If there is one YA-turned-TV show that reminded me of The 5th Wave it’s Roswell. My older sister was obsessed with this show from the moment it premiered. I never considered myself a sci-fi kid so I avoided, but the WB lineup of the late-90s/early-2000s was incredibly addictive and Roswell was a huge part of that. In picking an episode, I began rewatching the show from the beginning and just went with whatever one I landed on when I had time to break it down. Luckily for us, I wound up with one that while definitely serialized didn’t require too much of a set up.
Roswell High was a YA book series written by Melinda Metz and originally developed by 20th Century Fox Television and Regency Television for the Fox Network, though it eventually landed on The WB (retitled simply to Roswell) thanks to the latter network’s offer to extend to a full 22-episode upfront commitment. The pilot episode was filmed in 12 days on a budget of $2 million.
The series follows three teenage aliens who crashed in New Mexico in 1947 and remained in pods until their release in the 90s where they emerged as children and were raised by the locals who adopted them. They are discovered by Liz Parker after she is shot in her family’s restaurant and saved by Max, the defacto leader of the aliens, causing the two to have an unshakable bond.
In response to the problems the series had with ratings during its first season, WB ordered the relationship-driven standalone episodes of the early first season to be replaced with more science fiction themes and multi-episode plot arcs. Starting with the second season, which was ordered by the network after a fierce fan-driven campaign involving bottles of Tabasco sauce—a favorite condiment of the show’s alien characters—being sent to the network’s offices, veteran science fiction writer Ronald D. Moore was brought in to join Katims as an executive producer and showrunner and to further develop the science fiction elements of the show.
Not all fans responded favorably to the shift to more science fiction-driven storylines during the second season and the ratings continued to disappoint WB, causing the network to finally cancel the show on May 15, 2001, after the show’s second season finale, a move widely anticipated due to the sagging ratings. 20th Century Fox (the studio that produced the show) was able to persuade UPN to pick it up for a third season as a package deal when UPN outbid The WB for one of its popular flagship series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. During the 2001 – 2002 television season, Roswell, in its third season, aired directly after Buffy on Tuesday nights on UPN, though it was unable to hold on to the audience Buffy provided as a lead-in. This eventually resulted in the show’s cancellation from UPN as well. Roswell aired its final episode on May 14, 2002.
Liz, a teenage waitress who is in love with Max and the first person to learn their secret
Maria, Liz’s best friend
Alex, friend of Liz and Maria’s
Max, the leader of the trio of aliens
Isabelle, Max’s sister and another alien
Michael, third alien and close confidant of Max and Isabelle
Valenti, a sheriff hell bent on finding out what the alien teens are hiding
Amy, Maria’s mother
Kyle, popular kid in school, Liz’s “ex” and Valenti’s son
A-Story: Liz struggles with her crush on Max in the midst of a heat wave and everyone coupling off, as well as her fighting with Alex when he knows she’s hiding something about him (the back stories of the aliens)
B-Story: Michael and Maria have a strong physical bond but can’t determine if they want something more.
C-Story: Isabelle gets to know Alex in the hopes she can win him over to keeping their secret.
D-Story: Sheriff Valenti meets Maria’s mother, Amy, and the two have feelings for one another.
Season One, Episode Nine “Heat Wave”
A: There’s a heat wave in the middle of December in Roswell. Liz stays up late one night studying and eating donuts that she knows she shouldn’t touch (Set Up) (Giant metaphor for her feelings towards Max)
B: Maria cleans up the restaurant below Liz’s home where the girls work, The Crash Down. Michael arrives. Maria breaks the rules and lets him in so they can makeout.
A/B: Liz slips downstairs and sees Maria and Michael. She quietly sneaks away without them seeing.
A: Liz continuously walks by many other couples who seem to be driven for some reason by the heat wave. She walks into her ex, Kyle, and his new girlfriend, Vicki who invite her to a party. Kyle is hesitant about Liz going but Liz quickly accepts the invite.
A: Liz sees Alex going to meet the Sheriff. She’s worried.
A: Liz tells Max about running into Kyle and seeing Alex. She’s thrilled Kyle may have moved on and hints about the party. Max is oblivious.
A: Liz mentions that Maria and Michael like each other. Max gets upset, Michael is breaking the rules the trio agreed on.
D: Amy Deluca is upset. She was told to become to see the school guidance counselor but the woman is missing. Sheriff Valenti is there. He calms her down by flirting with her.
A: Alex demands that Liz follow through on an earlier promise and tell him the truth. She won’t, it’s not her secret to tell.
A: Liz asks Alex what he told Valenti. He says it’s not his secret to tell. (Decision)
A/B: Liz confronts Maria, while Max does the same with Michael, about the hook up. Liz/Max want Maria/Michael to calm it down. Michael doesn’t listen, Maria is more receptive.
B: Maria tries to talk to Michael while they make out and hints about the party. Michael ignores, too hormonal. Maria’s a little disappointed.
D: Valenti and Amy argue about events that happened years ago. Valenti reveals his crush on her. She’s flattered. They cool down when Maria approaches them.
A/C: Liz asks Isabelle about her dating history since she’s so popular but keeps to herself. Liz is disappointed that Isabelle agrees with her on not dating.
A/C: Isabelle notices that Alex and Liz are still not speaking. She says she’ll look into it but won’t tell Liz how. (Midpoint)
C: Isabelle enters Alex’s dreams and sees that he is dreaming about a sweet and romantic date with her. She’s moved.
C: Max asks Isabelle what she saw. She avoids answering him, clearly flustered.
C: Max pushes. Isabelle says she’s the only on that “control” Alex.
B: Michael vents to Max about Maria wanting to be more than people who make out in the eraser room at school. He’s worried he’s going to hurt her.
B: Michael tells Liz he isn’t moving forward with her because he doesn’t want to hurt her. She tells him her getitng hurt is not his problem and the two almost kiss.
C: Isabelle invites Alex to the party. He’s confused, flustered, and going.
A: A guy hits on Liz at the party. Max steps in with confidence. He’s been waiting for this for a long time.
B: Maria confronts Michael about him avoiding her. He tells her it’s getting too intense and they shouldn’t have ever gotten together. She leaves.
C: Isabelle tells Alex she believes she can trust him with stuff about her… and Michael and Max. Alex realizes this has to do with Liz and he feels used. He storms off.
A: Liz and Max are enjoying themselves at the party and are so distracted they walk right past a sparking sound system.
D: Valenti and Amy are on a date when Amy mentions that Alex, Liz, and Maria aren’t speaking. He’s intrigued but is called away before she can tell him any further.
A/C: Cops arrive at the party. Max and Liz race to find the rest of their friends.
A/C: Passerbies show bottles of alcohol into Liz and Alex’s hands. They are arrested. (Low Point)
A: Max sees and runs away instead of helping Liz.
A: Liz tries to talk to Alex in prison, but he explodes wanting her to shut up.
C: Max and Isabelle watch as all the teens collected from the party are released except for Liz and Alex. Isabelle thinks they should tells Alex. She believes he can be trusted.
A: Alex says he wants to tell Valenti everything. Liz pleads with him not to, finally telling him that Michael, Max, and Isabelle are aliens.
A: Valenti arrives. Alex is ready to talk. He looks to Liz and then turns on Valenti, threatening to sue for wrongful treatment of a minor. (Climax)
A: They are released. Liz asks him what he thinks. Alex says he doesn’t believe in aliens but he respects that she does, and their friendship is okay.
A: The heatwave breaks. Max visits Liz secretly. They share their first kiss… then make out session.
This is a tougher show to break down in terms of plot point beats for each storylines for the simple reason that these six kids are so interconnected. Liz has multiple goals. She wants to keep Alex quiet, she wants to be with Max, and she’s jealous of Maria/Michael so she is actively trying to keep them apart. At least one of these goals will eventually wind up attaching to one of the other five kids throughout the episode. The main driving plot for Liz is Alex, which we know because the final climax hinges on his changing his mind as a direct result of Liz telling him that the trio are aliens. It takes several minutes for this plotline to enter the picture however because this show is driven by teenage hormones, especially this episode. From the moment in the pilot where Liz is shot and subsequently saved by Max she cannot think of anything else.
Ultimately, the series is still four act structure as this was just before the change over to five and six acts on network television that came with more serialized and event series.
The show is a little predictable in how everyone pairs off so quickly both within this episode and the series as a whole, but the chemistry between Max/Liz and Michael/Maria is some of the best the network ever created and Jason Katims at the helm definitely allowed you to watch these soapy relationships unfold without feeling as if the audience is being pandered too. This show is almost fifteen years old and as over the top as the scenarios and emotions are, the teens have heart and are complex allowing their emotions to feel honest no matter how dramatic.