Season 1, Episode 4
Date of airing: October 27, 1999 (WB)
Nielsen ratings information: 2.9/4 in Households
This episode was quite alright. I understand now why the ratings of ROSWELL were dismal for the expectations of The WB, after the pilot apparently tested so sky-high — there is just a little too much teenage romance in a show that has a premise involving aliens, as well as a large portion of science-fiction background and story. To be honest, I’m not as interested in the show after four episodes than I was before I started watching it for the hell of it (and nostalgia), and maybe that’s one of the reasons why I never followed the show like a true TV geek when it first aired on German TV, even though I was totally in the target audience back then. At the end of the day the writers may have focused on things the viewers did not want to see, and a teenage soap opera was anything but the target audience was interested in. They wanted aliens, and not another DAWSON’S CREEK, and it’s something I don’t want either. Give me aliens and tense storytelling and situations in which the characters have to fear for their lives. When I want romance, I can rewatch DAWSON’S CREEK.
I must say I liked the emotional drama coming out of Grandma’s situation though, despite my feelings for the ridiculousness of the story. Maybe I watch too much ER, but seeing Grandma all about and healthy at the beginning of the episode, yet she died at the end, seemed very off for me. Grandma could have had a guest appearance in the next episode, and Jason Katims could have killed her off then, giving her character an opportunity to have an impact with the other characters before going into the light on her way to the afterlife. Liz is already not active with her parents, and seeing her talk about her life with a family member was a nice thing to write into the script, but the thing is that Liz doesn’t have a back story as a family member, which pulled a lot of significance out of her scenes with her dying grandma. Grandma’s death brought some nice emotions out of Liz at the end of the day, and even though it was just a plot device to get her closer to Max and grow that romance plot in this alien science-fiction show, I was about to lose a little tear, when Max tried to help Liz say goodbye, and actually succeeded (did he know he succeeded before Grandma showed up?), and I was about to lose a tear when Liz went back to Max in the final scene, getting her much-needed hug and warmth from another person.
Also, I’m happy that the break-up between Liz and Kyle already happened in the fourth episode. Now I don’t know what good Kyle will be for the rest of the season, but it was an unexpected twist, albeit a deserved one after he turned out to be one hell of a creep in this hour. Finally there is a high school girl on broadcast television who instantly broke up with her boyfriend, after she learned he and his goons of friends attacked one of her friends (over in Newport Beach, Marissa needed a while to get rid of Luke). Usually, most, if not all, teenage soaps keep the couple together, simply for the future conflicts between the girl’s boyfriend and the girl’s true soulmate. I do hope though that the break-up will have repercussions. If Kyle is stupid, and I know he is stupid, he will blame Max for what just happened to him. And conflict between Kyle and Max, as cliched as it might be, would do the show some good. When you need some tension for the narrative, it doesn’t need science-fiction elements in it. Sometimes tension can be created in a teenage soap opera, as long as you don’t focus on the romance of it all.
Isabel working at the Crashdown Cafe was the highlight of the episode for me, and I was laughing, when her two BFFs sounded (and looked) like they were just jumping out of GOSSIP GIRL, travelling back about seven years in time, and decided to hang around in Roswell to criticize every other person not wearing chic clothes. “Image is everything” — I could have given those girls a bitchslap for that comment alone, because it was so cliched and horrible. But whatever. Isabel helping out Maria was a moment to make her more approachable as a character, and to somehow form the band of friends between the aliens and Liz and Maria.
Sadly, Isabel didn’t have much screentime to make it count and create that friendship with Maria. Thankfully Michael didn’t have a lot of screentime either, since his “revenge plan” against the guys who beat up Max was just too stupid for the show. First of all, it was a cliche that Michael would go after the boys by ruining their work at school, and secondly, it was to be expected that Michael would go down that route and be less conspicuous about it, and thirdly, I just hate it when Michael isn’t listening to his friends and family. Apparently he doesn’t consider Max a brother, or otherwise he would have listened to him and stop going after the guys. It makes Michael more of an aggressive character, which is intended (to create the perception that he might be a villain), but I don’t like the aggression he shows. At the end, Michael is just another bully — a bully from the stars, but he is a bully, and I hate bullies. I’m like Steve Rogers in that regard.