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The Gymkhana Files: Episode 8—“Where It All Began” Review

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Ken Block

The Gymkhana Files ends “Where It All Began” for Ken Block and company. No, not in the airfield that Block first ripped his old Subaru WRX STI around in the original video that kicked off the decade-long video series, but in Mexico, where Block’s FIA World Rally Championship journey began.

Guanajuato plays host to Rally Mexico, an event that Block first ran in 2007. Six years later, he posted his best-ever WRC finish there, cracking seventh overall in what stands as his most recent visit to the event. And another five years after that, he and his team returned to Mexico to shoot the final remaining portion of Gymkhana Ten—one that will bring this chapter of Block’s career to a close.

We’re never told, outright, by anybody involved with the production about what’s coming next. But director Brian Scotto details how many nights he’s spent out with the crew, thinking that there “may never be a shoot like this again.” Derek Dauncey, Block’s longtime race team manager, compares it to the “last day of school.” Production designer Matthew Holt admits he’s going to tear up when shooting ends.

And Block, in the face of the conclusion of the biggest and most theatrical production of his career, drives flawlessly.

Maybe it’s because of the imminent conclusion and the desire to finish strong. Maybe it’s all the fond memories of events past, with the same kind of local support for the WRC event showing up for Block by himself (we see him taking photos with everyone from the mayor to schoolchildren during a break in the shoot). Maybe it’s because these tricks, above almost anything else in the video, seem perfectly suited for Block and what he’s been doing so well for so long.

Or maybe the reason why doesn’t matter, in the end. What matters is that we got one more part to the video, one more incredible setting, and one more chance to see the kind of driving we all wish we could do ourselves.

There are multiple proximity shots, the kind of howdidhejustdothat moments that make Block’s driving the most impressive. Piñatas make an appearance, because of course they do (we’re in Mexico, after all). There’s a domino effect moment that gets a laugh out of everyone. We get multiple jumps, including Block’s biggest since taking flight in Gymkhana Six in San Francisco. All the while, everyone’s comments about the approaching end filter through, including Block’s own terminology: the “changing of an era.”

And then it’s over.

A few months later, we see him at Utah Motorsports Campus, karting with his kids. We get the traditional “where are they now” rundown of the crew, ending with a statement we already knew: “Ken is exactly the same.” At about 34 minutes and 20 seconds, the episode itself concludes; you can probably guess what the last 19 minutes and 11 seconds or so are for.

But I’m not going to spoil how Gymkhana Ten flows together. Some things just need to be seen as they’re intended, not read about. For those of you who haven’t been watching the whole series, just know two things: first, just because Block and company have done a massive documentary on the shoot, doesn’t mean they’ve given away every trick, setting, or cameo. (Neither have I.)

Second, it’s going to seem like it goes by a lot faster than it actually does. For those of us who watched through everything, maybe that’s just because of our familiarity with so much of it through the documentary, and that we finally have an idea of just what it takes to put these clips together.

Or maybe it’s because, somehow, even after all this, we’re still wanting more.

The Gymkhana Files can be seen on Amazon Prime.

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