Television/Streaming review: “Project Blue Book – Episode Two – The Flatwoods Monster” (2019)
Created by: David O’Leary
Featuring: Aidan Gillen, Laura Mennell, Michael Harney, Ksenia Solo, Michael Malarkey
Sighting: “An instance of seeing or catching sight of something, typically something unusual or rare.”
This new series revolves around secret U.S. Air Force investigations into supposed UFO encounters and unexplained phenomenon, undertaken by astrophysicist, and eventual ufologist, Josef Allen Hynek in the 1950s and 1960s.
This weeks episode has two main strands, the actual investigation by Hynek and Captain Quinn who have to deal with small town paranoia as well as the possibility of a crashed UFO. Once again there is the conflicting aims of both parties as well as the “X-Files” like exploring of not only the mystery of what happened in the small town but the way in which both men interact with the townsfolk. Then there is the dawning realisation that Mimi Hynek is dealing with a Russian spy in her friendship with Susie, not only that but Susie takes Mimi to a club that hosts an alternate lifestyle to the one that the housewife is used to, which scares her immensely. We are seeing juxtapositions throughout the show as to the peoples existing expectations and what they are exposed to.
Of course what is becoming apparent with the show and the characters is that they are all in some way dealing with post war paranoia as well as the reality that there is more going on in society than they could know through their own limited experiences. After the war there was a sense of prosperity as well as an influx of men looking for work who married, settled down and were told that life was good, they would prosper and that the ‘norm’ was to be married with children. Not all people felt that way; in fact what this expectation negated was the idea that there is no ‘normal’, that people are individuals with unique needs in terms of their tastes, sexual orientation and beliefs. This led to certain members of society having to live very public lives that were in contrast to how they actually felt, driving them underground to clubs that were like the club that Mimi and Susie end up going to. This is reflected in the art, media and changing values of the time period.
This post war paranoia is exemplified in the way the townspeople end up treating the family who have a run in with what might be a UFO but ends up possibly being a meteor. There was at this time in the world fear as well as paranoia because of the Cold War that existed, which meant people were on the lookout for anything that was different. This was also a time of change with the Civil Rights movement that was getting started, as was the sexual revolution, which was not far away. It was also a time when the media was recognised as being a tool that could influence people on a large scale, not only on television but in movies as well which we can see at the beginning of episode one. There is even mention of Orson Welles broadcast of the H.G. Welles story ‘The War of the Worlds’ which had an impact in the US when it was seen by some as a possible invasion from Mars. It may seem ludicrous now but it was one of the first times when it as seen fiction could have a major effect on a population through the media at the same time which is directly correlated to our lives today with social media, one need only see the power of a single tweet from POTUS, it is immediate and can rock society within seconds. In this episode it is a newspaper story that rocks a small town into immediate suspicion, paranoia and possible violence, which our investigators have to confront with little experience in how to diffuse the situation, but they do with the help of Hyneks logic and personal experience, although if he actually believes his own explanation is up in the air.
One of the more cryptic and once again ‘X-Files’ like moments is the closed door meeting of the two Generals who are obviously up to something in terms of the investigations, the only unanswered question is do they want them to succeed or fail, we do not know their motivations so this is part of the mystery/conspiracy angle that has yet to be revealed. Although we do see them walking around an Air Force Base that seems to represent a possible Area 51 type place that is home to top secret projects that are going to link back to the Cold War era projects. Not only that but like many genre series we are given a glimpse behind the curtain for a brief moment which is a revelation of sorts but it is still a mystery as to what we are really seeing. Are we being let in on a conspiracy or are we just seeing some kind of experimental aircraft that the Air Force was known for during this period.
There has been a better definition of all the characters within the story which is needed as we movie through this first season, it is possibly one of the weaker elements of the show at this point, there is little clear definition of who these people are, they are not yet three dimensional in look, feel or behaviours but this will happen I am sure. This was one of the issues another “X-Files” like show had, “Dark Skies” (1996) which was flashy but lacked depth in terms of character so it should be a lesson learned.
All in all “The Flatwoods Monster” is another very good episode that will keep even the casual viewer interested in the subject matter, this may not hook people immediately but it will entice an audience enough to tune in for the next episode which I will be checking out. I have some faith that this show is formulaic enough that it will be very enjoyable especially because it has a sci-fi bent and is a period piece so it is a nice view on life almost seventy years ago.
Episode Two – The Flatwoods Monster
Directed by: Robert Stromberg
Written by: Sean Jablonski
On the night of September 12, 1952, something terrifying descended upon the small, West Virginian town of Flatwoods. Precisely what it was remains a mystery to this very day. All that can be said for sure is that it was hideous, fear inducing and downright monstrous. It has, appropriately, become known as the Flatwoods Monster.