With “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” and “Never Let You Go,” Roswell, New Mexico Season 3 ends on the highest of high notes. It’s the best I’ve seen the show be, even after 3×10, “Angels in the Silences.” As soon as we’re seated at Jones’ mindscape dinner table at the start of 3×12, we’re in finale mode. Production, pacing, tension, and stakes are immediately raised, and it’s off to the races. Across the two episodes, which work together seamlessly while also feeling different from each other (airing them back to back was a smart move), we see long overdue character moments, one of the best use examples of alien powers, and a final climactic moment that centered the love these characters have for each other. This was all possible because Roswell, New Mexico prioritized the quiet moments.
“I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” and the showdown between Father and Son
As much as I wish we had stayed inside Jones’ mindscape for much longer than we did, “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” is quick to get us to Deep Sky. Isobel breaks Jones’ hold on everyone in his mind, using her powers to get a hold of her sword in the real world. But she’s not ready for Jones’ to be quick on the uptake—in the real world, he shatters Isobel’s sword, the shards of which bury themselves in Dallas’ neck. In his escape, Jones takes Michael as a hostage and for some father-son bonding time.
The best of 3×12 takes place in Michael’s junkyard bunker. It’s the showdown I’ve been waiting for all season. While I don’t think there was enough build up to this past the first few episodes, this head-to-head between Michael and Jones is incredible.
Nathan Dean has been killing it all year as Jones; even though Michael Vlamis and Nathan Dean have shared scenes together for 3 years as Guerin and Max, they seamlessly slip into an estranged father-son dynamic here. Sure, they’ve butted heads before this, but this is the first time Jones and Guerin spend more than a scene together with the full knowledge of Guerin’s parentage.
Jones needs something from Michael, which should have been established a lot sooner in the season; however, with Michael tied down in his own bunker, the two are given ample time to match each other strength for strength, both psychically and physically. The hold Jones’ maintained to keep everyone in his mindscape weakened him, leaving his mind open for Michael to gain access—Jones wants the Lockheart Machine to call someone or something. Michael also learns that Jones killed the members of his own triad in order to gain full access to his sword. This is a nice foreshadow to a moment in 3×13 between Isobel, Rosa, and Maria.
Eventually, Michael breaks free, and the showdown moves above ground as father and son wrestle for control of the sword. The special effects of both Jones and Michael’s powers make this alien battle the coolest the show has done, and it finally lets Michael do more than party tricks. When Sanders arrives, the fight takes on even more weight, as it’s now between Michael, his father figure, and his biological dad. Sanders doesn’t last long, knocked out by Jones’ power; Jones stabs Michael in the stomach soon after, throwing him back until he lands inside the bunker.
The Wild Pony
Maria returns, as do her coffin visions. This time, there’s three coffins she sees. After the pod squad escapes Jones’ mindscape and Kyle rushes off to help save Dallas, Maria spends the rest of the episode analyzing her vision.
I love the way this is all played out—watching Maria working out her vision by herself, in a way that’s more showing and not telling, is a great way to utilize Maria’s psychic abilities in this episode. The bit where she’s turning over the tarot cards and works out that she needs to throw them up in the air, revealing the ceiling of the bunker where Michael is bleeding out is a particular highlight.
Maria saves Michael, a neat reversal from Michael saving Maria earlier in the season, and a nice reminder of their friendship, especially after their breakup last season. When Michael stresses that he needs to get to Deep Sky because Jones is after Alex, there’s an understanding in Maria’s eye of the relationship between Michael and Alex, one that she knew was inevitable since last season.
Ultimately, Maria’s plot line this season concerning her coffin visions goes nowhere. I wish she had more to do here than just rush off to save Michael, resolving the 3 coffin vision in the same episode it’s introduced (by saving Michael, Maria essentially makes it possible for Michael to make it to Deep Sky in time to save Kyle, Heath, and Eduardo—more on this later). With the first vision seemingly dropped midway through Season 3 without making it clear that it was over, this new 3 coffin vision is rushed, and makes it seem like it was only added to give Maria something to do this episode.
As Isobel and Kyle work to save Dallas’ life in the medical center at Deep Sky, Liz and Heath work the science that will both switch Max and Jones’ bodies and sever them for good. The middle meat of this episode contains a lot of different character moments, some earned and some not, but they each are really moving. The show could have easily skipped over these scenes in favor of more action. I appreciate the decision to let the characters grapple with their internal struggles externally.
For Liz, that’s confronting her desire for validation and recognition. That’s not a bad thing to want, but Liz has gone about achieving those in ways that hurt those she loves. In a scene with Heath, Liz tells him how much Jones’ got to her by knowing exactly how to trigger her insecurities. She goes further, explaining that those desires stem from issues with her mom, who withheld that validation for all of Liz’s accomplishments simply by not being there and not following through on promises. It’s a nice insight into why Liz went as far as she did with her research. It also works as a reconciliation moment between Heath and Liz. At first I wondered why this revelation was happening with Heath, but on a second watch, it makes sense; perhaps Heath, another scientist who also started crossing moral lines in his quest to save Dallas, is the only one she could talk to.
Liz and Heath work together to find a solution for Max. However, the solution they have so far means that Max will probably lose his alien abilities. It’s not really explained why, and is really just a way to raise the stakes more, even though that’s unnecessary. It also serves to give us a scene between Max and Alex, the first one of the show.
While it’s great to see these two have a moment, it ultimately doesn’t do much. Alex says he’s trying to figure out what Nora originally built the Lockheart Machine for, but he’s really just trying to keep busy and not think about how Jones’ kidnapped Michael. Max gets it—for the year he was dying, he wrote everyone letters, but they only ended up buried in the ground. It’s just a way to take their minds off what’s happening to them.
The second part of this scene is better, as we finally get to see Max express his insecurities about being a clone, potentially turning human, and the arrival of Dallas. Alex reassures him that no matter his origins, his family will always love him.
The flow of the episode gets a little clunky here, as Heath arrives but steps out onto a balcony. Max follows, which takes us to another moment of characters talking about their feelings. It’s short, but the way we go from Max and Alex talking to Max and Heath talking is awkward.
While I loved the hints we got of the seemingly inevitable Kyle and Isobel pairing a few episodes ago, they get a lot of screen time together here. Kyle’s pining is up to 100 now, and it’s even more strange when the two flirt with each other the whole episode over Dallas’ comatose body. There’s some wonderful sentiments between the two, including when Isobel’s doubts of being a “warrior woman” like her mother start to surface; Kyle’s steadfast belief in Isobel is lovely. Similarly, Isobel’s acknowledgement of everything Kyle has done for her and her family is a touching tribute to everything Kyle has gone through this season. The fact that it comes from Isobel makes it even more sweet. But their moments take up a good chunk of the episode, and it definitely seems like it could have been cut down.
Dallas doesn’t get much to do this episode seeing as he’s in a coma pretty much the whole time. But we do get even more of the friendship between Heath and Dallas. I’ll admit, I thought Heath was acting a little fishy this whole episode; but really, he was just nervous of what Dallas would think of the actions he’s taken—like teaming up with Jones—in order to save him. Some of this would have hit harder if we had gotten more present day scenes with Dallas and Heath before these big emotional moments between them. The first time we see them interact with each other in the present day happens inside Dallas’ mind. It’s a touching moment between two long-time friends, but the characters are also still so new that we still don’t understand their whole history yet. Heath’s belief that Dallas would be mad because Heath crossed some moral boundaries doesn’t quite register when all we saw Heath do was be manipulated by Jones, and then immediately taken hostage, during which he helped Liz covertly under duress.
Still, these slight missteps don’t detract from the heartstopping moment when Jones flings Kyle, Heath, and Eduardo over the balcony, dropping them in mid air right before the episode ends. It’s a good thing they decided to air these episodes back to back because I’m not sure we would have survived that wait.
A couple of items on this episode that also pertains to the last one:
It’s strange how little Alex is in this episode. He doesn’t appear until 15 minutes in, way after Eduardo already said he would tell Alex about Michael being missing. There’s some crucial moments we miss because of this, like the exchange between Alex and Eduardo, and when Michael makes it to Deep Sky to get to the Lockheart Machine before Jones does. Are we just to assume that Michael showed up to Deep Sky all bloody from a stab wound, found Alex and took the Lockheart Machine from him, and Alex wouldn’t follow him upstairs? It’s frustrating when characters are obviously in the same location but don’t interact. Not to mention—Deep Sky is Alex’s storyline. It began with him joining, and the entire finale takes place there. Both Eduardo and Alex are barely in these two finales.
This leads me to my final point on this episode, which is also a general criticism of the show and these finale episodes: Roswell is too small.
At least, it feels that way. I’m not sure if it’s just because of COVID that the town of Roswell has seemingly shrunk. The writing doesn’t utilize the geography well—we have so few locations the pod squad frequents that it’s barely believable how anyone can be kidnapped and the pod squad just doesn’t know where to look for that person?
Jones literally has Michael at Michael’s house. No one wonders if that’s a possibility. Not to mention, they let Jones just wander around Roswell for a few episodes, during which he casually strolled into the Crashdown, the hospital, Max’s house, and various other places.
Anyway. On to the finale.
“Never Let You Go” and the strength of family, both chosen and by blood
The strength of this finale comes from the love these characters have for each other. The finale prioritizes that love, leaving its biggest moment not its action set pieces (though those are great too), but instead narrows it down to a single decision that Liz needs to make—which Max is the right Max?
After pulling Kyle, Heath, and Eduardo from the balcony—a very, very tense few seconds to open the episode—there’s a lot of exposition to explain what needs to happen in this episode. Essentially, in order to switch Max and Jones, and prevent Jones from switching back and cloning more of himself, the pod squad will have only seconds from the moment Liz douses him with the compound she created in 3×12 before they lose their chance.
After a game plan is put in motion, this leaves the episode time to expound on its best thematic musings.
My favorite one occurs in The Wild Pony. Here, Maria gets more to do—we meet back up with her just as she’s finishing a phone call. She’s crying. Her mother is deteriorating rapidly, but she keeps this from Isobel and Rosa when they first arrive. Isobel needs help repairing her mother’s sword. It’s the only concrete thing she can do right now, and as she rightly points out, the sword is the only thing that’s defeated Jones once before. The sword is in a million little pieces, however, and Isobel is running on fumes.
After Rosa drops some facts to Isobel about how she’s not alone in this fight, Isobel opens up to Maria and Rosa about how she wants to be “part of the pack” from now on. Ever since Noah, Isobel has rallied her strength to appear like nothing can touch her. Isobel is strong, but she doesn’t always have to shoulder that strength alone. This is a wonderful speech she gives to Maria and Rosa, which prompts Maria to come clean about her mother.
What’s more, this also leads to Maria explaining how they can put the sword back, together. Using the properties from her bracelet, and the family connection between Isobel and Maria, their blood mixed together reinforces the sword back into its proper shape, even stronger than before. The power of their generational connection, and their emphasis on being sisters, is the perfect metaphor for the importance of both found families and the roots you come from.
Max and Michael both have a moment in the caves where they realize they should actually be talking to Liz and Alex, respectively. Again, Alex is strangely absent from a lot of these scenes but the one’s he’s in are definitely worth it. Michael is afraid that he might have to kill Jones, which might lead to more self-loathing on his part. Self-loathing is a big part of a lot of Malex’s issues in the past, and Michael is worried this will ruin them. It’s a nice callback to their past, and a necessary reinforcement that this Malex is different—they’re more mature, and they’re in this together.
There’s some fun back and forth with Max and Jones continuously switching places. The camera work on those switches are exhilariting, and the cuts between each scene during this bit is immaculate, especially the one where Max removes the sword from Eduardo’s side. What an amazing build up and follow through on this moment. These switches move the tension to different settings, letting the audience simultaneously feel relief for one character and anxiety for one we already thought was in the clear.
Ultimately, what makes this finale standout is the final, final showdown, which brings the whole cast together (sans Alex, I mean, seriously) to face Jones one last time. The way it’s framed shows the strength of this group. Even as one person goes up against Jones, the others are right behind them, watching their back. They stay in this formation for the majority of this climactic scene. While last season’s finale had everyone separated into their own action set pieces, this one sees everyone standing together.
The moment when it’s not obvious who is Max and who is Jones is one of the best finale scenarios they could have done, perfectly set up by the earlier scene between Max and Liz in the medical center of Deep Sky. Now, after a season and a half of broken trust and science above everything, Liz proves just how much she knows Max. The science helped her get there too. This works because of the great character work done throughout the season, and the intention to let this moment play out as long as it needs to. These finale episodes know how to operate in the quiet spaces.
All that’s left is the happiness found at the end of Season 3. After two previous finales that left our characters physically and emotionally at loose ends, this happily ever after is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Max and Liz are good again, Isobel and Anatsa are here to stay (though pour one out for Kyle), Maria and Greg are going with the flow, and Michael and Alex have their first official date. The final shot of them holding hands while walking down the streets of Roswell is really all I wanted for this finale, and I honestly can’t believe we got it.
Michael and Isobel do wonder if there’s something they’re missing, but they decide to just be happy for now. They each have places to be, and a new alien family member to get to know. It’s fine.
Yet, Season 3 can’t really just end with that. Jones was able to get a call out, and the message was received by a lost alien in Mexico, who only knows Liz Ortecho’s name and comes across a wild Shiri Appleby. Wow! What does this mean?! Chris Hollier and Michael Vlamis have some speculations, but for now, we can bask in the knowledge that all of our characters are relatively happy. For now, that’s enough.
These episodes are very cinematic. The dinner table mindscape scene, the editing and direction of the Max and Jones body swapping .. more of this please!
Kyle knows Isobel’s favorite flower.
Does no one have a phone?
I really loved the line where Maria said that she’s going to help Isobel with the sword, and then they will use the science that Liz can take from Jones’ dead body to figure out a way to keep her from becoming her mother. So much power, so much conviction. It better be true.
Kyle dancing to Shania Twain.
Is Sanders okay?
Michael did walk through fire. It wasn’t as epic as I was hoping, but it was still cool.
Max definitely called Michael Guerin, which was really weird.
That cut to Maria after Liz asks if she brought her gun is totally priceless.
Kyle and Rosa finally have a scene. Kyle was able to get Eduardo to doctor up some identification for “Rosalinda.” This leaves Rosa on a nice open-ended note. She deserves it.
“It’s different when you’re the one who needs the comforting.”
“It’s you and the science.”
“Draw strength from your chosen family.”