Roswell, New Mexico
When I say that I am exhausted by tonight’s episode, I mean it in the most complimentary way. So much was packed into these 42 minutes: Liz was almost burned alive! Max got shot and performed some casual self-surgery! Isobel’s marriage is (maybe) over! A podcaster is dead! And Rosa’s real murderer was finally revealed! Buckle up, kids.
From the very first shot, things are getting real: Isobel wakes up face down in the middle of the desert, wearing only a nightgown. This would be unsettling for most people, but is especially so given what we know about Isobel (type A queen bee who’s all about keeping up appearances). When poor Noah shows up looking for her, Max and Michael deduce that Isobel is having a blackout triggered by her deep fear of abandonment. This hasn’t happened since the end of high school, when she was afraid of losing Max; now, she’s afraid of losing Michael if he turns himself in. I really like the juxtaposition of this deep, compulsive neediness with Isobel’s icy, poised surface; she’s been hiding her mess very well for a very long time.
Kyle, still trying to figure out whether his father was having an affair with Rosa, heads out to Valenti’s old hunting cabin in the woods, where he finds answers in the unexpected form of Alex. Valenti left the cabin to Alex, who saw him as a supportive father figure in contrast to Manes. “My dad was a homophobic, abusive dick, and your dad saw it,” he tells Kyle, calling Valenti a father to any kid who needed one. Alex doesn’t believe for a second that Valenti would have taken advantage of Rosa, and the evidence at the cabin ultimately proves him right. An underground bedroom that initially looks very, very sketchy turns out to be a makeshift detox facility, where Valenti once took Rosa to try and get her off drugs. Why? Because Rosa was his daughter. Twist!
Liz’s mission this week sees her being paired up with Grant Green, a.k.a. Propaganda Podcast Guy, and while clearly she deserves better, Grant proves himself to be halfway useful before he is inevitably dispatched. He has footage from the night Rosa died that shows three kids levitating in the desert (presumably Rosa and the two girls being lifted out of the wreck by Michael) and reluctantly shares it after Liz tracks him down to the storage facility where he hoards all of his UFO paraphernalia. He’s incredibly twitchy, and for good reason: he’s been sworn to silence by shadowy operatives, and tells Liz that everybody who knows anything about the 1947 crash is dead, from generals and scientists to Valenti to Rosa.
Sure enough, someone starts shooting at them as soon as Green tells Liz the truth, which is that he doesn’t even believe his own bullshit. He’s been paid to flood the airwaves with “bogus conspiracy theories and extremist propaganda, so that anything real seems small in comparison.” The gunman is Wyatt Long, who it turns out is not just racist sludge, but racist sludge in the employ of the same cover-up operation that was paying Green for alien fake news. Green gets a bullet in the head, while Liz is knocked out and wakes up in a box, with lighter fluid pouring in and Wyatt lighting a match.
It’s a truly horrifying situation, but Liz stays calm and kicks her way out of that rickety little box before the fire can touch her, because Liz Ortecho is a goddamn warrior who rescues herself. Max shows up to rescue her anyway, and gets himself shot in the shoulder, which leads to a mirroring of the pilot’s iconic diner scene, only Liz does not heal Max and no ketchup is involved. He’s fine, but of course can’t risk letting a doctor examine him, and I guess hospitals in Roswell just let you walk right out with a bullet wound if you ask nicely!
The Echo dynamic has shifted a little on Max’s side, because now he knows that Liz didn’t leave without saying goodbye, but was sent away by Isobel. But there’s not much time for them to get into that this week; Liz shows up at Max’s place after he’s done performing self-surgery, to take care of him but also to put some murder-mystery puzzle pieces together.
Out in the desert, a confused Noah shows up to ask Isobel whether she is (a) having an affair, or (b) an alcoholic, because of all the empty nail polish remover bottles he found stashed around the house. He’s handing her a perfect cover story on a platter, but Isobel can’t bring herself to tell that particular lie, nor to tell him the truth. Noah is done. And so in letting her anxiety take over without addressing its root cause, Isobel has manifested the thing she fears the most: being abandoned. (This is too real! Go to therapy, everybody.)
“Everything I do is an act,” Isobel cries to Michael, who has finally had enough of the never-ending web of lies and tells her the truth he and Max have been hiding about Rosa’s death. “I didn’t kill those girls, Isobel. You know who did. You’ve always known.” Over at Max’s place, Liz deduces that the handprint on Rosa’s face was too small to be Max’s, and couldn’t have been Michael’s since his hand was broken at the time. “The person you love most in the world is the one who did it,” she says breathlessly to Max — the same person who was having blackouts in the final weeks of high school. Yes, Isobel is the killer, and this time I’m at least 90 percent sure it’s not a fake-out.
• So, Manes is even more of a monster than was initially made clear, which means Alex and Michael both come from abusive households. Rumor has it there’s a flashback episode coming later in the season, and I am going to need some extended focus on how these two met and connected and helped each other survive.
• “I have been idling because I didn’t think I deserved a good-bye. You know what got me out of bed in the morning? How much I loved you two.” This scene was a real rollercoaster, because my least favorite thing about Max is his endless man-pain over Liz having left ten years ago, and my favorite thing about Max is his love for his siblings.
• Liz’s mom is a big question mark so far; all we know is that she struggled with mental illness, was (I think) institutionalized at some point, and is still alive but not around. The affair with Jim Valenti is another little piece of the picture.
• Just when everything between Max and Liz is finally out in the open, Kyle now has something to hide from her: the fact that Arturo isn’t Rosa’s father.
• GOAT YOGA, MICHAEL? Are you actively trying to sabotage Isobel’s marriage, because I know you are a better liar than this? Max and Michael’s lame but earnest attempt to cover for their sister was extremely cute, nonetheless.
• My sexual orientation is Michael fixing Max’s car. That’s it, that’s the note.
• “What’s the worst thing we can find?” “Literal skeletons!”
• Isobel being the killer still doesn’t explain why Rosa was so angry at her the day she died. That’s the mystery I’m most invested in at this point, if only because I’m committed to my Rosa/Isobel theory.
• Noah did a real abrupt 180 from World’s Most Understanding Husband to kicking Isobel out. Obviously, disappearing for an entire night and day looks bad, as do the bottles, but this was a little surprising to me.
• What is Alex going to do with that piece of alien fuselage? I guess he never saw any of the extraterrestrial knick-knacks Michael’s storing in his airstream, but at the very least this surely has to change his mind about the existence of aliens.