Roswell: The Complete Third Season Review
And so we come to the end of Roswell, the sci-fi-teen television series that focuses mainly on character relationships rather than fancy special effects. The third season was to be the last for the show, and also saw a switch to UPN from its previous home at WB. The first series introduced Max, Isabel and Michael – our three aliens stranded in Roswell, and also their friends and love interests Liz, Maria and Alex. The show in its early stages definitely focused on the relationships, with the one between Max and Liz forming the foundation from which all else stemmed. Then the show progressed into its second season, this time exploring science fiction themes more deeply and losing some of its original charm but nevertheless managing to progress the story and characters.
At the end of the second season a way home for the trio was triggered by Tess, the newly-discovered alien among the gang. Leaving Max, Isabel and Michael on Earth, Tess went back to their home planet, taking within her Max's unborn child. The third season definitely marks a return to the relationship focus that was so strong in the first. Isabel has a new love in her life (the handsome attorney Jesse); Max and Liz get back together and get over the whole Tess incident; and Michael and Maria continue to spar as their love for one another grows. There's also more of a concentration on the children's parents. Liz's dad (played by John Doe) and Max's parents (played by Garrett M Brown and Mary Ellen Trainor) have begun to take a more active interest in their children's lies and try to unravel the secrets that surround them. While there's less science fiction and special effects, there remains the threat of discovery for the aliens and that helps to drive the plot along, though the episodes here feel much more stand-alone that in previous seasons.
That's not to say there aren't story arcs, because there are. Each relationship grows and changes through the season – Isabel even gets married! There's also a few short arcs peppered throughout, which include Max's desire to rescue his son, a rich businessman's need for alien healing, and the return of the FBI as a threat for the aliens-in-hiding. It just doesn't feel as satisfactory as the two previous seasons though, mainly because of the quick tie-up of loose ends towards the end – a factor shared by many shows that are cancelled before they really had a chance to finish the story they were telling. Whether it's the vestigial story arcs, the silliness of Liz's alien abilities, or the abrupt ending – it's a brave effort which doesn't quite pull it off. Even with guest stars like Morgan Fairchild and Joe Pantoliano, the show feels like it's wilting. Maybe too much was revealed in the first season, so we have little left to find out about the origins of the aliens, or maybe a show that involves so many couples that are so clearly destined to stay together forever lacks some potential drama – even when Michael and Maria argue, we're never really in doubt that they'll end up together. The characters, though, remain likeable and well presented – it's the strong stories they're really lacking here.
The season kicks off with Max and Liz arrested and jailed in Utah for holding up a convenience store in an attempt to gain access to a spaceship apparently contained in the basement of the store. Max's father comes to Utah to defend the pair and we discover that Isabel has been having a secret affair with an attorney that works with her father.
2: Michael, the Guys and the Great Snapple Caper
Michael gets another job (he's still working at the Crashdown) as an overnight security guard. In his new job he quickly connects with his co-workers and makes some new friends, though he does cause them a bit of trouble too. Liz and Max continue to meet up, despite the fact her parents have warned her off him after the Utah incident.
3: Significant Others
Colin Hanks returns for a brief appearance this episode as Alex, guiding Isabel through her feelings for Jesse (the aforementioned attorney she's been seeing).
4: Secrets and Lies
Max sets off to Hollywood on the track of the second shapeshifter that came to Earth with the alien gang. Following a trail that starts on a show called 'They Are Among Us', he eventually finds Kal Langley (played by Joe Pantoliano). He also gets to audition for Star Trek, reading in front of Jonathan Frakes and John Billingsley – both playing themselves. Meanwhile Kyle learns some more about the relationship between his father and grandfather.
Max, with the help of Kal Langley, manages to find a spacecraft that might be able to take him home to rescue his son. Back in New Mexico, Isabel tells her parents of her engagement – receiving only negative reactions to her great dismay.
6: To Have and To Hold
Isabel is having a nightmare preparing for her wedding with no parental support, and the nightmare doesn't end there. She has recurring erotic dreams of her alien lover, Kivar, which only add to the pre-nuptial stress she's experiencing. Michael and Max (having returned from his trip) set out to find out more about Jesse, while Maria and Liz are roped in to help organise the wedding.
Isabel and Jesse head to La Jolla for their honeymoon – but Kivar has followed them there. When Kivar makes contact with Isabel the reactions are electric, and he tries to persuade her to return home with him. Max and Michael follow on to La Jolla and help save Isabel from herself! Back in Roswell Liz discovers that Max's dad has started a secret investigation into his son's excuses and secrets.
8: Behind the Music
An old flame of Maria turns up in Roswell and rekindles her passion for music; at the same time he kindles a spark of intense jealousy in Michael.
9: Samuel Rising
The obligatory slightly cheesy Christmas episode, featuring Isabel as the Christmas Nazi (reformed). Max becomes fascinated with a mute autistic child who calls him 'daddy', Michael plays Santa, and Maria and Liz get roped in as elves.
10: A Tale of Two Parties
Liz restores her friendly relationship with her father while helping out at the Crashdown New Year's Party. Meanwhile Max, Maria and Michael head off to seek Roswell's highly elusive legendary New Year's Rave party. Isabel helps Kyle out with picking up girls, and Michael gets drunk – again showing that aliens really can't hold their alcohol.
11: I Married An Alien
A friend of Jesse's comes to stay, but his journalistic tendencies soon put the aliens' secret in grave danger. At the same time Michael admits an addiction to Bewitched and Isabel fantasizes about what her life would be like if Jesse knew about her secret – with these amusing fantasy sequences filmed in direct homage to Bewitched.
Liz starts to change, displaying some alien powers which freak her and Kyle out. She volunteers for boarding school in Vermont so she can get away from Max, in case he's the trigger for the changes. Maria gets offered a recording contract in New York and also decides it's time for a break from Roswell.
Michael manages to uncover a conspiracy at the company he works for – they seem to be investigating him and the other aliens. Michael enlists the help of his friends and things go terribly, terribly wrong. Meanwhile, Liz has started her boarding school in Vermont and Maria, annoyed with the record company in New York, has left to go visit her friend Liz.
14: Chant Down Babylon
Jesse learns about Isabel and Michael inherits the power to heal. Liz has an unusual visitor in Vermont and her alien body-changes seem to be continuing.
15: Who Died and Made You King?
Life is always more complicated when the FBI gets involved, and they're back with a vengeance in this episode. Jesse tries to deal with his new-found knowledge of his wife's origins, and the rest of the gang keep a close eye on him as he does so.
Michael witnesses a fighter jet crash with an alien vessel and launches into an investigation of the incident. Isabel spends the day with her mother, who's being a bit devious in helping her husband try and work out what's going on with Max and Isabel.
17: Four Aliens and A Baby
Well, who would have thought? Tess and baby were the travellers on the alien vessel of the previous episode and the gang are again plunged into danger as the FBI go on the search for the escaped aliens. The Evanses finally find out their children's secret!
As graduation approaches, Liz manifests a strange power… the ability to see into the future. This includes a vision of the gang's deaths, which will occur within 12 days if the clues in the visions are anything to go by.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer allows us to watch the show in widescreen, as did the previous seasons. The transfer is pretty good, though there's some grain noticeable throughout and the first episode looks incredibly washed out. These visual glitches could be something the production aimed for, but this just doesn't look as good as the previous two seasons did to me. Still, in general colour tones are good, with a lot of dark scenes not damaging an ability to follow the story and see details, and with realistic skin tones throughout.
The choice is Dolby Digital 5.1 in English or French. As with many television show transfers, the surround sound really doesn't get a huge workout, although there is some directionality noticeable at times, so it's not completely worthless to have the surround speakers on while watching these DVDs. Dialogue is always at the forefront and clear through the many examples of background music throughout the show. As with previous seasons, there's a strong chance that music has been changed from the original airings to the DVD transfer, but I can't say for sure as this is the first time I've seen the third season of Roswell.
The main extras are scattered through the discs and are various commentaries. Jonathan Frakes, executive producer and director of the show, provides commentary for the episodes 'Secrets and Lies' and 'Behind the Music'. He does his best to provide some interest, but frankly, he's not all that entertaining to listen to. Scattered anecdotes and technical directorial details are the main feature of these commentaries. I'd have rather heard from the actors as we have on previous DVDs – they may be giggly, but it makes a change from the dryness exhibited here.
Ronald D Moore, executive producer and writer talks about 'I Married an Alien' – arguably one of the most fun episodes of the series. It's more interesting to listen to than Frakes' efforts. This is a commentary worth listening to! Finally we get to hear from executive producer, writer and powerhouse behind Roswell, Jason Katims on the episode 'Graduation' – the last episode of the show. As with his commentaries on previous seasons, he's interesting to listen to, if a little apt to wax lyrical about the acting team and how wonderful the show is.
The final extra is a featurette called 'Class of 2002', with traditional soundbites from the cast about the shooting and character development seen in season 3. Quite often they talk about the progression from the romances on season 1, to sci-fi in season 2 and then a merging of the two but really a return to character-driven stories in season 3. There's little discussion of the cancellation of the show, but then this is less than 15 minutes of featurette.
Season 3 brings closure to the Roswell fan community, wisely using the time it was given to provide an ending to the stories of Michael, Max, Liz, Maria and Isabel. Although the season is more patchy in quality than previous ones, it's still well worth a viewing, especially if you've been enjoying the story up to this point.