Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Pacific, "Part Six": To Hell and back

A review of "The Pacific" chapter six coming up just as soon as I count bandages...
"History is full of wars fought for a hundred reasons. But this war - our war - well, I want to believe - I have to believe - that if I step across that airfield, every man that's wounded, every man I lose, that it's all worthwhile because our cause is just. 'Course, if a just cause came with hot food and some water, that'd be okay, too." -Ack-Ack Haldane
I once interviewed CBS football analyst Phil Simms the day after a game where a punt returner got completely crushed by a defender a split-second after he caught the ball. We talked about that play, and I marveled that any human being could do a job where such a thing is required. Simms, who knew a thing or 12 about getting hit from his days as the Giants' quarterback, looked at me with the disappointment of a man who's spent a lifetime talking with people who don't understand the game he used to play, and said, "There's no choice. You don't think about it; you just do it, because that's the game."

I thought a lot about Simms' comment as I watched the Marines try to cross the Peleliu airfield in Part Six. Obviously, getting shot at by the Japanese is infinitely more dangerous than getting sacked by Reggie White, but watching the brutal airfield sequence, all I could think was, "How do men do this? How do they just run across a this killing zone?" And then I thought, like Simms said, "What other choice do they have? These are their orders, and this is what men in combat do."

"Part Six," directed by Tony To and shot once again by Remi Adefarasin, featured perhaps the most intense combat yet in "The Pacific." We got a taste of the savagery of Peleliu last week, but a lot of that episode was spent with the men enjoying some downtime on Pavuvu. Here, there's no let-up, no escape, unless you're someone like Leckie or Runner, who get hurt badly enough to be sent away on a Navy ship, but not killed.

Leckie gets taken out of action (leaving Sledge as the only one of our main characters still in the field), and there's that great moment on the ship where he's relieved to find Runner and says that he didn't abandon him, but got hurt looking for a corpsman to save him, and Runner tells him he doesn't need to say anything. Because that's another thing about being in combat with someone: you know them better than almost anyone else on the planet, and you know if they're the type who would run out of fear or the type who would run for help. By this point, Runner and Leckie have been through so much together that there's no doubt in Runner's mind what Leckie was up to. Very nice work by James Badge Dale, and by Keith Nobbs as Runner.

While Leckie's war is over for now, Sledge's is only getting worse, just as old buddy Sid feared, even as he tried to convince Eugene's parents otherwise on his return to Alabama.

As Sledge's unit moves across the airfield and then into the hills on Peleliu, we see again and again how savage, and how random, combat can be. Sledge goes back to help the fallen Snafu, and in the process another Marine dies while carrying the mortar that Sledge put down. At night, one Marine is so emotionally scarred from what he's seen so far on the island that he can't stop screaming, even when restrained and injected with morphine. The danger of giving away their position (and, though it's not exactly stated, of spurring panic in the rest of the men) becomes so great that the Marines have no choice but to kill the poor bastard with a shovel. (This really happened in front of Sledge.)

As Sledge, no longer innocent after only a few days of action, reluctantly tells Snafu, "I guess better him than all of us."

Yet despite isolated incidents of panic, brutal conditions, a lack of supplies and unbelievably fierce fighting in the daytime, most of the men aren't cracking under all of this. When one of Sledge's buddies admits he still has a little bit of precious water in his canteen, he passes it around, and every man takes only his small share. When the Marines aboard a transport vehicle won't take away the wounded men from Sledge's unit, the officers stand in front of the truck to block its passage until the wounded are loaded aboard. And when Sledge's CO Ack-Ack Haldane realizes his orders are going to get his men killed, he heads back to battalion and gets them changed.

If you go into a battle as horrible as the one on Peleliu, you don't always have a choice about where you have to go and what obstacles you have to get past. But if you're able to keep your wits about you, and are very lucky indeed, maybe you can make it to the other side in one piece.

Some other thoughts

• As mentioned above, this one was directed by Tony To, who's been a part of the Tom Hanks/HBO gang going back to "From the Earth to the Moon." Fienberg interviewed James Badge Dale before the miniseries began, and Dale gives a great account of the day everyone on set warned him, "Tony's To's gonna blow you up." Fair warning: the interview gives away some things about Leckie post-Peleliu, which we won't be discussing here.

• The green screen shot at the end on the boat is the first effect of the series that doesn't look all that convincing. Given how incredible the rest of the hour looks, I'll allow it.

• Bit by bit, we've been seeing the shots from the opening title sequence turn up in the episodes, and here we get a big one, with Leckie making his way back across the airfield while gravel and debris flies all around.

• Sledge actually picked up the "Sledgehammer" nickname in basic training, but it was still a good moment for the slightly fictionalized Sledge and Snafu for Snafu to bestow it upon him here as semi-stated thanks for saving his life. (And in real life, the basic training nickname was half-mocking; here, it's a compliment to his fortitude in battle.)

• And speaking of nicknames, nice callback for Runner to call Leckie "Peaches" when they find each other on the ship.

Once again, as alluded to above, we're not going to talk about events that took place after what's depicted in this episode, and specifically treating the fates of Sledge, Leckie and Basilone as spoilers. But with that in mind, what did everybody else think?

36 comments:

Susan said...

I was amazed at how Joe Mazzello conveyed in the subtlest of ways how one night of combat had changed Sledge forever. Great acting.

Indeed said...

I had the same thought throughout the whole episode: How do men do this? It was quite an intense, powerful hour.

Ryan W said...

Gripping episode in a series that continues to get better. Hopefully those looking for war-porn will get some of their fill this week and spare everyone the, "Well, in BoB..." comments. Also appreciated how we can see the effect of good leadership on the enlisted men: Leckie only seems motivated by staying with his friends and resents the mediocrities leading his unit, while Sledge thrives under a good officer in Ack Ack Haldane.

BTW, due to some problems with the closed captioning, my wife and I had a hard time understanding what Runner's closing line to Leckie was? Anyone care to post it here?

matt said...

Phenomenally intense and gripping television, this was a fantastic episode. I hope the majority of the episode's battle scenes occurring in daylight lessen the barrage of "i can't tell what's going on" complaints (which I don't quite get - if you're watching in HD all action in the series has been crystal clear and easy to follow, and if you're not watching in HD, why bother?).

Rami Malek is the definite breakout star - every moment of his screen time was dynamic.

Rollie said...

When I had first heard of The Pacific some year or two back, I was really excited to have another Band of Brothers, so to speak, as it remains to this date one of my favorite pieces of production, be it television or film. However, The Pacific is far from Band of Brother's offerings. It's more cerebral. While watching Band of Brothers I was worrying over who would make it through and come out breathing. While watching The Pacific I'm worrying over how this will effect them once they are out.

The Pacific is no Band of Brothers, and I'm glad.

Rollie said...

When I had first heard of The Pacific some year or two back, I was really excited to have another Band of Brothers, so to speak, as it remains to this date one of my favorite pieces of production, be it television or film. However, The Pacific is far from Band of Brother's offerings. It's more cerebral. While watching Band of Brothers I was worrying over who would make it through and come out breathing. While watching The Pacific I'm worrying over how this will effect them once they are out.

The Pacific is no Band of Brothers, and I'm glad.

Rachael said...

Ryan W said ... my wife and I had a hard time understanding what Runner's closing line to Leckie was? Anyone care to post it here?

I couldn't figure it out either!! I rewound it like 4 times and still could not get it. Something about going home (obviously) but I couldn't get the whole line. Anyone else?

Lionheart said...

It was "Let's go home, Cobber" on the closed captioning.

Anonymous said...

Since Leckie's first name is Bob, I thought the last line was "Let's go home Robert"

Anonymous said...

"Cobber" is an Australian term meaning mate or friend. Since the 1st Marines were stationed in Melbourne for close to a year (as seen in episode 3), it seems reasonable that Marines would pick up some of the local language along the way.

Toeknee said...

I thought this was the best episode yet. LOVED the battle scene – so gripping, and scary, with the body parts flying everywhere. And it was a long scene, and it just didn’t let up. It’s amazing that any of them made it across the airfield alive. I did have trouble keeping track of some of the secondary characters, but I’m assuming that will become easier with repeated viewings.

A testament to the quality of the episode – who woulda thought that watching a group of guys sharing sips of water from a canteen would be so riveting? But that scene was loaded with drama – how much would each one take? Would there be enough for everyone? Would Snafu continue to act like he’s a better/tougher Marine than the others and pretend he doesn’t need any water?

And what was it that they pulled out of that water hole – a goat’s head? (Goat’s Head Soup?) How does that relate to the water being poisoned – is it assumed that the animal had some diseases and the disease infected the water?

TinMan0715 said...

This episode turned the entire series around. Everything I heard and read about the real stories of the soldiers came to light in this one. We met Leckie outside the church in ep 1 who was young and eager. The shell of the man playing with his peaches was exactly what Dr. Sledge had feared. The WWI-esque charge over No Man's Land by the Marines, only to realize that their cover was zeroed in by Jap artillery, and then seeing how well dug in the Jap defenses were in the mountains. The effects of battlefield fatigue and what had to be done about it in 2 very different situations. The intensity in the scene where they share the remaining water. Even I felt thirsty. They were all overwhelmed and in shock, and their lives had all changed forever at the end of this episode... and they were far from being done. Bravo Play Tone! A magnificent episode.

michaelvankerckhove said...

Toeknee said And what was it that they pulled out of that water hole – a goat’s head? (Goat’s Head Soup?) How does that relate to the water being poisoned?

When this scene happened I almost yelled at my TV, "Don't drink the water! It's poisoned!" I think the set up was that the Japanese poisoned the water, the goat drank it, died, and fell in. And then it started to come apart...? This scene captured what probably happened at many water sources throughout the conflict.

Looking back, I think this is the first time that the docu-intro bothered me. I could've done without Mr. Hanks' telling us about the thirst first. Experiencing the scenes would've been enough.

ALSO, while I'm here, Joe Mazello wrote on his Facebook page: "They cut out my first smoking scene (which happened in episode 5) so when I smoke in ep 6 i look like I've done it before for no reason! boo." Which makes me think of everything else that didn't make it for whatever time/creative restraints were imposed. While the DVD's could incorporate cut scenes into the episodes themselves or include them in a bonus feature, it would've been nice seeing that kind of thing the first time through.

I am totally loving the series despite the mixed reviews. Cheers, everyone.

The Bgt said...

(sledge) "I've never been more
scared in my entire life"..


really? after all this minutes of a horrific battle WE HAVE TO HEAR that our guy got scared while running through hell for his life??

On the other hand maybe he indeed needed to state this, personally
I dint feel anything during the combat scenes. I am sorry that seing all this body parts flying around din't move me.
Actually I felt more intense while playing Peleliu in COD.

I am giving up on Pacific.
I tried but I can't stand anymore of the cliche dialogues and the bad acting (I hope the guy playing Snafu won't end up getting only roles of disturbed vilains on tv but with the annoying way he acts I doubt he will have a different future)

I've never bothered to write that many negatives reviews about a show but I am really frustrated with this series cause I had expectations.
Mea culpa!

Bryan Murray said...

I’m not positive but I thought they were calling Leckie “cobbler” as in peach cobbler.

I still don’t understand the negativity around the show because the last two episodes had to be two of the most amazing hours of television in years – the chaos in the Peleliu scenes were incredible and hard to take but visually exhilarating. And I was worried about Mazzello in one of the three big roles but he surprised me; he has the completely-freaked-out-and-over-his-head look down to a T.

I had a couple problems with some of the dialogue just like I did at times with BoB – the above quote in the beginning of Alan’s post struck me as very heavy-handed even with the light punch line at the end. And still having trouble time with the passage of time but I realize they’re trying to fit a few years into 10 (closer to 8 or 9?) hours. Thanks again Alan for the recaps and for letting us know about Bruce McKenna’s q and a at www.makingof.com.

Anonymous said...

why cant we see some marines who are good in battle and tough and focused and arent horrified at everything? thats the difference between this and BOB.

Anonymous said...

Uh, the goat's head WAS the poison in the water. Dead animals always foul up the water. You cannot drink water with anything dead floating in it.

Loved BOB when it first played, and still watch it when it reruns. For me, The Pacific is a whole other ballgame, and makes for riveting Sunday viewing, especially when followed by Breaking Bad! No complaints here, cannot wait each week for more! Thanks for the wonderful reviews Alan, and welcome back!

Bino said...

I think Leckie was confused by that last line as well in act six. I've read two guesses. Is anyone certain? Why didn't someone in the HBO exec screenings say, "What the hell did that guy just say??"

ReadJunk said...

Don't know why everyone is so negative for this mini-series. Each episode has been great in my opinion. This episode was just extremely intense to watch. Looking forward to the rest of the series and the upcoming DVD/Blu-ray release.

Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed this series. I loved BoB, but I'm glad they didn't take the easy route and try to recreate it in the Pacific. This series is different, but also very effective. The carnage on Peleliu was very powerful. I don't understand all the negativity from people comparing it to BoB. If you don't like it, don't watch it.
Malek as Snafu is mesmorizing in his balance of creepiness and compassion. Mazzello does a good job of showing a naive boy who views war as glorious, quickly transform into a hardened, steely-eyed veteran. Can't wait for episode 7.

Josh said...

I believe the guy who got shot in the head, carrying the mortar tube, was the guy who had shared his water with everyone in the foxhole before they went out onto the airfield. I think it was more impactful to Sledge because it seemed, for a moment in the foxhole, that he had been blessed with carrying the mortar site like it may make him safer/lighter/more important. His act of kindness, for sharing his water, and being given the mortar site, symbolically led in his death.

Alex Mullane said...

My god that was brutal. The beach landing last week and then the "march" over the airfield this week have been some of the most intense battle sequences I've ever seen.

I like the main characters, and I'm really starting to get a feel for what these men went through. And even though the sense of time isn't conveyed well in relation to the fact that The Pacific takes place over a vastly longer period of time to BoB, I AM starting to get the idea why it's considered that soldiers in the pacific theater had it harder than those in Europe (in some camps at least, obviously both were horrific beyond words).

I am also struggling to fathom the criticism. Yes, some of the dialogue is a little corny or on the nose, but let's not view BoB through rose tinted spectacles; so was a lot of that. "Hell, it was you, First Sargent" springs to mind. There has been nothing as redundant or glaring as that.


One thing I hope you all can help me with... During the first few episodes on Guadalcanal we meet Leckie and his group of friends. We have Leckie, Runner, Hoosier and Other.

Runner is the guy shot in the arm, featured in this episode, who gave Leckie the name 'Peaches'...

Hoosier was the guy shot in the leg last week, about whom Leckie and Runner have still heard no word.

...Who is the other guy? Because I liked the character and the actor, but he's been absent the past few episodes. There was reference to someone called "Chuckles" still being 'stuck on that island'... Is this the guy I'm thinking of? If so, what island? Pelilu or one of the others? And why haven't we seen any of him?

Seems odd that they would feature him prominently in the earlier episodes and then forget him completely. Perhaps this is intentional to convey how friends could easily be lost track of during intense combat, but in terms of TV, to pay such little lip service to him (and so much to Hoosier, also absent) seems odd.

Anyone clarify the situation with this character for me? Thanks a bunch.

KateGee said...

His name is Chuckler. I think he's back on Pavavu (?)

I get that the Pacific was a completely different type of war than the war in Europe. My uncle who just passed away last August served with the RCAF as a navigator doing the Burma Run. He only started talking about some of it in the last couple years of his life. Two of his brothers served in the European theater. I inherited his house and have been going through his papers since last August. He saved everything. I've found out that his nickname was Rio. I've found pictures of people in Calcutta and bombed out London from the Blitz, the men in tents in the severe heat looking thin and tanned, standing in buckets to wash, menus from special Christmas meals in the Mess from 1944. His discharge papers. This series gives me an idea of what he had to contend with and the things he was never able to talk about. So thanks to Playtone.

Chuck said...

NOW I know why I found the criticism of Ep 3 so hard to swallow at first! Because this was the first episode I saw, and let me tell you I was impressed. I then proceeded to watch 1-3, but I still need to catch up on 4-5. I agree that some of the dialogue is cheesy, in fact I think many of the lines are worse than BoB's, but still, we all know BoB wasn't without bad lines. i. e. "Bull, smack him for me please." That line is quite three stooges esque. *Shivers*
Overall, best episode I've seen. Hope they keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I loved BoB and doubt it will be topped. I never had any moments during BoB where the acting or dialogue took me out of the "moment" of the show. I really think the casting in BoB was just better. However, the Pacific is a good show, just not great. As I watched BoB I was already looking forward to watching the episode over. While I am sure that I will watch these Pacific episodes again, I don't expect to watch them over and over.

In addition, I found the battle scenes in BoB better. It seemed like during episode 6 of Pacific that they were trying to show as many body parts blowing up as possible. What was great about BoB was actually feeling like you knew the guys in Easy Company and understood their actions. Six hours into the Pacific and I don't feel the same way about Sledge or Leckie.

I am still looking forward to the last 4 shows, however, I realize now that it simply won't be as amazing as BoB, which was going to be nearly impossible to top anyway.

Kalman said...

Re: the goat: I thought the goat had been drinking the water and died and fell in, though I suppose it does make sense just putting a dead goat in the water would be enough to poison it.

The question that nagged at me thru the whole episode is why, oh why, they chose to cross that wide open airfield in the middle of the day, when a night crossing presumably would have made it harder for the Japanese to pick them off. Any one have any good theories for that one?

Anonymous said...

Re: Day crossing
There are three regiments of Marines landing on slivers of beach and the airfield is, unusually, right near the beach. The Navy is off the beach offloading supplies and offering fire support and aircraft. The Marines cannot afford to sit at the edge of the airfield for 10 or 12 hours not moving while the Navy is exposed to attack, the Marines are exposed to shellfire and mortars and the doctrine calls for expanding the beachhead as quickly as possible so that they don't get shoved into the sea by a counterattack. Generally speaking, their orders are to move as quickly as they can. JB

Anonymous said...

Two more things--the goat's head poisoned the water hole and Leckie's buddy said "Let's go home Cobber".

TinMann0715 said...

Random toughts:

1. When showing scenes from the previous episode. Runner calls Leckie "Cobber."

2. When Phillips meets with Sledge's parents he says that Eugene is with the 1st Marines. HBO.com's maps have him with the 5th. When Leckie goes looking for water his Sgt tells him that the 5th is dry too.

3. The same battle map shows that Leckie never crosses the airfield. Instead, they stay on the flank and fight the enemy.

4. You see flamethrowers during the charge. Get ready for them in the following episodes.

5. When Leckie is initially brought on board his face is slightly scraped. When he is in the mess hall his face is badly burned on one side requiring bandages. This leads me to believe that he got massive sunburn on that side when he was left down below with the sun beaming in from the porthole.

6. "Woof!" OMG that was funny. My sentifments exactly Snafu! "WTF was that that?" Brilliantly stated by Gunny!

7. Notice that they lowered the American flag when the hospital ship started moving. Not sure why.

8. The HBO companion website for "The Pacific" is lightyears better than that of BoB's, which took heavy criticism during the day, and rightfully so. For sure this is one area where "The Pacific" is better.

goodoldnumbernine said...

the character of snafu kind of looks like, and reminds me of, golum from lord of the rings.....to this point, i like BoB better, but that doesn't mean i'm not enjoying the hell out of this.....give an emmy to the actor playing leckie....love the middle aged gunnery sgt. character, when he said woof, it reminded me of a scene from "the wire" when one of cheese's henchman put a cap in a corner boy.....lastly, my late father was a member of the 1st marine division, a WWII/korean war vet, i wish he was still here to see this, he would have loved it

SNAFU said...

re: ". When Phillips meets with Sledge's parents he says that Eugene is with the 1st Marines. HBO.com's maps have him with the 5th. When Leckie goes looking for water his Sgt tells him that the 5th is dry too."

Phillips is referring to the 1st Marine Division. Leckie is in the First Regiment, while Sledge is in the 5th Regiment. Both part of the same division.

re:"One thing I hope you all can help me with..We have Leckie, Runner, Hoosier and Other.
...Who is the other guy? Because I liked the character and the actor, but he's been absent the past few episodes."

Lew "Chuckler" Juergens. Promoted to Corporal in EP1 For his actions @ Tennaru. Present in every episode including episode 5. Absent starting after the beach landing in Peleliu. Leckie attempts to find him and Runner after Hoosier is injured. Runner mentions that Chuckler is still fighting @ Peleliu at conclusion of episode 6.

asterisk8 said...

It's easy to imagine how one might become that "poor bastard" killed with the shovel. It seems to me that he fell asleep and had a nightmare about what he just went through. He started screaming in his sleep, and then when he was awoken, he couldn't quite separate dream from reality at first. Sleepwalkers go through that kind of thing if you try to wake them up. For those that don't sleep walk, it's kind of like when your alarm wakes you up, you get in the shower, brush your teeth, and 9 minutes later your alarm goes off again and you realize you'd been dreaming that whole thing. The point of no return was really once he was fully awake, already panicked, remembering the dream, realizing where he was, and once his mind gave over to that panic, it was an unstoppable feedback loop ending in total mental collapse. Fear, exhaustion, dehydration, starvation, an overwhelmingly traumatic experience, a visceral nightmare, and then panic and physical restraint in a dark, frightening place. We essentially watched a talented actor portray a psychotic break from start to sickening finish. The inevitable result was obvious from the moment that shovel came into play.

Which reminds me, I know a show is good when I'm talking to it. During that scene, I was thinking, "Punch him! Knock him out! Forget morphine, just clock him in the face!" Instead, when the other Marine grabbed the shovel, I said aloud, "Are you crazy? A shovel will kill hi–" THUNK. Oh...

asterisk8 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
asterisk8 said...

(^ Sorry about the double post.)


michaelvankerckhove said...

ALSO, while I'm here, Joe Mazello wrote on his Facebook page: "They cut out my first smoking scene (which happened in episode 5) so when I smoke in ep 6 i look like I've done it before for no reason! boo." Which makes me think of everything else that didn't make it for whatever time/creative restraints were imposed.


Trim the spoilers from the mini-docs, a minute from the intro, 30 seconds each from the recap and teaser, and speed up the credits, and you'd have about 4 extra minutes per episode for stuff like this. We lose 11 more minutes of story each week. It bothers me, can you tell? ;)

nfieldr said...

TinMann0715 said...
Random toughts:

7. Notice that they lowered the American flag when the hospital ship started moving. Not sure why.


This is known as "shifting colors". When in port, a Navy ship displays the ensign (flag) on the stern of the ship. When getting underway (when the last mooring line is aboard or when the anchor is aweigh, ie off of the bottom), the ensign is moved to the gaff, another mast closer to the middle of the ship. When I was on submarines, we moved the ensign from the stern up to the sail while we were underway on the surface.

Madiastuti said...

Dias said:
I'm Indonesian Citizen, After watching The Pacific, sharp things a cross my mind.... somehow I just realize that if it's not because of those brave soldiers who fought hard to kick the japs out of pacific, I don't think my country will rise up our flag and speak Freedom on 1945.

I cry sincerely seeing each scene knowing that each character on that film was a real person, they were exist and they have to experience all of that.... so much for a humankind..

But most of all I fall in love with one man soul "Captain Andrew Allison"Ack Ack" Haldane"
for me he was one of the beautiful soul good ever created! May He rest in peace... my pray for him and the rest of the guys who have bravely fight for giving peace to some other human being!