Tuesday, January 15, 2019

REVIEW: 'Roswell, New Mexico' - Liz Returns Home and Learns About Max's Secret Life as an Alien in 'Pilot'

The CW's Roswell, New Mexico - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

When Liz returns to her hometown of Roswell, New Mexico, she reconnects with Max, her teenage crush, who is now a police officer. She soon discovers he is an alien who has kept his unearthly abilities hidden his entire life, alongside his sister, Isobel, and their friend, Michael. Master Sergeant Jesse Manes spearheads a long-standing government conspiracy - unbeknownst to his son, Alex. The politics of fear and hatred that run rampant threaten to expose Max and his family and could endanger his romance with Liz.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of The CW's Roswell, New Mexico.

"Pilot" was written by Carina Adly MacKenzie and directed by Julie Plec

Roswell, New Mexico is tackling some very potent and timely themes. It's exploring the fear of the unknown and the other. Even though the characters are all young adults, they still all have reason to fear that the community around them will turn against them in an instant. It was enough for Liz to leave Roswell right after high school. Of course, her reasons for returning now are not defined well enough to make it engaging to the audience that she stays her for something more. She is back either because her medial research funding dried up, it's the anniversary of her sister's tragic death or it's the 10-year high school reunion. All of those reasons are touched on in this opening hour. None of them would explain why she is now willing to plant down roots in this town. She hates it because of how obsessed everyone is with aliens as well as the rampant racism and xenophobia. She is a first generation citizen. However, her father is an undocumented immigrant and she's always worried about him. He chooses to stay because this place has become home to him despite the blatant attacks. The diner is shot up here. That proves that racial tensions are only further emboldened at the moment. But that moment is mostly used to define the alien powers that Max has. He has long had a crush on Liz. When she is dying before he has a chance to tell her how he feels, he heals her not caring about the potential consequences. Overall, Max is a pretty thin character. The only thing that defines him is this complete crush on Liz that started in high school and is still just as strong now. The show absolutely wants the audience to see them as star-crossed lovers across species. However, it's also easy to see it as an unfortunate stalker tale. Max can ease Liz's mind. She is not going crazy like she has always feared. She doesn't want to end up like her mother and sister. However, she now has to live in a world where the existence of aliens has been proven. Max is one of them. So is his sister Isobel and their friend Michael. They all still live in Roswell as well. This is the area where they landed and grew up. It's the place where other aliens just like them are still laying in dormant. It's also the place where the government is still focusing its efforts of understanding what happened during that crash in 1947. That's an aspect of the show that is really underdeveloped in the early going. The audience just has to be aware that there is reason for Max, Isobel and Michael to fear about anyone knowing what they are. They don't know where they come from or how they have these special abilities. They just know that the government will probe them if they are ever found. It's Liz's first impulse as well. She is a scientist who wishes to understand something she has never seen before. However, she also promises to maintain this secret. That provides hope that this romance may actually work after all. It could further inform the relationships that Isobel and Michael have as well. They too have connections with humans. Isobel is married to a man who doesn't know the truth while Michael is reconnecting with Alex, who has just returned home from service overseas. They still fear that knowledge of the truth will uproot all of their lives. That's the same fear that Liz has regarding her father. As such, it's a powerful political allegory that connects these sci-fi themes to real-world conflicts. However, it's difficult to be invested in Max and Liz as the central couple at the moment solely because he is keeping a massive secret from her about how her sister actually died. That represents the conspiracy that gives the season some momentum. But it will be much better for the couple once everything is out in the open instead of the fear that these aliens really are just killers who will do whatever they want to rule this corner of the world.