“You know when Max and Liz would kiss, and Liz would get the flashes? And when we would kiss, you didn’t? I know how much that hurt you. The reason you didn’t get the flashes….is because I didn’t let you get them. I didn’t let you see me. I’ve never let anyone see me before. Because…there are things inside of me that I don’t want people to see. There’s things inside of me that I’m not so proud of. But, I’ve thought about it…and I want you to see me.”
Abused kid. Angry teen. Dysfunctional boyfriend. Loyal second-in-command to the King of a faraway planet. And you thought that you had a lot on your plate. I've looked most forward to this piece as I now get to do a character study on my favorite Roswell character, Michael Guerin. You can search high and low, but I doubt you will find a more well-rounded character in television.
I admit that I can come across as bias when it comes to this character. He has always been always my favorite on the show, after all. But it isn't just about that, I promise. I truly feel that Michael is one of the most complex characters to have ever be written into television history. There are more layers to this man/alien then an onion and as the show progresses it turns out to be the a mixture of the most dangerous and sometimes the most innocuous things that peel these layers away one by one. You never know what will expose more of Michael Guerin to you and that is what makes you stick around to find out more; every time he is on screen you find yourself watching so you can see exactly what will be bringing out more of his various facets.
So...let's dive in, shall we?
One of the original three to be found wandering the desert in the 90’s after the 47 crash pods matured and hatched (along with Isabel and Max,) Michael wasn't lucky enough to be placed with the same family. While the biological brother/sister duo went with the Evans family, Michael remained in the system until a Foster Father took him in. However, his situation was far from ideal. While the Evans' parents were all about faith and family, Michael's "Father" was a lazy non-worker who simply wanted the check that came with a child…a man who was as emotionally abusive as he later turned out to be physically abusive. Cruel and uncaring, his soul-scarring and neglectful personality turned out to be the mold that shaped a big part of how Michael saw the world of Earth. You see in the early episodes an extremely angry soul. It is very easy to dislike Michael if you take him at face value. He is angry and rude, abrasive and distrusting. He rarely talks and when he does, he either makes you feel badly about yourself, tells you to leave him alone, or only speaks to Max or Isabel. Even when he speaks to them it seems to come out only in barbs, but they at least understand why he speaks only in the language of "angry hurtful teen," so they say nothing about it. He never thinks before he acts and his impatience is often seen as childish and messy to Max. As the show progresses, however, you see why. You catch glimpses of his life at home: How little he stays inside his house even when forced to be on the property, how much he prefers to be anywhere around town despite despising being stuck on Earth, etc. He is even uncomfortable in the Evan’s home, because the very site of a happy family is a source of awkwardness and pain to him. In the beginning he appears to be the classic "man you love to hate" character. As the episodes unfold, however, you see him as one of the most tragic characters that you grow to feel for.
I often ponder on this question: If Michael had had a different family life would he have turned out to be a completely different character? In many ways he mirrors Tess in this regard (whom I will cover in my fourth and last character study in my next post.) If he hadn't had such a negative upbringing he wouldn't have become so guarded, angry, bitter, and rude. He wouldn't feel so horrible about the way that his life was and feel that, as he put it in in the episode “285 South,” "There's gotta be something better for me out there than Roswell, New Mexico." Maybe he would still be impatient, maybe even just as quick-tempered; those can be personality traits that you are sometimes born with and just can't shake. The rest, however, I often wonder about. While I would never wish his life on anyone I can't deny that I love the man that he turned out to be, because despite his angered and embittered teenagedom, Michael grew to be a strong and fierce leader as well as a supportive friend/boyfriend. Read on to see what I mean.
Where Isabel is the alien that begs for the chance to stay, Michael dreams of the day that they get to leave. His life on Earth has been less than ideal. He has never felt fulfilled or even close to happy and despite his love for Max and Isabel (which he would never cop to,) he hides a resentment over the fact that they have the idealistic family life that he has never gotten to experience. Nothing has started or ended well for him and he feels that his only chance to experience even a semblance of normality or joy is to return to the planet that they are only beginning to learn about. Sure, he was killed in an invasion there. Sure, he is technically a genetic clone of Max's Second-In-Command. But life has to be better there than it is here. Just kill their enemies and take back the planet; then they can be happy. These are his constant thoughts and drives through the first two seasons of the show. No one could really blame him as you see what he deals with on a personal level on Earth. Yet with each episode you see the conflict between the alien that wants the life he once had and the human that feels for the life and the people that he has here on Earth that make him feel anything at all. As much as he would never admit it, Michael's true weakness is friends and family.
What draws you in to his character is the fact that you never know what is going to make Michael come out of his angry and aggressive shell. One moment he is willing to physically sacrifice any and all humans that get in the way of their mission, and the next he is telling Liz that, after secretly reading her diary, he now has "another reason to be jealous of Max Evans," and is glad to know that they at least have “one friend” in Roswell. One moment he is screaming at Max for daring to risk their identity to save a child dying of cancer, and the next he is helping Max to seal off an entire hospital children's ward to save them all while on his knees praying to God for help. Is it a part of Michael's personality from his previous life that we never saw before that causes this constant shift? Is it the influence of Max and Isabel, whose more positive upbringing has enabled them to help their surrogate brother have a bit more of a positive grounding in this life? Is it his own desire to feel a bit more rather than be denied that ability as so often it seemed his life always given him? Honestly, I would like to think it a mixture of all. His previous life was known to be unflinchingly devoted to Zan, Max's previous incarnation. Even unto death Michael’s former incarnation refused to turn on him and to the very end stayed loyal to both friend and throne. You see many moments in the three seasons of the show in which, despite Michael's better judgement, he has sided with Max. Yet at the same time you see when his impatience gives in quickly and his reckless tendencies lead him to go off and solve the problem on his own, and when this happens he always seems to defer to Max in the end when he comes in to clean up the mess that was inadvertently made in his wake, even though he is angered to give in to their "fearless leader." He has had many moments when he wants to kick Max in the teeth (and has done so at one point,) but even in the end of Season Two when he believes that they are about to be separated, the non-emotional Michael Guerin hugs Max and says to him, "You're a great brother." Some quirks transferred, I suppose. But then again, this can also be an even split between his previous life and how close they are now. The Evans siblings knew the horrible life that Michael was stuck with and did the best that they could to nurture and support him. His hope of a better life was all that Michael had and while they were on Earth they wanted to give him as much of a positive outlook as possible and as much direction as they could. While this happy family set-up was sometimes a source of resentment and regret for Michael, it was at the same time a source of support and guidance for him. If Max and Isabel had not been there all of his life to give him the stability, hope, happiness, and structure that he needed, there might not have been any hope at all of seeing the moments of humanity and heroism that we see in him throughout the show. And then again...there is also what Maria did for him as well...
Michael wasn't exactly raised in an environment where love and compassion flourished. He wasn't nurtured in those concepts. Even when you consider what little we know about his previous life we at least know that he was a soldier that was loyal to the King first and foremost. He has never been one to "Love and cuddle." That is what makes his relationship with Maria so surprising and real to me. Michael makes no bones about the fact that he is against Max's decision to trust Liz with their secret in the beginning. He becomes even more incensed when Liz spills the beans to Maria. He doesn't trust anyone outside of their alien trio and sometimes he barely trusts even them, so accepting humans into the fold is nearly impossible for him. Yet Michael meets a formidable foe to his jaded personality in Maria. She refuses to be intimidated by him, refuses to let him push her around or away, and even when she wants to hate him she can't bring herself to do so. Michael's constant anger and impatience pushes against Maria's need for attention and her high stress levels, yet the amazing thing about this butting of heads is how much they seem to feed off of it. The more Maria begs to be held or paid attention to the more Michael complains about it...and then gives in and does it. For how often he complains about the little things that she asks of him such as romance and attention (yeah, to him those are little) he turns around and sets up an Italian dinner with Scooby plates because both are her favorite food and cartoon character, and sets up a stage show in Vegas for her to sing in front of hundreds of people as she has always dreamed of being on stage. He can be as infuriating as he can be romantic, but he is far from your typical boyfriend. And I don't mean just because he can shove people across a room with his hands and blow things up with them either. Michael as always been emotionally stunted. Understanding the concept of love has never been something that made any sense to him. In the early days of their relationship he is visually confused by so many of the things that Maria does for him and for them that it is almost laughable, and getting him to understand her anger of his lack of comprehension of these subjects is enough to make you want to force feed “Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus” down his throat…if the title weren’t so offensive in his case. To watch him progress throughout the show to the point that he grows comfortable with Maria enough to hug, comfortable with friends enough to laugh out loud, and stable enough to curl up with someone in a bed and cry....it's an amazing thing to watch unfold for such a complex character.
You never know which Michael you will get in any episode. Angry Michael. Brooding Michael. Impatient Michael. Sincere Michael. Sad crying Michael. Or you legitimately could get every single one in a span of a one hour episode. You never know what will cause each new layer of him to be revealed and you never know what to expect of him. When will you side with him? When will you want to slap him? When will you want to hug him and tell him it will all be okay? This once fierce soldier turned angry and abused teen is by far and away the most amazing character I have ever seen on TV. You will laugh with him, you will cry with him, you will love the journey that these aliens take you on...especially when you see that journey through Michael Guerin's eyes.
I always recommend watching the entire show, but for the best of Michael, I suggest checking out these episodes:
1x6: 285 South
1x7: Heat Wave
1x10: The Balance
1x14: Blind Date
1x12: Into The Woods
1x15: Independence Day (The Best of the entire show. Truly. Do not miss this Episode)
1x16: Sexual Healing
1x21: The White Room
2x1: Skin and Bones
2x2: Ask Not
2x4: Summer of 47
2x5: The End of The World
2x10: A Roswell Christmas Carol
The Entire Lauree Dupree Saga: Episodes 11-15
2x17: Cry Your Name
2x21: The Departure
3x2: Michael, The Guys, And The Great Snapple Caper
3x8: Behind The Music
3x9: A Tale of Two Parties
3x14: Chant Down Babylon
3x15: Who Died and Made You King
Stay tuned for my fourth and final installment of my Roswell character study in two weeks as I will dissect (and oh, how I wish I could) the Queen of Antar, Tess Harding.
Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things: writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom. At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field. A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is. She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout. Just sayin’.)