TV Rewatch: “Roswell” Pilot

Aaaah, Roswell, or as it was known in the late 90s and early 2000s: That other WB show that was not Dawson’s Creek. I was twelve years old when Roswell first premiered in 1999. Aside from a love for Justin Timberlake that knows no bounds, the only other thing that 1999 Gina and 2014 Gina still agree on is that Roswell beat the pants off of Dawson’s Creek in every way, shape and form.

Were the storylines more realistic? Roswell was a show about teenage aliens, so no. But the characters were more relatable, the dialogue was well-written, the storylines- though unrealistic- were engaging, and can we talk about the hair?

roswell michael

I mean, those are some spectacular 1990s waves. Twelve year old me just dropped her caramel frappuccino and swooned.

After attending the Roswell reunion at this year’s ATX Festival, I thought it would be fun to do a Roswell Rewatch and watch a show I loved as a teenager through adult eyes. I’m excited as it has been so long since I’ve watched this show that it’s almost like I’m seeing it again for the first time.

Before we dive in, I’m new to RLR, so I wanted to share three things that you may want to know about me before reading my recaps:

  1. I’m a fangirl and I know it- I’m a big soccer fan, so get ready for the first of many analogies. In soccer, when an announcer is clearly biased and rooting for one team over the other, he or she is commonly referred to as a “homer.” I have favorites, and I gush about said favorites shamelessly. Feel free to gush with me- we fangirls and fanboys need to stick together!
  1. I keep it real- Bad acting? Subpar episode? Something really awkward or just a brash opinion? You will hear about it.
  1. I LOVE tweeting and talking about TV- Want to talk about a certain show or episode? HIT ME UP! I am quite literally ALWAYS on Twitter. Send me a tweet @GinaWatchesTV and let’s talk!

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s jump in our time machines and travel all the way back to 1999, shall we?

*clears throat and sings*

“Oh I am what I a-”

Oh, sorry. No opening credits in the pilot, that’s right.

We open on Liz Parker, who explains that five days ago,  which would have been September 18 since she dates the journal entry September 23, she died. That’s a pretty bold statement there, Liz.

Cut to a diner where she serves two tourists a “Sigourney Weaver” and a “Will Smith,” which are really just pancakes with fruit skewers sticking out of them made to look like aliens. My compliments to the props department on that one.

The tourists are in town for the Crash Festival and ask Liz if she knows anything about the UFO crash the Fest is based on. Liz shows them a photo that her Grandmother supposedly took at the crash site “right before the government cleaned it up.” The photo is really just a screenshot of an alien out of an episode of The X-Files. Though now that I think about it, in 1999, taking a screenshot might actually have required taking a picture of the TV screen with a film camera.

We meet Maria, who points out to Liz that Max Evans is staring at her AGAIN. Liz is all, “OMG EWW NO I’M DATING KYLE!” She then lists a bunch of wonderful adjectives that describe him: steady, loyal, appreciative. Adorably baby-faced Nick Wechsler. That last one was my contribution, but we all know it’s true.

The two customers who just turned Maria away are having a heated argument. They stand up, one yells at the other about money, a gun comes out, someone yells “get down!” and then BOOM!

There’s a solid two seconds between someone yelling “get down!” and the gun going off. Everyone hits the ground but Liz, so it’s no surprise that once the chaos settles down, we find out that Liz was shot.

Everyone- and I mean everyone- in the diner sees Liz lying motionless and does nothing. In comes Max Evans. He goes to Liz, but is stopped by Brendan Fehr’s glorious waves- I mean, Michael.

“Max, what are you gonna do?”

Be a sensible human and try to do something?! How is the only sensible human in this diner not actually human?

He tells Maria to call an ambulance- also sensible- and rips Liz’s shirt open. She has a bullet wound right in the stomach. This is where Roswell starts to set itself apart from Dawson’s Creek.  On Dawson’s, Joey would have launched into some tear-filled soliloquy with her hair thrashing in her face while Pacey scrambled to save the day. On Roswell, Max puts his hand over Liz’s stomach, Liz’s entire life flashes in front of her eyes, Max tells her that she broke a bottle of ketchup when she fell, jumps in a jeep and speeds away LIKE A BOSS.

Roswell: more efficient than Dawson’s Creek. Seriously, Dawson’s would have spent an entire episode on something it only took Max one minute to do. But I digress.

roswell pilot liz parker

I LOVE the look on Liz’s face when Max leaves the diner. That is the face of a girl who just had her world rocked.

A man with a cowboy hat strolls into the diner and checks on Liz. A cop briefs Cowboy Hat- Sheriff Valenti, to be exact- when the two obnoxious tourists from earlier point out that there is no bullet hole anywhere in the diner. The tourists mention Max, but Liz tries to cover for him and explain that he was probably a tourist. The tourists won’t shut their mouths and tell Valenti that it looks like Liz knew them.

Liz gets home and examines her ketchup-stained shirt.

That’s a weird handprint, no?

handprint liz parker roswell

Liz is in science class, and in walks Max Evans. The teacher tells everyone to take a swab of the inside of their cheek and Max bolts, conveniently leaving behind the pencil he was chewing on. Who chews on pencils? So gross.

Liz is nosy, grabs Max’s pencil and takes a sample to examine under the microscope. His cells are different from hers. So weird, what is he- like an alien or something?

Also, let’s add to the list of ways Roswell is different from Dawson’s Creek:

  1. Efficiency
  2. Smart female leads

No unnecessarily wordy soliloquys, no passive aggression, no mind games. Liz had a hunch, Liz followed said hunch, Liz confronted Max about said hunch. All in two minutes’ work.

Liz pulls Max into what looks like the choir room- when we finally meet the infamous Kyle.

roswell kyle valenti

BUT THOSE SUNGLASSES, THOUGH.

Kyle asks if Liz got his message and is just casually like, “Are you okay?” Your girlfriend got shot, dude. Try again.

Liz tells Kyle that she and Max are looking for a place to study and Kyle goes from zero to jealous in two seconds. He tries to tell Liz that he got his costume for the Crash Festival and Liz is all, “Whatever, Kyle, Max is way cooler than you and I’m not listening to a word you say.”

Kyle leaves and Liz shows Max the handprint. And fesses up to taking the sample from his pencil. She asks if she got the wrong cells, and Max tells her that she didn’t.

Max explains that he is “not from around here.” Where is he from, exactly?

Oh, so like- New England?

max evans roswell

Oh God, Max, are you Canadian?!

max evans jason behr roswell

Liz is all, “No way, you’re not an alien,” and Max is all, “The PC term is ‘not of this Earth.’”

Liz freaks out and tries to run, but Max stops her and tells her to keep her mouth shut.

“My life is in your hands.”

That’s deep. And kind of hot, actually.

Baby-faced Colin Hanks is reading the paper to Maria. Maria is pointing out to Colin Hanks- Alex-  that Liz is acting weird. Alex tells Maria to chill out.

Cut to a food truck in the middle of the desert and Katherine Heigl is doing Katherine Heigl by lamenting to Max about what he did (how dare you save a life!). She puts a hand over her taco to heat it up. If hashtags were around in 1999, #alienswag would have just popped up on the screen.

roswell pilot

That nail polish. #1999problems

Isabel realizes that Max told Liz about where they’re from. She and Michael freak out, and Michael says that it’s time to leave Roswell. We learn that Max and Isabel are siblings, while Michael’s father only keeps him around “for the monthly check.” Max makes a really unsafe u-turn and they speed off into the desert.

Back at school, Liz runs into Maria in the bathroom. Maria asks what happened at the diner, and Liz tells her that she saw everything. Maria questions Liz, holds up a paper covered in blood and asks what Max did to her.

In the jeep, Max tells Isabel that he “couldn’t just let her die.”

MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY. I like Max. We seem to be on the same page.

Valenti pulls them over and tells them to be careful and watch their speed. He tells them to “arrive alive” as he notices a bottle of Tobasco sauce on the floor of Max’s jeep.

Max tells Michael that it will be okay and Michael reminds Max that everyone on “the ship” was killed. Not true, Michael! Kate Winslet survived.

Oh- different ship. Sorry.

Max tells Michael that Liz is different, but Michael isn’t having it. He gets upset and storms off.

Kyle walks Liz to her door and tells her that she has been “somewhere else” all night. Liz asks Kyle if he feels things when he sees her. He says yes- awkwardly- but asks what he’s supposed to feel. Super cringeworthy 90s teenage drama scene, anyone?

Liz’s shirt raises up and Kyle sees the handprint. Kyle goes to question it, but Liz brushes him off.

Later, Liz is hanging out on her roof when Max beckons from below. They go to the diner to talk.

Max says that he wanted to tell Liz that he is an alien a thousand times. He also randomly says that he keeps picturing her in “the dress with the cupcakes on it.” Facebook creeping, 1999 style, y’all.

Max explains that he doesn’t read minds, but he made some sort of connection with Liz when he healed her. He knows that the dress was the “single supreme embarrassment” of her life. He also tells Liz that he can try to make the connection go the other way so that she can see the real him. He touches her face, and ethereal sounding 90s music plays while they gaze into each others’ eyes.

“I could feel everything he was feeling. I could feel his loneliness. For the first time, I was really seeing Max Evans.” It’s so campy, but so epic and fantastic at the same time.

The next morning, Liz is talking about how her entire life has changed. Alex meets Liz in the choir room and confronts her about how she has been acting so weird. Liz assures Alex that nothing is going on and whatever happened is “totally over.” Totally pointless scene until the cop with the mullet walks in and tells Liz that Valenti needs to speak to her.

Valenti shows Liz pictures of a dead body with a handprint over its chest. He asks Liz was she makes of it, and she says that she has never seen said handprint before. Valenti tells her that Kyle said that he saw a similar mark on Liz’s stomach. This is why we can’t have nice things, Kyle.

Sheriff creepily insists on showing him her stomach, and she abides. No mark! Phew.

He asks Liz about Max, and Liz says that she doesn’t know him all that well. Nor was he at the diner the day of the shooting. Sheriff shows Liz a backpack that someone turned in and asks if it was hers.

Valenti talks to an Agent Stevens about the handprint. Stevens brushes him off.

Max and Liz walk into a classroom and Liz freaks out. She wants to know everything.

What we do know: Max doesn’t know where he came from. There was a ship crash in 1947 and he, Isabel and Michael were in some sort of “incubation pods.”

Powers? Connection. They can “manipulate molecular structures.” Max puts his hand on a creepy looking clay statue, turns it into a solid block of clay and then turns it back. He explains that this is how he healed Liz.

“Why?

“It was you.”

Nobody else knows about these powers. Liz realizes that Max risked everything by healing her. She explains that Valenti suspects Max was responsible for the handprint on Liz’s stomach. Max bolts.

isabel and max roswell season 1

With her legs up in the air, Max tells Isabel that it’s time to leave. #RoswellOutofContext

Maria goes to Liz and demands the truth. She threatens to tell Valenti everything she knows- which is that Max “did something.” It’s really hard to take her seriously dressed like this:

roswell maria alien

Liz tells Maria not to flip out, and Maria runs away screaming bloody murder. Maria is in the know, y’all.

Michael asks Max about the picture Liz mentioned. Isabel essentially tells Michael to STFU.

Maria, meanwhile, is having a panic attack and rambling to Liz. They see Max, Isabel and Michael pass by. Liz and Maria flip a u-turn. What is with all the unsafe driving in this episode?

Max, Isabel and Michael pull into an alley and Liz and Maria follow because dark alleys are perfectly safe places.

Liz tells them that Maria knows, and Michael is less than impressed. She tells them not to leave, as leaving would make them look guilty.

“Guilty of what, saving your life?” – Michael’s words, not Max’s. WTF, dude, you were the one who tried to stop him from doing it to begin with! I need you to pick a side and stick to it, please.

Michael tells Liz to leave and Max tells Michael that they can’t keep this secret forever. Max says he is going to turn himself into Valenti, but Liz has an idea. She seduces Kyle- in a really terrible attempt at a “sexy voice”- into attending the Crash Festival. Kyle strikes me as the puppy dog type who is going to spend three seasons doing anything and everything Liz says. It’s gonna be a long show for him, isn’t it?

Liz tells Kyle to meet her in thirty minutes. She then informs Max of this plan. Maria and Isabel are off executing their part of said plan- which involves Maria rolling in the dirt. Maria tosses Isabel the car keys and tells her not to destroy her mother’s car.

At the party, Valenti finds Max- who is wearing a suit- which is completely out of place at a festival about aliens- and asks what he did to Liz. He immediately handcuffs Max and throws him against the side of a trailer, which I’m pretty sure violates about one hundred different laws in the state of New Mexico. Is it too much to ask for a little realism from a teenage drama about aliens? Geez.

Thankfully, before my head can explode, Isabel “runs” the car into Maria and creates a commotion that distracts everyone else. They wait until Valenti is looking for a “not of this Earth” creature to hover over Maria and place a hand on her.

roswell season 1 pilot

I think I saw this costume at Party City last week for like $20.

The “creature” runs off once Alex runs over to see what is going on. Valenti, completely unphased by the fact that someone was just HIT BY A CAR, runs over not to see if Maria is okay, but instead to examine the handprint on her chest. When Maria fake wakes up, Valenti simply asks if she is okay.

Weird tourist from the diner points out the guy in the bad costume to Valenti. Valenti tells the tourist to “watch the kid,” and takes off.

She just theoretically got hit by a car and was fake knocked unconscious, but it’s TOTES NO BIG DEAL. Stay with her and make sure nothing weird happens. WHAT?!!?

Valenti follows the guy in the bad costume, but loses him in a crowd. When he spots the person he’s looking for, he realizes he made a mistake. A wonderful mistake, in my opinion, but still a mistake, nonetheless.

kyle valenti roswell

UGH. I HATE when I’m looking for someone, but run into adorably baby-faced Nick Wechsler, instead. The struggle is real.

Kyle and his father have a semi-awkward father-son exchange. Allow me to paraphrase:

Kyle: “WTF, Dad?”

Valenti: “Oops. Thought you were someone else.”

Kyle: “Have you seen Liz?”

Valenti: “No.”

*awkward pause*

*continued awkward pause*

Kyle: “Great chat, Dad.”

Kyle turns around and goes back to whatever it was that he was doing (standing around pouting while he waits for Liz?). Valenti looks down to find what looks like silver paint on his hand.

Meanwhile, in a port-a-potty, Michael’s hair frees itself from the grasp of the cheap Party City mask:

roswell brendan fehr

I’m not kidding- his hair literally springs out from under the mask. I want you all to imagine a sound effect here that sounds like a giant, “BOIIIIIIING!”

Michael’s face reads, “what is going on with my acting career right now?” as he throws the mask into the toilet. Probably not the best place to hide evidence.

Speaking of breaking laws, Valenti finds Max again and seems intent on breaking every law of criminal procedure ever invented. He plasters Max up against the side of a trailer- AGAIN- and will not quit interrogating him.

“You went up to Liz Parker in that cafe, and you did something. And I need to know what it was.”

I’ll tell you! He saved her life, because EVERYBODY ELSE JUST STOOD THERE like a bunch of pansies. Nobody rushed to her aid- oh wait, Max did. Nobody bothered to call 911- oh wait, Max did. Nobody even attempted to render any sort of first aid- OH WAIT, MAX DID. Get off his case, Valenti.

Oh, and Michael essentially told him not to do any of the stuff mentioned in the previous paragraph. THE MAN IS A HERO. Although, I guess in this case, the correct sentence would be: THE ALIEN IS A HERO. But I digress.

Max puts on the puppy dog eyes and says that he had a hamburger and ran away when the gun went off. Valenti says that he is hellbent on finding the truth, and that while Max is smart, he is, too. I only agree with half of Valenti’s statement. At this point, I find Valenti more annoying that anything else.

The point of the Crash Festival is to commemorate the “ship” that Michael referred to earlier in the episode crashing into Roswell. The fake “ship” fake crashes and everyone cheers, except for our three favorite aliens.

michael isabel max roswell

This is something that all 90s teenage dramas had in common: brooding. So. Much. Brooding. This particular brooding sequence takes only a few moments, but alternates between shots of tormented Max, Isabel and Michael and burning aliens. Max saves us from said brooding sequence when he looks over his shoulder to find Liz standing on what looks like the top of a hill.

I suggest reading this next paragraph with “Crash” by Dave Matthews Band playing in the background, cause the next scene begins with that song.

Max and Liz have a moment with literal sparks flying behind them.

roswell liz and max

LITERAL SPARKS. Sparks + Dave Matthews Band make it so deliciously 90s that I’m about to go put on a slap bracelet and slam back a Surge. I love it so much.

Max tells Liz that it’s not safe for them, and then trails off. Liz simply says, “I don’t care.”

Here is where seeing this show through adult eyes comes into play. Teenage me thought this scene was lovey-dovey and spectacular. Adult me wants to act like teenage me, take this scene out of context and giggle hysterically at my own immaturity.

Max says that he wishes that they could be something more, but they can’t, and then trails off again. Liz finishes the sentence for him and says that it’s because they’re different. Max agrees with an overzealous smile, while Liz’s face is the polar opposite:

roswell shiri appleby

Friendzoned. Sorry, Liz.

Max’s overzealous smile kills the scene, the mood AND the sparks. Looks like someone doesn’t know his own alien strength.

roswell liz parker max evans

Before Max walks away, Liz thanks him for saving her life. He responds by thanking her back.

We end the episode with Liz writing in her journal once again. She sums up the episode with one last sentence. She says that five days ago, she died, but then the crazy part happened: she came back to life. The screen fades to black, and teenagers around the world fantasize about having their lives saved by a hot alien.

As far as pilot episodes go, Roswell easily goes down as one of the best. It sets the love story in motion, but leaves you with as much intrigue as Liz had when Max jumped in the jeep and sped away at the diner. I will leave you with this: I’m excited to rewatch the rest of the series because not only am I a sucker for a good 1990s teenage drama, but I always love a good alien love story. E.T., phone home, y’all.

Photo credit: The WB

Written by: Gina Zippilli

About Jordan Hickman

When I was in high school, I was watching The X Files in the closet of our basement when I was supposed to be sleeping. My dad caught me and he laughed at me. It was then I knew TV would quickly become an obsession of mine. TV is in a golden era right now, and I'm so thrilled to be along for the ride. I started this website because writing is also a passion of mine and I wanted to combine the two. I'm also a wife and mom, which means I'm not always timely in getting reviews in.

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