Roswell: The Complete Second Season Review
I started watching season 2 of Roswell convinced from others' comments that I wouldn't enjoy it all that much. Although I did like the first series of the show, everyone said that each subsequent series deteriorated. But I'm glad to report that I found the second series also enjoyable in that teen drama kind of way. For the background and storyline of the first series you can check out my review here; I'm going to stick to commenting on the progression of the plot in series 2 in this review.
So the last series left our alien friends with a new member of their crew, Tess. Kyle, the sheriff's son, had also discovered the aliens and been saved by them, and Nasedo was left assuming the role of alien hunter for the FBI in an ironic manner. Having been involved in a death towards the end of the season, Max, Isabel and Michael start this season a little shaken still, with the threat of their cover always being blown. Added to this, Tess was revealed as Max's natural mate (and Michael as Isabel's, though this is less important to the second series and is barely touched upon), and this drives an inevitable spike into Max and Liz's almost sickly-sweet romance. The show is still focused on relationships in the second season, but to spice things up there are some new characters to add to the mix and plenty more aliens, most of which aren't as friendly as our gang.
This is the final season that aired on the WB network, as disagreements and pressure from the studio led to a swap over to UPN in the same way that Buffy: The Vampire Slayer moved networks during its run. The cast and crew are fairly honest in the special features about what pressure they were under to improve ratings, especially by including more and more sci-fi and sexier clothes and to try and make the show more 'Buffy' in feel. The writers included some of this, but on the whole chose to incur the wrath of the network by remaining true to the story they wanted to tell. However, this sustained pressure means that the second season does have a slightly different feel when compared to the first.
Regardless, the biggest change is for Max and Liz, Max being pushed towards Tess until he finally gives in, and Liz searching for a more adult way of life, and for something to help her laugh again, in the form of Sean DeLuca (played by Devon Gummersall). There are also a lot of storylines going on at the same time as the primary story arc, relating to the aliens finding a way home and then having to decide whether to use it or not. Other new characters include: Brody Davis (Desmond Askew), new owner of the UFO Museum and self-proclaimed abductee who has just enough of the sinister about him for us to suspect something is up; Nicholas Crawford (Miko Hughes) as the all too believably sinister Skin representative on Earth; and Grant Sorenson (Jeremy Davidson), initially a love interest for Isabel… but nothing is ever as simple as it seems. There's also a whole town of Skins (another alien race) to contend with.
One of the things I do like about the show is the way they're able to fit in new people. Jason Katims (the show's creator) speaks at length about the difficulty of making the audience like Tess, especially after the whole first season was dedicated to the Max and Liz relationship. But they manage to at least make people more sympathetic to the Tess character through a number of well-written set pieces. Kyle, the sheriff's son, also gets some good character development in this season, and I have to say, he's a welcome addition to the team with his wry comments and newfound Buddhism. In fact, Kyle and Alex (though still fairly peripheral) get some of the best comments about reactions to finding out aliens are among us (while Maria and Liz tend to be a bit super-girly and giggly about it all – no, not going into a rant about why the male characters get to be a bit more deep about it).
The story arc has many ups and downs, but it seemed to me like there were fewer filler episodes… mainly because they manage to carry on the continuity of theme fairly well, despite the turnaround in subsidiary characters such as Courtney and Lauree. At the start there is a bit of an 'alien of the week' theme, but when they all get tied to the Skins, it makes a bit more sense… for a while I was a bit worried that every new character they were going to meet would be alien though! Thankfully, I was wrong.
So what is it about the show that sustains the interest? Well, the writing is still very good and has a good whack of realism about it (as opposed to the dialogue of Dawson's Creek or Buffy), and some of the heartache and confusion exhibited by both humans and aliens alike has incredible resonance. The acting is solid and really helped by the fantastic adult actors they've drawn in to share time with the younger stars of the show, and the chemistry between the actors definitely works on screen. Every detail about the relationships has been considered, and all of the pressures that each character faces are used to help that character develop. There are also some fairly surprising elements to this season which demonstrates that Roswell is able to take some risks and get away with it. But to avoid spoiling the series for those of you reading this, I'm not going to fully explore that path, so apologies there.
It's a solid second season for an unassuming but enjoyable television teen drama. It doesn't glow with the glory of Buffy but it revels in its strengths: the ability to develop teen relationships in bizarre circumstances and to imbue the viewer with real sympathies for the characters. There are some more experimental characters brought in, and some experimental situations developed in attempts to jazz up the show and its ratings – but it never loses touch with the relationship and growing up theme, elements that really make Roswell stand out for me.
1: 'Skin and Bones'
Picking up where the last series left off, Liz and Kyle have been away for the summer, while the others have been dealing with the aftermath of the events of the last series. Michael is arrested for murder and needs serious help and Liz shows a new mature side by taking a job with a local congresswoman who seems to have an unhealthy interest in aliens.
2: 'Ask Not'
This episode opens with everyone bar Max partying at The Crashdown and generally letting their hair down before school starts again. Max runs in with some truly startling news that I'm not going to break here and suddenly the quiet days are over and suspicion and paranoia return to the lives of our favourite three aliens (and Tess!) as they try and work out who 'The Skins' are, after a warning from Nasedo. Brody Davis is introduced as the new and rather suspicious (well, he has a British accent so chances are he's dodgy!) owner of the UFO Museum where Max works. Kyle returns from football camp, having embraced Buddhism as a way to deal with the revelations of the last series.
It's Isabel's birthday and Max throws a surprise birthday party for her, but the mood is spoiled by the onset of disturbing visions for Isabel, all of which relate to Tess being in big trouble. Isabel bails out of the party to go help Tess (but manages to stay long enough to see Alex's fun striptease). The congresswoman is revealed to be just as dodgy as expected (i.e. a Skin), but Tess is saved by Isabel's actions.
4: 'Summer of '47'
Always in trouble with schoolwork, Michael is set a project of going to talk to a pensioner about World War II. The subject of his essay ends up being someone stationed at Roswell during the 1947 crash era – as the story gets told, we're transported to the past with the parts of soldiers and reporters being played by the same actors that take roles in Roswell. Michael learns more about his past through the project and also learns there were four more aliens sent at the same time as he, Max, Tess and Isabel.
5: 'The End of the World'
A much older version of Max travels to present time from the future to warn Liz that if they remain together happily then it will spell disaster, and to ask for her help in getting him together with Tess. Painful for all involved, Liz does her utmost to make Max fall out of love with her, resorting to deceitful tactics. The visit is something Liz has to then keep secret for most of the series. Maria is annoyed at Michael's growing attention for the waitress Courtney and challenges him over it a few times.
Wanting to investigate the congresswoman further, Liz, Max, Tess and Isabel visit the town of Copper Summit, Arizona – where the congresswoman was from – so they can speak to her family and maybe learn some more about her. They certainly learn quite a lot more, including the fact that the entire town population are Skins and out to get them. Luckily Maria and Michael have been investigating Courtney (through different tactics, of course) and end up having the whole Skin thing explained to them as they drive with her across the country to save the others.
Those damn Skins! First you hear about them and then they seem to be everywhere! The cheeky devils have now made all the humans (bar Liz, Maria, Kyle and Sheriff Valenti) in Roswell disappear utilising some techo-babble worthy of Star Trek! Lots of confusion ensues until the situation is brought to an end by the remaining humans working out how they might be able to bring everyone back and also by Tess using a power we've certainly never seen unleashed before, devastating the Skins.
8: 'Meet the Dupes'
So we learned a couple of episodes ago that there were another four aliens sent to Earth at the same time as our lovable four. This episode confirms that and also the fact they used the same human DNA so they look identical (bar some punk styling). The duplicate gang are in New York and talk about some 'summit', they kill their version of Max (Zan) and they travel to Roswell and persuade Max to take his place as the summit is very important. Tess goes to New York with Max, while Ava (duplicate Tess) stays behind in Roswell.
9: 'Max in the City'
Brody (who turns out to be an abductee) is abducted again and his body used by Larik to attend the New York summit. We learn that duplicate Michael and Isabel have a secret agenda (no kidding!) and have made a deal with the evil child Nicholas, a Skin. So Max heads for the summit, while Liz learns from Ava what happened to the duplicate Max. Max eventually learns of the dupes' plans (with a little help from Isabel and Ava teaching Liz how to dreamwalk to him and warn him), and he and Tess manage to get back down to Roswell having foiled the agreement made by the dupes.
10: 'A Roswell Christmas Carol'
Max is faced with a dilemma when he witnesses a tragedy just before Christmas – he has the ability to heal people but has to be careful not to reveal his secret, so he makes a conscious decision not to save someone's life because in doing so he would be exposed. Haunted by the ghost of the man whom he allowed to die, he has to decide how to reconcile his conscience with his need for secrecy. Meanwhile the Christmas Nazi (Isabel) is out spreading Christmas cheer in her own very strict and regimented way. Tess starts to feel more at home with the Valenti family as she cooks them a meal and Michael finally decides what to get Maria for a present.
11: 'To Serve and Protect'
Isabel's visions continue, this time showing her a girl who's been buried alive. Getting help this time from Sheriff Valenti, they race to try and find the kidnapped teenager (Laurie DuPree) before it's too late. Unfortunately Valenti's unorthodox policing has been reported and the FBI are soon in town asking questions. Isabel's new friend, geologist Grant Sorenson, comes under suspicion for kidnapping (due to his proximity to the woods where the burial took place).
12: 'We Are Family'
Valenti is officially suspended from his post because of his refusal to answer the more probing questions. When Laurie DuPree turns up at his house claiming to be chased by aliens, Valenti finds himself back in the middle of things again though.
13: 'Disturbing Behavior'
After learning some interesting things from Laurie, Michael (with help from Maria) helps her to escape from the police while gaining her confidence a little more. Meanwhile, after a weird rock shows up at the burial site, Max learns that when their ship crashed into Earth 50 years ago it released a potentially deadly parasite, one that could live on in only very few humans, one of which is Laurie DuPree, though they're fairly certain she wasn't exposed long enough.
14: 'How the Other Half Lives'
Alex, Kyle, Max, Liz and Isabel dig in the woods to find the source of the strange rocks until Alex and Kyle get stuck in a cave filled with them. Isabel is kidnapped by Grant Sorenson, possessed by the queen parasite, and Michael and Maria learn a lot about those with riches as they spend some time with Laurie's family.
15: 'Viva Las Vegas'
With money burning a hole in his pocket Michael treats the entire gang to a trip to Las Vegas (during school no less). What should be a bundle of fun ends up with Max and Michael having a massive standoff over who's in charge, Maria auditioning as a stripper, and Isabel finally working out a bit more of what she's looking for in a man. It all ends up with a gloriously expensive dinner where the relationships are all resolved (that is, until Valenti busts the group and sends them all home with tails between legs). The episode also marks the start of Maria's intro sections to episodes, which last for the rest of the season.
16: 'Heart of Mine'
Uh-oh, it's prom time and that always spells trouble for American teens (even those with alien blood in them). Max and Liz go together, but they certainly don't leave that way. Michael and Maria fight over the importance of the prom and she again suspects him of cheating on her. Isabel and Alex get together, and Kyle takes Tess to the prom, but soon realises he pretty much thinks of her as simply a sister. Sean DeLuca (Maria's cousin) spends some quality time with Liz, who actually gets to laugh for once!
17: 'Cry Your Name'
I'm not going to give any spoilers for this episode, which makes it hard to summarise. Suffice it to say something big happens that changes how Liz and Max relate to one another and actually allows them to have a real argument. Liz also sets off on a solo investigation leaving Max to announce they are no longer friends.
18: 'It's Too Late and It's Too Bad'
Basically continuing the themes from the last episode, the gang are still coming to terms with the new tension in their lives. Isabel decides to leave Roswell to go to college after graduating early, but this gets an almost violent reaction from Max, thus burning his bridges with his sister too. Liz turns to Sean for help with her investigations.
19: 'Baby, It's You'
Max learns that Tess is pregnant and that alien gestation is pretty damn quick (yes, they slept together, those crazy kids), but he also discovers that the Earth's atmosphere cannot sustain his progeny... so the search for a way home becomes more urgent. Maria and Michael tag along when Liz makes a trip to Las Cruces to try and learn more about Alex's double life. Isabel uses her abilities to get back at Max (prompted by Kyle). The aliens learn how they can get home.
20: 'Off the Menu'
Brody Davis fries his brain a little while trying for the holodeck experience. Unfortunately this also frees his memories of being Larik and he suddenly recognises Max and Tess as aliens who were at the New York summit. He holds Max, Tess, Mrs DeLuca, Sean and Maria hostage and gets violent before Max can get to him to heal his brain. Tess gets to use her mindwarp powers so that the non-Maria DeLucas won't remember the hostage situation.
21: 'The Departure'
Max, Tess, Michael and Isabel start up their return home, and have only a short time to say their goodbyes to everyone on Earth. But when they're just about to leave, unexpected revelations change things at the last minute and only Tess goes back to the homeworld.
The show is once again presented here in 1.78:1 widescreen though it was originally shown on TV in 4:3. It allows a more cinematic feel for the show, and does it no disservice at all. Colours are well defined and clear, with very few problems. There's a small amount of graininess, but overall it's a very nice transfer that allows the dark and the light to co-exist admirably well.
In my write-up of the first season of Roswell I wrote about the 'controversy' of changing the background music because of rights so they could get the DVDs out. I have to come clean and say that because I didn't ever watch the series on television, I have no idea whether they've done this again for season 2, though it wouldn't surprise me if they did. All I can say is that the sound transfer which is Dolby Digital 5.1 for both English and French works very well with the show. Dialogue and background music are always distinct and the choice of music seemed very appropriate to me as I watched. The surround speakers don't exactly get a tough workout, but there's enough directionality there to be convinced they did switch the 5.1 on.
There's quite a batch of extras here, some more interesting than others. The non-commentary extras are all housed on the final disc of the set, while each commentary track accompanies the episode it goes with, so they're kind of spread out across the discs. There are only three episode commentaries, each on quite important episodes for the show. Writer/Executive Producer Ron Moore talks about 'Ask Not' and 'Cry Your Name' and Creator Jason Katims provides a commentary for 'A Roswell Christmas Carol'. The commentary track for 'Ask Not' deals with how the storyline and characters progress from series 1 to series 2, how they tried to develop each alien power as well as introducing new characters and giving the humans more to do (especially Kyle and Liz); it's fairly dry but interesting. On 'Cry Your Name', Moore is a bit more open about changes to the show, including the openings by Maria and pressure by 'The WB' to try and up ratings and sex up the show, something the writers were unwilling to do too much of, and which led to the move to UPN for series 3. He discusses Colin Hanks and his role in the series quite a bit, giving lots of background about why he doesn't appear so much (he was shooting Band of Brothers and got the offer for Orange County too).
The most interesting of the commentary tracks it's still a little dry, but he does talk throughout! I was quite surprised by the Jason Katims track on 'A Roswell Christmas Carol' where he's joined by Director Patrick Norris – I remember him being a lot more interesting to listen to from series 1, but this commentary really got to me. It's very self-congratulatory about how important this episode is ('not especially', if you ask me, though it is a decent one), and lots about how to make Tess and Kyle more of the gang, but generally it's about how good and important the show is with little else to recommend it. Unlike season 1, there are no cast commentaries, which is a bit of a shame as at least those were fun and made a change from the crew ones. Having said that, after these commentaries I'm not sure I wanted to sit through any more.
So onto the other extras, all on the final disc. The first on offer is a strange montage named A Little Something Extra for the Fans which focuses on some of the relationships that play out through the show, and then shows clips of them developing to some pleasant (if a little cheesy) background music. The couples shown are Max & Liz, Maria & Michael, Kyle & Tess (a bit of a stretch as their 'relationship' doesn't last long before they become as siblings) and Isabel & Alex. The scenes shown are all fairly lovey-dovey, a nod to the expectation that fans of the show are more into the relationships than some of the storylines, perhaps.
A Storyboard to Scene segment promises to offer an insight in how storyboards are used in shooting but instead it's a very short run of clips from the 'Wipe Out!' episode, juxtaposing storyboards with the final scenes. Less interesting than the title would lead you to believe but at least it tries to show something of how the show comes together.
Probably the most interesting extra for me was Here with Me: The Making of Roswell 2. Instead of your average 'Making of' segment, this one is fairly long and doesn't really deal with many aspects of how the show was made. Instead writers, directors and members of the cast comment on each episode in turn until 'It's Too Late and It's Too Bad' (no real reason is given why they don't go on to the final episodes… but still). General information about trying to involve the new characters more and how much the writers actually paid so much attention on how to make Tess less hated by the fans. Colin Hanks contributes by talking about having to perform the striptease segment and his underwear. Jason Katims and Jason Behr provide a double act discussing some of the episodes, often about how Max has had to develop into a leader, after discovering his alien role as king and how that affects his everyday life. Brendan Fehr talks about having to play the duplicates and the technical things involved (well, costume, accent and attitude mostly) and generally there are some interesting snippets of information presented in an unusual manner for this kind of thing. It allows lots of people to be involved in the comments and because of that it has a fairly dynamic feel to it, if you're bored of one person they won't be around long!
Then we have The Shiri and Majandra Show, which is basically the girls sitting on a sofa with cushions talking about the show. They talk about their excitement at being brought back for series 2, 'The WB' putting more pressure on the show to go more 'Buffy', outfits getting sexier and that kind of thing, with lots of giggly comments throughout. The most interesting moments are when the girls talk about how badly their characters are treated by the alien males and how they were so worried about the message this sent out to young fans that they raised it with the producers… which led to Sean DeLuca being brought in as a romantic interest for Liz. They discuss other important moments in the series, but honestly, it's all a bit giggly for me.
Joe Williams, the composer for the series talks about his work in Art of Composing Roswell. He uses one teaser segment to show how music and the musical palette devised for Roswell is used to smooth cuts and provide emotion and tension to scenes. This is the last of the substantive extras, the final one being simply a trailer for the DVD of season 1 of the show.
Roswell is unashamedly a teen drama with a sci-fi feel, and it keeps to its remit admirably in season 2. A little more confident in the cast, this series allows for more dressing up (like the World War II episode, and the dupes episodes) and allows the characters to naturally develop while fitting in some fairly large revelations along the way to keep it interesting. Able to mix up humour, sci-fi and teen angst, if you like these you'd probably warm to the show. Added to that is the fact these DVD sets are really quite nicely put together. The extras may have been of variable levels of interest but they mostly do what they say on the box – they provide extra information or entertainment that would appeal to those watching the DVDs.
Last updated: 29/04/2018 16:52:38