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Roswell, New Mexico Is What Happens When Teen Tropes Grow Up

'We push the envelope a little bit,' Heather Hemmens says

Roswell, New Mexico has every trope and story twist you want in a classic CW show. There’s the sensitive-yet-brooding hot guy, the alpha female with a stunning downfall, love triangles, questionable half-sibling situations, and more. It’s the kind of TV that wraps around you like a warm blanket and knows exactly how to give you what you want, even when what you want is a more than a little outrageous. (Yes, I want a woman to explore her feelings with a mysterious and potentially dangerous alien — it’s true love!)

With its frequent flashbacks to the adult protagonists’ high school days together, the episodes are imbued with coded treasure maps, secret water tower-like spaces, and all the nostalgia-inducing things you imagine bored teens in a small town did before Twitter and Instagram, when we could more easily focus on the here and now.

At the same time, all of these teen archetypes feel more mature when the show’s main story line is set in adulthood, with characters who are acutely aware of how their privilege affects them all, their mental and emotional states, and their basic animalistic desires.

We’re not just rooting for 18 year olds to get together before prom; we’re rooting for adults who are around the age that many adults get married. We’re not just seeing a teen struggle to come out to his father; we’re seeing how that teen’s closeted past influenced his future. And that gay teen’s jock bully? He grew up to realize that his behavior was abhorrent. Adulthood makes the stakes feel a few steps higher than in the typical teen drama.

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“It’s a little bit more adult content than we’ve been allowed to do in the past [on the CW], and so I’m excited that we’re showing what people in their late 20s are dealing with realistically with discrimination or sexuality, and we just pose these questions that are very important to this generation and we push the envelope a little bit,” Heather Hemmens, who plays Maria, told MTV News.

With its seamless wavering between the natural world and beyond, Roswell, New Mexico delivers perfect soapy, tropey TV tinged with adult sensibilities.

Last week, after Max (Nathan Parsons) unleashed his decade-long secret and detailed to Liz (Jeanine Mason) everything that happened the night her sister Rosa (Amber Midthunder) died, Liz painfully declared she never wants to see Max again — a true devastation considering just the week before, Liz admitted she felt safe around her alien hero and it started to seem possible that these two would finally get together. Instead, Liz entered an emotional freefall and Max was left feeling helpless.

Since we know Liz will see Max again — they live in an impossibly small town and they haven’t even kissed yet, so there’s absolutely more to see — we’re able to focus on digesting all the new information we learned: Max wasn’t Rosa’s killer (a classic red herring), his alien sister Isobel (Lily Cowles) had some kind of murderous mental break 10 years prior, and — the most terrifying part of all — it seems like it might be happening again.

With Tuesday night’s episode (March 5), we will officially pass the halfway mark for this season, and now that we know what happened the night Rosa died, it feels like we’ve reached a turning point.

While Liz is on a hiatus from Max, rather than put all of our focus on the sci-fi mystery, we’ll get a chance to dive deeper into the human side of the show, turning away from what happened in the past and toward what’s happening in the present with Maria, Liz’s steady partner in solving crime.

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“Maria enjoys being the friend that everyone can lean on, they can come to with their love problems and their work problems and she very much has that bartender vibe, where it’s like, ‘Here: sit down, have a drink, and spill the tea,’” Hemmens said. “And now we’re going to see the truth of Maria’s heart. Her walls come down and we see what’s been going on in her own personal life and the struggles that she’s been hiding from everybody.”

Now, it’s Maria’s turn to tackle what happens when a teen trope — the all-knowing best friend — grows up.

Ultimately, Maria’s humanity will only add to the supernatural intrigue. We already know she reads palms — but a look into her relationship with her mother will shed new light on what she might really be capable of, both emotionally and intuitively. “This is a peek behind the curtain, if you will, at setting up Maria’s story,” Hemmens teased.

And things for the locals-only bar owner will only pick up from there. "She’s about to get her moment to just really break out of this small town experience that she’s had because she knows deep down that she’s capable of so much more."

Roswell, New Mexico airs on the CW Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.