Monday, August 8, 2022

REVIEW: 'Roswell, New Mexico' - Liz Must Confront the Ugly Truth She Has Always Been Running Away From in 'Wild Wild West'

The CW's Roswell, New Mexico - Episode 4.09 "Wild Wild West"

After being exposed to her own "alien-power mist," Liz finds herself trapped in a fever dream and a battle to save not just her own life but Max's as well. Michael stumbles on a secret Rosa is keeping involving a surprising former adversary.

"Wild Wild West" was written by Leah Longoria & Onalee Hunter Hughes and directed by Michael Trevino

Dallas and Heath are best friends. At the end of the third season, they were positioned as characters of ongoing importance for the humans and aliens in Roswell. Dallas has still been prominently featured, while Heath has been completely absent. It all could be due to actor availability. That certainly explains why Kyle appears as a horse in Liz's mindscape because Michael Trevino is too busy directing the episode. All of this means time has to be spent updating everyone as to what Heath has been up to lately. He returns to Roswell because Dallas is in danger. He's also gone to medical school and helped Rosa harness her powers in New York. The two of them grew closer because of their shared experiences outside of Roswell. This one specific location has been the center of so much alien drama across the last century. It's not destined to be contained there forever. The characters need the freedom to explore what else is out there for them. Their paths still lead them back to Roswell. Rosa even notes the importance of needing to spend more time with her family. That mostly means she'll find some reason to put her new skill of bending sound waves to good use. The audience can bet on that. Heath has a limited role where he is expected to trust the rest of the group to save Dallas. He belongs to an alien triad now. They will protect him no matter how dangerous the situation becomes. Heath is no longer the only person taking care of him and trying to understand his alien nature. The aliens are hardly the only ones with existential crises about their identities too. That has long plagued Liz as well. Her life is thrown into turmoil because Shivani exposed her to the alien mist. It was done with the intention of boosting her intellectual capabilities. She could make even more profound and life-changing discoveries if she took this treatment herself. That's not the premise of this episode though. Instead, Liz's friends rally around her when her life is in danger. The mist has a different reaction in her. Shivani took a dose, produced work she didn't previously understand, was hospitalized for a bit, recovered and is already back at work. With Liz, it's a battle between life and death. She has to decide how to navigate this new opportunity. It's a way of restoring her agency. She remains firmly in control. This is no longer something forced onto her. It was perceived as such given Shivani's desperate desire to save her daughter. But now, it's all about Liz recognizing the thoughts that have always plagued her. She fears letting herself love too much out of the worry it could all be taken away from her. The trauma of Rosa's death informs everything about Liz. So much has changed since then. Her fears are still basically the same.

Of course, Outlaw Liz expresses a desire to give in to the possibilities that can come from embracing this fringe science for all it can produce. It can revolutionize the world. Up to this point, Liz has only been exploring the science to help her alien friends. She pledges to keep their secrets no matter what. She is very protective of them. She's cautious about anyone she lets in on their lives and their abilities. She has had to do so. In fact, she's had to learn the same lesson over and over again. It would be so easy if this mindscape was designed around making Liz confront the truth that she gets her strength from her family and loved ones. That's not what the riddle is suggesting. Instead, it's all about the pain and darkness that comes from losing those she loves the most. She's powerless to do anything to stop it because the threats keep coming. That's a constant. She remains completely in love with Max regardless of which mentality is driving her actions. It's simply a matter of priorities. His life is in danger because he goes into her mind to help ease her suffering. The rules don't play out the same way they always have before. Isobel is suddenly the one on the sidelines not able to help others on the path. That has been her function in stories like this previously. And now, she has to sit in her own thoughts and wonder about how her actions have hurt the ones she loves. Plenty of people are spinning out of control. They have the freedom to do so as well. That can't come at the expense of those who need their expertise. Sure, it clarifies how some of them are incapable of ever leaving this environment for too long. Their absence may mean the difference between life and death. Heath and Michael have to scramble for a cure solely because Kyle is out of town. He's looking for Allie Meyers. Liz finds her in her mindscape. That reveals the dynamic they actually share. It's not all done in proxy through Shivani. Instead, Allie is lifted up as the voice of reason who can see beyond the conventions of Liz's mind. She needs Liz to understand them as well. The resulting decision is to stop fighting and gambling over what could happen. Liz doesn't want that burden or fear any longer. It's still a huge risk. She surrenders control to the aspect of her identity that wants to change the world. That path could produce so much harm. When she wakes up, she presents as not remembering anything that happened. That's a convenient story. One that allows her to live out in the darkness of what might be. She can still relax into her bond with Max. That's no longer the priority the show has long lifted it up to be. Now, everything has to be much more focused on the battle between good and evil. The romance is important. It has often been treated as more essential than it otherwise should be. And now, the show seems to be turning that into an active plot point which would seemingly require more self-awareness than the narrative typically operates with.