Episode 4 – Operation Paperclip
This is by far the strongest episode so far. I’ll start with a negative, though. This has happened a few times now in the series and it can be quite disconcerting. We open episode 4 on an airliner being plagued by a UFO. Hynek is on board and watching the events unfold. Wow, I think; he’s actually having a close encounter of his own. He’s not though. he is simply reliving the event described in a report he has read. I’m not fond of this type of misdirection as it sets you up in a certain way and then pulls the rug out from under you. I think I know what the intention is. It’s akin to how Will Graham’s method was visualised in Hannibal; only here it is not as successful. As a result, the viewer is left feeling a little bit disjointed at the outset.
Thankfully, there’s a quick recovery as we are taken straight to the Hynek home for a brief look at rising tensions there, and then off into the field. Operation Paperclip is an episode that does not focus on a particular real-life event, but on the US government’s policy of enlisting former Nazi scientists like Wernher von Braun to work on its space program. It brings a whole new sense of urgency and tension to the series and starts to create more of an arc that I can see carrying things forward a lot more purposefully.
Wernher von Braun was the man behind the Saturn V rocket which carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the other guy that no-one remembers (kidding, his name was Michael Collins) to the moon in 1969. In the world of Project Blue Book, he is shown working on experimental and dangerous aircraft that recalled to me a very early X-Files episode (s1:ep2 Deep Throat).
Thomas Kretschmann (the Captain from Peter Jackson’s King Kong among other roles) makes a very good von Braun, playing it with just enough subtlety to make sure we don’t know exactly what his motivations are. He doesn’t like playing Nazis on screen but he can’t seem to escape the type, having done it 15 times. We get a good deal more from Captain Quinn this episode in terms of character development and action. Also, Mimi’s side plot finally kicks into gear by bringing back a familiar face from an earlier episode meaning that there is plenty of interest going on throughout.
There are more X-Files style revelations as the episode plays out. Things rattkle along at a good pace and there is some nice misdirection that keeps you guessing. There’s even a Jaws reference in there as Hynek tries to get Quinn to be in the foreground of a photograph he’s taking. I think one of the reasons this episode captured my interest more than the three previous ones was that it was not based on a single incident. Because of that, I was able to lose myself in things a little more without wondering what the true story actually was.
Despite the extra-terrestrial leanings of the show, the thing I found it most difficult to wilfully suspend my disbelief for was the fact that Hynek hadn’t called his wife and son for two days whilst away to give them any kind of update on his plans.
So, this has been a great episode and I am certainly looking forward to seeing where things go from here. Gillen continues to lead the series very well and the on screen partnership with Malarkey’s Captain Quinn is developing well.
Cheers for reading. you can catch up with my reviews of episodes 1-3 by clicking on the links below.