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Throwback Thursday - Roswell - Season 1 - The White Room

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

The penultimate episode of Season One, “The White Room,” is one of the best episodes of Roswell’s entire three-season run. Sure it’s light on the humans, but it advances the alien mythos, sharpens the teeth of the alien-hunting unit of the FBI, and features the rise and redemption of Sheriff Valenti. Not to mention, Jason Behr delivers an outstanding performance.

When last we’d left our three intrepid aliens, and their human sidekicks, a mysterious and sexy blonde had come to Roswell, threatening Max and Liz’s forever love. Luckily, with Tess’ arrival, the viewer finally meets Nasedo, the chaotic yet lawfully evil, shapeshifting alien. Unfortunately, when Nasedo shapeshifts into Max and kidnaps Liz, everything goes wrong, and the real Max ends up in the hands of the FBI’s alien hunting unit.

When first we see Max, he’s stumbling around a white-tiled room, hence the episode’s name. The camera work here is dizzying and disorienting, letting the viewer experience Max’s panic. Suddenly, a voice fills the room and asks Max about his home planet. Of course, the viewer knows that the voice belongs to Sheriff Valenti’s cornpone Deputy Pierce. Apparently, he’s the special agent in charge of the FBI’s alien hunting unit. In an attempt to “encourage” Max, to tell the truth, he actually says, “we can do this the easy way or the hard way.” When Max claims to be from Earth, the hard way begins.

Back in town, the humans and remaining aliens come together to worry over Max. In what is undoubtedly meant to be some punch you in the throat symbolism, the aliens and humans pair off, leaving Liz and Tess with no one to comfort them. Dear writers, we get it. Love triangle shenanigans are on the horizon.

Anyway, the “team” discusses how to save Max. Liz thinks they should go to Valenti. Maria and Isabel agree, but Tess swats away the idea, suggesting they use their superpowers to save Max, starting with Isabel trying to contact him. I love that this episode makes good use of Isabel’s dream walking because it has been more parlor trick than power until now.

And back to Max. Pierce enters the white room dressed in a biohazard suit with a ninja face covering but quickly discards his protective gear, giving Max the first glimpse of his adversary. He’s a sleazy dude, but he gives us a little more information about our aliens. We learn that almost everything about the aliens is humans. In fact, the only alien thing about them is their blood cells, which Liz discovered back in episode one, but we didn’t know they were human in every other regard. I found this disappointing. Did anyone else find this disappointing?

Pierce starts going down a list of special agents that have all been killed by a silver handprint. Most of the victims he mentions died long before Max emerged from the pod. I’m willing to bet Nasedo is the guilty party. Does Pierce really think Max has been walking around as a 16-year-old for the past 50 years just murdering people? This part is confusing. Pierce has to know that Max was adopted as a small child and is currently enrolled in high school. Pierce really believes that’s what Max is choosing to do when he could be anyone and doing anything?

Pierce keeps spilling the secrets. It’s always a bad sign when your captor starts telling you top secret information. Guess what?! They had an alien in captivity for three years. What happened then? Did the alien die? Was the alien killed? The alien wasn’t Nasedo because we learn that he managed to escape the facility. So we have another alien on the loose!

Remember the orb that Max found while he was getting sexy with Liz in “Sexual Healing?” Pierce wants it. In fact, he has one of his own. I guess it was found in the 1947 crash or taken from one of the captured aliens. I’ll ask again. Did those orbs ever turn out to be important to the plot or overall mythos of the show? I really don’t think they were. Someone, please let me know if I’m wrong.

Back at the Crashdown, Alex and Isabel share a moment before she attempts to dream walk Max. I’ve never said it before, maybe I’ve said it before, but all incarnations of Alex—be it Whitman or Manes—are incredibly underutilized by their respective shows, and it’s a freaking tragedy.
Isabel manages to enter Max’s mind, but he’s drugged, so she’s disoriented and crawling around on the dream world floor. It’s clear she didn’t prepare a list of questions before she entered his mind, but she learns enough, including the location, Eagle Rock Military Base, and that Deputy Pierce is behind everything.

Unfortunately, learning that Pierce is involved makes Michael unwilling to go to Sheriff Valenti. He decides if Pierce is involved, Valenti must be in on Max’s kidnapping. I feel it necessary to point out that this is a logical fallacy, but when has Michael ever been logical? Looks like they don’t need Valenti because Tess is not only cute but confident. The three remaining aliens are just going to use their superpowers to rescue Max. Is that the plan? I didn’t hear a plan? Shouldn’t they have a better plan than . . . use alien powers? I guess not because Michael, Isabel, and Tess head to a military base to begin their Scooby-Doo rescue.

Would you believe it if I told you there is a security system before you can gain access to the interior parts of a military base? The aliens seemed surprised by this discovery, and when they hear people approaching, they do the intelligent thing and hide in a doorway. They are literally in an open doorway. Why can’t these friends hide?

Valenti shows up at the Crashdown, telling the humans that he knows what he saw, two Max Evans standing in front of him. He wants to help Max. Liz lies. Maria avoids eye contact while her eyes dart from side to side. Valenti extends the offer one more time before leaving. Liz realizes they need help, so she’s giving the aliens until four o’clock to rescue Max with their no-plan plan because it’s what Max would do.
What’s going on at Eagle Rock? Look, I know we now live in Orwell’s vision of the future with CCTV cameras and Bluetooth. I also realize this episode originally aired 21 years ago, but would a military base really not have cameras in the hallways? Doesn’t matter since the three aliens make it to the morgue, where they are confronted by an FBI agent. Micahel defends them by creating a windstorm and making things light up. The agent raises his hand and throws Michael backward against the door of a Sub Zero refrigerator. It’s Nasedo. Finally! Unhinged, nebulous characters with superpowers are my jam.

Tess has a bit of a tantrum because Nasedo left her to fend for herself. Nasedo quickly and emotionlessly quashes her foot-stomping. He lets Tess know that it isn’t all about Tess anymore. There are four clueless alien teens now, and one of them needs rescuing. Lucky for Max, Nasedo actually has a plan.

So, Nasedo shapeshifted into a still living and breathing FBI agent. We know this because Nasedo almost encounters his doppelganger, but a window separates them. This seems like a bad idea. Does anyone else think this isn’t a smart move? It certainly makes getting caught more likely.

Nasedo starts talking about powers they don’t know how to use, like scanning maps into their brains. Michael’s face here is perfect. It’s very much, “what are you talking about, old man!.” Despite the aliens showing that their powers are limited, Nasedo tells Michael to steal the fingerprint off an agent he’s killed. What? Why not just cut his hand off?

Meanwhile, Pierce has upped the torture. He’s strapped a pair of VR goggles to Max’s face and not so subtly threatens his friends, ending his presentation by showing Max a dead Liz. Max screams out, and you feel the anguish. This is a fantastic scene, but allow me to be a menace by asking an obvious question. Virtual reality they have but not hallway cameras?
We also learn why the FBI alien hunting unit is so afraid of these aliens. The obvious answer is intolerance, but Pierce thinks they plan to take over the Earth. Does Pierce really think four teenagers and Nasedo are going to colonize the planet or that they’d wait 50 years to do it? That would be the worst invasion plan ever. No matter, fearing for his friends Liz, Max tells him where to find the other useless orb.

We learn from Nasedo that everything the aliens can do, humans can do or will do in several thousand years? All of their powers are human? How can that be if they are Antarian? This is some serious hand-wavey science. I can usually roll with the fake science of television, but this one seems unnecessary. Why not just say that the Antarians are several thousand years ahead of humans? Maybe that’s what he meant, and I’m getting caught up in what he said.

In another part of the military base, Isabel and Tess bond while waiting for the plan to begin. Tess reveals her powers. She can make people think something is happening that really isn’t. It’s called mind-warping. Isabel realizes that Tess was doing it to Max, which is why he had all of those thoughts about her. I hope Isabel files that bit of information away for later because manipulation is a pretty big deal.

Things aren’t going well for Michael. He can’t change his fingerprint, so he flips out, which is his specialty—raw emotion. Nasedo puts Michael in a time crunch, telling him to get the fingerprint or he’s going to kill the agent that’s heading their way. With that bit of positive reinforcement, Michael makes it happen. Yeah, Michael. I feel like Michael is a character that needs a lot of praise. Doesn’t matter because Nasedo kills the agent anyway. Micahel realizes Nasedo sucks and isn’t the person he wanted him to be. The feeling is mutual.

Pierce moves to backhand Max when he tells him he doesn’t know how to work the orbs. Does anyone? Since Max can’t do what Pierce wants, Pierce decides the best thing is to cut Max open. I’m not sure how that gets Pierce what he wants, but it’s a choice. Personally, I think they just wanted another reason for the audience to look respectfully at the result of Behr’s workout routine. So they start to cut Max open, but Isabel dream walks him and lets him a rescue plan has been set in motion, and he needs to stall Pierce. Max screams for Pierce to stop the torture, promising he’ll make the orbs work.

Max rubs the orbs together like someone making their Barbe’s kiss. Pierce is inwardly rolling his eyes and moves to call the surgeons back into the room, but Tess mind warps him into seeing something. Halos of green surround the orbs, and Pierce is so transfixed he doesn’t notice when Nasedo, in the guise of a dead agent, bursts into the room; Michael is right behind him.
Max is rescued, leaning on Michael as they make their escape. Unfortunately, Nasedo stays behind for reasons we know not. While Michael is dragging Max away from danger, they encounter other FBI agents. Micheal met these same agents earlier, but they think he is a newbie agent named Fields. Michael yells some nonsense at them about Pierce needing help because, obviously, Pierce would trust the brand new agent to secure the prisoner and sound the alarm. These are the most gullible FBI agents ever, but they also don’t have hallway cameras.

Back in the white room, Nasedo is gunned down, but is he dead? Doubtful.

A bunch of agents with their weapons drawn, led by Pierce, chase after Michael and Max. Bullets fly, but Valenti shows up just in time. Shooting Pierce in the shoulder. And so ends Part 1 of the season finale.

Which Alex is the best Alex — Whitman (Roswell) or Manes? (Roswell, New Mexico)?


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