Roswell: Season Two, Part Three

"We try to live responsible, logical lives, but we can't tell our hearts how to feel."

(This review covers the original series Roswell episodes 2.16 through 2.21, and includes spoilers!)

The final arc of Roswell’s second season is… a lot. After suffering the loss of one of their own, the core group go toe-to-toe with one another as they each deal with this unexpected death in very different ways. By the time the credits roll on the finale, everything is completely upended. It’s all very heavy stuff, and while the arc features some strong material, it's a very rushed group of episodes. Whether behind-the-scenes meddling led to such a Frankensteined ending is anyone’s guess, but it's hard to fully go with what’s being presented to us because it doesn’t always feel like the intended result.

Before things take a dark turn, Liz and her friends have to deal with something every teen has to deal with: Prom. ‘Heart of Mine’ kick starts this arc by going back to basics, even opening with one of Liz’s old-school diary entries. All of the kids are paired off as they choose a significant other to take with them, though they don’t necessarily leave Prom with that person. Liz and Max go together as friends, only to wind up coming to an understanding that they aren’t the people they used to be. With the lie of what happened between Kyle and Liz still hanging in the air, they part ways; Max turns to Tess and Liz runs to Sean DeLuca. Tess accepts Kyle’s invitation, though Kyle eventually verbalises how platonic their relationship has now become (something Tess obviously has known for quite some time). Maria goes alone after she uncovers evidence that she believes points to Michael being unfaithful, but it turns out Michael was learning how to dance so he wouldn’t embarrass Maria on the night. Isabel and Alex also go together, and despite an agreement to keep things romance free, they end up sharing their first, and last, kiss. Seeing them finally experience such an earned moment only serves to make the events that follow Prom that much more painful. In many ways, ‘Heart of Mine’ is like a swan song for the series Roswell used to be, before things are irreversibly changed in the following episode.


In ‘Cry Your Name’, Roswell tackles something it has only ever really touched on before; death. After Alex is killed in a car accident, everyone has to deal with the loss of someone who has touched their lives in one way or another. As one of his closest friends, Liz outwardly struggles the most with losing Alex. As evidence starts to point towards his death being a suicide, Liz doggedly pursues the truth, leading to a huge rift between not just Liz and Max, but the humans and aliens as a whole. Though Liz’s tactics are a bit rough, she was right to not accept the evidence at face value. As she digs deeper into Alex’s time in Sweden, she learns that he never even went on his European trip in the first place. Max has a harder time accepting the truth since it means that it was Alex’s involvement in the alien craziness that cost him his life. This whole rift is very heavy on melodrama, but the performances behind it really sell the story; Shiri Appleby in particular is the perfect blend of sad and desperate throughout these episodes.

The tension between Max and Liz leads to Max leaning on Tess’ shoulder in a way he hasn’t before. It’s something that's been written in the stars for a while, but when Max and Tess finally consummate their past romance, Tess ends up pregnant. Naturally this is a revelation that shocks the entire group, but when the baby seems to struggle in Earth’s atmosphere, Max decides it’s time for he and his fellow aliens to return to their home planet. This is pretty noble of him, and doesn’t feel out of character. It’s Tess’ actions here that come out of left field, and I’m still not sure how I feel about them almost two decades later.



Whether it was the negative fan reaction to her inclusion in the series, or the writers’ inability to craft her a story outside of being the “other girl”, it made sense for Tess to leave. What didn’t make sense was this hastily written reveal that she was the one who really killed Alex, all to cover up her mind warp that took away four months of Alex’s life, and eventually his sanity. Was this twist always in the cards? I find it hard to believe, since Colin Hanks’ own exit was at his request to pursue a movie career. Was this a “kill two birds with one stone” type of situation?

In any case, Tess' immediate transformation into a scheming villain was a bit of a mess. Not only was she lying to the group for months, but both her pregnancy and the baby’s faked struggles to survive on Earth were also part of a plan Nasedo cooked up over 40 years prior to buy freedom for him and Tess when they got back home. It’s bizarre given what we had seen of both of these characters in the past, though it is worth mentioning the several shows of Tess’ power that were peppered throughout the season. It just so happens that master manipulator and murderer weren’t things I would have expected from her. As the granolith took off from the pod chamber in a shoddily CGI’d climax, I was left a little uneasy by the exposition dump that had happened moments before. It served its purpose, but I just don’t think the twist made much sense. The series has bumped through a lot of silly story beats, but has remained relatively true to the characters, and its over-arcing theme of identity despite that. The same can’t be said for what happened with their most controversial character, here.



But while the writers clearly struggled with Tess, they managed to completely redeem Michael. After showing signs of a better man underneath his harsh and unlikable exterior prior to this arc, here we see him open up to Maria, allowing her to see him in a way Max has allowed Liz to see him from the beginning. They share their most tender and honest moment together in ‘The Departure’, right before Michael reveals Max’s plan to leave Roswell. He made it clear so many times that leaving was always his endgame, so when Michael bails out of the spaceship just moments before it leaves, it’s a significant moment. Not just because it allows Liz, Maria and Kyle the opportunity to tell Max the truth about Tess, but because of what it means for the things that Michael thinks are important to him. Suddenly, Roswell is the home he had been looking for all along. It’s a sweet and wonderful revelation, made all the more potent by the dark twists of fate that seemed to plague other characters this season, like Isabel.

After experiencing more than a few bumps in the road between them this year, the tension between Max and Isabel reaches boiling point, here. Max, determined to be the leader he was born to be, forbids Isabel from leaving Roswell after she’s given the chance to graduate early and attend college in San Francisco. Max comes across really badly throughout all of this, blocking every move Isabel makes to get away from the doom and gloom of her hometown. She does come to terms with Max’s actions when she learns about Tess’ pregnancy and the impending plan to leave Earth. Her home has always been with Max, and that doesn’t change whether it’s in Roswell or much further afield. It’s a very different choice to the one Michael made, but what’s important about it is that Max allowed her to make it herself. She didn’t stay onboard the granolith under duress, which helps lessen Max’s stubbornness somewhat.

Plus

Alex dies just one day before Kyle’s birthday, a distinction Jim makes clear to his son on the day in question. It’s a simple, sad and sweet moment between father and son.

Jim doesn’t accomplish much following his dismissal in the previous series of episodes, but he gets lopped with the difficult task of breaking the news of Alex’s death to the group.

‘Off the Menu’, the penultimate episode of the season, is set before the events that occurred from Prom onwards. It throws the flow of the season off. After a bit of googling I found out it was meant to air as the sixteenth episode but got pulled due to a shooting that occurred at the time. Maria’s recap at the start of the episode explains this timing away.

Liz grows close with Sean DeLuca during these episodes, but she never fully commits to him given her feelings for Max which she can't seem to shake.

Both Sean and Amy DeLuca are never seen again after this season. Sean served his purpose, but Amy's sudden erasure is odd. She's mentioned, but remains mostly invisible.

He Said, She Said

Max: "I've been really wrong about a lot. But I was right about one thing: To get you into my life, to be around you, to love you."

Roswell’s second season draws to a close with the series transformed, and it’s clear it won’t ever be able to turn back. While that’s all part of the package when it comes to shows growing and evolving, a lot of what transpired here felt born out of necessity to get rid of unwanted characters than a desire to drive the story forward. I’m glad this is a show that isn’t afraid to take risks though, and they certainly didn’t shy away from turning things on their head multiple times throughout this season. That’s why I will still remember most of it as positively as I did before this rewatch.

6 out of 10 granoliths.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I remember being disappointed in this season, and I'm sure you're right, Panda, that it was due to them writing out characters so clumsily. I do remember liking what they did with Michael this season, though.

TJ said...

I remember I really really disliked Emilie de Ravin's character. I couldn't stand her in Lost either, but I loved her in OUAT, so it's not the actress it's the character.

I still have fond memories of this series though, and I can't help but comparing it to the new one. I think I prefer the old Roswell.

Panda said...

Yeah, liked Tess when she first popped up in season 1, when she was all mysterious and alluring. After that, she didn’t get much to do that made her more likeable or relatable. Then of course she became the series scapegoat. I don’t think it had much to do with Emilie de Ravin, honestly. Claire was so annoying in Lost because she was so one-note after season 1, not because of how she was played. Lost did so many of its female characters dirty - but that’s a conversation for another time :)

In terms of this show vs RNM, I think I would pick this because of nostalgia and the fact that so many of the cast members here are a lot stronger, but RNM is telling a very worthwhile story, and it’s doing it well (at least, it did in the first season, which is all I’ve seen so far). I might break down my comparisons in a later post, or something.

Panda said...

They really did a great job with Michael in this season, for sure. I was really struck by how awful he was in season 1, so to do a 180 with him this year (and make is seem like an organic change) is quite the feat.

Billie Doux said...

I'm enjoying Roswell, New Mexico a lot. It took awhile for me to warm to it, but I think it keeps getting better, which is always a good sign.