Skin And Bones

Episode Report Card
Djb: D | Grade It Now!
The Cadmium-X Files

New season, new hair, new set of mysteriously follow-the-trail-of-breadcrumbs-and-pecs alien-identifying clues left shoddily buried three inches under the Earth's crust in a well-trod patch of windy desert smack in the middle of town. Let's begin, shall we?

Fade up on a wide shot of a clearing in a southwestern desert almost as pleasing and generally interesting to the eye as the hey-what-does-this-button-do blinding white fade-in that has just preceded it. The sound of ambiguous beeping akin to a truck backing up (the truck, doubtlessly, containing a hermetically sealed box labeled "This Show's Momentum," backpedaling furiously onto an exit ramp clearly marked "Last Season") grows gradually faster as we cut to a hand holding a metal detector over the ground. Beep beep beep. The hand puts down the metal detector and opts instead for a shovel. Beep beep beep, dig dig dig. As the hand with the unseen face begins to unearth something buried below the surface, a voiceover interrupts the action with the sentiment, "I feel as if you've buried something." Cut to the interior of a therapist's office, where this sentiment of the doctor proves that Jason Katims did, in fact, receive and read the copy of Have A Nice Trip, See You Next Fall: Punny Urkelisms For Every Social Situation, a scriptwriting primer guide I sent him as a means of helping him create even more hackneyed and contrived dialogue than could previously have been imagined in primetime programming. And, clearly, it's working so far. Thank you, US Postal Service. Fly like an eagle, indeed.

And so we join a downcast Max "Pecs Luthor" Evans, listening as the therapist-formerly-known-as-Urkel-esque drawls at about a millionth of the necessary speed, "Max, I want you to know that however unique you think your problems may be, there are millions of teenagers out there going through exactly what you're going through right now." All this slogging is merely a prelude to the inevitable "Last Season on Roswell" retread that is the inherent challenge of the chronically low-rated series, which must constantly explain and re-explain itself in the unlikely event it should attract a new viewer or five over the course of the upcoming season. Which is why it is all the more infuriating when the therapist continues to emote so slowly and carefully and thoughtfully, as if his character is of any real import at all, like he's prepping for a Good Max Hunting watershed moment at the end of this scene where he holds up a copy of this week's script and the two hug and cry and Dr. Backstory reiterates over and over and over to a sobbing Max, "It's not your fault. It's not your fault." But it is your fault, Max. It really, really is.

The camera zeroes in on Max's face, a technical feat that requires the assistance of a native Sherpa and miles of rappelling cable to traverse the boy's mountainous pecs just to arrive at a tight shot of anything north of neck high. As the drama intensifies by virtue of the reedy, Native American rip-off drone of The Pan Flutes of the Damned, Dr. Backstory suggests, "You want to try and tell me what's been going on?" Max deadpans: "Well, I guess the natural place to start is...that I'm an alien." Viva la flashback reel! Last season flashes before my eyes like the death knell of quality television it so clearly was, from the kids emerging from their wax paper wombs fallen to Earth from Planet Silly String to the scoping fjords of Sandy Land to the Crash Festival to the shooting at the Crashdown. Max helpfully VOs, "My sister and our friend Michael are also a little green around the gills," but even this early attempt at colorful writing is squashed by the fact that it is delivered in a typically monotone interpretation by someone who clearly wasn't in on the joke. Sad, that. And so it goes: "The six of us were connected by the secret we shared. There was also Tess." And then there was, indeed. And what better way to be introduced back into the action than with a "Millionaire and his wife, the movie star, and the rest" flourish? Because Tess is so the human-and-alien-DNA-mixture embodiment of that which is "the rest." Shot of the white room. Shot of Evil Ed becoming Pierce. Shot of Pierce pulling the gun on Michael. Max clunks on: "As much as we tried to convince ourselves that we could live a normal life, we couldn't. To save our lives, Michael killed Agent Pierce of the FBI." Cut to a shot that didn't appear anywhere in a first-season episode, of a scruffy Porno, a skull-capped Michael kickin' it gangsta flava in an I-know-what-your-hair-jokes-did-last-summer skull cap of some kind, and Max, all under late-night desert darkness, burning Pierce's body. "And no matter how justified it was, the truth is we killed a man. And that wasn't easy. For any of us." And so he has come clean, but in a purely "not" sort of way, as Dr. Backstory VOs once more from afar, pulling Max back from the distracted coma whose non-energy I share with Max already, asking him, "Max, don't you have anything to say? Anything at all?" See, because Max hasn't actually said anything, anything at all. The potential for action already artfully sidestepped, Max gazes around distractedly and deadpans, "It's like you said. Just normal, teenage stuff." Hey, look what not happened! Par for the course, I think. A new season of Roswell has begun. Back in the desert, the shovel reveals a bone of some kind, buried so far under the surface of the Earth that merely blowing on the grain of sand that concealed it would not even have come close to providing the necessary force to reveal it in its entirety to the world. In fact, you'd have to blow really, really hard.

Opening credits: Brrrrr! Who turned the cultural thermometer down to zero? Oh, it must have been Dido. Singing. Still. Otherwise, second-season reediting ahoy! The new shots mostly play like misplaced footage from the previous flashback sequence, with the addition of the actors' names so they stick in our minds until we see them again on VH1's all-WB Twentieth Anniversary Where Are They Now spectacular. Sadly, the looming specter of Emilie DeRavin's presence in the opening credits has become a reality, but hey, Nick Wechsler's face is still lurking around, so that offers the hope that one's presence or hierarchy in the theme sequence in no way correlates to increased screen time. You got that straight, Appleby? And Michael? And Porno? And...the rest? If you know what I mean?

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