REVIEW: ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO – SEASON 1

Roswell, New Mexico (2019)

Starring

Jeanine Mason (The Archer)
Nathan Parsons (The Originals)
Michael Vlamis (VlamCarter)
Lily Cowles (Enchantments )
Tyler Blackburn (Pretty Little Liars)
Heather Hemmens (Hellcats)
Michael Trevino (The Vampire DIaries)
Trevor St. John (The Bourne Ultimatum)
Karan Oberoi (Overruled!)

Nathan Parsons and Jeanine Mason in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Carlos Compean (Contraband)
Rosa Arredondo (Still Alice)
Amber Midthunder (Legion)
Peter Diseth (Better Call Saul)
Matthew Van Wettering (12 Strong)
Riley Voelkel (The Originals)
Dylan McTee (The Wind)
Jessica Treska (Sharp Objects)
Sherri Saum (Sunset Beach)
Claudia Black (Stargate SG.1)
Sonya Balmores (Inhumans)
Kayla Ewell (The Vampire Diaries)
Kiowa Gordon (The Twilight Saga: New Moon)

Michael Trevino and Jeanine Mason in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)Roswell, New Mexico. It’s one of those places so iconic, so singularly famous for one specific thing that it doesn’t even warrant an explanation. Back in 1999, it was the show that launched the careers of Shiri Appleby, Katherine Heigl, Colin Hanks , and several other faces you know, even if their names are less familiar, like Nick Wechsler (Revenge, Dynasty), Brendan Fehr (Bones, Wynonna Earp), and Emilie de Ravin (Lost). And now, 20 years and a few changes later, it’s back.Nathan Parsons in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)Notably, Roswell, New Mexico isn’t a sequel to 1999’s Roswell. Even though everyone is roughly 10 years older, and the original show took place 10 years ago, these events–namely the inciting incidents of Liz’s (Jeanine Mason) death and revival and the trio of aliens revealing themselves–are all taking place for the very first time. The aliens still arrived in the 1940s and entered the community as children due to some woo-woo hand wave alien stuff, but in this version they’ve managed to keep their true species a secret that entire time, implausible though that may be if you’ve ever met a teenager.Michael Vlamis in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)You’d be forgiven if, when watching, you thought you were caught in a time loop, or having déjà vu. It’s all there–Liz’s voiceover, this version of the legend of Roswell’s aliens, the Crashdown café, the suspicious sheriff; Liz is even wearing the exact same uniform at the Crashdown, and so far there’s heavy overlap on the soundtracks. There’s boy scout Max Evans (Nathan Parsons, The Originals), his overprotective Type-A sister Isobel (Lily Cowles, BrainDead), and their smart but troubled bad boy fellow alien Michael (Michael Vlamis, New Girl), whose time on Earth hasn’t been quite as charmed.Nathan Parsons and Jeanine Mason in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)Like many pilots, this one is rather overstuffed. Science fiction and fantasy shows have the added task of not only telling you a story, but building a world or explaining power sets. As a result, the second episode of Roswell is much more successful than the first one, so  stick around for it and the rest of the season, as the show gets better as it gets along.Michael Vlamis and Lily Cowles in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)The pilot is mostly a paint by numbers affair, but there are a few updates, like when a conspiracy theorist podcaster references Beyoncé and the Illuminati. The older protagonists helpfully allow for all the steamy sex and bar scenes the CW loves, without all the questions as to who, exactly, is supervising a bunch of 16-year-olds who rarely seem to attend school. And things start off a little differently: Max fell for Liz Ortecho, who kicks things off with her return to town after 10 years away. Ten years ago, Liz’s sister Rosa (Amber Midthunder, Legion, Hell or Highwater) was killed in a car accident, which many see as her fault since she used drugs and two others died in the same accident, but it’s clear from the jump that there’s more to this story.Heather Hemmens and Jeanine Mason in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)The biggest difference is that Liz and her family are immigrants (her father is undocumented) and her sister is dead, a death in which Max and co. apparently had some involvement. Story-wise, this opens up some avenues. First, adding the immigration element makes the story feel urgent and contemporary, and sets up parallels between Liz and Max. Both of them have to protect their families from the U.S. government, and both have secrets to keep and stigma to fight. Viewers of the original series can likely surmise additional, spoiler-y connections.Nathan Parsons and Jeanine Mason in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)Second, Rosa places an obstacle between Liz and Max’s love story that’s a bit more appealing. It’s unclear what, exactly, is going on here, but Max obviously has secrets about Rosa. Secrets he doesn’t ever want Liz to know. The next episode will tease this out more, but for that kind of tension in the central pair is a good thing and helps make this a more adult show with adult disagreements. Finally, in this version, Liz is not the beloved hometown girl. In fact, she faces racist slurs and hate crimes.The CW has been among the more progressive networks for a while now, routinely casting diverse casts and including queer characters, even if they still have a lot to learn. Shows like Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Supergirl have regularly taken on heady, “controversial” topics, including immigration, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. And yet, seeing ICE and racism called out directly on television still feels bold, especially at a time when most elected officials aren’t willing to do the same.There are familiar beats here, even in the new material–sex with the ex in a car outside a bar is hardly innovative. If the premise and progressive racial politics of the show appeal to you at all, stick around for the next couple of episodes of Roswell before you decide whether to jump ship.