I approached this third season boxset of ROSWELL with some trepidation. With the second season revamp – away from soft-focus lovey-dovey teen angst and deep into the realms of fast-paced high-concept sci-fi – having done little to improve US ratings, season three, on its new home at the UPN Network, promised a return to the show? ?ore themes?- most particularly the will-they/won? they Liz and Max dynamic. Much of season two had alienated the show? fan base and even the cast were heard to mutter that they weren? too comfortable with the full-on SF of the series. It seems odd, though, that the show choose to abandon the progress it ahd made in season two to return to a style which hadn? ben all that popular in year one. So it was that, armed with the knowledge that season three was more DAWSON? CREEK than BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER I journeyed into the last eighteen episodes of ROSWELL not really expecting very much. What a fool I?e been.

ROSWELL season three is wonderful television. It? true that there? a lot less science-fiction here and that the style of many of the relationship-based episodes takes its lead from season one. But season three works so well because of the lessons learnt in season two. Clearly inspired by the comedy-drama dynamic of BUFFY, ROSWELL in its third year is a slick, witty beast coasting a confidence remarkable in a series which was never far away from cancellation from the moment it first hit the air. SF fans may get restless but ROSWELL works because by now the groundwork has been done and done well; Liz, Max, Maria, Michael, Kyle and the others have, over the course of the previous 44 episodes, become fully-rounded, mature individuals and the writers are now able to play to the strengths of each and every one of them. Paring back the sci-fi doesn? hurt the show because the mythology of the characters runs through the series like blood; we know our heroes are aliens and we know there are people out there who know it too. But the fun of the series is the playful and relaxed way it shows them trying to find their way in the world and keep their secret hidden from everyone around them.

Season three opens with Liz and Max holding up a convenience store. Some months have passed since the end of season three and Max is still determined to track down his newborn son, taken back to his home planet by the duplicitous alien killer Tess (Emillie de Ravin) at the end of season two. Once again Max and Liz are kept apart by their protective parents but this season the writers have wisely chosen to make the lovestruck pair just one of a number of equally-riveting story strands. There? Isobel and her secret relationship with Jesse Ramirez, the new hotshot lawyer in her father? law firm. Fiery Maria? romance with the deadpan alien Michael hit? the rocks when Maria gets the chance to live her rock star dream and the lives of the entire group are threatened when Max and Isobel? father determines to find out the truth about his mysterious children.

At eighteen episodes, season three was clearly cut short by weak UPN ratings. But at least early notice of cancellation allowed the production team to give the series a decent conclusion. As the episodes roll by – and there are some great shows here, including ? Married An Alien?which drifts dangerously close to BUFFY territory in terms of its innovative use of television – there? a real sense of danger here, of events spiralling out of control and rushing towards a conclusion. Loose ends are very neatly tied up when Tess returns to earth with her baby – and does the decent thing to redeem herself. And I can honestly say that, having said a fond farewell to some great television shows in the last few year, ROSWELL manages a truly affecting and utterly-satisfying finale, an episode which ends the show? story on a note of joyous optimism.

ROSWELL? failure to catch the BUFFY demographic is baffling and frustrating.

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