Culture Critique: “Roswell” Pilots Compared

“Roswell,” the cult classic television series, has recently become the victim of a CW network reboot. The CW seems to be hopping on this reboot trend and revamping old shows but combined with television’s new standards. These shows find a happy new medium; they have the nostalgia factor for old viewers like me, yet maintain a gritty, mature, CW freshness. 

Now, I’ve been an avid “Roswell” fan since the series first aired in 1999. At the time, I was only a year old, but my mother loved the show and once I was old enough, she rewatched the series with me and I fell in love. “Roswell” was wholesome, juvenile and exciting. It had cute but developed plot lines to follow, intense chemistry between Liz and Max (played by Shiri Appleby and Jason Behr) and took place in a high school, making it relatable but playful. The high school atmosphere for a television show with tensions running high, romances left and right and danger afoot is perfect because teenagers typically blow things out of proportion, so these plots can get over-the-top yet stay true to life. In a show riddled with aliens, government agents on the prowl and the law enforcement cracking down, I enjoy watching minor characters get overwhelmed by a flat tire. 

The original “Roswell” is about Liz Parker, a sophomore in high school whose life is turned upside down when she gets shot in the diner she works at, and Max Evans, a boy she had a crush on who saved her life. However, this miracle was only made possible by Max Evans’ extraordinary and extraterrestrial powers, since he and his siblings Isobel and Michael (played by Katherine Heigl and Brendan Fehr) respectively, are not of this earth. 

The new “Roswell,” called “Roswell: New Mexico,” has reimagined this, as it now takes place 10 years after high school graduation, in which Liz Ortecho (personally I like the name change and the Latina representation), has come back to town after spending her time pursuing her science career, and runs into Max, who is now a cop at the border. The series takes off with the same starting point, Max saving Liz’s life after her getting shot, but now in completely alternate circumstances. 

The new Liz (Jeanine Mason) has much more backbone, and far more sass. She’s fiery, she’s passionate and she doesn’t take shit from anyone. Original Liz was soft spoken and shy but her passions shined through her quiet demeanor. Both Liz’s are geniuses and stand up for themselves. I appreciate the new Liz, and I think Mason does an incredible job of bringing her to life in a new way, but Appleby will always have my heart.

The new Liz and Max (Nathan Dean Parsons) take on their chemistry in a very different way than the original. The way Appleby and Behr looked at each other was always incredibly charged and ready to explode. I still get those moments from Mason and Parsons, but it lacks the same electric connection. Perhaps because of how gritty the CW shows are, I can’t find that softness within their love. Instead I get hints of an Elena and Damon, “Vampire Diaries” matchup, which was more lustful and intense, but not as sweet and intertwined. Original Liz and Max seemed as if they couldn’t be apart, but the new Liz and Max want each other in a deeper way, and their softness is more subtle.

Now, while the new show really is trying to be different from the original, they don’t fully succeed. Michael is still as angsty as ever, but unfortunately new Michael is an adult so his angst feels misplaced. I appreciate the decision to make Michael into a well written, developed gay character, and I am eager to see the Michael/Alex romance blossom. 

I dislike the new Isobel (Lily Cowles) because it feels as if she’s trying too hard to be Heigl. I want to see all the characters take on their traits in a new way, and Isobel is supposed to take no shit, get what she wants with an “I’m better than you” attitude. This Isobel has her moments where she’s protective and badass, but she doesn’t feel developed enough or have an interesting enough dynamic to keep her watchable yet.

Overall, “Roswell: New Mexico” is promising. The political commentary is all too real and exactly the conversations we need to be starting. They’re giving us a little bit of sci-fi, a little bit of mystery, a lot of politics and a lot of romance, all wrapped up into one. The actors are settling into their characters and the plethora of familiar faces from CW’s past (Michael Trevino, Heather Hemmens) makes it all the better. I look forward to seeing how this show separates itself from its predecessor and more importantly, how it keeps me guessing!

Madalyn Alfonso
About Madalyn Alfonso 85 Articles
Madalyn Alfonso is a fourth-year English major with a minor in Theatre. This is her sixth semester on The Oracle. Previously, she was the Arts & Entertainment Editor. She loves writing any and every thing she can for the Oracle, whether it be a hilarious Top Ten or a thought-provoking Culture Critique. She hopes you all love reading the Oracle!