Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Unit: Man down

Spoilers for "The Unit" coming up just as soon as I shine my boots...

There are episodes of "The Unit" -- last week's, for instance -- where the wives' storyline feels particularly shoehorned in, as if someone at CBS told Ryan and Mamet that they would lose female viewers if the wives were absent for a week. Last night's episode was something different, in that the usage of the wives was absolutely appropriate, but the action storyline (Jonas' one-man mission) seemed obligatory.

Ryan and Mamet waited until the third season to kill off a regular because they wanted the death to have meaning for the viewers (though the death would have had far more meaning if it hadn't been one of the two sidekicks), and so I was expecting "Play 16" to dwell entirely on how everyone handled that death. I suppose an argument could be made that a solo suicide mission is exactly how Jonas Blaine would respond to the death of one of his men, but every time we cut to the MidEast scenes, I wished we were back in Col. Ryan's office, or with Mac at the coroner's, Grey's hospital room, or even with Molly, Kim and Tiffy as they planned the funeral.

Still, there were many affecting moments, with the big throat-lump moment coming at the funeral when Col. Ryan called out the names of the Unit members one by one until he got to Hector's. I'm sure that's a real ritual, and it was far more moving than I think any flowery eulogy might have been. Plus, these are men who don't do flowery. I loved that Bob refused to tell the reporter anything about Hector beyond his fondness for ice in his beer; to the reporter, that felt like nothing, where to Bob that was probably giving up more info than he wanted. Knowledge of who and what Hector was, even small details like that, is something private to the men who served with him and the women who knew him, and Bob found a way to protect that while still getting what he wanted out of the reporter.

One question for you all: the screener I watched was a rough cut that didn't have main titles. After the show went to all that trouble to create that goofy new opening credits sequence with the five guys walking towards us in slick suits (probably because someone in CBS research found that the military angle was a turn-off to some viewers and thought new credits could fool them), did they redo them for this episode, or was Hector still walking with the others?

What did everybody else think?


Tom O'Keefe said...

The credits were without Hector. I don't recall if he was anything besides "the walk" but if he was, he isn't now.

I've always been a fan of the show. (With the exception of the first two episodes this season that seemed like a huge cop out.) I'm not really a fan of action shows. The only reason I started watching was because of Mammet. But I think this show has a done a great job of showing the hard choices that combat sometimes necistates. And it has shown that without using the easy morality and second guessing that those of us who aren't in battle have the luxury of. It walks a very fine line quite well.

Alan Sepinwall said...

So does that mean that there was a new version of "the walk" sans Hector?

Tom O'Keefe said...

That is correct. There was "the walk" but there was no Hector.

Anonymous said...

Alan: "...the action storyline (Jonas' one-man mission) seemed obligatory."

Agreed, mostly because, contra an assertion made in last week's discussion, the unit doesn't just "kill people they don't like," and Jonas's ultimate capture of the assassin was never in doubt. But then, the show knew that as well, since that part of the story was over by the halfway mark.

Even more than the funeral, I was deeply touched by the surviving soldiers looking down at Hector's corpse and agreeing he looked pretty; as you say, these aren't flowery men, and it took this knowing wink at masculine/feminine cliches for them to acknowledge the loss of someone still in his prime of life.

The beat with the chaplain about performing the Wiccan ceremony shows again that The Unit is likely unparalleled in its upfront portrayal of on-base life. The exploitation of loan companies, the complications of protesters, the maddening, if arguably necessary, hierarchies. I've not seen Army Wives yet (no Lifetime), but I'll be pleasantly surprised if it gets as much right.

It's also a mark of the show's forthrightness that the chaplain didn't excuse Kim's happiness at hearing anyone other than Bob has died, or soothe her religious anxieties.

Anonymous said...

re: your comment about hyphenates and actors and the strike and running out of previously expected episodes, I'd like to let everyone have a preview of next fall's TV season (or I would, if my boss hadn't reminded me that it will probably start this coming January)

Anonymous said...

let's try it like this
Next fall on ABC

(I'm having flashbacks to Real People, That's Incredible, and Those Amazing Animals)

Anonymous said...

The new opening credits did include Hector and now they don't. Pretty clever, actually, considering they "never existed." The "Hector Version" can be seen on youtube. Search The Unit New Theme Song.

Unknown said...

I have been to one to many memorials for my fallen brothers. The Roll Call at the end of the service is almost 100% correct. Most units do it differently.. and it varies from soldier to soldier.
I loved and hated to see it at the same time

this show, is hollywood at its finest but nails most of the small details

Anonymous said...

The chaplain was a great character.
Tough but not entirely unsypathetic
to what Kim (and later ep. Bob)
had to say.

If they ever end this stupid strike
I think the chaplain needs to be
the new member of the unit.

Maybe they want to set that up?
He did say "I was a member of the
teams before I went to seminary.."

Oh,and as a woman,I have very
little interest in the wives 70%
of the time. A few of the story
lines are okay,but most of the
time....boring! "Oh look! Molly
is being sassy and Tiffy is a screwed up mess!"