As the characters on the show are divided into two groups–those who are in the know and those who are not–I now realize that the world is divided into two similar groups: those who have watched Roswell, and those who haven’t.
That I am writing this article 13 years after the show ended its run is both shameful and incredible. I have been living for so long without this show in my life and it is only now dawning on me how much of a blindspot it has been in my understanding of the origins of the teen-sci-fi-romance phenomenon. At the same time, it feels so wonderfully fortunate to be able to discover a gem like this and enjoy it for the first time now, when most of the show’s fans had been grieving for it for over a decade.
What is it about this show that makes it so special? For one thing, the chemistry that exists onscreen between all of the principle actors is remarkable. The deep connection that Liz (Shiri Appleby) and Max (Jason Behr) share is so easy to buy into because the actors successfully convey their longing every time they look at each other. The brilliance of their different worlds and the ways that it is used to keep these two desperately in love people apart is as heartbreaking as it is captivating. Michael (Brendan Fehr) and Maria (Majandra Delfino) experience similar challenges as Liz and Max, while also grappling with more typical teenage struggles like fear of commitment and rejection.
The teenage experience works well on television because the stakes are always high. Everything is important when you’re 16. Roswell jumps on this concept and deepens the stakes even further, making the usual teenage emotions even more intense with the knowledge that their relationship choices could actually be matters of life and death.
Watching Roswell makes me feel like I have uncovered a secret. Sixteen years after the show debuted on the WB, this Netflix binge is time travel. A nugget of Jason Katims’ genius in a world before Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. A glimpse into the magnificence of Shiri Appleby before she blows us all away in UnREAL. A chance to love Katherine Heigl before the rumors of her difficulties on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. All of this while telling truly compelling stories about characters that are extraordinarily easy to love.
If you haven’t watched Roswell, I used to be you. And my life was just fine. Now it’s a little bit better, though.