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Project Blue Book - The Flatwoods Monster - Review

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Project Blue Book “The Flatwoods Monster” was written by Sean Jablonski and was directed by Robert Stromberg. I’m really enjoying the fact that the show isn’t giving us easy answers or simply supporting one side or the other, but giving us a slightly richer look at all of the pressures that affected decisions about the cases from Project Blue Book. Of course, this is a dramatization, so they’ve made everything even more complicated than it likely was. I don’t believe, for instance, that a Russian spy really was trying to infiltrate Hynek’s (Aiden Gillen) family, but there was definitely Russian spy activity during the time – and it also makes an interesting parallel to things in the news today…

The episode begins with this week’s case and continues to have the production values of a movie. A mother – Sara (Brooke Smith) and her two kids (Kiefer O’Reilly and Beatrice Kitsos) are running through the woods with their dog, chasing what looks like a meteor that crashes in the woods behind their house. The kids run into the burning forest after their dog and see a “monster.” It was not a good special effect, but it wasn’t supposed to be as it was going to turn out to be a figment of their imagination.

Hynek is reviewing his notes from the last case and determines that the numbers he wrote down are coordinates. When he looks them up, he discovers they point to somewhere in Antarctica. He’s interrupted by the doorbell, which turns out to be Quinn (Michael Malarkey). We see him lock up his notes and drop the key in glass saucer.

Joel (Nicholas Holmes) is awestruck by Quinn – and much more impressed by Quinn’s involvement in the war than his father’s. Of course, we know that Hynek is never going to worry his family about being in danger, so even if he had done something heroic in the past, it’s unlikely his family would know about it. In the moment, Quinn proves he’s a decent guy by not trying to upstage Joel’s father – quite the opposite, in fact. Mimi (Laura Mennell), however, isn’t a push over. She listens at the door and hears about the case. She confronts Hynek about keeping secrets from her – and she’s clearly worried. We start to get a much better picture of her in this episode.

Hynek is curious about whether cases usually involve aliens, and Quinn tells him no. When they get to the Downing farm, the townspeople are there, and they are angry. Quinn explains to Hynek that it’s basic psychology. When she claims there is a monster and no one can find it, the townspeople assume she’s lying and turn on her – she becomes the monster. I thought this was a great analogy to the cold war storylines that are already starting to play out – and also an indication of how close to hysteria and fear the general population is.

Sara meets Hynek and Quinn at the door with a gun, but is eager to have Hynek come in as soon as she hears that he’s a doctor. She takes them down in the basement where she’s keeping the kids because they’ve become sensitive to light. They have sores around their eyes and Sara says it’s been getting worse. Hynek puts the kids at ease by talking comics with Will, the son. Will tells him that Travelers of Mystery is his favorite but he’s not allowed to read it. Hynek asks if the monster was in Will’s imagination, but he insists that it was real, and Sara backs him up saying it was huge and looked vaguely human – and it might have been trying to talk to them but they ran away.

Sara takes Quinn and Hynek to the site. She explains that there were bits of the ship everywhere and she’s sure she saw what was left of the engine – “a raging red diamond.” Hynek comments that the soil is disturbed as if from a heavy impact, and Quinn is impressed with his range of knowledge. We get a little background on Hynek as he tells Quinn that he had scarlet fever when he was 7 and spent an entire year confined to his bed – so he read the complete Encyclopedia Britannica – twice!

Hynek climbs a tree in his investigation and while at the top sees the man in the hat at a distance, which causes him to fall out of the tree – much to Quinn’s amusement. Hynek uses a Geiger counter to examine the scene and finds the meteor that is Sara’s diamond. The army then shows up and takes away everything.

Hynek reports to Sara that everything is explained by an extraterrestrial – but a meteor, not an alien. Sara is disappointed, but Hynek tells her that the kids have arsenic burns but it’s not serious and they’ll be fine. Quinn is ready to write the report, but Hynek insists that they haven’t explained the monster yet!

Hynek and Quinn go to interview another witness – Evelyn (Mary Black) who is in an Institution. Hynek shows her the drawing that Will made, and she confirms that it’s what she saw – and when she looked into its eyes, it was the end of all things. She also tells them that the “others” who came before them believed her – and that it was the men in hats! She tells them that they were scared and Hynek and Quinn should be too!

Once again, Hynek insists on going over his notes as Quinn insists the case is closed as the two are at a bar. Quinn asks Hynek if he thinks that Aliens exist. Hynek doesn’t rule it out, but does say that any visitation is improbable. When the townspeople turn on Sara again, Hynek and Quinn head back out to help. Harding (Neal McDonough) calls Quinn and is furious – this is the kind of hiccup that causes panic. Quinn actually shows his concern to Hynek and says that they are both going to lose their jobs if they don’t come up with an explanation.

Hynek sets up an experiment – using a dead rabbit. He baits an owl to land on the tree he previously climbed – and there’s the monster. Quinn then addresses the crowd and tells them that everything Sara said was true – but there’s a logical explanation.

The two also go back to see Evelyn and explain it to her. Quinn checks in with Harding and tells him that Hynek really came through to close the case. Meanwhile, Evelyn tells Hynek that the black hats left him a picture – it’s the symbols again. Evelyn tells him that the truth is like the sun. The closer you look, the more it blinds.

On the way out, Quinn tells Hynek that the Air Force knows all of “this” doesn’t exist, and it’s their job to write reports that explain it to the public. He goes on to say that “nothing comes out of the sky that we can’t explain” – just as Evelyn suddenly lands at their feet! We have just seen the man in the hat in the background of Evelyn’s room… So he would seem not to be one of the good guys – but I like how we still can’t be sure who to trust.

Harding insists that Quinn bring Hynek to Washington, where he meets with Harding and General Valentine (Michael Harney). Hynek still doesn’t trust them. He asks if all they recovered was the meteor – or if there was something else, something larger. Rather than giving him a straight answer, Harding tells him that his research is now their research – and sends him off to get paid. It seems unlikely to me that Hynek will be satisfied to be paid off for very long.

Meanwhile, we see that Susie (Ksenia Solo) has a darkroom and has been very busy taking photos – especially of Mimi in her underwear. I find it really interesting that there’s some real sexual tension – and chemistry! – between the two women – at least from Susie’s point of view. Susie is not happy to have an unexpected visitor (Currie Graham). I was quite happy to see Graham show up in the cast and look forward to seeing where he takes the character.

        It would seem that the two are Russian agents who have worked together before – he comments on her hair being blonde this time. While Susie takes Mimi out on an excursion, her Associate breaks into and searches the Hynek residence, taking an impression of the key Hynek used to lock up his notes.

The excursion that Mimi and Susie go on is pretty interesting in itself. Susie gets closer to Mimi by pushing her out of her comfort zone. She switches places at the wheel while still driving. Mimi then suggests that they go to a beatnik bar – which turns out to be a gay bar. Mimi is well past her comfort zone, however. Susie goes off to get her something to help her relax – we can assume buy some marijuana as Mimi mentioned they smoke it there. However, while Susie is away from the table, Mimi is completely freaked out by two guys sitting down next to her necking – and then leaves when another woman hits on her.

When Hynek comes home, he finds Mimi and Joel playing scrabble. He’s brought a telescope for Joel and a necklace for Mimi. The spoils of his new job. He also admits to Mimi that the job is more dangerous than he thought it would be. Is that just because he fell out of the tree? Unlikely. Hynek clearly recognizes that he’s threatened on several fronts.

Quinn calls to check on Hynek – he doesn’t want him to give up the job because of Evelyn. Hynek thinks that the authorities should be investigating her death, but Quinn explains it away – as he does everything. Meanwhile, Susie and her Associate listen in via the bugs he’s planted. We also see that Hynek was right. Valentine is sure that Hynek will fulfill his role well, but Harding doesn’t like the number of questions that Hynek asked – especially because we see that the Air Force does have something larger recovered from the site.

I really like how the show is layering on the different levels of tension, and I’m looking forward to getting a clearer idea of who the good guys are in this scenario. We start to see a little more of the women in this episode too, and I like that this part of the storyline is also rich. All of the characters are more than just stereotypes. What did you think of the episode? Were you disappointed that Hynek was able to explain everything away? Do you like the subplot between Susie and Mimi? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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