Yet again, I’m going to discuss Netflix’s docu-series, Terrorism Close Calls. This time, the series discusses Khalid Aldawsari, a chemical engineering student that adopted radical ISIS ideology. This one was interesting because it deals with a part of the United States that I’m a bit more familiar with: Lubbock, Texas.
It was an incredibly strange experience reading about a terrorist plot in 2010 from the town that I’m currently going to school in. It’s doubly strange reading about this knowing that I’m going to the same school that Khalid Aldawsari attended before flunking out. So we’re in my town now and at Texas Tech no less.
Anyway, this episode goes through the timeline to discuss Aldawsari’s plot to create IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and use them to attack various locations, mostly in the state of Texas. It follows how Aldawsari was slowly radicalized, changing from somebody that loved the United States to someone that thought that another attack on the scale of 9/11 needed to happen.
I think that the second episode was better than the first. I appreciate the use of re-enactment to fill in the visual gaps that their footage leaves. There is some original footage from the FBI investigation left in, but there is a clear distinction from what is real and what is dramatized. Like the first episode, the show uses past terrorist attacks to illustrate the possible devastation that could have occurred.
This episode’s greatest strength was its focus on the TRIPwire program. In a nutshell, it’s a program that helps to tip off law enforcement if someone is making suspicious purchases of materials that are known as IED components. This episode of Terrorism Close Calls focused on co-operation and proactive measures to help avoid terrorism. Had the chemical supplier that Aldawsari was purchasing from not contacted authorities, then it may have been more difficult to stop him. It seemed to be the overarching theme of this particular episode, showing ways that authorities can intervene.
That’s not to say this episode was without flaws. I’m not sure if it’s because this episode discusses a setting that I’m more familiar with, but the b-roll footage really got on my nerves. It wasn’t in Lubbock, or at least in no part of Lubbock that I’ve gone to. There was even University b-roll that wasn’t even at Texas Tech. The only shots that were actually in the area were some FBI surveillance footage and one drone shot of the town. It raises the question: why use other b-roll if they bothered to get that drone shot? I don’t know if it’s just me, but that oversight was really distracting.
Overall, the second episode of Terrorism Close Calls was on par with the first. It offered a perspective on pre-emptive measures to stop terrorism and focused on a specific example of these programs in action. It has the same odd visual and production choices that I’ve discussed previously, but it wasn’t a terrible experience.