One of the themes explored over the course of Roswell’s run is that of alienation or xenophobia as the aliens attempt to carve out normal lives and integrate into their community. There is an ongoing tension between xenophobic unease and xenophilia as the characters shift in their allegiance to the aliens.
Early in season 1 Maria especially struggles to come to terms with the revelation that Max, Isabel and Michael are aliens, concerned that they are really ‘three feet tall and green and slimy.’ She’s uncertain what might happen to Liz were Max to kiss her, or the ramifications of their powers, finding Isabel’s dreamwalking particularly disconcerting. When put under pressure by Valenti though, Maria ultimately takes the aliens’ part, stressing that they too are deserving of Sheriff Valenti’s protection.
Sheriff Valenti is similarly preoccupied with exposing the Roswell aliens, convinced they are responsible for Atherton’s death in 1959. He quickly comes to realise, however, that things are not so black and white as he imagined and when Max saves Kyle’s life as they hide from Agent Pierce, Valenti, who has already begun to oscillate between antagonist and protector, becomes a resolute champion for the aliens. This is perhaps best exemplified by his absorption of Tess into his home on the death of Ed Harding, as Valenti comes to treat her as he would a daughter. Consequently, throughout much of the second season it is Kyle that bears the brunt of alien distrust, blaming Max and the others for his father’s loss of a job and the risks he takes to protect them.
As Kyle shifts towards acceptance, however, we see a rift open up between Liz and the others when a tragedy leaves her convinced of outside, or perhaps alien involvement. The group eventually reconciles but not before jeopardising what little community the aliens have become part of.
We return to the thread of xenophobia in the third season through the lens of Jesse Ramierez, who following the revelation of Isabel’s alien identity dreams uneasily of grotesque green monsters. But, as with Maria, when forced by circumstance to take a definite stance, Jesse insists of his wife ‘She’s still Isabel’ and joins the aliens in their confrontation against the FBI.
Although all of these instances of xenophobia occur within the confines of the aliens’ immediate circle, we discover early on that the threat is much farther reaching. As the FBI and government agents investigate the truth of the Roswell crash we become aware –as do the aliens –that Maria’s suggestions of alien hunters and spies are not mere fantasy. This investigation culminates in Max’s capture and imprisonment in the white room towards the end of the first season. While they do retrieve him, the threat never wholly diminishes and as Roswell draws to a close the aliens’ and their allies head out into an uncertain future determined not only to salvage the community they have created but elude the government once and for all.