Sex! Death! Dido! Roswell, New Mexico creator takes us inside that devastating season finale
It’s been a crazy couple of months down in Roswell, New Mexico, and all that tension (sexual and otherwise) came to a crackling conclusion in Tuesday night’s season 1 finale.
You have been severely warned that this post contains MAJOR SPOILERS from the episode, so ABSOLUTELY STOP READING NOW if you haven’t yet seen it — in fact, go find a pod to hibernate in where you can’t see or hear anything going on until it’s time to watch.
With the penultimate episode in the season revealing Isobel’s (Lily Cowles) husband, Noah (Karan Oberoi), to be the alien murderer all along, the gang grappled with how to deal with that information — and Noah himself. When he got free from his restraints in the finale… well, let’s just say, everything got kinda super-charged and generally devastating. Near-fatal wounds were inflicted, powers were bolstered, long-awaited sex was had, and yes, someone died, while someone else was resurrected. Sob.
If you didn’t sit through the finale in fear something fatal was going to happen to one of your faves, you clearly didn’t read our latest preview with show creator Carina Adly MacKenzie where she let slip that “the last few minutes of the finale” were “going to change everything.” Still, the death of Max (Nathan Dean Parsons) (!!!) undoubtedly came as a devastating blow to many fans. Things were going so well! He and Liz (Jeanine Mason) finally… ya know, did the magic-alien-handprint thing again! Ugh, there’s no getting around it — it was a truly heartbreaking crash-landing of a finale.
And so, to get you through the pain (and months to come before Roswell, New Mexico hopefully returns for season 2), we chatted with MacKenzie
for grief counseling to get some answers on killing off one of her main characters, bringing back Rosa (Amber Midthunder) from the dead, and what’s to come if, and when, season 2 lands.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m devastated, so I just have to dive right in at the end of the episode: WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!
CARINA ADLY MACKENZIE: [Laughs] Oddly enough, we sort of revealed the end of the season at the very beginning of the season. Max tells Liz that he’s read all these religious texts and that the man with the miracle hands tends to die bloody. We need to have stakes on the show, so if somebody’s going to be coming back to life, we might need to take a loss. I think that it’ll be a really interesting journey for Liz next season, and in the end she’s the hero of our show and we can’t make things too easy on her — ever.
Do you anticipate the reaction when you’re writing this? What do you think people are going to do tonight when they watch this episode?
I don’t know what to expect, but I think I’m going to take a night off of Twitter. It’s the end of season 1; my intention was never to tie things up with a neat little bow, because it’s my job as the showrunner to make something that will carry on for several seasons. Trying to give it an ending that felt satisfying as if it was a series finale was just never what I would plan to do. I want people to spend their summer or hiatus wondering what happens next, theorizing about what happens next and writing fan fiction. I never intended to make people feel satisfied by the end of this one.
But, but, but Max is definitely dead, right? Noah called him “the savior” — that doesn’t mean there’ll be a resurrection to come? Hopefully?
I mean, Rosa was resurrected, so I think the characters will have a little bit of hope. The problem is, he’s the guy that can resurrect people, and he’s gone now. It’s like if the one person who can do the magical brain surgery suddenly needs the brain surgery, what do you do? I love television that makes me feel something powerful, whether or not that emotion is pleasant, I don’t really care; I just want to feel something. We’ve still got a lot to learn about Max. Next season, my hope is that we spend a little bit of time asking questions about 1947, about what brought them there in the first place. We had a very brief glimpse of Michael’s [Michael Vlamis] mother; we want to ask questions about her, and about Max’s mother and Isobel’s mother and whether those two people have the same mother. We still have more story to tell with Max, but that’s all I can say.
When he was trying to save Rosa, did he realize it would or could take his life, or was he drunk on power from defeating Noah and thinking they’d all go home happy together?
I think it was the opposite of “Maybe I could die doing this.” He was feeling a little bit like he had charged up and taken down the villain. At the beginning of the story, we meet Max having made all these rules about not being extraordinary. He’s a cop who almost sits idly by, and now he’s not only feeling invigorated by a victory over Noah, but he’s also feeling invigorated by Liz. In the love scene between them, she’s says she wants him to feel the way that she feels about him. He feels that, and it’s all he’s wanted for 10 years. I think the idea is that he’s so happy, but there’s this thing that’s always going to be hurting Liz and he just wants to fix it. He kind of feels like a god, and he makes the rash decision without remembering that he had a heart attack earlier that day; he’s not as strong as he feels.
Can you talk a little about shooting that scene where Liz finds his body? How impressed were you with Jeanine’s acting?
It was a tough day. It was one of the first scenes we shot for the finale. We gave Jeanine her space. It was funny because as we were rehearsing it, I said, “I think we should pad Nathan under his shirt because I think she’s going to want to hit him.” She was like, “No, I don’t think so.” And I was like, “Can we just pad his shirt just in case someone gets injured?” And she did end up hitting him; she was really in the moment. She did a beautiful job. Jeanine hasn’t let us down a single time this season. There’s literally nothing that we’ve asked her to do that she hasn’t done 10 times better than we ever could have imagined. We feel so lucky to have her. She’s extraordinary.
Was it as emotional for Nathan, or easier because he’s just lying there pretending to be dead?
I think it was an easy day for him! [Laughs] I think Jeanine was experiencing a really difficult day, and they’re really close and really a team, so he wanted to be respectful of her and give her whatever she needed to get there. I’ve worked with Nathan for a long time and this is, like, the third time I’ve killed him on television, so…
I should’ve known better? Can you talk about the decision to use Dido’s “Here With Me” — the original series’ theme — in those final scenes?
That was the plan from the beginning too. The cover (by Daniel Blake) was done specifically for us. It felt to me like a special way to honor what came before but also put our own little spin on it. Music is the heartbeat of the show, so the idea of using this song that’s about surrender playing over that montage always felt right. I was really excited to give that to the fans because as soon as the show was announced, I was getting tweets saying, “You better use Dido!”
Okay, I’ll deal with Max’s death in my own time, I guess. Let’s cut back to the beginning of the episode and talk about the tense scene between Michael and Max. Vlamis’ acting was so great in that scene.
He’s phenomenal. If I didn’t have utter faith in him as an actor, then I wouldn’t put the character through what I’ve put the character through. Vlamis is a really interesting actor in that he’s really in it. Some actors can be crying and emotional and then we call cut and they’re like, “Oh, what’s at crafties?” Vlamis stays in his zone, and so it’s sometimes a little heartbreaking to watch him go through that. I do think that in that scene, Nathan — who is a really experienced actor and who has done a lot of these really emotional scenes — really helped Vlamis get to where we needed Michael to be. They really play off of each other so well — we wanted it to feel like brother versus brother. There was this moment of absolute desperation where Michael is begging Max to help him and Max can’t do that, and ultimately that is the downfall. Had Max helped Michael, maybe things wouldn’t have come to such a catastrophic conclusion, but because it was just Michael alone, Noah was able to get out. Boys!
Speaking of boys, where do Michael and Alex [Tyler Blackburn] go from here? Is there a way for them to move forward, even with everything that went down at Caulfield?
Yeah, I think they’re on a journey that will bring them back to each other in a lot of different ways over the course of the series. I don’t think that Michael loves Maria [Heather Hemmens] the way that he loves Alex, but I do think that he’s making a choice about the life that he wants and the way that he wants to feel. Things with Alex are extremely fraught; he’s tied to a lot of pain in Michael’s life. Liz starts the episode saying that if we could choose to fall in love, we might not ever choose it because it’s scary and dangerous, and I think that Michael is making a safe choice right now. I’m very excited to see Michael and Alex evolve as men and even as friends and maybe fall back in love, in a way that could be a little less painful. Hopefully we get to dig a lot more into Alex’s family next season — if we get it.
Maria’s another character you’ve mentioned wanting to explore more thoroughly. Can we expect to learn more about her mother’s connection to the aliens next season?
My greatest regret about the season is that — in an effort to be as different from the original show as possible and in an effort to keep at least somebody in the dark as long as we could so we could play the fun of keeping the secret — Maria’s story got sidelined a little bit, and I don’t think she deserves that as a character and I don’t think that Heather Hemmens deserves that as an actor. My intention is put her at the center of the mythology and the plot next season. I definitely think that as the one black character on the show that we could’ve done a lot better in giving her a richer background, and that’s my intention for season 2.
What about Isobel? Is she going to spiral in a dark direction, or was her exploding the framed picture of her and Noah more of a power flex?
I think there’s a danger that she could go to a dark place, but that was also to do with when earlier Max had brought up having stronger or different powers. She just did something that previously only Michael could do, and so I think you can look at it potentially as her going into a dark place or also could look at it at someone who has been profoundly violated and profoundly hurt teaching themselves self-defense and to be strong. I don’t want to tell this story of grief and victimhood in only one way. Isobel is really going to have to step up. She’s about to find out that she’s lost her brother shortly after discovering that her husband was a serial killer who had invaded her body, so she’s really going to have to navigate some very tough stuff and, for the very first time, navigate it without Max.
Oh, boy. To end on a more upbeat note, what has been your highlight of this first season, both in terms of shooting it and seeing the reaction as it airs each week?
Watching it air every week has been really wonderful. We get together to watch it a lot. Michael Vlamis has viewing parties all the time. It’s been really fun to watch everyone watch themselves. I’m really proud of the cast and the crew, and it’s been nice to see everyone see the fruits of their labor. On one hand, it’s nice to make a show when it’s not airing because we get to make the art and not worry about the feedback, but it’s also tough because you just wish there was some of the gratification of seeing what people think when you’re tired and you’re cold. I like that people who watched the original warmed up to our show by the end. As far as shooting it, it was tough. Not to make it about me, but I went into it really nervous and not sure that I could do it, and I’m just proud of myself for getting to the end of the season. It was really hard, and I’m really proud of what we ultimately made. I think it speaks to who I am as a writer and who I wanted to be as an artist. I guess my favorite part of shooting it was being done shooting it.