Sheriff Valenti -
OTHER ROSWELL SEASONS
OTHER ALIENS AMONGST US SERIES
3rd Rock From the Sun
Roswell, New Mexico is the site of a famous alleged UFO incident in the 50s. It's widely regarded as UFO central. Being a teenager in a place like that is hard enough, but imagine what it would be like if you were an alien in a teenager's body trapped in the one place where everyone goes to look for aliens. That's the set up for ROSWELL. Max, his sister Isabel and their friend Michael are all aliens trapped in teenagers' bodies. They know this, but that is all that they know. They have powers, but don't know how to use them or how powerful they are. What they do know is that they have to keep their identities secret at all costs. Enter Liz Parker and her friends. She stumbles on the information, but since she is falling in love with Max that proves to be less of a problem than he thought. The interest of the Sheriff, son of a discredited alien hunter, is less welcome.
Teenagers feel awkward at the best of times. Their bodies are changing to the point that they sometimes feel like aliens in their own skin, so the idea of them actually being aliens isn't much of a stretch. As a result, ROSWELL can mix up the usual concern of aliens on the run (FBI, capture, torture, autopsies, cheesy alien conventions) with more down to earth considerations (dating, homework, how embarrassing Dad is etc). As a result, the show is aimed squarely at the teenage market with not a lot given over to other viewers. Still, we were all teenagers once.
The show actually works best when it is dealing with the alien concerns rather than the teen concerns and as the series gets into its last third the alien plot takes over completely to reveal all the secrets that the cast have been searching for all along. It is, at times, mawkish, overly romantic, overly sentimental and downright slushy, but it also has moments of brutality, action and adventure that bring it back from the edge.Top
Lizzie works as a waitress in the Roswell diner and gets her kicks winding up the tourists who come looking for secrets about the supposed UFO crash. She finds out that the crash was far from supposed when she is shot and mortally wounded, but is then repaired by Max, who reveals himself to be an alien from the crash. If his secret gets out, he will be taken by the government and experimented upon, but since the sheriff seems to be on their tails already a desperate rescue plan is worked out.
Well, ROSWELL certainly doesn't waste any time in getting its plot out there. Within the first ten minutes Lizzie has been shot, saved and learned Max's secret. The pace doesn't slow down from there on in either. There is a lot to get through, but it manages to never feel too rushed or too contrived.
What we're not too sure about is the young performers. There is a lot going on here and that distracts from some of the less than stellar performances on display here, but there appears to be a leaning towards teenage angst and soap opera in the storyline that will require better of them in the future.
Fortunately there are some seasoned performers such as William Sanders to back them up and already the beginnings of a conspiracy plotline to develop over time.Top
There's a new substitute Maths teacher in the school who appears to want to know about Michael. Lizzie is certain that she is a governmental alien hunter. Michael himself is more interested in the photo of another of thier kind that the sheriff has locked away in his office. The FBI are also interested in the same and want to clear out the sheriff's office, leading to a daring midnight raid on the station.
The second episode of this show has more teenage angst than the first, but has enough conspiracy theory building to overcome that, though it's a close run thing. The adult performers continue to show the youngsters how it's supposed to be done. Jason Behr, especially, only seems to have one expression that he can use, which is a bit of a problem when he's at the heart of the show.Top
Maria is filled with fear. Ever since Liz told her about the presence of the aliens she has been living in fear of them, what they are, what they can do. Most especially Isabel. The aliens think that she is the weak link in their cover, not least when the sheriff picks up on her fear and targets her for 'help'.
The teen years are when we decide who we are going to be and make decisions that affect our entire lives. That's a metaphor that is hard to avoid in this episode because it's kind of hammered home with a sledgehammer. If everyone considers you a monster then perhaps you'll start thinking of yourself as one. That's Max's fear and Isabel's coming decision. If they fear her then perhaps she ought to be instilling fear. It's not subtle, but at least there's enough of a plot with the sheriff to raise a bit of tension.Top
Liz's grandmother comes to town and promptly falls down with a stroke. She reaches out to Max for comfort, but he is backing off following a beating from the friends of her boyfriend Kyle.
Liz likes Kyle, but is falling for Max and that is the entire summary for this episode. The grandmother's stroke is merely a device to get Liz to think about what she wants out of life and to bring about the crisis of choice between Kyle and Max and it's as dull and tortuous as it sounds. Only the revenges that Michael takes on the bullies lightens the atmosphere and when Max resurrects the Grandmother for a few moments so that they can say goodbye it's overly sugared and hackneyed stuff. The old woman even tells her grand-daughter to 'follow her heart' for crying out loud.
From a promising start, the show is slipping into heavy teen soap opera territory.Top
Liz discovers that her diary is missing and the whole group goes into meltdown when she reveals that absolutely everything is in the diary. Michael, meanwhile, becomes obssessed with the dome that featured in the vision he got from the Sheriff's hidden key, painting it, sketching it, doodling it, until a chance reveals the address.
Not a lot actually happens in this episode of ROSWELL and certainly nothing new. The characters aren't strong enough to hold the show together without a strong plot to carry them along on and so it ends up being really rather dull.
It is only partly saved by the revelations of what Michael's vision means and that the careers advisor is really something a bit more than that after all.Top
Michael is determined to get to the dome from his vision, but Max and Isabel are more cautious, so he attempts to take Maria's car, ending up with her going along. The others take off in hot pursuit and they all end up in a secret room inside the dome when the sheriff walks in.
All of a sudden the show finds a plot to run with and becomes a whole lot more interesting. Not only are the relationships between the characters developing, but the search for answers about the aliens' origins has some nice twists along the way. It also ends on a very real cliffhanger.Top
The kids manage to escape from the geodesic dome with a whole lot of information, but the 'not really a' careers tutor gets that stolen almost straight away. The only thing that remains is a necklace that leads Max and Liz to a native american reservation and an old man called River Dog who might have some answers.
Only he doesn't, not useful ones anyway. The whole episode builds up to the big reveal that reveals not very much at all, except that there was someone else back awhile with the same powers that the aliens have. Since we already knew this, it turns out to be a complete let down.
On the plus side, the sparring between the sheriff and the FBI undercover agent is nice and the growing relationsip between Michael and Maria and Isabel's reaction to that is very funny.Top
Max is hurt in a car accident and ends up in the hospital. The gang swing into action to prevent his blood sample giving everything away, but a human male donor is needed to provide an alternative sample. This leaves Liz in a very difficult postion with her best friend Alex of whom she is asking so much without giving anything in return.
An episode of two halves is split between the tension of the blood sample recovery operation in the hospital and the fallout as Miss Topolski the guidance counsellor turns her attentions to Alex to get the information that she is looking for. This provides some meaty moral issues for Liz to grapple with that make the story more interesting.
That the team decide to go on the offensive and find out who is after them amps up the action a little as well.Top
Michael and Maria are getting it on pretty strong and this makes Liz start to think that she and Max ought to be moving things onto a higher level. A dance in an abandoned warehouse leads to trouble with Liz and Alex locked up in jail as she tries to persuade him not to talk to the sheriff, even if it means telling him the truth about Max and the others.
If teenage pair bonding is your thing then this episode has it all for you. Apart from Michael and Maria's physical thing, Liz and Max continue to share longing looks and Isabel discovers a surprise admirer when she slips into someone else's dream. Even the sheriff is in on it as he makes the moves on Maria's mother.
None of which feeds into the main story apart from Alex being brought inside the circle. He takes the truth unbelievably well considering that he thought the drugs story was a bunch of tripe. It's hard to tell whether that is the fault of the writers or the young actor, but either way it doesn't help an already fatally soap operish storyline.Top
Michael goes to see River Dog and ends up taking part in a trance ritual. Instead of enlightenment, he gets sick and starts growing a coccoon. The rest of the gang rush him out to the reservation in the hope of restoring his balance before they lose him forever.
The native american theme of River Dog is back and the melding of ancient mysticism and aliens from the sky still manages to be unsuccessful. As are the relationships on view. Maria and Michael are over, Max is scared of hurting Liz (and he says it often enough that they really ought to have gotten over this by now) and Isabel is just trying to shut everyone else out.
The teenage relationship angst thing is getting annoying now and the native american mystic thing does nothing to distract from it.Top
When Max saves his mother from a fire in the kitchen, she begins to suspect something, in fact begings to remember that she's always suspected something. Isabel desperately wants to tell her finally, but Max won't have it. His sister accuses him of being controlling, Liz accuses him of being distant and he seems to be pushing everyone away.
Teenage angst at its most basic, the need for a parent warring with the need to take on ones problems independently. That's the theme. What's the plot? There isn't one. Were it not for the nice performance from Katherine Heigl this would be somewhat interminable. The continuing saga of Michael and Maria's non-relationship doesn't help matters either since it is going around and around in circles.
There are times when you want to tell every teenager to get up and get on with it and this is one of those times.Top
It's the annual fathers' camping trip in which the teens of the town reconnect with their fathers. None of the cool kids, of course, will have anything to do with it, but this year there is a UFO sighting in the forest where the trip is to take place and so everyone signs up for a night of wandering around in the woods looking for signs, pretending they want to be with their dads.
The last episode was all about the wonder that is a mother. This episode is all about the embarrassment that is a father. No teen, it seems, can have a good, cool or even normal Dad. Whether this is a general slight at Dads or just those in New Mexico is not clear.
Dad-bashing aside, there's not a lot going on here. The main plot arcs don't move an inch forward and what they discover doesn't mean very much.Top
It's the 10th Annual UFO Convention in Roswell, which means that every alien-hunting kook in the country descends onto the town for a weekend orgy of all things alien. There are two attendees, however, that do pose a credible threat to Max. The first is a witness to the events in the Crashdown Cafe when Max resuscitated Liz. The second is a professional alien hunter with an axe to grind.
Setting this story against the background of the UFO convention is a great concept, especially the idea of having Johnathan Frakes (of STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION fame) playing an exaggerated version of Johnathan Frakes (of STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION fame). The actual story of a man obssessed with the hunt for an alien that killed his wife works well within the confines of the main show format and provides both a good standalone episode and some nice twists to the main story arc as the alien they have been searching for turns out to be a potential serial killer.Top
Liz is chosen to take part in an organised blind date where the local radio station promises to find her dream man. This clearly brings up emotional complications for everyone, not least when Max takes a sip of beer and is instantly drunk.
The radio blind date stunt is a completely artificial plot device that is served much better by what follows than it really ought to be. Having Max drunk and acting like a boy with feelings does some good for the character, though it again reveals the acting limitations of Jason Behr. He's even less convincing when trying to emote than when he's acting emotionless. His drunk act needs a bit of work as well. Fortunately for him he's working off the very appealing Shiri Appleby who manages to carry all her scenes effortlessly.
Brendan Fehr and Katherine Heigl do much better in their strand of the story, which sees Michael working out how to contact the mysterious 'other' alien who was revealed to be a potential serial killer in The Convention. The final shot of the episode is as effective as it is predictable.
The aspiring band plotline is an annoyance simply thrown in to give Majandra Delfino and Colin Hanks something to do.Top
Michael's adoptive father beats him up, literally, once too often and he goes on the run. Max and Isabel try to help, but their home life is so good that they can't truly understand. After they all confront the man and Michael is forced to use his powers, he determines that it would best if he left Roswell forever.
Family has been at the core of ROSWELL and this episode again reinforces that. Max and Isabel are Michael's real family and that is what matters most. Maria's screwed up relationship with her mother may be less than perfect, but it works, sort of, and it's what is important to them both.
The point is made, but not with any great subtlety. The fate of Michael's adoptive father does add a suitably chilling coda, however.Top
Following the nonsense on Liz's Blind Date the heat between her and Max has been furnace hot. This has the added side effect that he sees things from her mind and she sees things from his, even things that he didn't know about. This leads to another discovery, another clue on the route to self-discovery. It also leads to parental disapproval of all the intimacy.
Sex is a problem for teenagers. Not necessarily the act itself, but the whole 'should they/shouldn't they' and 'what will the parents think' and 'is it really love?' of it all. Once it's over and done with life gets easier, but this is about the first time, the intimacy, the doubts and the parental disapproval.
It's also quite fun with the reactions of those around the two lovebirds being amusing and sexual tension between Liz and Max so exaggerated as to become somewhat laughable. Still, it's all good (mainly)clean fun.Top
Miss Topolsky, the FBI-planted guidance counsellor, returns to the town, but in a terrified condition, making claims about a team of alien hunters within the FBI who answer to nobody and have no compunction about killing. The teens decide not to believe her, something that threatens to break up the group, but Michael sets in motion a series of events that leads to the loss of the orb that he has learned forms part of a communication device.
This episode benefits greatly from a fine performance from Julie Benz as the dishevelled and scared out of her head ex-FBI agent. Her showing is so good that the doubts the kids have about her seem ridiculous. The audience believe her so why shouldn't they? The paranoia and fear this whips up amongst the teens is far more interesting than the ongoing relationship problems that Michael and Maria are having (Michael has to be from another planet to be so utterly clueless about romance), but at least Jason Behr actually breaks his experession when he gets angry and punches Michael out for being such a jerk.
It's an entertaining episode that mixes its few laughs in nicely with some carefully studied chills.Top
Tess, Lies and Videotape
Tess, the new girl in school, appears to be taking a big interest in Max, so the gang decide that they need to find out more about her. When an FBI bug is found in Michael's apartment, they decide to use it on her and make a surprising discovery.
Well, it's surprising to them anyway. The audience figures out what's going on with Tess quite early on. Her father is super creepy and the fact that the FBI, or more likely the alien hunters within the FBI, are spying on Michael doesn't make for a great deal of easy feelings.
It's a great episode title as well and Tess is played by Emilie de Ravin who would later get LOST as a survivor of Oceanic flight 815.Top
Now that they know that Tess, the new girl, is an alien, and probably the shapeshifting killer alien, the gang determine to follow her, but are so bad at it that they always seem to be one step behind her. Max's intense attraction to Tess and visions that Isabel is having of Michael seem to reveal a part of their purpose.
If the characters in this show ever actually told each other what they were thinking or feeling or going to do then everything would probably have been resolved by episode three, but everyone continues to go their own ways, hide everything from each other, even those they are supposed to consider as friends and as a result stumble around in the dark long after the audience has figured out just what all this means for the three (now four) aliens. It's a nice twist to the plot and it will be interesting to see where that takes us.Top
Max to the Max
The shape-changing killer alien (known as the Nasedo) is revealed as Tess's father and to have been killing in the name of protecting the four teen aliens. He continues to do so by masquerading as Max and kidnapping Liz in an attempt to lure the alien hunting FBI mole out into the open. Max and gang run to the rescue, but their efforts will have unexpected consequences.
The end is coming, you can feel it in the change of pace of the show. Everything has been leading up to this point. The aliens now know so much about what they were destined for, have figured out the truth about the Nasedo and been faced with a stark choice between what they programmed for and what they have chosen to be. More importantly, everyone comes together in a climactic race through, of all things, a hall of mirrors as aliens, friends, sheriffs and FBI agents all converge for a big finish.
Considering the nature of the show so far, the fallout from this is surprising and, for once, the next episode is close to unmissable.Top
The White Room
Agent Pierce wants to know all about Max's mission on Earth, something that Max doesn't even know about and so is unable to give him answers about. Torture seems to be the FBI alien hunter's first weapon of resort. Michael, Isabel and Tess use their talents to locate Max and go after him, teaming up with Nasedo along the way. Left behind, Liz decides that it's time to trust the Sheriff.
There's good and bad in this penultimate episode of the first season of this teen aliens amongst us show. The plot has been set up nicely and the principals are given some time to emote about the loss of their friend early on, but then the plot kicks in as the three aliens abandon the human friends that have gotten them so far without a second thought and waltz into a secure installation with hardly any effort at all. The arrival of Nasedo saves the day by providing some seriously needed cynicism, murder and power before the ending gets kind of muddled. Max to the Max set up this episode far better than this episode sets up the finale.
The sequences where Max is tortured by Agent Pierce are satisfyingly brutal and unsentimental as the agent shows himself to be as bad as Nasedo in his search for the truth, but it's all shot through a distorting lens to give the impression of drugs and shock on Max.Top
Max is out of The White Room, but Agent Pierce is still on the trail and now everyone is a target. Sheriff Valenti is finally brought inside the circle of trust, but in order to survive the next few hours, the gang have to take the offensive and find out what they are really capable of. They need Nasedo, who is not only dead, but also in the hands of the enemy.
Well, is finales go this has action and answers and set ups for the next season. Liz and Max jump of bridges, Michael throws cars and FBI agents around, they all bring aliens back to life and they learn the truth about who they are, their past, and their current situation. These are answers that threaten to shatter the group, split aliens from their human friends, but also up the ante on the danger facing the three (now four) aliens.
But the task of a finale is to wrap up enough loose ends whilst leaving enough open to make the audience want more. This succeeds admirably. Roll on season 2.Top
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