On a hot summer day in 1947, a rancher noticed some kind of wreckage on a homestead outside Roswell, New Mexico. Then the Army came. And so the theories of extraterrestrials emerged. The mystery of this small New Mexico town has captivated us for seventy years now. If the CW’s new teen-soap would have you believe, the key to this small-town mystery is that Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason, “Grey's Anatomy”) is having some very close encounters with Roswell's undercover alien/sheriff’s deputy.
After a decade, Liz returns to her hometown, where her dad runs the Crashdown Café. The Ortechos have become outcasts after Liz’s sister killed two local girls while driving under the influence. This reputation inspires random, unseen vigilantes to go after Liz — shooting up a diner late at night and killing her. Liz’s crush from high school, Max (Nathan Parsons, “The Originals”), now a deputy, resurrects her with his alien powers by touching her wound, making very uncomfortable faces and spraying her down with ketchup. It’s the meet-cute Hollywood has been too afraid to give you. Liz is certain she was shot, though — the clue being a bullet wound — and sets out to figure what Max is hiding.
“Roswell” is an impressive feat of mediocrity. The narrative is elementary. If you’re afraid you won’t understand the underscored complexities of this interracial, extraterrestrial love affair, fear not. All the characters announce exactly who they are and what is happening. We are told with effective bluntness that Liz’s arrival coincides with the 10-year anniversary of her sister’s accident. Along with archetypal characters, the show also boasts many complex characters. Characters like alien-sheriff Max, who says “I stay here because I like it” one minute, and “I want to leave” the next, because who cares about genuine motivation or character? This inconsistency makes him dynamic and brooding. Rest assured, this show requires absolutely zero brain power to understand.
If the possibility of potential political undertones also intimidates you, don’t worry. As much as the show tries to be politically-relevant, it never fails to fumble. Any political jabs flounder and serve only to distract from plot inconsistencies. When political commentary is made, no one reacts or seems to care, making any attempt to be subversive benign.
This show is perfect for fans of NPR. Not because of its reliability and impressive journalistic reputation, of course, but because the characters deliver every line without inflection or emotion, like static or keeping the fan on while you sleep, making “Roswell” the perfect show for easy-listening. At the same time, the show knows it needs a little spice. Flashbacks provide this through fuzzy, sunset-lit images that tell us nothing about the characters or plot. These enhance the mystery by being completely useless.
The show also doesn’t assume its viewers are dumb, or that it even has viewers. “Roswell” doesn’t insult them with complex plot devices, explanations or even coherency. Alien Sheriff Max drinks nail polish remover to rejuvenate his alien powers — no explanation required. The show distinguishes itself for having not one, but two secret hideouts — an alien nest and a secret military base. Both of these are completely out in the open where anyone could find them, but no one does, because the show does not need to explain logical fallacies.
If you’re pursuing a thrilling, methodical series with well-executed twists and dramatic shocks — if you seek consistent character development, acting that extends beyond one stagnant facial expression per character, and convenient plot devices that only briefly matter — don’t even bother with “Roswell, New Mexico.” You wouldn’t grasp its understated complexity and brutal simplicity. I know I didn’t.