Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Pacific, "Part Three": My big fat Greek shore leave

A review of "The Pacific" episode three coming up just as soon as I read you the articles of war...
"You have to go away, Bob." -Stella
After the intense combat action of the first two episodes, "The Pacific" chapter three comes as something of a jarring change. Like Leckie and the other puzzled Marines trying to make sense of the enthusiastic greetings of the Melbourne women, it's hard to fathom that this place is part of the same planet, or miniseries, as what we saw on Guadalcanal.

But if "The Pacific" aims to tell the entire story of the 1st Marine Division's time over there, then a Melbourne stopover is a necessary one - as head writer Bruce McKenna notes, "The 1st Marine Division spent more time in Australia than Easy Company did in Europe" - and one that begins to expand the scope of the series. It's not just about grimy men in foxholes before, during and after combat; it's about the emotional cost of war, not just on the men who fight it, but on those who care for them.

In real life, Leckie never had a great romance with a Greek-Australian girl and her family (he mostly spent his time Down Under having affairs with a variety of women), and you can kind of tell. (I suspected it was fictionalized even before I started reading up on Leckie.) There's a difference between compressing events (or assigning moments one character had in real life to another character in the film) and inventing things out of whole cloth, and it sticks out in the middle of a production that's largely so committed to fidelity.

Which isn't to say that I disliked the story of Stella and her family. I liked the writing and performances. I liked what it told us about Leckie, who got to open up to Stella about his family and background(*) in a way that wouldn't be plausible with his fellow Marines. And Stella's fear of falling for a man she assumes will be killed in combat rang very true as something that many real girlfriends of Marines and soldiers felt, even if the sentiments had to be placed in the mouth of an obviously fictional character.

(*) And the talk about being the unwanted final child of a large family kind of puts a new angle on his goodbye scene with his father in the debut, doesn't it? at the time, I watched that and read it as his father talking so much about his car because he couldn't deal with the thought that Bob could die soon. Instead, maybe it's just as Leckie tells Stella: his dad didn't much care about him.

Leckie took a backseat to Basilone in the second episode, and James Badge Dale did really well with the renewed focus on his character here. I really only knew him as Chase on "24," and he's very impressive throughout this hour, whether he's showing Leckie letting himself fall under the spell of Stella and her family, Leckie starting to go native enough that he begins to resent being back training among the men, and, especially, Leckie's simmering anger after Stella not only dumps him, but does it in a way that amplifies the sense of impending doom that comes with serving in this theater of operation. Leckie's kind of a broken individual to begin with, and what he's witnessing in both war and relative peace is only making him worse.

Because we spent so much time on combat in the first two hours, Part Three provides some much-needed characterization not only of Leckie, but of Basilone. Episodes like this one are essential for keeping our investment in the hours that are largely about action, particularly since there are only three characters to zero in on, and one of them's headed back to the States for the forseeable future.

I knew nothing about Basilone going into the miniseries, save that he's from Jersey and beloved in his hometown of Raritan. When Chesty mentioned in Part Two that he felt Basilone's actions deserved a medal, I began wondering what it might be. To bring it back to "Band of Brothers" for a moment, Dick Winters somehow didn't get the Medal of Honor for leading Easy Company's attack on the guns at Brecourt Manor on D-Day, so the bar's pretty high. (The Medal can also be a very political thing; as I understand it, only one was going to be awarded to someone from the parachute infantry on that day.) But if a man like Basilone can't get one for what he did on October 24, who can?

As I've said before, I never much liked Jon Seda in previous roles (his arrival on "Homicide" really accelerated that once-great show's decline), but whatever direction he's been given here is really working. It's a very minimalist performance, but when he hears Chesty tell him about the medal, or when he has to receive it, or says goodbye to J.P., his eyes say everything that's needed.

And even before the Pentagon sends him home for a war bond drive, we get to see how the responsibility of the Medal is starting to weigh on him. Basilone may have deserved it, but he was also a carouser not prepared to suddenly become a role model, and some of the episode's lightest, most memorable moments, come from seeing what a party-hound he was.

The peaceful time in Australia eventually comes to an end, as the men (and the series) prepare to return to action. It will not be pretty.

Some other thoughts:

• This is the first episode with a script not credited to McKenna, with novelist and "Wire" veteran George Pelecanos sharing credit with Michelle Ashford.

• The series rotated between two different directors of photography: Remi Adefarasin, who did the first two episodes, and Stephen Windon, who does this one. Windon and director Jeremy Podeswa were really on their game in making the scenes at Stella's home, particularly in the backyard garden, look more and more idyllic as the affair went on. By the end of it, I wanted to move in with that family.

• No combat, but still room for some really graphic imagery, here with Leckie and some of the other guys having to cut blisters off their feet from all the rocks getting in there during the march back to town. Ugh.

• More good comic relief: Sid listening patiently to the old man's lecture about the three simple rules (which he would later break) for dating his granddaughter.

Finally, let me again repeat how the No Spoiler policy is going to apply to this series. History on a big scale is not and should not be considered a spoiler. If you don't know the larger points of World War II and/or the Pacific campaign, then you and your high school history teacher need to have a chat. But the lives and military careers of Basilone, Leckie and Sledge, for our purposes, will be considered spoilers. So if you know more about one or more of them going in, or read up on them over the course of the miniseries, do not share any of that info in your comments, okay? We were able to get through the "Band of Brothers" reviews without giving away who lived, who died, who got promoted, transferred, etc., and I'm sure we can do that here as well. So until we get to the final episode in 10 weeks, no talking about anything that took place after the events depicted in a given episode. Okay?

What did everybody else think?

66 comments:

gdt5016 said...

I really hope Bob and Stella end up together :(.

Absolutely beautiful episode.

Carlos said...

Long-time reader, very infrequent poster.

I thought this was one of the worst hours of television I've seen in ages. The Greek family scenes were awwwwful. The sex with cheesy music made me double check this wasn't skinemax. I guess they're going for characterization like you say, but it feels a little late -- I can watch these guys in combat but watching them hangout was dreadful. May not come back for #4.

Surprised you liked it. Anyway, love your blog, so keep it up!

CharacterDevelopment said...

I have to disagree with Carlos. I thought the character development was brilliant.

paul said...

Lots of people have been saying that to honor the veterans, you need to see them warts and all. Leckie has gotten some serious airbrushing.

I had the same thought as Carlos on the sex scene. I mean, "see them warts and all" is a metaphor, for crying out loud.

AC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AC said...

On the one hand, my first thought watching this episode was, "Hey, ladies!" Because we really didn't get those in "Band of Brothers," except for that French nurse in the Roe episode (yep, still comparing "Pacific" to BoB). And then on the other hand, as the episode went on, "Oh man, is this the Pretty Australian Lady Detour Episode?" I'm glad that Stella didn't really exist, because prior to her last scene, all I could thing was "What if he does get her pregnant, and this is a real story and all?" I do see that some of the Stella stuff was necessary for character development, but I wish it hadn't come at the expense of the lovey-dovey story line.

James Badge Dale reminds me a lot of Matthew Morrison from "Glee," so there's another strike against tonight's episode. I much preferred the Basilone scenes.

BandofBrothersfan said...

I agree with Alan. This episode proved pivotal in developing Robert Leckie and John Basilone. I tell you this miniseries is a crowning achievement on par with Band of Brothers.

BandofBrothersfan said...

Carlos, Alan and CharacterDevelopment are right. Some of the same complaints were launched at Band of Brothers when it 1st came out

GMan said...

Ha, Pelecanos leaning on his Greek history. His story readers will see a lot of him in those scenes.

I would have enjoyed the manic craziness of Leckie burning through Australian love affairs than a generic, fictionalized war love story that we've seen before. Leckie's real life escapades would have been refreshing and more grounded. Hey, grandpa had se, lots of sex!

Carlos said...

"Some of the same criticisms"

Really? The over-reliance on mawkish music to stand in for moving film-making?

Or how about that medal of honer ceremony that should have been one of those lump in yer throat scenes FNL used to produce in spades, but instead felt like the graduation scene from any mediocre teen movie?

Oh, well, to each her own. This one's not for me.

Heather said...

I agree with you about Jon Seda. I was not a fan of his work on Homicide, but he has gotten better over the years. He's great in this, and to think he was originally cast in a more supporting role in the miniseries. He replaced Val Lauren - now there's someone whose work I do not really know - as Basilone very early, and Jon Bernthal replaced Seda in the role of Rodriguez.

I think James Badger Dale is a breakout star, and can't wait to see him in that upcoming AMC series plus his mom was Anita Morris, which kind of blows my mind. Good acting is so invigorating.

itwasi said...

I liked this episode more than the others only to find out most of the character development was fictional. This series is really starting to disappoint.

Still hate the Hanks narration. It adds nothing.

BeatDownHappening said...

I was also curious about the reality of The Greek family. After seeing George Pelecanos in the writing credit and seeing his fingerprints ALL OVER that storyline, I had to be skeptical on how much liberty was being taken with Leckie's story.

I mean, it's not like the producers are going to be like, "Hey, Leckie shacks up with a Greek family in Australia. George, why don't you write this one?"

It's a movie said...

For those who want a 100% accurate depiction of Leckie, go watch a documentary. This is a movie. Even Band of Brothers had a storyline that wasn't 100% accurate. You watch a documentary for the complete truth. You watch a movie to be enlightened and care for each character.

BandofBrothersfan said...

Alan, why was it important that Spielberg and Hanks fake the love story than tell the real story regarding Leckie and other women. is there in any significance to that?

DL said...

I just have not been able to get into this series like I did with Band of Brothers (or a lot of other miniseries for that matter). The feel of the show has been less than genuine. A re-packaged version of Band of Brother; essentially a series that is hyper-formulaic. I really want to like this series. I want to appreciate what these guys went through. I want an attachment to these characters like I had with Band of Brothers (or even Generation Kill). Leckie was one of the few characters I thought they were developing, and his side-story in "Melbourne" alienated me. It feels like some quasi-patriotic production, and finding out that the side-story was entirely fictional (or a paraphrase) is incredibly disappointing. Nothing has caused me to connect with these characters and, consequently, the shows feel generic.

But nevertheless, I always enjoy your very thoughtful write-ups. I will continue to watch and hope that the series gets better.

DL said...

I want to add to my last comment and say that I feel that so much of the series has been spent in an idle mode. And I think that's where I feel the disconnect. While other successful mini-series may spend their time entrenched in dialogue, it serves a purpose in developing an attachment to the characters. I feel that the dialogue here has been extremely superficial and almost cliche. Hence the disconnect.

BandofBrothersfan said...

As a Band of Brothers fan, I disagree about the Pacific. Episode 3 marked a major improvement. The writing was better. The character development made you care about the characters. Even if the love story wasn't true, it was good writing. When she broke up with Leckie, you felt sorry for him. It was believable.

Jack said...

Yeah, I agree with BandofBrothersfan. It doesn't matter if the love story didn't happen in real life. It's what I call good writing.

Michael said...

Am I the only one who still can't tell the difference between any of the secondary characters? I had the same problem with Band of Brothers the first time around. Is it just the number of characters we're watching? You mentioned JP and Sid in this review, for example; I don't have a clue who they are here and I only know them because you said their names in context with one of their scenes.

Word verification: "achoo". Gesundheit!

BandofBrothersfan said...

Cmon guyys, did you really expect this to be 100% accurate? It's a Hollywood movie, If you want 100% accuracy, go watch a documentary. Besides, the love scenes were well written and believable. Love stories do exist in war movies. Gone With The Wind is a great example.

paul said...

The folks making the "it's just a movie" argument are missing the point. You can never get 100% accuracy in a historical film, but this was much closer to outright fiction. As Alan said, "There's a difference between compressing events (or assigning moments one character had in real life to another character in the film) and inventing things out of whole cloth, and it sticks out in the middle of a production that's largely so committed to fidelity."

What makes this episode particularly odd is that this is a program that was supposed to show the characters' flaws as well as their virtues. As I said in my earlier post, we're not getting that with Leckie. He was a troublemaker from the day he joined the Marines. I've said before that I regret the producers' decision to not show some of his drunken antics during training and the early portion of the Guadalcanal campaign. By the time he was transferred out of his company, he'd been arrested several times for drunkenness and being AWOL and had served several stints in the brig. There was one incident were he was lucky not to be shot for desertion in my opinion. But we didn't see that. Instead, we're led to believe that he acted stupidly because he had his heart broken and his C.O. unjustly kicked him out of his company. In real life, he was an appalling as well as appealing character, like a Season 2 Jimmy McNulty. I don't need 100% accuracy, but I don't want a fictionalized story that could have starred Sandra Bullock but for the graphic sex scenes.

As to BoB, there were a couple of deviations from history as well (which isn't really a valid excuse anyway), but I don't remember one quite this drastic. I do remember many people protested BoB's deviations.

The episode was well-done from a technical standpoint. If I had not read the source material beforehand, I probably would have enjoyed it much more.

Chuchundra said...

I realize that The Pacific isn't a documentary and they're going to fictionalize parts of it and move things around to make a better dramatic presentation, but making up the entire Stella story out of whole cloth really rubs me the wrong way for reasons I can't quite put my finger on.

It seems weak to me, just a cheap way to throw in some melodrama.

Andrew said...

After the first two episodes, I was dissatisfied because I wanted more character development, I wanted to find out who this Leckie fellow is. But this episode was a disappointment.

I just watched Band of Brothers for the first time and overall liked it, though it definitely had some storytelling problems and dipped into the cheese at times. So far, Pacific is worse on both counts. And does anyone else really hate the music?

Jin's English Tutor said...

I'm confused by the haters. The last two weeks, some are griping about not enough character development (a la Curahee), and when we get it it's not what you want.

I thought the episode did a great job developing the Leckie and Basilone. If you guys wnat action, trust me you're going to get it over the next seven eps.

And for those complaining about the Leckie whitewash, read Band of Brothers. Winters (especially) and the rest of Easy company got treated with kid gloves by Hanks and Spielberg.

Tony_Fletcher said...

Why make up a fake romance when I'm sure history offers many TRUE stories (and I'm sure much more interesting) of this time in Australia.

Speaking of time, the division spent more time in Melbourne than "Easy" did in Europe? You'd never get that from this hour. Looked like a long weekend.

Cheesy: Basilone's medal ceremony with patriotic background music. I'm surprised we didn't get a Corsair fly-over or some fireworks to remind us of just how special this award is.

Double-Cheesy: If I want bar fights and MPs chasing drunk Marines, I'll break out the Bah-Bah Black sheep DVDs.

Imagine the incredible experience of going from literally hell-on-earth, to a paradise like Melbourne. Surely that would be an fascinating angle to explore. Much more interesting than a made-up affair.

So, now it's back to nighttime jungle warfare? Time to order my night-vision glasses.

Norgard said...

This is the first episode with [...] George Pelecanos sharing credit with Michelle Ashford.

Wow. I totally missed that during the credits. Speaking of Pelecanos, the first time I heard of "The Pacific" was when I read a profile on him in the Washington Post where he related how he wanted a short scene depicting the racism of the white Marines towards black service members - something the other writers were too uncomfortable with.

I also noticed that Erik Jendresen wasn't involved with this show at all. Now I wonder if he was the one responsible for keeping "Band of Brothers" from dipping too deeply into the cheese.

For those who want a 100% accurate depiction of Leckie, go watch a documentary. This is a movie. Even Band of Brothers had a storyline that wasn't 100% accurate. You watch a documentary for the complete truth. You watch a movie to be enlightened and care for each character.

If you carefully read the comments, you might notice that the show hasn't done a good job of making us care for the characters. As for being enlightened - I think that's part of where the criticism come from. We get a generic cliched war-romance as in a billion other war movies. I don't find that particularly enlightening. If they'd stuck closer to history and showed Leckie screwing through half Melbourne, at least you could say: "well, now I know that Gramps was really, really a stud. I'm enlightended as to that."

And does anyone else really hate the music?

I wouldn't say I hate it, but it feels somewhat vague and generic, like the show as a whole. One thing I noticed is that I still don't have the title melody in my head, where I could hum along Michael Kamen's main theme from "Band of Brothers" by the beginning of the second episode.

I'm confused by the haters. The last two weeks, some are griping about not enough character development (a la Curahee), and when we get it it's not what you want.

I believe when one says "I want character development" it is taken for granted that one means "I want good character development."

Cheesy: Basilone's medal ceremony with patriotic background music.

By the way, was I the only one who thought that the crowd, as well as the ship at the end, looked like really bad CGI?

A re-packaged version of Band of Brother; essentially a series that is hyper-formulaic.

I read an article on Hanks's penchant for historic material somewhere where he more or less said that he didn't want a repeat of "Band of Brothers" where no viewer could tell the soldiers apart, and that that was why they decided to stick to three POV characters this time. So far I think that approach has really done the show a disservice; it feels like the took out what made "Band of Brothers" distinct from all the other war movies, but didn't replace it with anything new.

That said, the comparison that keeps coming into my head - and so far unfavourably - is "Flags of Our Fathers"/"Letters from Iwo Jima". Eastwood's double feature also dealt with the alienation between allied and Japanese soldiers, the psychological toll on these young people and the peculiar stress of the PR heroes. The only difference is that so far these movies were a hell of a lot better.

word verification: pugsaurs. Returning to a remote exotic island, Leckie's unit suddenly finds that the fences are broken... and the pug dinosaurs are on the loose!

Anonymous said...

I know they compressed nearly a year into an hour but the whole romance storyline was a bit outrageous. You get the impression an after dinner and an invite to stay the evening this girl who didn't know his name 24 hours ago presents herself to him later that evening. Get real - it's 1943! They're in her family's brownstone! Her parents are probably in the next room! I mean, they love the Americans and all but this is ridiculous.

Ryan W said...

I am on board with what The Pacific is trying to do so far, but HBO screwed the pooch with those opening documentary pieces. I would presume that a majority of HBO viewers know enough about the war to not have to rely upon those introductory bits to handhold them into the episode's setting and/or plot. The fact that they intersperse the veteran talking heads with old stock footage and score it with music makes the whole enterprise resemble the mediocre WWII in HD. Not to overdo the BoB references, but the opening talking heads did an excellent job of setting the mood but not giving away the whole smash. For shame, HBO.

Maria said...

After presenting the war scenes in all their graphic glory - mutilated body parts, blood spraying from every bullet hole - why the need to spin Lekie's sexual adventures Down Under into a Lifetime movie? Didn't the producers learn anything from Mad Men, that you can write a lying cad (Don Draper) into a likable character? Was the Bob/Stella love story for the benefit of the female audience? If so, then I'm insulted. Or, as I suspect, this was an unwelcome contribution from Tom Hanks' greek wife Rita Wilson, who produced My Big Fat Wedding? I have not read Lekie's memoir (but I will now) but for anyone who has, was there at least one Greek girl in real life that he bedded?

Tony_Fletcher said...

I also think the intro documentary style set-ups don't add anything. In fact, They magnify the "choppy" feel of the entire hour. After the set-up, we get the "interviews" plus the intro logos, and then intro credits...just makes the entire hour feel more disjointed.

This series seems to be designed by committee where every idea was tossed into the final product.

Carlos said...

This is a movie.

Yeah, a really boring and mediocre one. They clearly spent tons of money on the costumes and sets, but otherwise I think another reader nailed it exactly: this week's ep could have been a Lifetime movie.

To continue my catalog of dislikes: how about the Aussie soldier who insults Basilone and the other guy and mocks the beer for the fallen soldier? Ugh, what terrible writing! You have incredibly rich raw material in the horror these guys have been through and the undoubted dissonance of landing in Melbourne, and instead what you show is a fictionalized scene involving some numbskull who for no fathomable reason decides to insult the good guys -- you know, we'll REMEMBER they're the good guys. (I'd forgotten!)

And Stella gives her ADDRESS to a falling down drunk American soldier on the bus. What planet is this again?

And her mother says, "We couldn't make anymore babies." Where do people speak like this to complete strangers?

Carlos said...

This is a movie.

Yeah, a really boring and mediocre one. They clearly spent tons of money on the costumes and sets, but otherwise I think another reader nailed it exactly: this week's ep could have been a Lifetime movie.

To continue my catalog of dislikes: how about the Aussie soldier who insults Basilone and the other guy and mocks the beer for the fallen soldier? Ugh, what terrible writing! You have incredibly rich raw material in the horror these guys have been through and the undoubted dissonance of landing in Melbourne, and instead what you show is a fictionalized scene involving some numbskull who for no fathomable reason decides to insult the good guys -- you know, we'll REMEMBER they're the good guys. (I'd forgotten!)

And Stella gives her ADDRESS to a falling down drunk American soldier on the bus. What planet is this again?

And her mother says, "We couldn't make anymore babies." Where do people speak like this to complete strangers?

Anonymous said...

Maria--

I have read one comment on another site that stsated this romance was covered in great detail in the book.

I'd love for Alan to clear that up (or anyone else that's read the book)

michaelvankerckhove said...

Thanks to Alan and all of you for offering an intelligent discussion. The Facebook page can get low-brow and antagonistic.

I personally enjoyed the episode. Having read the source material I was perched before confirming here that the Stella story was fictional. Maybe showing all of Leckie's encounters would've been cool and interesting. But for whatever reason, the production chose to stay with a single story arc to get at some of the character and story truth. Here, the focus is less on Leckie the real man and more of Leckie the character. His (and Sid's) stories take on a representative role of some many relationships. Adding the layer of immigrants enlarges the scope and ties the world events of the first half of the 20th Century all together. Nice touch!

So far, with one exception here, no one's really talked about the sex scene(s). One Facebooker called it soft core porn, another talked about turning it off while watching it with her 13 year old son. There were many cries of inappropriateness. Then the argument was made that So, it's okay for young viewers to watch all the violence, but not a (I think tasteful) sex scene? Mixed reactions to that, for sure. I think it's valid.

This all has gotten me to think about who the target audience IS, if there is one. Is the series meant to be an educational movie for young adults? Might the sex scenes bring back some jolly good memories for the vets watching? What about all of us in the middle?

I had a dream about the debate over this episode last night. Oprah was involved. So I guess that means I'm really invested in the series. :-)

Dennis said...

There are certainly some good points being made here but I liked the ep because I needed a reason to really invest in the characters and get to know them a little better and with the battle scenes happening at night you get to see shagall of that action anyway.

Also, gawd bless Stella for coming into Leckie's room that first night:)

The Bgt said...

I saw the BoB by accident, hadn't heard nothing about the hype or the awards and I absolutely loved it. Saw all 10 episodes in one weekend.

Pacific so far hasn't captivated me. AT all.

Is it the dialogues that I find bad? (or cheesy as someone already wrote)

Is it the acting? ( I am not impressed by any of the lead actors so far, to say the least)

Is it the directing or the editing (this is supposed to be a gruesome war and so far I haven't felt 1/100 of the tension I felt when watching the Bastogne BoB episodes, hell even having the Easy Company marching on that hill was more exciting).

Or maybe it is less daring than it should be.
In any case it has been disappointing.

"Flags of our fathers" and especially "letters from Iwojima" are much much better and MORE POWERFUL than what I've seen so far in the Pacific.

At least it was funny listening to greek in the background (with heavy american accent lol).

Trully hoping this will get better in the following episodes.

John said...

I thought this episode was almost unwatchable. While the first two episodes were pretty good (at least we had the combat scenes) but paled in comparison to "Band of Brothers," this was just awful.

Even though there was more "character development," it wasn't done well at all. The writers keep trying to get us to care about these characters, and it's just not happening.

There have been a lot of scenes throughout the first three episodes in which the writers are clearly trying way too hard. For example, there was the scene in which the Marines stole supplies from the army and one of the officers admonished a soldier not to "be careful where he smoked cigars he may not have taken," and then the soldier counters "or drink any hooch you may not have stolen." Brutal.

Other examples include the bar fight in this episode or the many scenes in which MPs are chasing down carousing Marines. True or not, this is adding nothing to the plot and should be left out.

The writers have failed so spectacularly to develop these characters in a meaningful way that there are scenes that are clearly supposed to be emotional for the audience that have just fallen flat.

For example, when Basilone discovered his friend Rodriguez dead in the jungle, the audience was clearly supposed to be moved, but I wasn't. The same thing when the cook on the ship told the soldiers that they're heroes back in the states. I just didn't care.

In fact, I've felt more sympathy for the Japanese soldier who was being shot in the shoulders that Basilone put out of his misery and the dead Japanese soldier that had a picture of his girlfriend than for the American soldiers. And I'm very pro-US military. It's not a good sign when the villains are more sympathetic than the heroes, unless it's by design.

As for the Medal of Honor, I'm not going to say that Basilone didn't deserve one, but if you read a lot of the citations for those, you'll see that his is pretty unimpressive compared to what others--even soldiers that weren't killed in action--got theirs for (read the citations for Audie Murphy or Tibor Rubin to see what is truly worthy of the Medal). I thought Basilone deserved the Distinguished Service Cross, but the Medal of Honor seemed like a little much.

As for Winters, it is true that he was denied the Medal of Honor because of a somewhat idiotic quota system in which only one Medal of Honor per division was allowed for D-Day.

However, the man who did receive the Medal of Honor from that division, Robert G. Cole (he led a bayonet charge under heavy fire), was clearly more deserving than Winters. I thought the Distinguished Service Cross was more appropriate for Winters anyway, quota or no quota. Then again, I'm not in the military.

With the exception of the guy negotiating a contract for dating his daughter (which was just a minute or so of comic relief), the rest of the romances were just brutal to watch.

I thought it was a big mistake to have this as the third episode. "Band of Brothers" didn't have an episode like this until the ninth episode, when the war was essentially over. At that point, we'd been with these guys through D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. It was interesting to see how these guys who we already knew were adapting to non-combat situations.

If it wasn't for the unintentional comedy of Leckie literally being a "half-minute man," which led to me and my roommates making countless jokes about it (seriously, that sex scene was about a minute flat, from when she entered his room until it was over), it would have been a total disaster.

If this was a new TV series, I would stop watching after this episode. Since it's a mini-series, and there are only seven more episodes, I'll keep watching. Reluctantly.

Jack said...

I felt that whole scene where she dumps Leckie was extremely powerful and heartbreaking. It also was a great example of great writing. You really cared for Leckie as a character at this point.

Anonymous said...

Anyone growing up near Raritan, NJ, has seen and heard the Basilone name because it is plastered all over the place. The town still has plaques and memorials and parades to the guy and even newcomers all these decades later still get a big dose of him.

It is a pretty heroic story and he makes a much better Italian-American role model for NJ then Tony Soprano ever will.
Even with the artistic license of the movie I like what they are doing with the story so far and I relate to Basilone much better now in the context of a fictionalized HBO movie then I ever did as a kid to an old WWII veteran hero and a stone plaque in the middle of town.
Glad his story is finally being told to a bigger audience.

Jack said...

By the way, it doesn't matter that the love story was made up.

JCap said...

Call me crazy, but this was my favorite episode of the three so far. The Greek family I assumed was the brainchild of George Pelecanos who has written so well, though not so much lately, about his Greek heritage and family. I found this part of the episode very moving in its contrast to the horror of the battles we've seen so far. And while I wonder too about the way the music was used during Basilone's Medal of Honor ceremony, I also was touched by the acting of Jon Seda here. His eyes said it all. Most of all was that moment when he is leaving for the states: this was a love scene, pure and simple, between the two men. Audacious and powerful if you ask me.

JCap said...

Call me crazy, but this was my favorite episode of the three so far. The Greek family I assumed was the brainchild of George Pelecanos who has written so well, though not so much lately, about his Greek heritage and family. I found this part of the episode very moving in its contrast to the horror of the battles we've seen so far. And while I wonder too about the way the music was used during Basilone's Medal of Honor ceremony, I also was touched by the acting of Jon Seda here. His eyes said it all. Most of all was that moment when he is leaving for the states: this was a love scene, pure and simple, between the two men. Audacious and powerful if you ask me.

Jordan M. Poss said...

Anonymous said: I have read one comment on another site that stsated this romance was covered in great detail in the book.

I've read Leckie's book, Helmet for My Pillow, and sorry--no Stella. At all. Leckie briefly describes an affair with a married woman whose husband was away (on business, I believe), but otherwise he wasn't tied to any one woman at all. I was amazed, reading his book, that he didn't catch something...

Anonymous said...

I agree with John that this episode came too soon, but you can hardly fault Leckie for doing the same. I mean, c'mon, he'd been around nothing but men and dead bodies for months!

srpad said...

Stopping and catching its breath was exactly what this show needed. I can tell who is who now!

I am saddened to learn Stella was fictional. I was hoping it would end with them together after the war.

Jack said...

Just because it didn't happen doesn't make it bad writing.

Sister T said...

I liked the episode just fine, and I oddly feel compelled to defend it and some criticisms of these initial episodes. But it's hard for me to state my opinion without spilling historical spoilers. I know some of the history, and I can see how some of the ground work in these initial episodes could make future scenes more meaningful, and make re-watching the initial episodes even more enjoyable.

I know it's fiction, but I appreciated the Stella story because it showed Leckie finding a haven after Guadalcanal, and then being stripped of the hope of a home, a family, then stripped of his unit and friends, and headed into another hell. A sort of loneliness/abandonment theme.

Another theme in Leckie's memoir is his frustrated feeling at being expendable, especially when he's in the hills of Guadalcanal and he feels his officers are sending him out as fodder for Japanese bullets (a point that, granted, was not well illustrated in episode 1 or 2). Episode 3 made me think of the "expendable" theme from a different angle. I thought not of how Leckie treated Australian girls as if they were expendable (as his memoir made me think), but of how Leckie was still expendable in that the Australian girls saw no future in him either because he was going to end up dead. Add the expendable feeling with the loneliness/abandonment feeling and Leckie is an extremely interesting character.

The episode made me think. I like that. The execution has some flaws, and my understanding and enjoyment is being supplemented from other sources, but I hope that when the miniseries can be viewed as a whole these first few episodes will come off as better than we initially thought.

That's my optimistic view so far. And I can only see this miniseries getting better.

Toeknee said...

I can understand why people aren’t happy with the series so far, but I think there’s a lot of unfair criticisms being leveled at it , especially in comparison to BoB. I think it’s easy for people to write today and say BoB did this or that better – I find myself doing the same thing. I think this is being said by people who have had the benefit of watching BoB several times, and/or who have watched the entire series in short bursts on DVD (not waiting a week in between episodes), and/or who have read the book, and/or who have read various internet discussions on the series (like the one Alan did last year). Heck, I’m guilty of all those things, and each time I watch BoB I still pick up on something I didn’t notice before. I’m guessing the same will be true of the Pacific – it will be regarded much more highly once all 10 episodes have aired, and once we can go back and rewatch the first few episodes with the knowledge we gain from the remaining 7 episodes.

No offense to anyone who has said this, but I think it’s disingenuous to say, “by the third episode of BoB I knew all the characters and was completely attached to them.” You may have enjoyed BoB, but there’s no way in hell you knew all the characters that showed up in the first 3 episodes without having seen all 10 episodes at least once, if not multiple times. It’s far more enjoyable to watch Currahee after having seen all the other episodes, because it is only then that you can pick out which one is Muck, or Toye, or Gordon.

It’s fine to fault The Pacific for the fictionalization, but to say BoB didn’t do this is wrong - there’s loads of fictionalized incidents in BoB. The Blithe character’s story was largely made up; in fact they even got his fate wrong in the closing captions (claiming he died much younger than he really did). The relationship between Doc Roe and the Nurse in Ep 6 Bastogne was completely made up. Liebgott did not take on the translator role he was shown to have in Ep 9 Why We Fight (but you have to admit that putting that character in that position certainly added to the emotion of the episode). There’s even some debate as to whether or not Easy Co. actually liberated a Concentration Camp singlehandedly, and as to whether or not they were the first ones to Hitler’s Eagles Nest. The baseball scene at the end of the series was a complete fabrication in that most of the original members of the company were no longer together at that point in the war.

To say that all characters in BoB were gently portrayed is not true. Sobel, Cobb and Dike were portrayed in an especially negative light, moreso than in the book. The show didn’t deny the rumors of Speirs’ heinous actions; we were left to believe they were true. Strayer was occasionally portrayed as a bit of a clueless idiot.

I guess I wish people would step back and realize that any opinion you may have about BoB isn’t based on a single viewing with a week delay between episodes, so at this time it’s unfair to hold the Pacific up to the same standard.

Anonymous said...

Very unhappy with this series. It has an impossible older "sibling" to live up to, but the story-telling here is alternatively incoherent and melodramatic.

While I appreciate that there is a desire to put the viewer in the shoes of the Marines by staging battle scenes at night to give a feel for the confusion and dread that possessed them, most of the action has been reduced to little more than flashes of light on my television screen, where I cannot make out the battle action or the characters involved. Not very viewer friendly. Frankly, its irritating and not much fun to watch.

Last night's episode was all I've feared -- political correctness has overtaken the historical account of the Marine experience in the Pacific. While BofB gave us the "impact" of the war on Easy Company men in Breaking Point and Last Patrol and Why We Fight, it was a process that played out and then you saw it in their faces and their actions. Last night was all concocted melodrama - hitting the viewer over the head with an emotional club in the form of Basilone's departure from the theater and Leckie's fictional breakup with the Australian girl.

How is Leckie's estrangement from his family related to anything he did in the Pacific?

If you think about BofB, you knew little or nothing about most of the major characters pre-WWII existences until near the end. You never knew that Buck Compton was a college baseball and football player. You didn't know that Lewis Nixon came from a wealthy family. While you knew that Winters had a pacifist streak from his upbringing, you saw his leadership instincts take over for the purpose of safeguarding the men whom he commanded.

In Pacific, Leckie is not particularly likeable, and there is no reason thus far to car much about Basilone.

I sure wish they had made the first episode longer -- 90 minutes or 2 hours -- and spent more time explaining and showcasing their entry into the Marines, as well as their experience on Guadalcanal, finishing with their return to Australia.

We're 30% through this mini-series now, and frankly, I really don't care.

This coming from someone who still pops in the BofB DVD regulary to watch episodes that I pretty much know by heart.

Jon B said...

itwasi said...
Still hate the Hanks narration. It adds nothing.

Me too.

DL said...
Nothing has caused me to connect with these characters and, consequently, the shows feel generic.

I agree. I'm sticking with the series for the battle scenes, and the vague hope that the main characters develop in a more interesting way.

(to be fair, Eugene Sledge's character hasn't had chance to take centre stage yet - maybe things will improve when he becomes more significant in episodes 4 & 5?)


Michael said...
Am I the only one who still can't tell the difference between any of the secondary characters? I had the same problem with Band of Brothers the first time around.

I share the same problem, and did so with BoB the first time around. The difference is that, in BoB, the secondary characters are more immediately appealing and interesting (even if I did get them a little mixed up to begin with). I'm struggling to really engage with the primary characters in this series so far, let alone anyone else.

In this episode, the story of the Sid guy (I also didn't know his name until working it out from the context in the blog post here) seems a pointless waste of precious episode time -- as does Leckie's romance. Surely the characterisation could have been better achieved without these diverting storylines, if maybe the writers had kept the main group of characters together in social/drinking/camaraderie scenes, like they did in BoB?

When Basilone and his buddy (oops, I don't know his name!) with the curly hair were saying their farewells before Basilone's flight home, it seemed strange to me how emotional they were, after only a sporadic build-up in their relationship prior to that moment (compared to the more convincing portrayal of the relationship of Winters and Nixon in BoB). If more of this episode had been dedicated to the primary and secondary characters' relationships rather than intriducing temporary characters in predictable love stories, perhaps Basilone's departure could have felt more emotional and we'd know the other characters better too.


Andrew said...
And does anyone else really hate the music?

I don't hate the music, but it feels overly generic - as do the typewriter fonts with black background and red horizontal line on the episode title screens (also present in numerous WW2 video games). Not enough imagination on show for a $150m production!


Commenters on this review and its preceding episodes have mentioned and compared the series to BoB and Flags of our Fathers, but no-one seems to have mentioned the excellent 'The Thin Red Line' (also set on Guadalcanal, like episodes 1 & 2)

I think it was episode 1 which featured one of the soldiers writing a letter in which he is observing his beautiful natural environment to the Garden of Eden juxtaposed with the the terror which the humans have brought with them - there's a very similar narative in TTRL.

Also the glimpses up into the trees with the sunlight shining through are very reminiscent of the photography in TTRL.

And surely it's no coincidence that the producers hired Hans Zimmer to do the mediocre soundtrack, after enjoying his thoroughly moving and atmospheric score for The Thin Red Line?

I think most people would agree that the BoB series complemented the 'Saving Private Ryan' movie by helping to paint a broader picture of the invasion of occupied Europe in 1944 -- and the series also greatly improved upon the movie. I was really hoping that 'The Pacific' would surpass 'Flags of Our Fathers' in the same way, but somehow I think it's going to be just as unfulfilling, albeit entertaining, as Clint's effort.

It looks to me like 'The Thin Red Line' will remain by far the best modern dramatisation of the Pacific war.

Pch101 said...

Band of Brothers was a unit history; its focus was on an company and the relationships of the men in the unit, within the context of the unit.

The Pacific is not a unit history. It is instead telling the stories of a few individuals, not entirely within the context of their combat units, and within the context of the home front.

I'm reasonably sure that the Leckie-Stella story line is meant in part to convey to Americans that we weren't the only country that had a home front, complete with families back home trying to lead normal lives but dreading whose name might next be published in the casualty reports. Leckie was used as a device to convey that message, something that would have been difficult had they portrayed him as a bedhopper and the women as just easy pickings.

This isn't BoB, and the comparisons are to be expected but are ultimately unfair. The work has to stand or fall on its own merits, and so far, I'd say that it has done well at telling a different type of story. I'm not entirely thrilled that the storyline was apparently complete fiction, but it wouldn't be the first time that a docudrama opted to turn up the drama.

Royce said...

Was back in NJ this past weekend, and while driving into Newark Airport off the Turnpike I noticed a service road called "Basilone Road." Made me remember that I had The Pacific to look forward to if I could get through my long flight back to LAX.

Damien said...

This episode was a snooze-fest, and that's coming from someone who likes character development. Trouble is, there really wasn't any, save for some generic (and seems like made up) melodrama.

In fact, that's been the problem with the whole series so far. I still don't feel anything for these people. I'm not sure if it's the acting or the writing or the editing - probably all three, but something just doesn't click. The previous ep was confusing and this one plain unnecessary.

Also, what doesn't help is the boring and overly long intro, or series of intros. First we have the narrated voice-over (dealing with what's to come in the ep), which I don't mind. But then we jump to the past with a 'previously on Pacific...' recaps, then we have a slow and boring credit sequence and finally the show proper. Yawn.

So far, I'm not at all impressed.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Maria on this one. Fake, cheesy Greek family/sex story grafted on to what is supposed to be an honorable historic drama. It is, I suppose, a misguided attempt to 'appeal' to a 21st century audience dumbed-down by 40 years of soft-core TV porn. Poorly done, and a great disappointment, given the quality of the first two episodes. I hope the writer, whats-his-name, disappears from the rest of the series. The Basilone and Sid Phillips set-ups/character development were only marginally better, and then only by comparison.

dez said...

I am saddened to learn Stella was fictional. I was hoping it would end with them together after the war.

Same here. I liked the ep a lot more before I learned that, though I agree that it shed a lot of light on Leckie's character, which was welcome.

I also appear to be the only one not comparing it to BoB since I gave up on that series two eps in because I couldn't keep track of all the characters (this coming from a die-hard "Wire" fan, too). I like "The Pacific" so far based on its own merits, though the blood spatter looks annoyingly CGI, for the most part.

I haven't read Leckie's book and I don't know the fates of any of the main characters, and I've already learned too much about them just from Alan's review and the comments, so I guess I need to stay away from here until the series is complete, darn it :(

BandofBrothersfan said...

Bruce C. McKenna gave a perfect reason as to why they gave a fictional romance for Leckie. I want some responses to this.

http://makingof.com/community/forums/topic/295
"You're right that this episode diverges the most from the facts of Leckie's book. The primary reason is that we only had fifty minutes to dramatize close to NINE months of time. Should we focus on the debauch? On the one relationship that he had that seemed serious? His growing drunken escapades? His dalliances? His time in the Brig? We decided to focus on one of Leckie's relationships to push the theme that despite all the women and wine and relaxation in Melbourne, the men still couldn't go home again. We picked a Greek family because we wanted to show that the War was indeed a world war and its victims were from all over the world. Melbourne had a very large Greek community. And we focused on the breakup to illuminate a central truth of men at war: that their relationships (family members, lovers) are absolutely crucial to them. And when those relationships are severed, the men are devastated. Leckie came out of Melbourne in many ways more cynical and damaged than when he went in. We needed a way to dramatize that so that his continuing descent into moral and psychological hell would make sense in Eps. 4 and 5."

GMan said...

Per McKenna's comment: That's A nice story, but people wanted Leckie's story. As some one way above previously stated, there is a television precedent set for creating characters both loathful/loving at the same time.

Marines are brave men, and at the same time and also be jackholes in the civilian world, in chief part because its hard to re-channel the energy drawn upon to charge a machine gun nest. That story was Leckie's story, thought it would be interesting to fictionalize that.

Anonymous said...

I agree the writing has been cliche-heavy, and I say that as a huge fan of Mr. Pelecanos in particular. Still, I appreciated the sentiments running heavy in ep 3--that's there is much more to every soldier than either heroism under fire or cowardice in the face of the enemy (which hurt BoB a little).

One note on the Aussie picking a fight with Basilone and buddy in the bar--it may be a stand-in for a real-life episode that took place in 1942, the so-called "Battle of Brisbane." For two days, US troops brawled with Aussie "diggers" and cops in a gigantic free-for-all, started mainly due to the presence of black US troops and the feeling that the rampaging GIs and Marines were "overpaid, oversexed, and over here." You can bet that not all Aussies were prostrate before their American "saviors" (although, having lived there for 2 years, I can report that there is definitely a warmth toward Americans dating back to the fact that we fought to save their homeland in the war, while their British cousins were prepared to let them be overrun.
Rob

BoardwalkEmpire said...

On 2nd viewing, its now apparent that Basilone deserved the Medal of Honor. They accurately portrayed it. However, since it was shot at night in the jungle, it was kind of hard to see who was who during the 1st view. On the 2nd view, I payed a little more attention to detail. If it had happened in the daytime, it would've been easier for the viewer to see why he received the Medal of Honor.

Schmoker said...

The longer this goes on, the more I want to learn about Col Chesty. This guy was a real character, as portrayed here. I had no idea the Marines were this different from the Army during WWII. Reading and watching stuff about the Marines today still conveys the rivalry between the two, but nothing like what the difference in command structure was like during WWII.

Stella's was a moving story, but I was disappointed to learn here that they went fictional. I was used to them being so faithful from Band of Brothers that it never even occurred to me that they would make that much up from whole cloth.

Anonymous said...

alan,
telling us stella is fictional kinda goes againts the no spoilers policy

Paul Chalmers said...

BandofBrothersfan, I didn't respond last week because I thought Gman dealt with McKenna's comments, and those comments didn't effectively respond to the criticisms we "haters" were making anyway. Our basic point was that there were loads of real events that could have been incorporated and that would have been more interesting. McKenna seemed to assume that they could only cover one event in one episode. I don't agree with that. I think we could have gotten a series of segments showing Leckie's progression (or descent) leading to his transfer out of H Company. Frankly, the themes McKenna said he was trying to develop --"the men couldn't go home again" and "lots of people were affected by the war" -- are rather banal, but they could still have been made in a more segmented episode. One segment probably would have been enough, and then would could have had other segments devoted to the debauch, the drunken escapades, the time in the brig, etc. There are some challenges in writing an episode covering that much ground, but I can't image Pelicanos wasn't up to it, and the audience is smart enough to keep up.

Chuck said...

These debates REALLY highlight some of the series' issues I hadn't even noticed before. I'm really split, part of me still likes what I've seen,and yet another feels a need for sharp criticism.
Comparisons are one thing I'd really like to address. A lot of people have said that The Pacific can't "live up" to Flags of Our Fathers. Live up to what? Clint's poor directing? The desperate lack of any character development? Flags was an AWFUL film. Letters from Iwo Jima, however, is a valid bar to live up to. Letters was a MUCH more affecting film, and I actually came to recognize the characters by face in that flick. Flags was just too forced, and hard to follow, the only reason I even watched it all the way through was because I'd read the book, and thus knew what was going on.
Okay, now to BoB. BoB may be a different type of series, covering a whole unit not just a few individuals, but honestly? The gist is pretty similar. And it's pretty sad that I cared about ALL of BoB's characters, even minor ones, more than any of Pacific's protagonists. Granted, and this was an excellent point someone made, that I HAVE read the book, and watched BoB several times. I'm hoping Pacific will bring a similar re-watch experience, however, like I said, the smaller character pool makes this seem unlikely. And BoB did a lot of things much better, writing being the most prevalent. (That bar fight scene was truly dreadful.)
And, lastly, on the note of Blithe's inaccurate caption: I know right?! I read that at the end of the episode and just about punched my TV. What a horrid oversight...

Anonymous said...

At first i read it like his dad didnt want to confront the fact that his son might die. but after leckie walks off, his dad checks his car again which to me is either trying to convince himself that he doesn't care, or, he actually doesn't care. It's probably the latter, because if the director wanted such a complex emotion he would've made a bit more of a thing about it - like shown us the moment his dad breaks 'character'(pardon the pun) or to just simply look back at his son as he walks off. In conclusion, he definitely just didn't care!

ejaz14357 said...

The sex with cheesy music made me double check this wasn't skinemax.