Last week, History’s Project Blue Book debuted to 3.1 million viewers as they were introduced to civilian astrophysicist Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Aidan Gillen) and his partner at his new job, US Air Force Captain Michael Quinn (Michael Malarkey).
They have been tasked at restoring order during the rash of mysterious sightings during the 1950s-1960s. Based on the cases of the declassified Project Blue Book, each week covers one of the infamous cases.
In Episode 102, The Flatwoods Monster, Hynek and Quinn travel to Flatwoods, West Virginia, where a mother and her two kids witnessed what they believed to be a spaceship crash in the woods. They investigated the site where they claimed to have seen pieces of a glowing “red diamond” and a monster with big round eyes.
A second witness, Evelyn Meyers, has more insight and is visited by a group of men in hats prior to Hynek and Quinn’s questioning. Hynek believe this other group are the same men who have been following him since he agreed to be a part of Blue Book. The problem is that Evelyn is in a mental hospital and is unreliable due to her mental state.
Meanwhile, Hynek’s wife Mimi (Laura Mennell) went on another excursion with her new best friend, Susie (Ksenia Solo), this time to a jazz club. It was clear in the pilot episode that Susie is spying on the Hyneks, but she is also pushing Mimi out of her comfort zone, and is trying to pull the adventure-seeking Mimi out of her conservative, suburban shell.
Mimi is seeing where her limits are, and that may have to do with her structured life, being left alone by Allen, or something else we haven’t yet discovered. As long as Susie can keep Mimi occupied, there’s a chance for Allen’s work to be compromised. You can’t blame Mimi per se, as sleeper spies were known for infiltrating this country for information, but there’s a greater story in its infancy here, as told through the non-verbal communication in Mennell and Solo’s performances.
In the main story there is still an uneasiness to Hynek and Quinn’s working relationship. Look at their body language, the words that they use. There’s a clear division in the science that Hynek is pursuing and the protocol that Quinn is sticking to. How that changes and evolves over the course of the season and hopefully future ones, is what I’m interested in.
Sure, there’s the conspiracy being kept under wraps by the Air Force generals, but those are breadcrumbs right now and the meat is what’s going on between Hynek and Quinn.
For example, Hynek only speaks as a scientist when he speaks to the local police, not understanding that they represent the Air Force and that an open-ended answer leads to more skepticism. Hence, why Quinn said to let him do the talking.
As a viewer I like some of these clashes as this is where the nuance is in who these characters are and what they’ll become. Do they eventually get on the same page so that they can do their work with the trust of the public? What is Quinn’s line that he must cross, where he wants to pursue more truth?
Whether the anomaly was an alien or an owl in a tree, is best left up to the viewer. But what I liked to see is Hynek continuing to push for answers but also realizing that he wasn’t going to get Quinn to budge off his stance, and more specifically, his orders to close the case.
However, the local militia was a variable that added to the trouble of this case. The well-being of the family amongst the townsfolk — once the health of the children was improving — was more important than finding the truth and that’s why Hynek came up with the owl theory, if only to calm the panic. At some point, keeping the case open would have negative effects on Sara and her family, supporting Quinn’s “Fight or flight” assessment. Hynek finally realized that before coming up with the experiment with the owl.
I’m still poring over the details of the series. I love all the electric fans everywhere, as this was before central air conditioning was invented. Hynek pulling out a geiger counter to measure the radiation at the crash site? Gimme more. The foggy nights, the eerie forest scenes and the mental hospital all help create an atmosphere that pushes the series beyond a period procedural.
The actual Flatwoods Monster case occurred on September 12, 1952, when brothers Fred and Ed May with Tommy Hyer claimed to have witnessed a UFO land on a hillside. The brothers’ mother was asked to come along, in addition to three additional boys as they investigated the crash site where they reportedly saw a pulsing red light and a 12-foot green monster with large glowing eyes. Today the area still tries to capitalize on the attention brought to this once village of 300 people, selling memorabilia weekly.
Next week, Project Blue Book investigates The Lubbock Lights case that took place in Lubbock, Texas, when a V-shaped UFO was seen in the night sky.
Project Blue Book airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on History.