At a time when networks are pumping out reboot after reboot at a breakneck pace, it's not surprising that the CW would cash in on the nostalgia craze and rehash a beloved property for a new generation. Roswell, New Mexico, the network's second adaptation of Melinda Metz's acclaimed Roswell High novel (the first being 1999's Roswell, which aired on the WB and UPN), isn't so much a reboot as it is a reimagining of a familiar story updated for today's volatile political climate.
Whereas the original series centered on the love story between an adolescent girl and alien, this new iteration ditches the teen drama for a more mature story with characters that have been aged up to adulthood. Roswell, New Mexico centers on star-crossed lovers Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason), the daughter of undocumented immigrants, and Max Evans (Nathan Dean Parsons), a police officer who's also a secret alien. It's a complicated love story as the pair grapples with living in a town that's xenophobic (be it from over the border or from another solar system) while also hashing out some very confused feelings about each other.
Taking place a decade after high school graduation, Liz returns to her touristy town to care for her ailing father and uncover the truth behind her sister's fatal car accident. Her homecoming is met with virulent hostility by those who blame her sister for the deaths of two others and energized racists fueled by the government's anti-immigration rhetoric and policies. If the MAGA-inspired podcaster calling the Beyhive brainwashed didn't make it clear that this story is set in Trump's America, the racists vandalizing the Crashdown diner and spewing disparaging epithets surely did.
It's during one of these violent encounters that Liz reconnects with her childhood friend Max. But just as they start to act on lingering feelings, their romance is threatened by the dizzying reveal that Max isn't human, and his siblings Isobel (Lily Cowles) and Michael (Michael Vlamis) object to a potential relationship out of fear that Liz will expose them to government officials who view aliens as dangerous and hostile. Thus, a forbidden romance is born.
Despite an intriguing story and a good-looking arsenal of actors which includes additional Vampire Diaries and Originals alums like Riley Voelkel and Michael Trevino, Roswell, New Mexico, is surprisingly dull. Bogged down by heavy-handed political commentary, a slow-moving mystery involving Liz's deceased sister and a side plot in which government officials enlist Trevino's Kyle to figure out which aliens are living amongst Roswell's clueless residents, the show isn't sure if it wants to be a supernatural romance, murder mystery or sci-fi thriller. What you're left with then is a muddled story that, in its efforts to be everything at once, becomes something of a non-factor instead.
Roswell, New Mexico's attempt to say something about the world we live in today — especially the border city it takes place in — is commendable. Including the much-welcomed and grossly underrepresented perspective of an immigrant who legally crossed U.S. borders through Rosa Arredondo's Sheriff Valenti is refreshing. Despite this, however, the reboot only scratches the surface of a multifaceted conversation and opts for a disappointingly sanitized take with on-the-nose political diatribes and one-note antagonists boasting the emotional depth of a Post Malone album. The show's inability to explore how deeply embedded racism is within American culture, which manifests not just in verbal abuse from angry white men but also daily microaggressions like an offhand comment from a friend, ignores a difficult reality for marginalized individuals like Liz and her bartender buddy Maria (Heather Hemmens). For a show tackling this sensitive but important topic so explicitly, that's a huge oversight.
That's not to say Roswell, New Mexico is a lost cause. Where the show excels most is with the palpable chemistry between Mason and Parsons, which strikes like an electric current. Three seconds into their first encounter, you'll find yourself doodling 'ship names in your composition notebook and defending their honor on Twitter.
Still, the show has a long way to go if it hopes to stand alongside the likes of The Flash and Jane the Virginas a truly worthwhile watch. Roswell, New Mexico is like settling for brown sugar oatmeal when you're craving a full-on breakfast spread. It's not terrible nor does it hit the spot, but I suppose it will do for now.
Roswell, New Mexico premieres Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 9/8c on The CW.