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Series / Roswell

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Roswell (1999-2002) was a short-lived Science Fiction series that debuted on The WB network in 1999. It was moved to UPN in 2001 in a package deal with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and completed a run of three seasons.

The series was a combination of a Science Fiction/Monster of the Week show and a romantic Teen Drama.

The three main characters, Max, Isabel and Michael, are Antarian survivors of the Roswell UFO crash, and were adopted by human families. Though Max and Isabel were raised in a privileged, loving family, Michael was raised in a trailer with his abusive foster father. Though the three successfully isolate themselves from the rest of their classmates through high school, their plan is disrupted when Max saves the life of a girl named Liz Parker using his alien superpowers. Liz's sidekicky friends Maria and Alex add the comedy to this otherwise broody and dramatic lot.

Based on the YA novel series, Roswell High. Often considered to have set the stage for Smallville, which uses a lot of the same themes, but with DCU characters. Not to be confused with Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends. A continuity reboot and second adaptation of the books, titled Roswell, New Mexico, premiered on The CW in 2019.

This TV series provides examples of:

  • 90% of Your Brain: In one episode, Nasedo mentions that all of the hybrids' abilities are things that humans could theoretically do, if they were better at unlocking their full brain power.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: At the end of season 1, they find a message from their mother, who explicitly says, "I take this form because it will be familiar to you, and it will help you to understand what I am about to say."
  • Aborted Arc: Upon the discovery of their spaceship's hologram message, the group is met with a projection of Max's mother/the queen. She tells them how their planet has been overtaken, their people are now slaves, and she begs them to save them (presumably the reason they were even cloned in the first place). We expect some resolution of this in the end, but the final episode gives us the happily ever after of between Max and Liz, who seem to have forgotten all about the crisis on their home planet - Despite the Skins (the invaders) being repeatedly establish as bad guys.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles:
    • The opening of season 2 has Max seeing a therapist his parents appointed to him. After the events of The White Room, one can only imagine what kind of summer Max had... And still can't talk about.
    • Jesse sees a therapist after discovering the aliens' secret, telling him that they are in the mob.
    • Subverted by Topolsky, who poses as a guidance counselor at Roswell High but is actually a member of the Special Unit.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: Maria sings "Amazing Grace" at Alex's funeral.
  • Beta Couple: Michael and Maria, who tended to have far more Slap-Slap-Kiss going on than Max and Liz, but also had stretches of happy stability at times when Max and Liz were on the rocks.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: For the most part, this was hidden deep in the hybrids genetic code; physically they appear totally human, since most of their abilities are mental or used so rarely that they can't be detected. The nearest thing they have to a 'tell' is their fondness for slathering Tabasco sauce on most of their food (they crave the combination of spicy and sweet), and when Isabel gets shot, her body temperature skyrockets up to 115 degrees Farenheit. As Jesse's disgraced doctor friend observes, 107 is generally supposed to be fatal to humans, and he isn't even aware of any recorded instances of someone hitting 108.
  • Butt-Monkey: Everybody shits on Kyle. In the third season, even Kyle shits on Kyle.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Vilandra betrayed her people for her lover, Kivar. Likewise Lonnie and Rath (from the spare set) collaborate with the Skins. Tess is later revealed to have cut a deal with Kivar to be spared if she returned to Antar with Max's child.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: Liz assumes Leanna is not an alien because she's sewing in her room. Her internal logic is that if you have alien powers, then you just wave your hand and fix things instead of taking the time to do it handmade. Because, you know, there's no way an alien might find sewing a compelling hobby, or have any rules about never using your powers for mundane things, reducing the chances of being caught, or any other million possible explanations. Liz's actual clue is that Leanne pricked her finger while sewing: It had been previously established that if the Skins' shell was pierced in any way they would disintegrate.
  • The Empath: The hybrids, via flashes or connecting with people or things.
  • Enter Stage Window: Michael, Max and Liz have all been known to use this trope. It helps that Liz's window leads to a balcony.
  • Evil Twin: The "spare set", who got dumped in New York because they were "defective". Though its half of a subversion, with only Rath and Lonnie being actually evil.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The Hybrids are supposedly designed to be at the apex of human evolution.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Comically play in Viva Las Vegas, when Maria conveniently hears Kyle and Tess talking about going to Las Vegas, and immediately puts the whole plan together. A bit subverted with Isabel who overhears Michael and Max talking about the same trip, and asks to be clarified. Since these kids talk about important things *all the time* in the halls, one wonders why no one else seems to hear them in any other episode.
  • First-Episode Resurrection: Liz dies at the beginning and is revived by Max, setting off the events of the entire series.
  • Give Him a Normal Life: Max gives up his and Tess' son Zan so that he can grow up in safety and relative normality.
  • Government Conspiracy: The Roswell Crash coverup, the Special Unit, and the second crash coverup. All including assassination of witnesses and torture.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The kids are later revealed to be alien hybrids rather than pure-up aliens to address the unlikelihood of Human Aliens.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Made creepier since both Max and a shapeshifter looking like Max went inside one in Max to the Max, followed by... a lot of people.
  • Happily Ever After: The last line of the series: "All I know is that I'm Liz Parker, and I'm happy."
  • Healing Hands: In theory, any of the hybrids could do this, but Max is the best at it, as he saves Liz & Kyle's lives.
  • Human Outside, Alien Inside: fairly subtle for the most part, but Michael's reaction to alcohol, where he had electrical lines running through his body and every sense in overdrive, was one of the more obvious cases. Isabel also had this happen after she got shot, which was how Jesse found out what she was. Isabel's eyes also change when she's "Vilandra" in Interruptus.
  • Identical Grandson: The Hybrid Chronicles arc covered this up with Michael finding his human family's donor, who were shocked at how similar Michael was to their father/grandfather. Of course he was the guy's clone.
    • One of the book tie-ins has Tess's donor as a character.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Michael comes up to Maria while she's working on a shop class project: "You're doing it wrong. You're gripping the wood too tight."
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: Everyone who knows to some degree, but especially Valenti, who ends losing his job to protect the kids.
  • Manly Tears: Liz's dad is shown crying openly as he finishes reading her diary, since he knows he'll probably never see her again.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: This is interestingly averted in Isabel, who seems to date random guys every other week. She does confess she never lets anyone close, of course, but she's most definitely enjoying her dating life. In contrast, Max has been in love with Liz for years, and Michael doesn't even see the point of it if all he wants is to go "home" but ends up falling in love anyway.
  • The Men in Black: The FBI Special Unit, focus of the first arc. The Remnant of the deactivated unit returns in Season 3 for revenge.
  • Mundane Utility: Isabel especially enjoys using her powers to play CDs, reheat food, do her nails, etc. She refers to it as "recreationally" using them.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: The series opens with Liz introducing herself and telling us that "five days ago I died".
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands:
    • Michael's fingerprint shapeshifting.
    • Max's shield in the beginning of season 2.
    • Tess's sudden ability to wipe out and completely change memories at the end of season 2, though no one seemed to be surprised in the show.
  • Official Couple: Max and Liz.
  • On Three: Comically used when Max and Kyle are drunk and racing each other to a mailbox.
    Max: Do you see that mailbox? I'll beat you to it. On your mark...
    Kyle: mm.
    Max: Go!
    Kyle: It's "get..." You said—you skipped "get set!" You bastard!
  • One World Order: Antar's government.
  • Race Lift: Liz was Latina in the original books. On the show, she was played by the very white (or Jewish; close enough) Shiri Appleby, and her last name was changed from Ortecho to Parker.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Sheriff Valenti, eventually.
  • Running Gag: Characters making comments about working at the cheese factory, particularly in the episode "Monsters." There really is a cheese factory in Roswell.
  • Secret-Keeper: Every single human who learns the truth, except the Special Unit, of course.
  • Servant Race: Shapeshifters like Nasedo, Kal Langley, and the two who died at the crash were genetically incapable of refusing an order given by their king (Max).
  • Shout-Out:
    • Many parodies of Science Fiction shows in general, including discussions of Star Trek, and guest appearances by Jonathan Frakes (a producer of the series) playing himself.
    • The dishes Liz is serving at the beginning of the Pilot are a "Sigourney Weaver" and a "Will Smith".
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Michael and Maria's first kiss to "calm her down."
  • Spoiler Cover: The third season DVD spoils Alex's death on the back of the box, even though it doesn't happen until midway through the season.
  • Take That!: A few shots are taken at Keanu Reeves' acting abilities.
  • Take That Us: In season three, Isabel calls the jellyfish alien from the season before ridiculous.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Every human whom Max brings back to life eventually gains powers similar to the hybrids. It is not clear if they become half-alien themselves or just become as evolved as them. (See Evolutionary Levels above)
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Max and Michael can barely go a single episode without getting into some kind of argument, but when push comes to shove they clearly love each other like brothers.
  • Wham Line: Michael forcefully prevents Jesse from calling 911 after Isabel is accidentally shot, and Jesse, fed up with her secret-keeping, finally demands answers. To say he doesn't expect the one he gets is putting it mildly.
    Michael: No! No 911, no hospital!
    Jesse: Why?! Tell me why!
    Michael: Because your wife isn't human!
    Jesse & Michael continue to struggle
    Jim: Ramirez! Look!
    Jesse looks over and sees Isabel's body twitching, with electricity sparking from her fingers
    Jim: It's true. I didn't want to believe it at first either, but it's true.
    Jesse: ...What is she?
    Michael: She's alien. We all are.
  • Why Are We Whispering?: Season 1 Episode 2, has a rather large whispering exchange between three characters. Max and Liz are spying on someone, when Kyle, Liz's boyfriend, thinks they are actually making out. He approaches them:
    Kyle: Liz!
    Liz: Kyle!
    Kyle: Hey, Max.
    Max: [whispers] Hey, Kyle.
    Kyle: What's going on?
    Liz: [whispers] Nothing.
    Kyle: Why are you whispering?
    Liz: [whispers] We’re just, uh, waiting for Michael. We’re gonna go, uh...
    Max: Bowl.
    Kyle Why are you whispering?
    Liz: [whispers] We’re going bowling!
    Kyle: Liz, what were you doing down there?
    Liz: [whispers] Oh, I dropped my ring.
    Kyle: Why are you whispering?
    • To be honest, it was obvious he was thinking they were doing a lot more than making out. His point of view definitely seemed to suggest a little bit more than that...
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Sheriff Valenti assigns Deputy Fisher/ Agent Pierce to wash the coffee pot when he arrives at the sheriff's department.