‘Roswell, New Mexico’ a Modern take on Immigration

Amaris E. Rodriguez, Opinions Editor

“Roswell, New Mexico” premiered on the CW on Jan 15 as a reboot of the original short-lived sci-fi television show “Roswell,” starring Katherine Heigl and Shiri Appleby.

The reboot is the second adaptation of Melinda Metz’s young adult book series “Roswell High” based on the story of three teen aliens and their earthling friends who live in Roswell, a town infamous for presumed alien sightings.

While the original “Roswell” series served as entertainment, “Roswell, New Mexico,” came on air serving straight forward commentary on immigration issues that are controversial in our current social climate.

The show centers around the main character Liz Ortecho, played by Jeanine Mason, the daughter of undocumented immigrants who returns to her hometown of Roswell.

The real-life town of Roswell has long been known as the site of the Roswell UFO incident, the location of an alleged UFO crashed in 1947, where citizens reporting seeing a “flying disc.” The incident gained the town popularity for its stories, sighting and conspiracy theories which served as the inspiration behind Metz’s novels.

With this type of setting it is easy for the commentary of the reboot to be addressing not only the aliens that supposedly landed in Roswell, but as a town that is close to the Mexico-United States border, also illegal immigration into the United States. Within the first two minutes they showed border patrol detaining an immigrant.

In another scene, a restaurant patron is recording a podcast talking about the possibility of an alien invasion. He says, what unfortunately has now become common hateful rhetoric about immigrants, “I’m telling ya, aliens are coming. And when they do they are going to rape, and murder and steal our jobs.”

The actual aliens depicted in this show are white, a good call from the shows casting as some comments would have been controversial had the aliens that invaded planet earth been of darker features. The main alien characters are played by Nathan Dean Parsons, Michael Vlamis and Lily Cowles who play Max, Michael and Isobel, three siblings who are stranded on earth after their spaceship crashes. In true CW fashion, the characters are portrayed as dark, moody, and troubled which adds to their appeal. Also in true CW fashion, the acting is not always the best but you have to pick your poison and write it off as a guilty pleasure.

Jeanine’s character of Liz is likeable. The audience gets a feel for the struggle she has endured as her family is hated in Roswell due to an accident that her sister caused that killed, not only herself, but also two more people.. She portrays the jaded protagonist well but also shows her soft side when it comes to her family. Once again playing up the immigration topic, Liz tells her dad that she would feel better if he moved out of Roswell to a sanctuary city because she is scared that he will get deported. That moment of vulnerability is what made me continue watching the episode, and what has me rooting for this show to be executed with the potential that it has.

I also appreciate that Liz is played by someone with Hispanic roots, as Mason is of Cuban descent. As a Latina it is not often that we have strong female representation, especially as a leading actress, on television shows.

Not only does the show tackle on commentary regarding immigration but it also deals with issues of homosexuality as Michael, the towns bad boy secret alien resident, has not come out yet. While layering multiple social issues might come off too strong, especially in the first episode, it adds complexity to the characters and allows the show to mirror real life for many people.

While “Roswell, New Mexico” might not be an original show, how many are now a days, it can carve itself a strong television presence if it is able to continue to execute strong political commentary throughout the season. Some characters are subpar, but Liz has potential to drive this show into CW greatness.