World War II has had so many movies made in its honor, that it’s no news whenever another World War II movie is coming out. And of course, the newest movie is always best, because it comes up with even more history not known by the common person, more intense action, yadda yadda yadda. Reasons like this were just a small fraction of what made the actors in Band of Brothers feel that much more under the pressure. How do you make something original when it has been done to death?
But Band of Brothers is very original, first of all because it doesn’t limit a story of World War II to just 2-3 hours of film. The story of Easy Company and the 101st Airborne has almost too much to tell, as even though we get to spend a lot of time with a good deal of the Easy Company soldiers, there are just as many that were left out, which is probably the only complaint about the mini-series. But that makes perfect sense since you can never get everybody’s story involved when dealing with such events (i.e. Black Hawk Down).
Episode 1: Currahee. It’s definitely interesting to watch David Schwimmer play a drill instructor, but it happened, so kudos to him. Wonderful teaching of military tactics, which in later episodes would show why some soldiers were such good leaders and why some just plain sucked. Great intro to the series, showing future prospects of some of the soldiers, who was closest to whom, and right away makes a soldier someone you love or hate. A.
Episode 2: Day of Days. Since Easy’s CO was killed during the D-Day invasion, Winters, who is now officially the lead character of the series, gets his first opportunity to lead the men he trained with. One of the shorter (might be the shortest, not sure) episodes of the series, which is odd seeing as it occurs during the biggest day of the war. All the technical stuff they talk about in the first episode is put into action, which makes the action that much more compelling now that you can understand the technical side of it, whereas other movies you pretty much just watch people shoot each other. The strategy where Easy takes out a set of artillery guns ended up being a common practice in military training today, so watching that bit of history was awesome, too. A+.
Episode 3: Carentan. My personal favorite in terms of action. Easy needs to take over the city of Carentan to block off the German forces from continuing fire upon the landing beaches. Perhaps the fastest paced episode of the series, excluding some minor focuses on Albert Blithe, the main character of the episode who symbolizes the soldier who cannot overcome his fear in the war. While this had some really gruesome imagery in it, 3 episodes later this would be child’s play. Still an awesome action episode though. A+.
Episode 4: Replacements. Easy Company partakes in Operation Market Garden, and because they’ve been losing so many men, they get their first deal of replacements, which are treated like scum. The replacements weren’t actually as annoying to the veterans as they were heartbreaking, because the veterans couldn’t stand the thought of making friends with the newbies just to see them get torn apart in battle. Of course, Cobb, the MOST ANNOYING GUY IN THE SERIES, treats them like dirt just because he’s a dickhead. Not only that, but a coward who can’t back anything up. No wonder he never made it past private. The episode gives Easy’s first failure in the war, showing that even heroes have to accept defeat. A-.
Episode 5: Crossroads. Winters has been doing such an excellent job as Easy’s CO that he gets bumped up to Battalion Commander, but can’t let go of his attachment with Easy. This is the episode Tom Hanks directed, and given that I was expecting something phenomenal, and although it wasn’t quite that good it was still well done. Winters gets his last battle with Easy before being assigned to mountains of paperwork. Easy Company themselves miss Winters as their leader, which just goes to show how much they truly liked the guy. Even more odd than David Schwimmer, Jimmy Fallon makes his appearance in the series, as an officer of course, before the men head to Bastogne. A very eerie foreshadowing of what lied ahead for Easy ends the episode as they watch all the men who were just there retreat in shame and terrified. A-.
Episode 6: Bastogne. This would be the episode that set the new standard for gruesome imagery. Easy company is stuck in the forests of Belgium with no winter clothing and inadequate supplies. Although they hardly have to do any close combat, they do suffer immense casualties from German artillery bombing them periodically and there’s even shells already set in the trees being detonated. The hardest episode to watch as there is few comical moments and almost all depression and suffering, but it’s necessary because just about every soldier agreed Bastogne was the hardest moment of the war, the true testament to a soldier’s will and ability to survive the harshest situations. Could’ve been a full score for this episode if it wasn’t for the sappy romance angle between Doc Roe and the Belgian nurse. A.
Episode 7: The Breaking Point. “Foxhole” Norman Dike, the new CO of Easy Company, and highly incompetent at that, gets on Easy’s last nerve. The guy always disappears when not in combat and runs away during combat, never makes a clear decision, and does a minimal job supervising the men. Nobody can take his place, so they’re stuck with him. This episode did the best job portraying what made a good and a bad leader and what standards Easy Company had for a leader. Perhaps Dike would have been okay for a lesser regiment’s company, or maybe just a squad leader, but he was just awful for a CO. 1st Sgt. Lipton narrates the episode en route to his battlefield commission, and learns that while Dike was CO, Lipton was really the leader of Easy. More great display of fire power from the Germans, although this episode is a lot more viewable, although there are still some nasty spots, especially where Toye and Guarnere lose their legs, but the men get in higher spirits in this episode and not only that, but a new leader. A.
Episode 8: The Last Patrol. Slowest episode of the series. Hardly a real story being told, as mainly the war is coming to a close but the Allies can’t quite finish the job. Easy Company is getting more and more replacements after losing half the men they had entering Bastogne. Private David Webster returns and narrates the story, but is treated like a replacement since he’s been gone so long and didn’t show the dedication other men did by not going AWOL from the hospital and returning to the company. Honestly I didn’t sympathize with Webster, since he wasn’t the best soldier out there and even tries to get out of the first mission he’s sent on since returning. Everyone is just bitching in this episode, Colin Hanks makes his appearance as Easy’s 2nd Platoon leader, and of course gets treated like crap, yadda yadda hardly anything new here. Above average, but besides the hostage mission and watching Hanks get treated like the clown he is in the episode, not much to note here. B.
Episode 9: Why We Fight. Captain Nixon’s alcoholism starts to get the best of him, as he gets demoted, and to make matters worse, he’s getting divorced from his wife. While the soldiers of Easy start to think of how awful their lives are, they get the education of their lifetime by witnessing firsthand what the concentration camps were like. This episode is almost indescribable, as all that tension and drama that was in the other episodes is put to shame when the concentration camp scene is shown. Suddenly the soldiers realize who the real sufferers of the war are. A+.
Episode 10: Points. The war wraps up for Easy, as they get to relax more and contemplate what to do when they get back home. But men are still dying, as wreckless replacements get headstrong and accidents occur on simple guard duty. Easy gets the honor of invading the Eagle’s Nest and looting it, and say goodbye to each other after sharing years war with each other. A genuinely sweet ending to a classic mini-series. That’s all that needs to be said. A+.
Even the veterans of WWII who saw the mini-series agree that this served justice to the portrayal of what they went through. It isn’t overly dramatic and shows that sometimes the Americans were doing things just as bad as their enemies were doing. There was corruption, there was incompetence, but they had good leaders to make them survive through it all, and there are so many characters to learn and attach to, it’s almost impossible to choose a favorite. There’s also characters that strike a nerve, for me especially Cobb was just a phony prick. I didn’t care much for Webster or Toye, although Toye did have some shining moments. I can’t give this mini-series a score via average, because it’s inarguably a perfect score, even though episodes like The Last Patrol would bring that down, there’s so much top-notch stuff here, anything lower would be a shame. A+ for the series.