Mexican Slayride is often lambasted for "fake Face", Tim Dunigan, so I figure we get critique of him out of the way first. Although Dirk Benedict is easily the better Face of the two, Dunigan does a more than passable job here. All of the Face hallmarks besides his womanising is nicely set-up, especially his friendship with Murdock.
The other characters are nicely introduced through the eyes of Amy Allen. The initial reluctance to look up the A-Team, and their reputation, one shrouded in mystery, adds here a certain air that The A-Team loses once it becomes a real hit show.
The members of the A-Team are urban legends, their specialities nicely described by Amy's reporter colleague. Face is "Mr. Ricky-Ticky", Hannibal the unorthodox leader and B.A. the angry mudsucker technician. Rumours are afloat about who they are and what they do, a nice contrast to the team's later fame. The offhand line of them breaking a senator's son out of a Turkish prison immediately intrigues.
The plot is simple but effective. It is essentially a vehicle to set-up the characters, as a good pilot episode should do. The relationships between all the characters are established, their quirks (such as B.A.'s fear of flying) and all the other elements that would be a recurring part of the show.
A show like this comes along once every decade and it is indicative of the spirit of that time. Had this been the pilot for a current show it would've been thrown to the rubbish shortly after airing. On the other hand, today's television climate could've made something out of this show that would've allowed it to go on longer than it did.
Namely, the characters and situations set up in this pilot are rife with dramatic potential. Similarly, the team's manner of operating is quite frankly, badass. It's the only episode that truly delves into the way the team selects their clients, and the way the team comes together. The code language Hannibal uses over the radio to gather the team is brilliant. We can never be sure what would've happened to The A-Team had it been created in today's climate, but I believe it could've outdone itself even more. As it stands, The A-Team, although it became progressively cartoony, is still an outstanding show, and a personal favourite.
Polished to the today's standards however, Mexican Slayride could've been a cinematic adventure. The characters draw you in and never let go. They have a mysterious edge to them that you can only feel as you meet them for the first time. They're quirky, they're adventurous and delightfully funny.
The next time you see this episode, think not of what it lead to. Heck, do not think of it as an episode, think of it as a movie. Let yourself be blown away again in a manner you did not think of before.