TV

With ‘Roswell, New Mexico,’ Come For The ‘90s Tunes, Not So Much The Star-Crossed Romance


Lewis Jacobs/The CW

“Leave the past in the past. There’s nothing we can do to change it.”

Back in 2014, The CW had a very short-lived series about humans, aliens, and their romance in the face of real-world issues depicted through extended metaphors about otherness (in this case, integration) called Star-Crossed. The title was of course a play on words, because the main characters — played by Friday Night Lights’ Aimee Teegarden and Timeless’ Matt Lanter, with the latter being fresh off The CW’s 90210 and way past the even somewhat convincing teenage casting point, despite being cast as 16-year-old alien — were star-crossed lovers (a la Romeo and Juliet), only literally, because she was a human and he was an alien (aka from the stars). Star-Crossed had abysmal ratings, even for The CW, and perhaps it should have been a sign that the idea of a human/alien romance in the face of real-world issues depicted through extended metaphors about otherness had run its course.

Roswell, New Mexico, however, seems to have missed that sign.

In Roswell, New Mexico’s defense, the “original” series — as both are based on the Roswell High book series, so this is technically not a reboot of the ‘90s WB/UPN series — was the one that introduced the whole “human, aliens, romance…extended metaphors…otherness” story to The CW (nee WB… and then also nee UPN) set in the first place, so arguably, this series should technically have carte blanche to do that all over again. It’s the whole reason you adapt Roswell High, after all, right? However, while Roswell, New Mexico is aware of the reality of the situation with the political climate and the real world discussion of what an “alien” is (especially an “illegal” one) — that’s where the extended metaphor about otherness comes in this time around — and has that as an integral part of the series, it lacks self-awareness on a lot of other fronts. Specifically, the even more integral star-crossed lover part of it all between human scientist Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason) and alien cop Max Evans (Nathan Parsons).

Besides the post-2016 presidential election reality this series dwells in, Roswell, New Mexico pleads the case for its existence with the fact that its an “adult” story, taking place 10 years after Liz, Max, and their contemporaries graduated from New Roswell High School. For one reason or another, they’ve all ended up either stuck in Roswell or drawn back to it, despite the fact that, just based on the sample size the audience has of the regular characters, pretty much every student in the Class of 2009 must have been both the valedictorian and “Most Likely To Succeed.” Seriously, even the screw-up of the group, Michael Guerin (Michael Vlamis) — one of the Roswell alien trio — is partially defined by the fact he’s a certified genius and was always considered such back in school. However, when it comes to a character who didn’t fit that particular mold — Liz’s dead old sister Rosa (Amber Midthunder), the center of a mystery that keeps Liz in town — the Roswell townsfolk couldn’t make it any more clear how much they hated her. Yes, there are larger reasons at work for that, but it’s still a component.

But while everyone apparently lives in the real world when it comes to racism, the fear of deportation, and homophobia (part of the other star-crossed romance in this series, which is, unfortunately, not much more interesting), Roswell, New Mexico throws that all out the window when it comes to telling Liz and Max’s “love” story. Because the series decides to dwell on the facet of star-crossed lover stories that everyone all pretty much agreed years ago (call it “The Twilight Factor, if you will) was toxic, anything but romantic, and honestly, just tired: the stoic male love interest who just has to “protect” the female love interest, no matter what. And in this scenario, “protect” is code for “stalk.”

Since Roswell, New Mexico skips over the whole high school thing, it also technically skips having something — literally anything — that would perhaps make the whole Max/Liz “romance” even a fraction more palatable. Although, his behavior would still be unhealthy regardless. Instead of Max and Liz being high school sweethearts, Roswell, New Mexico goes with the story that they never even dated; they were lab partners, and while Liz was dating Kyle Valenti (Michael Trevino) on and off, Max was always just around, staring at her. In fact, Kyle later says that, in high school, Max was always staring at Liz “like [she was] some kind of an alien life form.” Without spoiling too much, there’s no beat for anyone to at least take in the irony of that line. Based on what happens up to that point, there should be a beat for anyone to at least take in the irony of that line. So now, 10 years later when she comes back to Roswell — and she’s supposed to just be passing through — the staring is back on. Because he’s in love with her and always has been, and that’s certainly enough to fuel a love story instead of being called out for the very sad, very pathetic, very stuck in the past thing it is.

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