Alien Nation #23: Green Eyes

Matt's life gets away from him when George is promoted over him and his relationship to Cathy gets deeper, then more distant. Meanwhile, Purists are creating Newcomer-killing bacteria, which could wind up killing George's family.
SLAGS LIKE US: Though there are references to racism (George calling himself "uppity", even putting on a "good old boy" accent, and referencing jazz's roots in American slavery; and obviously, the Purists' genocidal agenda), the episode likens Matt and Cathy's relationship to gay, rather than interracial, love. There's a space station being assembled in orbit and it's called Skylab; the original Skylab fell out of the sky in 1979, and the International Space Station (which never bore that name) would wait two more years in our time line before its first component was launched.

REVIEW: Though Alien Nation was a moderate hit for Fox, the fact of the matter is that the ad revenue for the budding network wasn't as projected and it had to shut down production on all its dramas from that year. Seeing as the series ends on number of cliffhangers, this must have been maddening to the original audiences. The story would continue in novels and comics which we will not cover here, and then, some 5 years later, with TV movies picking up straight from those cliffhangers (which we WILL cover, starting tomorrow). So the show ended, but not for lack of quality, and its first season finale threatened to destroy the status quo in devastating ways, with ever bigger and more personal stakes.

The mystery du jour has more suspects than the show knows to do with, which is a welcome change from the usually pretty obvious culprits it's churned out. High profile Newcomers are dying from a bio-engineered bacteria, which the Franciscos are eventually infected with (oops, reminds me the show never followed up on the pilot giving Susan a fatal disease!). You know it's happening, that's no mystery, but it's great suspense. We'll eventually find out a Purist organization means to spray L.A. with the stuff, and that's a great cliffhanger too. The investigation is hampered by Matt's jealousy over George's promotion. His ego bruised, his partner's hyper-competence stings him at every turn, but then George's sense of responsibility puts him in harm's way more than usual and he won't let Matt protect him from such things as the open ocean. Their personal problems culminate in a wrestling match on the docks, which leads to a possible split between them.

Jealousy is also an important component of the subplots. In the smaller (and less interesting one), Buck's schoolmate Noah makes a false report about their hot teacher (so now Miss Houston teaches English?) that she and Buck are having an affair because he's jealous of the Newcomer teacher's pet. Buck seems to have been born for literature, which is nice to see, but I still find the subplot objectionable. On the one hand, we've only seen this teacher once before, so I'm wondering why I should care that the principal is using the false accusation to get rid of her annoying political agenda. On the other, an affair DOES start between them, and though Buck is perhaps old enough (I thought he was in college at first, but it's high school), it still feels a icky for a teacher to be with a student. Perhaps the relationship was meant, in the long term, to contrast with Matt's "impossible" romance with Cathy, but still.

That romance progresses and regresses through the episode, with the two sharing their first kiss, but then both feeling awkward about their physical differences. Matt tries to compare notes by going to the human corner of his romantic triangle as the last episode's Lorraine (then called Lori) who makes a surprising comeback (surprising in that the show usually sheds guest characters even when they seemed important). Cathy's feelings of inadequacy and jealousy translate into a need to act more human for Matt, but she merely embarrasses herself. In the end, she tries to date inside her own species, and makes a touching speech about having to be herself as rain romantically comes down over the almost-lovers. Matt is devastated, but he's lost more than Cathy, he may have lost George as well. He's come a long way over the course of the season, but because he's still bothered by the differences, it's lost him the two most important people in his life - both, ironically, Newcomers.

1996 is up to Back to the Future 5, the same joke as the film's Rambo 6 (used in the show's opening credits). George confronting his fear of water was an important aspect of the film, but it doesn't go as far here.

The unprofessional teacher subplot is rather weak, but it can't drag down an otherwise stellar episode that advances many of the characters' stories and puts the entire world we've been following in jeopardy. Hopefully, a five-year jump for the production won't kill the momentum.



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