@rnmmarchformeta Day 1: Tonight’s theme is: Themes
Malex and Music: Tracing a relationship through music used in the show - Part 1
Given that both Michael and Alex have a personal connection to music, I wanted to go over some of the intricacies of what the music choices and lyrics/stories behind the songs used might tell us about Malex. The music choices in Roswell New Mexico are deliberate and often incredibly pointed. Particularly in the case of Michael and Alex there are elements of their relationship that are not so much underlined as written about only in the lyrical choices that play under their scenes. This choice for me made rewatching the series a lot of fun because as I discovered the lyrics to some of the more obscure song choices I kept discovering new intricacies and motivations for each of their decisions. Below the cut for length.
(Author’s note circa 2007: (rawr xD) I’m focusing specifically on the parts of these songs that play over or in direct correlation to scenes where Michael and Alex are both present. I would love to explore this theme in the wider context of the whole show and how their interactions with other characters might change some of these but...this is already like 6k and that’s just how the peas and carrots cooked. That said I will be referencing other characters and relationships as relevant, particularly, I will be talking at some length about Milexa and the airstream scenes in 2x06. I personally have a favorable reading of the scenes and what they mean for Michael and Alex. I also talk briefly about Milexa in a few other spots - they’ve been marked as ‘Milexa’ or ‘Miluca’ if you wish to skip them, although I don’t know if this will make sense as a whole without them. But, should you wish. Proceed accordingly. <3)
Posted on AO3 here.
Sedona - Houndstooth (1x01)
The first song we hear in relation to Malex is ‘Sedona’ by Houndstooth. The song plays during the reunion as we see Alex confront Michael about the chemicals found around his airstream. The verse that plays underneath the scene references how, due to its scenic beauty, the town of Sedona was once a highly sought after filming location but had fallen into obscurity when cowboy movies went out of style in the late 70′s.
Similarly, Alex tells Michael that he is ‘wasting his life.’
“Does the macho cowboy swagger thing ever get old for you?”
“Did it get old for you?”
For me, this scene is as much an introduction to the past between these two as their present. Gone but not forgotten, their interactions are a ‘script’ that the two of them play off of. In other words, Michael and Alex don’t so much interact as play off of what the other expects from the other. This becomes especially clear when in 2x05 we learn that Alex has at least once before warned Michael about ‘wasting his life.’
When The Truth Hunts You Down - Sam Tinnesz (1x01)
The next scene is this one, in which we see Alex contemplating an old picture of himself. We then see Michael watching him.
Later, the last line is overlaid with Jesse telling Kyle about the existence of aliens.
The truth about Michael’s alienness is quiet literally hunting them, but so is something about Alex’s past. As we get to know him, we learn just how much his father is interconnected with all of the worst moments in his life and everrything he has buried and tried to run from in order to avoid it. Michael, Roswell itself - Alex ran halfway across the world to try to run away from the trauma of his youth, and yet here he is.
“Nostalgia’s a bitch, huh?”
“You know I thought when I got back from Iraq you would be long gone.”
“Is that what you want?”
“We’re not kids anymore. What I want doesn't matter.”
We also find out something of the nature of his and Michael’s relationship and that there are clearly still feelings between them - no matter how much Alex is trying to deny it.
Give Me The Night - Des Rocs (1x02)
This is one of my personal faves from the Malex soundtracks. It just *slaps* okay?
Aside from the obvious nod to Michael’s alienness, this song underscores the divide still between Michael and Alex despite the passionate kiss they shared at the reunion. Michael is initially flirtatious and full of swagger - until Alex shuts him down.
The fallacy of Alex’s rebuke and his dismissal of the feelings behind the kiss are underscored by his refusal to even look Michael in the eye as they talk. Even if he tries to deny them, the truth of his feelings hunts and haunts him because he feels he can never act on his own desires. And in turn when presented with the about face, Michael turns bitter as the push-pull is reinitiated. Michael falls back to the script they’ve been rehashing to save his feelings - ‘puts on a show’ as it were, and Alex falls for it hook, line, and sinker. He is still unwilling or unable to see the truth that lies beneath the surface.
“Isn’t there some law about building on a historical site?”
“A historical - oh you mean because the UFO crashed here? Yeah, we’re not supposed to build on Santa’s workshop either.”
For Michael, who at least to me was obviously hoping things would change this time around, this must feel like a bucket of cold water, especially in the face of Liz Ortecho’s knowledge and seeming easy acceptance of the aliens’ existence. While Max might get his happy ending, Michael is left to keep hiding from the person he loves, never being seen and wondering if Alex’s feelings are even real.
Two Princes - Spin Doctors (1x02) (Miluca)
In rapid fire we have the next three songs as Michael and Alex spend some time at the Wild Pony. This verse plays under the interaction when Alex comes in the bar and spots Michael.
“Though he got kinda hot. In a ‘sex in a truck, smells like a river, never introduce him to your mama’ kind of way.”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
My boy. My child. My bluntest instrument in the tool kit. Has no one ever told Alex Manes that saying you hadn’t noticed an objectively hot guy is hot is basically code for ‘I haven’t stopped staring at him since I walked in and my brain is not functioning at a high enough level to mask that fact’? Son, please, this is a drunk Wendy’s.
(Also this is huge foreshadowing for Miluca - Michael and Maria don’t have sex *in* a truck but it’s pretty close, we find out later that Michael/the aliens smell like rain, and she tells him he’s not meeting her mother at one point. The angle of this shot is also, for me at least, a hint that Michael is going to become the object of these two ‘princes’ affections, at some point.)
Anyway this is basically poking fun at Alex Manes, repressed disaster, for having no clue what love is and trying to express his affection through like, everything except anything anyone would understand as romantic love. (And we will see this in the flashbacks as well as present day - that Alex mostly uses his station or advantages as a way to show the people he loves he loves them, rather than using words. When he offers Michael the shed, brings him the guitar, uses his military connections to find out about Michel’s mom, hacks into Maria’s computer...listen I got more.) But that isn’t enough, as we’re learning. If only there were some way Alex could also learn that lesson.
And seriously, “This one said he wants to buy you rockets?”
How’s It Going To Be? - Stephen Edwards (1x02)
“Is there really nobody in this world that you wouldn’t risk everything to save? Sad.”
Oh Isobel, if only you knew.
So, aside from returning the kiss Michael initiated at the reunion, Alex has soundly rejected every advance Michael has made for a relationship. Despite that Michael seems to have been harboring some hope that things might be different not that Alex is back more permanently. But now with Isobel bringing into question what he’s willing to sacrifice, I think he might be realizing that toll has been extremely steep already.
(Also truly obsessed with how both Alex and Michael have positioned themselves so that they can casually glance over at each other without arousing suspicion. *Boys*. It’s not that complicated what is this middle school?)
We know that Michael doesn’t like having to keep secrets, and again I have to wonder if he’s regretting not telling Alex he’s an alien, or wondering how that conversation would have gone.
From the previous scenes we can tell something in their relationship is coming to a head - maybe Michael is hoping it’s that he can finally stop keeping secrets from Alex and show Alex who he really is - that Alex will stop misreading him. That Alex will change.
But there is also the expectation that if that happens, Alex will likely leave again. Not just because that’s what Alex’s trauma makes him do, but also because that is how Michael frames all of his relationships. As ‘until you leaves’. He is shown to have a habit of catastrophizing because he doesn’t believe himself to ‘belong’ anywhere(HA) and this is one of those times we’re shown that.
Come With Me - Gold Star (1x02)
“Home can be a person.”
And here we have Alex “thinking about who he was” as Maria closes up the bar. Given where this scene leads with him and Michael, I think the rest of the lyrics to the song are incredibly poignant.
Tell me what were you dreaming?
Tell me who were you trying to reach?
Gimme something real to believe in
Or gimme a reason to leave
So i left her standing under shining stars in the
Silver moonlight by old Borough Hall - whoever you are
We know that after this evening Alex attempts to rekindle his relationship with Michael, still thinking about who he was, and maybe for the first time trying not to run from what he wants. He’ll be unsuccessful this time, but it’s the first clue that Alex is attempting to break a pattern that has held him in place for ten years.
While he may have been misreading Michael’s stunted growth, we’re starting to see Alex contemplate change in himself. This is the start of Alex’s two season long journey to break out of the fortress he’s built around himself. To ‘put his weapons down’ in an effort to be with Michael.
(She lets her guard down on her way back//to close her eyes and fall asleep - “It was late....I was tired.”)
God of Wine - Third Eye Blind
So clearly the writers were like ‘how can we hurt Milo specifically’ because these lyrics are *so good* as we hear malex talk about the way they view their relationship for the first time in the show.
The music starts just as Michael picks up the old photographs, first of the pod squad, then of himself and Alex playing guitars in the desert. As he packs up the airstream to move it off Foster’s Ranch, Michael is also thinking about the past.
Throughout the series, we’re given a bunch of musical lines about how Michael and Alex can’t go back to what they were, that they have to move forward. And it’s true - as we’ll see over and over again the dynamic they’ve had has been incredibly unhealthy for both of them. But they also cannot avoid the other’s orbit. And when Alex comes to talk to Michael it’s the first time we see him actually decide to initiate - to try and take what he himself wants, rather than waiting or hiding from it. But it is also very much Alex falling back into the ‘madness that holds a truth he can’t erase’ of Michael’s really, very, super, incredibly obvious feelings for him. Our boy is not subtle.
But Alex is still hunted by the past - before we know his history we assume that when Alex references ‘who he was before he went to war’ he means Iraq. But Alex’s war is his father. As much as combat can absolutely be a traumatizing experience, for Alex I never really read that as his main source. As he’ll tell Forrest later - “My PTSD triggers are a little more complicated”.
And so when he tells Michael he’s been thinking about who he was “before he went to war” for me that’s more a callback to who he was before Jesse found the two of them in the toolshed. “When this started.”
As Michael tells him “From where I stand nothing’s changed” the words “I know, I know, I know” repeat in the background because WE KNOW. We all know, except Alex.
“And that’s a problem for me, Guerin.”
And the siren’s song that is your madness
“Because every time you look at me, I’m seventeen all over again.”
holds a truth I can’t erase
“- and I forget that the last ten years even happened. And then you look away and I remember all over again. And it almost kills me every time.”
All alone on your face
“I never look away. Not really.”
For Michael this is basically confirmation of what he’s been realizing over the last few days - that Alex has been totally misreading him and that yes, Michael, you’re going to have to use your words on this one.
To which we see Alex’s brain 404-blue-screen for a minute as he realizes what Michael means. Which I personally really appreciate.
And especially since we’ve just learned that a lyric of this song was written on Rosa’s hand the night she died, I can’t believe it’s a coincidence in this being the song that plays underneath this scene - where Alex says he was thinking about who he was before. Everything changed that day for everyone - including Michael and Alex. Michael had gained a terrible secret he couldn’t share, that meant he changed his whole life and started needing to hide and lie and act out, and Alex - not knowing the truth - assumed that it was Michael’s way of trying to push him away and end the relationship. Which leads to the decades long miscommunication of Alex seeing Michael do that over and over again.
For the last ten years, Alex has been seeing Michael as the boy who looks away, then looks back. A Michael whose focus shifts to and away from him and who he sees as wasting his life; directionless and aimless. But as he realizes what Michael is saying he has to recalibrate everything he’s thought their relationship is.
This is possibly the first time Alex has realized that his view of Michael has been wrong. That he really doesn’t know Michael at all.
And we know this interaction has a profound impact on Alex in terms of how he views their relationship. I feel like this is one of those things that becomes a mantra for Alex, later down the line. He repeats it to Michael at Caulfield, and in his song as well, “You never looked away, now I won’t look away” to express his commitment to breaking down the walls he has built up for himself.
Even though we know the relationship is doomed at this point, it’s the first time a stone falls from the walls Alex has built around himself in a decade.
Here - Chance Peña - 1x03 (Alternate title: “Home”)
Okay I would like to petition to make it illegal to have unreleased songs in episodes, Chance Peña help a bitch out. I had to watch a *fish show* to hear the full lyrics because they’re edited in the show! ( I will also note the next lyric is ‘goodbye, my dear’ which. rude.)
Anyway, we’re given these lyrics as Michael wakes up to seeing Alex has stayed the night. I took the editing, with the previous song choices, to be a reaffirmation of this being something new to Alex, but not necessarily to Michael. Michael knows what he wants from a relationship with Alex - even if he’s put the hope aside from time to time the want is always clear.
For Alex though, a relationship with Michael is something that scares him because of his fear that it can be taken away. (”I just thought that I could be happy, and not be afraid that if I loved anything my dad would destroy it.”) He is trying to make it work - “drawing near” to Michael - but he knows that in order to do that he is going to need to be uncomfortable. To face the fears that have held him back and kept him in comfortable limbo for so long.
I’m also going to flail about how, while RNM has the song listed as ‘Here’, the producer of the other show(Battlefish) identified the song as ‘Home’. I hope I don’t have to yell at y’all, other Roswell New Mexico fans, about how often that word has snuck up on me and knifed me in the back regarding malex. Especially since Alex *is* currently - well, here. With his home. Kill me please it would be kinder.
But then of course we see the old insecurities pop up again as Isobel arrives. Even if he is trying - Alex is nowhere near ready to jump out of the closet yet.
Fast Aint Good Enough - Inkwell Echo (1x06)
I debated adding this one because it’s a little bit reachy, but I thought it was significant in that even when they were seventeen, the thing Alex is ‘afraid of’ is his feelings for Michael - not necessarily of being gay but of what people like Kyle and his father do with information like that.
Wish I’d found the words when we were seventeen-
“What are you so afraid of?”
-just as Alex catches sight of Michael.
(“I wanted to be the kind of person who won battles. It felt good.”)
Aside from Alex’s general need to protect Michael in any and all situations, I feel like the lyrics of this song - about the singer’s attempt to leave an abusive relationship - underscore that even before the toolshed, Alex was fighting. Even before the toolshed, he has been fighting to this cycle he is trapped in.
While he and Michael build their relationship he starts thinking seriously about leaving and not just surviving but he will ultimately choose to trap himself for years in order to hide his love for Michael.
Like so many gay kids, Alex is fighting a system that deems him guilty of sin - and takes his fighting back as a sign of his guilt. And in order to actually be able to love Michael, he is going to have to figure out how to put down the weapons and the hurt and break the cycle.
First Day Of My Life - Bright Eyes (1x06)
Are they serious right now I swear to god.
So obviously, we’ve got the origins for everything we’re told about Michael and Alex’s lives changing based on their feelings for each other in like two and a half verses of song. Forget the entire second season we have everything we need right here.
“It was the first time I liked our hometown, though.”
“Alex made me believe there was a place for me here.”
We know that for both of them this is really a moment of self discovery as much as it is a discovery about each other.
For Michael in particular, who doesn’t know why he’s here or who he really is, and who previously had no plans besides leaving the planet, this is the moment that he realizes what he wants - to be with Alex.
And for Alex, to me, this moment is a brief glimpse into what his life could be like. We don’t have any confirmation if Michael is his first kiss with a boy or not, but we do know that this moment is significant in that it’s the first that makes Roswell feel like a place he enjoys being.
And as he is realizing that, the lyrics echo it -
But I realized that I need you // And I wondered if I could come home
(Screeching from the background: WOULD YOU COME HOME)
But of course, as the song says, these things take forever because...well....
(It’s because Alex is dumb. My poor dumb emotionally stunted child. Please go to therapy.)
In essence, this is the moment that sets Michael and Alex on their entwined path. The path that Alex will have to fight to get back to - the path Michael will lose faith in before he later starts to regain the hope that it exists. I also like to think about the link between the last lines:
Remember the time you drove all night // Just to meet me in the morning?
and the line from ‘Would You Come Home’
Would you meet me in the middle // Could we both stop keeping score?
I like to think about the parallel here, about meeting people where they’re at, and the love and care and effort it takes to be willing to drive all night to meet someone. Listen a bitch is soft and gay don’t look at me.
You Can’t Love Me - Novi & Tyler Blackburn (1x12)
(*Whispers and rocks back and forth* this is fine it’s all fine)
Once again we have a song whose lyrics give us a tailor made road map to Malex, and will pop up later in ‘Would You Come Home’. We’ve already seen the implosion of the way Michael and Alex have been orbiting each other for a decade, but now that Alex knows the truth, he actually has the ability to understand Michael in ways he hasn’t been able to before. (Something we’ll see later in Season 2 when he talks with Maria.)
And because of that, we see the true beginning of the journey of Michael and Alex back to one another in a healthier way.
But part of that journey is going to be realizing that what they’ve been doing and the way they have loved each other in the past isn’t sustainable - and maybe isn’t even the way they want to love each other.
“They’re my family, Alex!”
“Alright, maybe! But you are mine. I don’t look away, Guerin.”
“No. We’ve been holding onto this thing. And it’s gotten us nowhere. Just let it go.”
Even though the words are said in anger, there is some truth to what Michael says. Their relationship so far hasn’t been a good one. Where Alex is trying to repeat the words that Michael said to him that made such an impact on him, Michael is (well, a, trying to save his dumb boyfriend from getting flambayed) using the opportunity to reveal how little faith he has in their relationship. To say that no, this doesn’t feel like love.
But as much as the song lyrics are about loving someone who isn’t good for you, they’re also about changing and growing, and about a commitment to be better.
(Sound familiar? Brb, I’m gonna go jump off a cliff.)
Love is messy, and especially for Michael and Alex, love has always been something that hurts. “Home is where the hurt is” - and a really important part of their journey is realizing that, and realizing there is a different way of loving each other.
Additionally for Alex, this is when he starts to realize the full extent of his family’s involvement in hunting and hurting Michael’s family. It isn’t just his dad - his entire family line has been involved in this since before Alex was born. And still is. This is really where he starts realizing the roots of the guilt and shame he’s going to have to deal with in order to be anything to Michael - not even a partner but a friend.
This is the first step in that journey. Not just the commitment that yes - I want to build a home for you - but that first, I don’t know, maybe I need to put down these weapons and pick up a different set of tools?
ON TO SEASON TWO
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