Once in a while a show comes along and just falls right into your wheelhouse. That's what happened when I heard History Channel was going to air a show called Project Blue Book. This shot my excitement level through the roof. A show about the actual government project delving into the reports of UFOs? A period piece of paranoia and paranormal occurrences is what the snippets and adverts for it seemed to show. This was something I could get behind. But could the show itself live up to the hype?
This review itself is a bit late, as Project Blue Book began earlier this year in January, but with a second season on the way I felt compelled to let the masses know that there is really something to this great show. And a great show is what it is. Clocking in with ten well paced episodes, the show brings us along the ride of a dramatized history of the actual project from the main perspective of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, played by Aiden Gillen. Gillen, possibly best known for his role as Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish in HBO's Game of Thrones, really carries the series with his portrayal of the real-life UFOlogist who is responsible for the "Close Encounter" class system. The show follows Hynek's recruitment into the project, that main reason being to give credibility to the government dismissal of sightings. This of course goes off the rails a bit as Hynek clashes with his appointed partner, Captain Michael Quinn, played by Michael Malarkey.
Their dynamic, although somewhat predictable, is solid and really brings us into the struggle between the truth the government want us to know and the real truth that has yet to be discovered that always seems to play out when aliens are involved. Neal McDonough plays General James Harding, a co-founder of the project and our main antagonist. He is the poster boy for the government cover-up, and he plays it so well. We find ourselves hating him for his outright denial, and hate him even more when we see what he is really up to.
Each episode works itself in a somewhat unique way. Each one is based off an actual Project Blue Book entry, and each entry is revealed in its original form at the end of each episode. This is something I just absolutely loved about the show. While the program itself is taking some liberties to create a show that straddles the line of actual evidence with "I want to believe", this little addition shows where the source material came from, to even add a little more terror to the show knowing that at least some of what is being presented isn't all fiction. Perhaps it is the best way to induce the fear of the unknown, by showing that documents show somebody saw SOMETHING, and no one could quite figure out what it was.
As a period piece set in 1952 America, it uses paranoia as its biggest draw. Whether it’s the fear of another world war, fear of the Russians, or fear of invaders from space, the tension is thick in every episode. Subplots involving Russian spies, atomic weapons, and the secret start to the race to space just add to the creepy atmosphere provided by each offering. One thing the show itself does really well is to take the historical context of what was going on in America at that time and use it to weave suspense and terror into each story-line they bring out. You will find yourself trying to figure out characters true motives, who is playing who, and what is really going on behind closed doors.
Now, lets get to the real meat of it. The UFOs. The conspiracies. The aliens. Again, Project Blue Book delivers. The UFOs and the alien activity matches very well with the actual historical descriptions and is used to begin a narrative that these sightings are connected in some way. This is the backbone of the plot, and does great at answering some questions, but leaving more in each episode’s wake. We get so many classic alien and UFO moments that any fan would be satisfied. UFOs, abduction, mind control, men in black, alien symbols and tech, its all there. Each bit sprinkled in enough to create just enough loose ends to keep the viewer wanting more. And don't think that we are completely left in the dark, either. Some gnarly sequences and disturbing imagery find their way into each episode, leaving no doubt that something strange is definitely going on.
Overall, I loved this show. For the UFO enthusiast in me, it was an utter joy from start to finish. For the horror fans out there, the atmosphere, paranoia, and tension create a lingering sense of terror that permeates through the entire season. Adding a few grisly deaths and a government conspiracy are just the cherries on top. This show hits all the right buttons, and if you're looking for something to binge, put this at the top of your list.
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