his son’s capabilities. And while it made my character development loving heart go pitter-patter, it also made me fearful of what comes next.

Max reached his breaking point. It wasn’t due to his uncontrollable rage. Or the constant tap dance required to keep his mother or Noah from finding out the truth. Or even his inability to balance the love he has for Isobel and Michael with his love for Liz. It was seeing Isobel dying before him and being powerless to stop it. After a lifetime spent controlling everything in his orbit (no pun intended) his helplessness in this situation was unbearable. His mother accused Isobel and him of never needing her. She should have been more careful about what she wished for.

Speaking of Mama Evans, AKA Ann, she proved an interesting foil for Max. Her concern for appearances speaks volumes about what their childhood must have been like. This is epitomized by her scolding Max for the speeding ticket he gave to someone in their social circle and for the first question after learning of her daughter’s psychotic break being “Who knows?” It’s obvious that she loves her children, but it’s equally obvious where their ingrained need to appear normal comes from. In Mama Evans’ defense, it could not have been easy raising two children who routinely shut her out of huge chunks of their lives.

I’ve had enough health issues to understand the fear and anger felt over the betrayal of your body. However, I can’t imagine what it is like not to trust your own mind. Or to know that you could commit horrible acts of violence regardless of your conscious wishes. Isobel’s need to know that she is no longer a threat to anyone is understandable as is her desire for an open and honest relationship with her husband. So who am I to judge Isobel’s desperate decision to take an untested drug in the hope that it would lead to a normal life?

Michael, whose life could never be defined as normal, sees things differently. For him, using the serum isn’t Isobel’s attempt to get her life back. It’s a blatant denial of who she is. She is an alien and her abilities, for good or bad, are part of what makes her so. It’s no wonder he equates the serum to gay conversion therapy.

The necessity to save Isobel outweighs his personal beliefs. Michael realizes he needs Liz to save Isobel, and the only way to do that is to appeal to her relationship with Max. Between Liz’s feelings for Max, her knowledge of what it’s like to lose a sister, and her guilt over her role in this situation, she agrees.

There is one caveat. She needs Michael. Desperation and the slimmest hope that Liz means what she says leads Michael to open up his world to her. Liz learns something about Michael that I doubt he’s ever shared with Michael or Isobel. While they may want to make the best of the world they are on, he wants to go home.

After a childhood of physical and verbal abuse from Dear Old Dad, it’s clear that Alex has spent far more time studying his father than the other way around. Even with the knowledge of Alex’s training and the realization that his son discovered the existence of aliens, Jesse Manes continues to underestimate Alex rather than try to bring him into the fold. Then again, Mane’s people skills are nonexistent, forget about rusty. Manes’s failings as a father and, in my opinion, as a human being have led to him to being on the outside looking in on his own investigation.

But let’s just take a tiny step back and play this out. Alex finds a piece of alien technology. His investigation confirms that aliens exist and his father is involved. Upon learning this, his first thought is to leverage that knowledge against his dad. That is just all kinds of messed up.

Their misconceptions and mutual hatred of each other keep both of them from realizing the truth. Jesse is convinced that an alien would prey on Alex’s perversions to sabotage the Sergeant’s investigation. While Alex believes his father hates him so much that he would accuse Alex’s lover of being an alien just to punish him.

On the topic of messed up. How about Isobel taking over Kyle in her plot to have an experimental drug plunged into her chest? This goes to the heart of Isobel’s powers. If she influences rather than controls the minds of others then part of Kyle wanted to stop Isobel even at the potential cost of her life. Just as part of Liz wanted to leave both Roswell and Max behind a decade ago. I bring it up more for what it says about Kyle and Liz than what it says about Isobel.

And in our honorable mention category this week, we have both Maria and Cameron. Being the only main character left who doesn’t know about aliens, Maria is constantly on the periphery of the major storylines instead of taking part. This week is no exception. Her request/demand for Michael to repair the bar’s sign felt almost like a peace offering to the man whose arms she fell apart in an episode ago. After all, she wiped out his bar tab! As for Cam, she doesn’t strike me as the lapdog type. Especially now that the Chief Master Sergeant’s not-so-subtle quid pro quo morphed into outright blackmail.

While this episode is the setup for the next phase of our story as we hurtle towards the season finale (only five episodes left, ya'll) it felt more like the culmination of everything that came before.  Now that everyone’s cards are on the table, maybe we’ll finally get to see how the poker game plays out.

4.5 out of 5 flaws in the system

Parting Thoughts:

The title "Barely Breathing" comes from the Duncan Sheik song of the same name.

What is Kyle’s specialty? I’m fairly certain it’s not psychiatry. And more to the point, once Isobel started coughing up blood, would they really keep her in the psych ward?

Mama Evans is played by Claudia Black, whom I have loved since her Farscape days. She is yet another player from The Originals / Vampire Diaries stable. She played Riley Voelkel’s evil aunt on The Originals.

Speaking of Mama Evans, she talked about Michael as if she didn’t know what happened to him. Did Max and Isobel hide their relationship with Michael or was she being deliberately obtuse?

With so much going on, poor Noah got short shrift. I can’t imagine that he is going to take Isobel’s disappearing act well. Certainly not for the weeks, or months it may take to find a cure.

Quotes:

Liz: "I just need one day of not talking about, thinking about, or drinking about aliens."

Noah: "I just want things to go back to normal."
Isobel: "Things have never been normal between us. But I want them to be."

Alex: "I was kinda hoping we could go grab a beer. We could talk about the family legacy. Jim Valenti. And, oh yeah, aliens."
Manes: "I have a busy schedule. I don’t have time to discuss science fiction with you."

Michael: "Some broken things can’t be fixed. And some just shouldn’t."

Kyle: "That’s her power? Mind control?"
Isobel: "It’s not control so much as it is influence. I’m an influencer. Like Badgalriri."

Kyle: “What are you doing?”
Isobel: “I’m trying to get you to take off your shirt. But it’s not working.”

Alex: “When you’re trying to hack enemy intelligence the key is to find the flaw in the system and exploit it. You’re the flaw, Dad.”

Manes: “He’s not my child, is he? I don’t have the same obligation to keep him safe.”
Alex: “What are you talking about, Dad? When I was 17, I wanted to make music. You sent me to war.”

Manes: “What’s your endgame here?”
Alex: “I want to destroy the thing that you love. And I want to make you watch."

Liz: “Rosa got all the creative juice in my family. The art and dance and poetry genes were used up by the time I came along. So when I need to get creative, I turn to wine and Jagged Little Pill, channel my inner Rosa."

Michael: “I’m gonna go back to the hospital. I can’t let Max watch her die alone.”
Liz: “I can’t let him watch her die at all.”

Max: “You and Dad were great parents. We never needed anything."
Ann Evans: “Including me.”
Max: “You guys gave us so much. Maybe we didn’t know how to ask for more.”

Kyle: "I did my medical internship in Idaho.  I was a cocky bastard. I thought I’d sail through and become Dr. McSexy in no time."

Alex: “Why are you trying to frame Michael? Haven’t you done enough to him?”
Manes: “You assume I’m framing him simply because you’re blinded by your perversions.”

Max: “All day I’ve been thinking I wish I loved you less. 'Cause this is not something I survive. Okay, if you were trying to slip away without taking anyone else with you, you failed.”

Isobel: “I want to live. I want a chance.”

Alex: “Enjoy your freedom, Pops.”

Liz: “You should forgive her. Missing her will hurt less if you aren’t angry.”

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

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I'm a Claudia Black fan, too. And I have to say that by now, it's all about Max for me.

Shari said...

Be honest, wasn't it always about Max? I know your a huge Nathan fan! :)

I do love Max but I've always had a soft spot for Michael both in this version and the last. I guess I just like the Bad Boys with the vulnerable center.

Billie Doux said...

I became interested in Nathan Parsons when he took over the role of James in True Blood because the original actor quit, under some interesting and possibly homophobic-related circumstances. While his role in The Originals was okay, it was too small. I've been waiting for him to get a series of his own for, my word, five years.

I do like Michael now, although it took awhile. :) No spoilers, but I think I started really liking him in the final five episodes of this first season.

Shari said...

I had forgotten he was in True Blood! I agree about The Originals. But for me it was more about the role he played on the show. He was such a good man and he may have married the girl but she was never his.