Though the central alien trio in Roswell are all orphans, Michael is the only one who grew up without parents. When Max and Isobel were chosen, Michael was not. While they grew up with human parents who loved them, he’s never had a home or a family or anything that felt like safety, and he’s learned to survive that way. For the briefest moment with Alex he thought maybe he was safe — until Jesse Manes showed up with a hammer to violently disabuse him of that notion — and ever since, he’s been on his guard, using his scars as armor like Liz uses her red lipstick. In tonight’s penultimate episode, he thinks maybe he’s found safety again, when he’s briefly reunited with his biological alien mom … barely five minutes before she’s vaporized into dust. Honestly, how dare this show?
Before we fully delve into the emotional trauma of Michael’s story line, let’s check in with Isobel, who’s reeling from the realization that her husband “violated her body to commit the first of his 14 murders.” When you put it that way, it’s … yeah, I’m going to just reiterate that all of these people should be in therapy now and forever. Noah’s betrayal turns out to go even deeper than we realized — after Isobel was attacked by the desert drifter in 2004, her traumatized and dissociative state was what allowed Noah to invade her brain. Every time she was triggered, she gave him more room to bond. Bleugggh.
To be fair to Noah — and this is perhaps the only time I will ever write that — he had his own trauma. Unlike Max, Isobel, and Michael, who were in the “upper deck of the Titanic” section of the spaceship when it crash landed, Noah was down in steerage where the pods were flimsy and the stasis non-functional. As a result, he heard every miserable second of the genocide that ensued as Project Shepherd’s men slaughtered every alien they could. It sounds terrible, but my sympathy well for Noah ran dry pretty fast once he started trying to manipulate Isobel’s brain again, suggesting they could go back to the way things were and “pretend this all away.” Isobel takes a hard pass on that, and gives Max the green light to kill Noah.
Meanwhile Alex, Michael, and Kyle take a road trip to Caulfield, the abandoned prison that turns out to essentially be “Guantánamo for innocent people” — or more accurately, innocent aliens. There are dozens of elderly aliens who survived the crash, all of them shuffling around in varying stages of dementia after decades in captivity, and their bodies are covered in bruises, track marks, and other evidence of torture. Michael is horrified, feeling an instant connection to the prisoners, while Kyle realizes that his father’s cancer was caused by an interaction with one particular alien, Subject N38, who seems to be essentially radioactive. Even worse? “He deserved it,” Kyle says, deeply disturbed to realize that his father must have signed off on what was happening at Caulfield.
And now for the full assault on our emotions: Michael realizes that the elderly woman gazing sadly at him from one of the cells is his mother, and tries desperately to smash the glass, which sets off the building’s self-destruct quarantine protocol. Alex refuses to leave without him (“I don’t look away, Guerin!”) so Michael tries to force him to leave by telling Alex he doesn’t love him, and though clearly upset, Alex doesn’t budge. At that moment, Michael’s mom forges a momentary psychic connection with him, in which we get a pretty heartbreaking glimpse of the smiling young mother and son they could have been. “She told me she loves me, and to run,” says a shaken Michael, crying and holding onto Alex, who finally drags him out just before the building explodes.
Given what he’s just been through, Michael doesn’t respond kindly when he arrives home to find Max about to use the serum to kill an already weakened Noah. Michael refuses to let another alien die, but as he approaches Noah with the antidote, Max points a gun at him. As if he’d ever lift a finger to harm either of his siblings. Nobody’s buying it, Max!
• There is a long list of options, but I think Noah calling Max “Maximo” may be the thing that I hate most about him.
• Liz is serving up Crash Browns and Flying Sauce at the diner again now that her study’s funding has been cut. It’s both sad for her (“I have three degrees…”) and a joy for us, because the nostalgia factor of that uniform never gets old.
• “You do run hot, Guerin.” Mm-hmmmmm.
• Is there anything Alex Manes is not perfect at? He’s a master hacker, a decorated soldier, and he can casually disarm a man holding him at gunpoint. And I am… not necessarily complaining. Also he has a beagle!
• So according to Noah, the three-point symbol is a map. A map to … their home planet? Or maybe to the locations of other crash landings on earth?
• Other key plot news: during a run-in with his brother, a fellow soldier and anti-alien zealot crafted in their father’s image, Alex learns that Project Shepherd is literally building a wall! This wall is in space, and it’s a “thermobaric ordinance” designed to protect the earth from alien threats, but it’s probably also going to put a real dampener on Michael’s plans to leave the planet.
• “When she caught a glimpse of your truth, she was too smart to love you.” When Rosa was pulling away from Isobel in those flashback scenes to 2008, she was actually pulling away from Noah and his sinister obsession with her. She may not have known exactly what was going on, but she had good enough instincts to know something was off, and Noah killed her for rejecting him, another supernatural moment on this show that reflects a real and painful truth.
• Oof, poor Cam deserved better than this. It’s not really surprising that underneath all of her steely talk about Max being just a “scratching post” she’s developed feelings for him, but her taking the fall for what happened outside the gala is rough. It’s also not particularly satisfying that this is all the payoff we’re going to get to her connection with Manes, and apparently to the Charlie storyline too.
• “Jedis are psychic.” “I’ve never actually see Star Trek.” Wow, Kyle. Wow.
• The biggest unresolved question at the end of this episode (aside from “Excuse me, Max, why in the holy hell are you pointing a gun at Michael?”) is why certain aliens like Max, Isobel, and Michael were protected during the crash while others, like Noah, weren’t. Social stratification? Random luck?