If you’d have told me that Dr. Alan Hynek would ride to the rescue of Gen. James Harding – in the nick of time, mind you – I’d have been more than a little cynical of that occurring, particularly in Ep. 202 of Project Blue Book – “The Roswell Incident: Part II.” As this episode marched along, it seemed Hynek’s increasingly rabid desire to get at the truth of the 1947 incident, as well as put the good general in his place for his role in it, had put an antagonistic wedge between the two.
So much so, that as the episode played out, Gen. Harding had told Quinn to let Hynek know he was done with Project Blue Book. Funny how things work as, though, isn’t it? In the end, Hynek would be the one to ride to the rescue of the general, saving him from a career-destroying mistake and trap that he’d practically skipped with joy right into.
So, let’s delve into episode 202 of Project Blue Book a bit. But be forewarned, there are SPOILERS ahead. So, if you haven’t seen the episode, don’t fall prey to the SPOILERS that follow.
In the end, it was all a ploy to destroy Gen. Harding for his part in the cover-up in 1947. The heavy-handed, threatening, even brutal way he dealt with what happened six years previously had left an indelible impression on the community and those who came in contact with him. So much so that Duncan Booker (played with wonderfully calm semi-maniacal hatred by Zac McGowan), his wife Judy (using a different last name), the television station manager and others concocted quite the elaborate ruse to draw Harding back to Roswell. And it worked. Harding, Hynek and Quinn arrived in Roswell with wildly divergent agendas and almost immediately the clues and stories started to slip out.
As Harding attempted to keep a lid on things, Hynek and Quinn followed up leads all over the town and into the countryside. It was a masterful bit of trap-setting by Duncan and those supporting him. So well laid out, in fact, that it nearly worked. Unfortunately, as with so many elaborate plans, things are often contingent on circumstances that you have no way of planning for.
Turns out Judy, Duncan and others concocted not only cover stories and other tidbits to bring and keep Harding in Roswell, but they did some imaginative film making as well. And there it was, the alien autopsy film that has been the subject of rumors for decades. In episode 202 of Project Blue Book, we get a look at it and it has a profound effect on Hynek and Quinn, both of whom react in very different ways.
It’s here we have one of those interesting moments between Hynek and Quinn. Our doctor, upon viewing the film, is convinced this is the final piece of the puzzle, a truth that the world needs to see and Harding answer for. Quinn, on the other hand, sees it as his duty to get Harding the film so he doesn’t make the mistake he’s about to make – in front of nationwide TV audience. It seems he’s gotten Duncan to admit to creating the hoax, paid him off handsomely, and is set to put Duncan and himself on live TV to proclaim that all is well in Roswell. The old, “it’s just a hoax, folks” gambit.
Well, it’s not. Certainly not for Harding if he goes through with this. The film is a fake and in the end, the keen observations of Hynek shine a light on a conspiracy of townsfolk against the U.S. Air Force and Gen. Harding. But it doesn’t come easily, does it? Hynek betrays Quinn after discovering the film at Judy’s home (she’s about to run to the TV station with it) by switching canisters on him. I tend to agree with Quinn on this one as he’s a tad humiliated when he provides the General with the wrong film cannister.
He drives back to Judy’s and rightly tells Hynek that he thought they had each other’s back. Hynek’s proclamation that Quinn acted “rashly” is weak and Quinn tells him “so when it comes down to it, you’ll just do what you gotta do for you – not us.” I thought that was a nice sentiment and kind of cut through the bull that Hynek was attempting to spread in front of an obviously pissed off Quinn. In the end, it may have been Hynek, so blinded by what appeared to be this last tantalizing thread, that acted a tad rashly.
To top it all off, Hynek had let Judy go and she was racing toward the TV station with the real film. It’s an interesting time here as Harding and Duncan arrive at the TV station and get set up for the interview, where Duncan is supposed to spill the beans. Hynek and Quinn are racing in a futile attempt to track down Judy and you wonder just how frayed their relationship is. All this in the aftermath of Quinn popping Hynek across the jaw with a hard right hand.
There’s a great line in this show that Harding utters when he, Quinn and Hynek are enjoying several drinks. Harding has just brokered the Duncan deal and feels a great sense of relief that this ordeal, his ordeal, is coming to a conclusion. He’s talking about the ability to do something drastic (atomic bomb on Hiroshima) and says “It was the only way protect the world from chaos. And it requires a special kind of man to do that. The kind of man who knows where the line is drawn that separates the unthinkable from the necessary. The kind of man that has a job to do and gets it done. That’s what makes a hero.”
It’s an interesting line and one that tells you a lot about where Harding is coming from regarding the alien threat. It seems to reveal that Harding considers himself a hero with regards to the Roswell incident, even though he had to do some very unpleasant things to the good people of Roswell. But throughout the episode we see moments where there’s a struggle within him about crossing that line between the “unthinkable from the necessary.” He does his duty, but it’s not without a bit of cost to him emotionally. It’s interesting to see those moments and then see how relieved he is that Duncan has agreed to “come clean.”
In retrospect, perhaps Gen. Harding’s deep desire to see Roswell put to bed once and for all clouded his judgement, something that wasn’t happening with Quinn and Hynek as they pursued their own agendas. And that all led to the television station where the plan was to ambush Gen. Harding on live TV with the autopsy film. It’s interesting, because as mad as Quinn was about Hynek’s betrayal, when the general was well into the trap and the film started playing, he backed away and let it play.
Remember, he used the line “unthinkable from the necessary” with Hynek as they pulled up. Maybe, just maybe, he wanted the truth out there as well. I think he’s another one that’s torn between duty and truth – and knows that they are often not relatives in the family of alien investigations.
Fortunately, Quinn recognizes something familiar in the film and in the studio, a common light pattern and the same clock, and deduces the film is a fake. As Duncan starts to make claims and the film starts to roll, Hynek has already sprung into action, having had the feed of the TV broadcast stopped at the source, so the national audience hasn’t seen anything. As the film rolls, Harding is a sweating, shaking hot mess watching his perfectly laid plan circle the toilet before the final flush is done. But that won’t happen.
Hynek explains the lack of TV transmission and why. The light patterns were the same in the film as they are in the studio. The alien autopsy film was filmed right there in the studio, an elaborate hoax that nearly felled a general and sent the country into a legitimate panic. Hynek saves Harding’s career in a moment of brilliant observation and then slips the credit to Quinn for putting the pieces together, thereby offering an olive branch of peace to his partner. I thought it was a great move and should allow the two to remain together to search for the definitive evidence that aliens are visiting earth.
There was some really good moments in the aftermath of the plan’s failure. Hynek notes the elaborate nature of the plan to get Harding to Roswell and expose him and Quinn says he understands what Hynek is driving at. Something extraordinary happened in Roswell six years prior, something that some townsfolk wanted to shed light on. This film was a hoax, but it is most likely based on real-life experiences. The search for the truth is out there. And I think we saw a moment where the two, torn apart by Hynek’s impulsive sense of right and wrong, recommitted to a common cause – the truth. But not revealed through a lie, which the autopsy film was. There’s Hynek’s subtle sense of ethics on display again.
Additionally, we later see Harding and his fellow general watching the phony film. They don’t view it as skeptics, but as people who have seen this before. There’s a sense of resignation to what they are watching in the darkness. There’s once again a weariness to Harding’s countenance, like this film is a reminder of something he’s lived through before – and hits very close to home. And then we get a little taste of the story they are telling themselves about the original Roswell crashes – that it was the Russians trying to plant doubt in American military minds, as well as the work of the infamous Nazi Dr. Mengele, who performed horrific experiments on children, creating the “aliens” in the original ship crashes.
I don’t know, that sounds like a story you create for yourself to convince yourself of something else – something outside the truth. And Harding’s reaction to it has the air of fatigue from the lies, of a story he’s heard before, but doesn’t quite believe it himself. He’s reminded that he didn’t fall for it in 1947 and that he should’t fall for it now. But…there’s definitely a part of him that’s growing weary with a head full of secrets and regrets.
I thought this was a delightful finish to part 1. There were a lot of twists and turns to get at an incomplete version of the truth of Roswell. There’s a wonderful mix of fear, paranoia, anger, curiosity and a desire for the truth to see the light of day. The Roswellians are most certainly dealing with their own version of PTSD surrounding the original events. And the elaborate strokes several of the townsfolk created to lay waste to the smokescreen Harding and the military originally put out speaks of a deep-seated animosity. As Quinn and Hynek both know, there’s a truth out there that likely won’t ever be known. And in some ways, everyone is paying a price for that.
Now about that relationship between Quinn and Susie Miller. I have been a devoted lover of this character since she showed up. Ksenia Solo is both beautifully riveting and so intriguing in the role. Is it still spy-craft that takes her to Quinn’s arms and bed or something else? Is Susie finding herself at last away from the reach of her handlers? Of all that’s interesting about this show, perhaps this is one of my favorite mysteries. Solo and Michael Malarkey have a wonderful physical chemistry on screen. Kind of sizzles a bit. But what’s it all about?
And next week Area 51? Wow, season two is bringing out the big guns in the alien contact battle. I like it.
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