Thursday, June 18, 2009

Band of Brothers rewind, episode 6: "Bastogne"

We're now into the second half of our trip through "Band of Brothers," and if you don't have the DVDs, or missed HBO's On Demand window, History Channel is doing another marathon this weekend, with the first five episodes Saturday afternoon (1:37-8), and the next five on Sunday (12:16-7, and don't ask me about the weird start times).

Spoilers for "Bastogne" coming up just as soon as I go in a dell...

If you polled fans of the series for their favorite installment, I imagine the next episode, "The Breaking Point," would win in a landslide. And while I certainly have a lot of affection for that one, "Bastogne" was and remains the hour that sticks in my head the most. It's the episode that, on first viewing, was the point where I began to feel confident distinguishing all the characters (ironically, in a show that spotlighted a character who had barely any previous screentime), and it remains the episode that does the best job of making me feel like I understood, even on a superficial level, what the men of Easy Company went through.

The Battle of the Bulge, and, specifically, the siege at Bastogne, is where the legend of the 101st Airborne was made, and I've seen some complaints that the series miscalculated by choosing this moment in the war to show through the eyes of the company medic, Eugene "Doc" Roe (Shane Taylor). These people aren't objecting to the idea of a Roe episode so much as its timing.

For me, though, the "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" approach(*) to the Battle of the Bulge works beautifully. There's still plenty of time for exploding trees and other combat in and around the Ardennes in "The Breaking Point," but in terms of the emotional experience of the siege, I think "Bastogne" absolutely nails it. Even more than "Crossroads," "Bastogne" marks the point when the series shifts to a more overt point-of-view narrative style, and these episodes feel more personal -- and much more involving -- for it.

(*) For those of you not up on your literary devices, this is re-telling a famous story from the perspective of a minor character, and only seeing the major events and players as he sees them. There are a couple of breaks from Roe's POV, notably the combat patrol where Babe Heffron has to watch Pvt. Julian bleed to death, but for the most part, we only find out things if Roe is there to eavesdrop.

The story of Bastogne is that the 101st was terribly short on bodies, and even shorter on supplies, and yet somehow they were able to hold off everything the Germans (who had more men and more materiel) threw at them. And therefore, it feels absolutely right that we should see it as Doc Roe's story. It's more of an abstraction, I think, to talk about how many rounds of ammo each man had than it is to show Roe down to his last Syrette of morphine, or being happy Captain Winters captured a German prisoner because the guy had a spare bandage on him.

More importantly, though, "Bastogne" -- through Bruce McKenna's script, David Leland's direction, and Shane Taylor's performance -- made me look at the position of Army medic, a staple of these sort of movies and TV shows, in an entirely new way. On the surface, the medic seems to have it (relatively) easier than the grunts: he doesn't have to kill, he's far less likely to get shot at, etc. But what we see, over and over in "Bastogne," is the psychic cost of the job. In the heat of combat -- particularly combat as intense as at Bastogne -- when a comrade gets shot, the other soldiers can't focus on it all that much, because they're too busy shooting back and trying to save their own skins. But the man bleeding to death is all that the medic gets to focus on. He can't use his rifle as a distraction, because he has to stick his hands into the wound and try to make the bleeding stop, at least long enough to get him back to the aid station. And whether the men live or die, you see the toll each of them take on Roe, and you begin to understand why he seems to hold himself apart from the men -- why he eats apart from them, and why avoids using their nicknames. It's only after his friend Renee the nurse(**) dies in a shelling of the town that Eugene seems to recognize this approach is futile -- that it hurts just as much whether he gets close to people or he doesn't -- and he lets himself call Heffron "Babe."

(**) The scenes with Renee seem to be the other source of complaint about "Bastogne." As Roe is such a minor character in Ambrose's book -- and as Roe died years before the miniseries was made -- I have no idea if there really was a Renee, or if that was just an invention of McKenna's. But I don't have much of a problem with the character, as she allows Roe to open up about his feelings in a way he simply wouldn't with the other guys in Easy, even the other medic. If she's a dramatic device, she's not a bad one.

Some other thoughts on "Bastogne":

• Leland and the production team do an amazing job of conveying just how bloody cold it was in Bastogne, and how much the men suffered for not having proper winter gear. We open with a shot of endless white, then see Roe's purple fingers shivering from the cold, and from there it's one bit of frozen-over Hell after another.

• As I so often make fun of the Louisiana accents on "True Blood" (if only because they all sound different from one another), I have to ask any locals who are reading: how do you think Shane Taylor (one of many Brits in the "Band of Brothers" cast) tackles Roe's Cajun accent? Authentic, or overcooked?

• We're still trying to be vague about who lives and who dies, but as Smokey Gordon doesn't appear again, I can say that Roe and the surgeons not only saved his life, but helped him recover a fair amount of his mobility. (So much, in fact, that, per the epilogue in Ambrose's book, the Army briefly tried to get out of giving him full disability, until Gordon's father threatened to have his son strip naked on the floor of Congress to show off all his wounds.)

• While the other men (Wild Bill Guarnere, in particular) are growing beards while out there in the woods, I like that Winters is still making an effort to shave every day, even if it's with freezing cold water.

• General McAuliffe's response to the German offer of surrender -- "Nuts!" (short for "Nuts to you!") -- would, 60+ years later, be appropriated by Skeet Ulrich on "Jericho," and in turn become the centerpiece of one of the more (temporarily) successful Save Our Show campaigns ever.

• This episode also has one of my favorite end title sequences of the series, though the question of whether Easy needed to be "rescued" by Patton seems more a matter of semantics than pride.

• We get more signs that "Foxhole" Norman Dike isn't up to commanding the company, particularly at this point in time. And between Harry Welsh's Christmas injury ("in a dell") and Buck Compton's increasing PTSD symptoms (check out how panicked he got by the singing), Easy is going to have a major leadership vacuum, which is the subject of "The Breaking Point." But we can talk about that sometime next week, likely on Monday.

Keeping in mind the who lives/dies thing, what did everybody else think?


Marlene said...

I cannot really add much to what you said Alan. Other than that Renée Lamiere was in fact real and that only her meeting Doc Roe was a result of creative liberty. Here's an article from a sergeant who witnessed her death:
Oh, and while I'm out of lurkedom: thank you for reviewing BoB! I've watched the show years ago and now I'm seeing it again and in a completely different way.

Jaynee said...

I wouldn't call this my favorite episode - but it is definitely one that I think about the most when I think about the overall BoB story.

I think telling the story from Roe's point of view was the best way to tell it - you see medics in various war movies but never really get to know them (Giovanni Ribisi in "SPR" notwithstanding). They are just dudes with red/white armbands who go in to pull the injured to safety. So I think Roe's POV is a very important one.

Shane Taylor is very affecting as Roe. I like that his accent isn't over-the-top cajun (it would have been obnoxious if it had been).

We're in the home stretch at our house - we watched "The Breaking Point" a couple nights ago and should receive the last DVD from Netflix in the mail today. This is my husband's first time watching the miniseries and I can tell that he likes it because normally he hems and huhs about watching something (or worse - falls asleep while watching), but whenever I say "you ready for Band of Brothers?" he comes right over to the TV, sits down to watch and never falls asleep.

Mr Whirly said...

Nice Rosencrantz analogy! I love that play and the play that inspires its dialogue, "Waiting for Godot." I guess I'm just not into the whole "what was real" part of BoB because I assume in most historical fiction that characters are sometime amalgams of a few people. But I also understand that point of view. I love this episode but I love "The Breaking Point" even more. They tend to run together in my head so I won't reference any parts of the plot in case it is a spoiler. Plot device or not, I thought the nurse and the church was a respite for Roe and for the audiences senses during this episode. It is also another episode that shows how much we all take our access to chocolate for granted.

Karl Ruben said...

Thanks for doing these, Alan; terrific reading as always. Also: typo in your headline and twitter ("Bastgone").

Anonymous said...

I have been waiting for you to get to this episode, Alan.

I avoided this series during it's initial run. While I knew that the battle scenes would be extremely well-done--as in Saving Private Ryan--I was afraid that the characters would be flat, Olde Timey WWII movie cliches--as in Saving Private Ryan.

Some basic cable channel ran a marathon a couple years back, and I ended up turning it on just for some background noise. The first episode I "saw" was Crossroads, but it did nothing for me, and I barely watched it. Then Bastgone aired and five minutes in, I was hooked. The series went from background noice to foreground and I watched striaght throught he end. The next week I bought the box set and watched it from the begining.

Because Roe was my entry point to the series, I always focused on his character during whatever limited screen time he got. One of my favorite Roe moments is from Crossroads when he berates Winters for not knowing how much morphine was given after the friendly fire indecent. "You should know! You're officers! You're grownups!"

Otto Man said...

The scene of Roe going back into town -- supposedly for a "hot meal" at Winters' orders -- and finding it getting shelled to hell is amazing.

So much chaos expressed in a few quick shots.
An explosion behind the church, and then the flaming jeep rolling by with no warning and no follow up.

Anonymous said...

I do not recall much fondness for this episode when I watched this this ep when it aired. It was a bit of a let down because I expected "Battle of the Buldge" hand to hand, foxhole to foxhole blood and guts and they gave us the medic and chocolat. I felt like Lip during the firefight when he was back with Roe saying "I should be up on the line"

Given that, I really enjoyed rewatching this episode. Now that I know all the guys, their small interactions are very enjoyable to watch. Also, the small moments take on more importants since you know some of the guys are not going to be around for long.

I like when the General (I think) asks for a status and they tell him how bad things are and all he says is "hold the line".

-- Millhouse

Sister T said...

I agree, the depiction of the cold and snow was so well done through both visuals and sound. (I thought the sound was especially good, it sounded like a snowy forest). The snow was a powerful visual tool in that it represented both beauty and death. Most of all, I love the image of Doc Roe crouched against that tree in the snow and fog, waiting in the beautiful Ardennes for something awful to happen.

I suspect officers were required to shave. Were the enlisted men exempt? Any military historians out there know the answer? It seems a silly rule in those cold, freezing circumstances.

I love where Babe falls in a German foxhole.

I finally picked up on Perconte's fastidiousness this episode and laughed out loud at
Perconte [to wounded Sisk]: Awh, Skinny, you got blood all over my trousers.
Sisk [after a long scream of pain and through gritted teeth]: I'm real sorry Frank.

I found it so shocking when Harry Welsh got hit. The scene starts off a little light and humorous, "we're in a dell," plus its Christmas Eve, plus it's a group of officers. I wasn't expecting the Germans to really start shelling then. But they did. Poor Harry.

The scene with bombed out church gutted me because I thought of not just the nurses, but the dead wounded men, Sisk and Gordon presumably among them.

Indeed said...

This is the episode that I officially fell in love with Band of Brothers (and Easy Company). But Breaking Point is my favourite far and away. It strikes an emotional chord in me that very few other pieces of television do.

Alyson said...

I can't pick a favorite episode yet until I'm all the way through the series, but I thought Shane Taylor did an excellent job in this episode. One thing that particularly struck me is how ghostly he looks in certain shots - the contrast between his very dark hair and his incredibly pale skin is quite striking.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also: typo in your headline and twitter ("Bastgone").

Sigh... you would think I would know how to spell Bastogne in my sleep by now...

Anonymous said...

Does the History Channel show full, uncensored versions of the episodes or am I better off tracking down the DVDs? Sorry if this is a duplicate post.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I believe History Channel bleeps some of the profanities, but in my brief viewing of their versions, I haven't noticed anything significant in the way of cutting out story. (That's one of the reasons the timeslots are so weird; the episodes are of irregular length to begin with -- most of them running longer than an hour -- and now someone's adding commercials.)

Anonymous said...

One thing that struck me with both Bastogne episodes is how well they're able to convey the sense of cold. I end up shivering just by watching.

GMB said...

Well, I do love my profanity uncensored, but as long as it's not cutting for time or violence, I'll give it a shot on the History Channel. I can't believe I've never taken the time to watch this before, even though I've meant to for years. Your reviews inspired me, as always. Thanks.

Jordan said...

My favorite point in the series, like so many others is about to come, but this was the episode that really made me fall in love with the series. It's probably the most self-contained episode, and sets up one hell of a run.

Hatfield said...

I have to agree, this episode is the one that made me realize I was watching something special. I like that they gave us just enough Roe before now to pull it off. All I could think about while watching was how lucky I am I've never had to endure anything like this, and just how brave and tough these men were.

Thanks for giving an epilogue to Smokey, since I didn't know how to ask without giving away the fact that he never comes back. Since time can be funny on this, I was worried guys like he and Sisk were still in the church when it was blown up, but to hear that he even got back mobility is welcome news indeed. For some reason his injury stays with me unlike almost any other in the series, maybe because of how it goes through one arm, through him, and out the other arm, or because he had just gotten his machine gun ready and leaned back for water or coffee or something--if his timing had been just a little different, maybe he doesn't get hit. The way he slumps and exhales is just awful...

A question, though: isn't it Liebgott and Martin who have to watch that Pvt. who got shot on patrol writhe around, with Lieb yelling at him to stop moving? I finished last week, so I could be off, but I didn't remember it being Babe.

Much like other posters, this episode and the next have minor parts that bleed together, so while I can remember all the major developments from each one, I'm gonna refrain from mentioning any of the little character moments, lest I spoil.

And a shout-out to Taylor, who carries this episode so well I'm personally offended his IMDb page is so light.

Alan Sepinwall said...

A question, though: isn't it Liebgott and Martin who have to watch that Pvt. who got shot on patrol writhe around, with Lieb yelling at him to stop moving? I finished last week, so I could be off, but I didn't remember it being Babe.

The two actors look similar with their helmets on (at the very least, they're both baby-faced and scrawny), but I believe it's Babe yelling for Julian to stop moving, which is why he's so messed-up after the patrol, and why Roe spends so much of the remainder of the episode trying to cheer him up.

Anonymous said...

Great episode. As some have already said, it conveys the bitter cold quite well. I was amazed when I learned it was done on a soundstage in England.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I suspect officers were required to shave.

They weren't required, Winters says in his book, "Beyond Band of Brothers," that Sink preferred his officers to be clean-shaven. Winters did it both to impress his commanding officer, and to show to the men below him that, regardless of how bad things got, Winters expected to survive this.

Hatfield said...

...culminating in his calling him "Babe" finally. That makes sense. I forgot to mention how much the Hinkel stuff cracks me up but also shows what these guys are dealing with. Yeah, it's kinda funny, but Babe and the other medic still had to run for their lives, and they're laughing about it with the guys later. Great stuff.

Alice Wu said...

By far the best storytelling episode of the series, in my opinion. And much like everyone else, this was the episode that hooked and engaged me the most into the series.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hinkel apparently became a running gag among the guys involved in their post-war lives. They'd call each other on the phone and ask if Hinkel was there.

Henry said...

I've seen the Band of Brothers episodes on the DVR menu from time to time but I never record them. Anyone know if the episodes they show on The History Channel are unedited? That is my main problem with the episodes that pop up on basic cable channels.

Henry said...

Oops. Sorry, jsut ignore the comment I just left now. It was asked earlier in the comments.

Hatfield said...

Ok, in my extreme dorkiness I went back and watched the scene again, and it's not that Babe and Liebgott look all that similar in helmets, it's that Babe, while screaming at Julian not to move, looks remarkably like Liebgott always does. I need to watch the whole series again, armed with familiarity this time around, so I can watch Moe and Skinny and More and Smokey and Grant and McClung and all the rest who are always around but seldom featured.

A crediting question, and I'll step lightly to avoid spoilers: how the heck did they decide who gets featured in the opening credits? There are minor characters who get their name in there every episode they're in, and then people we spend more time with, like Liebgott, Hoobler, Tab and Babe, who seldom, if ever, got their names in the opening credits. Seems random to me.

Sister T said...

Hatfield, you're not alone. I've made the same Liebgott/Heffron mistake in that same scene for the same reason.

tinmann0715 said...

I stated in the blog for #3 that Bastogne was my least favorite. After reading Alan's blog and everyone's comments I am slowly coming around. However, it is far from my top episode. As stated before, I love war movies and I particularly love battle scenes. The biggest and most intense battle scene of the whole miniseries was left on the cutting room floor because the camera decided to follow Roe and Smokey into town. I had such high expectations for this episode when I first watched it. You can imagine my disappointment.
If you rewatch the episode and you pay attention to the dialogue between Heffron and Julian you then realize the full consequences of the firefight at the woodpile. Plus, that scene was put there to reinforce the comments made by Easy at the beginning of #4. Julian was a replacement himself.

Sister T said...

That's something I forgot to mention, how terrifying it was when those tanks emerged from the woods and rumbled toward Easy's feeble little line. By cutting away, the writer/director seemed to emphasize that Easy just matter-of-factly took on such heavy pressure and succeeded. But, tinmann, I can see your disappointment with the episode in not viewing that battle. And now I'm curious to learn more about it.

paul said...

The focus on Roe really bothered me the first time I watched the episode, but much less so after repeated viewings. For one thing, the heaviest of the fighting was not on Easy's front, but we saw enough of the battle to realize how hellish it was. And I have to echo what everyone said about how well the cold was depicted.

All that said, the bit I felt was missing was how the airborne troops managed to fend off German armor. We see an armored attack start up near the end of the episode, but not how Easy managed to withstand it. Even after watching this series as many times as I have, I feel utter dread when the German tanks break through the trees.

Alan Sepinwall said...

One of the Easy vets who survived in the war and appeared in the "Band of Brothers" interviews (and "We Stand Alone Together") died yesterday. Let's avoid discussing his identity here until we get to the end of the series, but I thought some people here might want to know.

Hatfield said...

Thanks for the info, and I hope more and more people can watch this and the documentaries, and read the books, to learn and appreciate all he and these other men did for us. And this is coming from someone who is not remotely patriotic.

Unknown said...

Bastogne is, by a hair, my favorite in the series, if only because of the complete 180 I did on it. After reading the episode description, I was incredibly disappointed that the episode would focus on just one character, and the rarely seen medic at that, but the episode itself was just so stunning and affecting that I felt a little shell shocked after watching it. Shane Taylor is amazing as Roe. I don't think the accent was over the top, but I liked the fact that it was definitely "Cajun" and not "Generic Southern." His Cajun French was very well done, I thought, but someone who actually speaks it might have some qualms.

It's such a beautifully shot episode, really capturing how calm and silent a forest should be in the snow (despite being a soundstage) and just how awful the job of a medic could be.

Is this the episode where Apollo shows up or is it not until The Breaking Point?

Toeknee said...

That is very sad news Alan but thanks for posting it.

This is yet another great episode, but I'd put it around #4 or #5 overall. But that's just my opinion, of course.

As many said, you get a real sense of how brutally cold it was for them. Nowadays when I'm stuck outside on a cold winter day, feeling miserable, I think of this episode (and of what the real soldiers must have felt like) and somehow I don't feel quite so cold.

And I agree with those praising Shane Taylor's acting. There are so many scenes where he doesn't say much but you still know exactly what he's thinking and feeling.

greentara said...

Thanks to Marlene for the link on Renee Lemaire. Although she never really met Doc Roe, her part in this episode fit nicely with the overall story and it's a great tribute to another Bastogne war hero. Kudos to the writer.

Alan, I teared up reading that. These guys affect me like no other. What a great series.

Toeknee said...

Another thought about watching this show on the History Channel. One benefit to doing that is that you can turn on the closed captioning - a lot of times that helps you figure out what is being said, especially in the battle scenes. That is the biggets problem I have with the DVD's - no subtitles were provided. Maybe the Blu-Ray discs have it?

Toeknee said...

The writer of this episode, Bruce McKenna, responded to similar criticisms on the HBO discussion boards back in 2001. Here’s what he had to say:

“Understand your disappointment about the battle scene. In actuality, it was a single Tiger tank that came out of the woods, with about a Company of Germans. The Tiger was hit by a Sherman to the North/NorthWest of Easy's lines. Didn't hurt the Tiger. Many of the men of easy didn't see the tank (that's how spread out they were). The tank then apparently retreated back into the woods, which is why there was no wreckage.

“The other thing they chose not to film was Shifty Powers and Earl McClung slinking down across no man's land into the German trees and shooting the sniper (and a few other Germans) that shot Walter Gordon.

“No one could tell me why the Tiger stopped. It might have been the terrain. It might have been because they were losing so many infantrymen (more than 30 dead).

“I chose to focus on Roe and the wounded. I think you'll all get enough combat in the next two episodes”

And later he said this:

“To fill in some of those holes:

“Not much happened to Easy from December 18th to the 24th attack you saw in Six. Unlike many other companies, Easy was in a relatively quiet sector. You want to get a fuller picture, read Koskimaki's The Battered Bastards of Bastogne. The Germans really tried very hard to break through with lots of Armor to the South of Easy. Very bloody stuff.

“So we were faced with a dilemma from a film making p.o.v. What do you show when not as much happens?

“I made the conscious decision to focus on Roe, and avoid the same sort of combat sequences we've seen before (which was easy, because other than the one patrol where Julian died, nothing much happend until the German attack on the 24th).

“Another thing missing from the show was the constant sound of German armor clanking around. The men heard it and it got VERY tiring and nerve wracking.

“You'll get more than your dose of combat next week, I promise.”

Toeknee said...

Here's more from Bruce McKenna, about Earl McClung:

"The battle was also sufficiently long that McClung, Shifty and one other man (I'd have to check my notes) chugged down into the German woods and shot the sniper who hit Smokey. I had it in original draft. It was pretty cool, because Earl shot another German behind his back. (Shifty saw it).

"Another thing: Earl hated the fact that the Germans had hot food. Every morning an older guy in a winter coat dragged a SLED along the edge of the German woods, the steam rising out of a big pot.

"So, Earl snuck down in the night. Burrowed into the snow. And when the guy chugged by at dawn, Earl put a charge on the sled...and then watched as it blew up, peppering the old man with hot chow.

"Earl got shortchanged by Ambrose and shortchanged by BoB. I was told by several men that he was, simply, the best combat soldiers in the war. He could literally SMELL the Germans (Because of their unique leather straps, which, when wet, gave off a pungent odor).

"Anyway...I could go on for days about Earl. He's my favorite of all of'em.

"Went AWOL everytime they got off the line. And I'm not sayin' where he went."

Toeknee said...

OK, one last one from Bruce McKenna:

"As one of the men (Shifty) said, we could completely redo the entire miniseries and focus on completely different men and not repeat one single scene.... My personal favorite is Ralph Spina at Bastogne, who was too cold and concerned to get out of his foxhole to take a he peed into a Condom, tied it off and threw it out into the snow...Where Wild Bill Guarnere found it the next morning, and amid the horrors of Bastogne, broke up the Second Platoon by intoning: "Hey, who's gettin' LAID out here?"

kwig said...

The cutting away from the line as easy is getting rolled on by panzers always annoyed me too. It's heavily implied that the average easy guy has about 10 rounds for his M1 and not much else, let alone effective anti-tank weapons.

When I read this recap I decided to look into it, and it turns out there was a fair bit of American armor and anti-armor in and around Bastogne, mostly quick m18 tank destroyers. They were actually, even in those circumstances, incredibly effective with hit and run actions, taking out even heavy panzers (Tigers etc.) in significant numbers. This led to the German commanders overestimating the resistance in Bastogne and holding back a bit.

So I have to assume they got some assistance at some point after Roe leaves. As a general rule, man for man German armor was superior to American armor, but even with strength of numbers they couldn't break Bastogne. The defenders had that much more at stake, granted, what with the SS murdering POW's left and right during the battle of the bulge, you held the line or you died.

the Stanfield Org. said...

Alan, I know and respect your rule re. not posting without reading all the previous comments, but just had to chime in to say that I agree 100% that, IF Nurse Renee is/was merely an artistic device of choice, she was integrated PERFECTLY into world of BOB/Easy Company. I am one of the legion of BOB followers who put 'The Breaking Point' at the very top of my list of episodes, but think 'Bastogne' is the absolute perfect lead-in to my favorite hour of TV of all time. (The actor that plays) Doc Rowe (and all of his co-stars) perfectly lays the ground for all that is to follow.

Anonymous said...

I just have to say a few words about Tom Brokaw's phrase, called the generation that fought in WWII as the "greatest generation".

Personally, I think it is not only bullshit, I consider it an insult to other generations of Americans who have endured a great deal of traumatic events in U.S. history. I'm not putting down this generation. But I'll be damned if I'll put them on a pedestal at the expense of other generations.

Jeffrey said...

There was a recent poll a couple of weeks ago on a forum and Bastogne came top with 30%, followed by Why We Fight with 20% and The Breaking Point with 18%.

Anonymous said...

This (along with "The Breaking Point") is my favorite episode of Band of Brothers. I really enjoyed the medic's POV and thought Shane Taylor did a great job showing how the job was wearing Roe down. The forest was hauntingly beautiful.

Thanks Alan for reviewing the miniseries. Gives me another reason to watch it all over again!

The Irish Cowgirl said...

While I agree that "The Breaking Point" is probably one of the, if not the, best in the series, this episode is the one that is the most affecting to me.
My boyfriend is a medic in the Army right now, in the 101st as a matter of fact. And re-watching this episode recently haunted me in a way I can't quite describe.
After watching this episode, I heard the pained screams of "Medic!" in my sleep. I saw blood on my hands and imagined it on my friends. I imagined watching and desperate trying to help them with their immeasurable pain as the world burned down around me. And then I went home and cried.
Medics are frequently seen as the "lucky ones," however, they are anything but. Not only do they have to deal with the very same things that all soldiers do, they also frequently hold their friends' lives in their hands. And what they do does not make them exempt from danger. My boyfriend has the shrapnel, knife, and bullet wounds to prove it.
Whether a person believes that "Bastogne" was inaccurate or ill-advised to show it through the eyes of a medic, I can't say that I care. For me, at the very least, it helped me understand what medics, and what my medic, must go through. And it gave the world their eyes, if only for an hour.

Carolyn said...

so beautifully filmed. the bleak cold winter just came alive.

LSUFreek said...

Alan, if I wouldn't have heard him say he was half-cajun, I wouldn't have recognized the accent. At first I thought he was a New Yorker, then when the heritage was revealed, I listened closer and it was recognizable, but not on the mark. Still a more valiant effort than most cajun treaments get on film (specifically Dennis Quaid's turn in The Big Easy---the horror!)

Curiously, I wonder how much Ambrose's living in New Orleans influenced his decision to spotlight a chapter to a half-cajun.

Great introspective episode.

J-rod said...

An anonymous comment above mentioned their surprise to learn this was shot on a sound stage but I could never shake the fakiness of the episode. I loved the medic viewpoint they used and this was my favorite episode in memory from my first viewing precisely because it was so attached to his perspective. But rewatching it I was reminded how much I hated the soundstage set (and the CGI during the drop was pretty atrocious too).

Anonymous said...

This was the first episode i had watched and the first to start my love for Band Of Brothers.I love Roe he's one of my favorite characters and like someone said before one of my favrite Roe moments is in crossroads when he's yelling at Winters and Welsh and at the end he gets into the ambulence you you see water flicker from his canteen.That just add more to the part,and makes me grin everytime.

Rebecca Jill said...

This episode is particularly beautifully haunting not only due to the snowy cold depicted but also when someone needs a medic, yelling "Medic!," it turns out it's just not one someone it's many someones. And the medic then becomes someone who needs/wants to be in more than one place at the same time to do his job.
Shane Taylor pulled this performance off beautifully

Anonymous said...

Fanastic review of Bastogne.
The first time I saw BOB, I barely noticed Roe up until this episode, but when I eventually got to it, it became my favorite of the series.
The battle through the eyes of Doc Roe adds compassion and a very human perspective to the difficulties the soldiers went through.
Shane Taylors portrayal of Roe was incredibley haunting and captivating all at once. There were moments when my heart was breaking for him, he didn't have to use words, but the look on his face when he heard the word MEDIC called by one of his mates said so much.
Since re-watching BOB, I've made it a point to watch out for Roe throughout the pre-bastogne episodes and again, am encouraged by the actions of Roe tending to the soldiers needs as he see's them.
There are so many fantastic characters and episodes, to point one out in particular would be a criminal offence, but from my perspective, right here and now, Bastogne would have to take the award for being the episode I would be most easily able to relate to, on an emotional level anyway.
Top points to all the actors who portrayed members of the 101st airborn, they were all unforgetable.

Anonymous said...

Re: Shane Taylors accent,

I listened to a radio interview with him recently and he said that both he and the casting directors were working towards something that was inbetween old-school cajun (which is often quite incomprehensible) and a sort of soft generalised american accent. The idea was to have it be obvious that he was from a different state/culture to his comrades, but without making it too overpowering for the character.

Personally I think Shane pulled it off brilliantly ('We don't GOT no aid station!)and I didn't actually know he was British, same with Heffron, I really bought his Philly accent ('Edward? Are you serious!?').

'Bastogne' is far and away my favourite episode. Brilliant dialogue and acting, and a lot of character development, I felt. The part where Julian is dying and Babe is shouting at him to stop moving and to hold on, then he has to leave him there, the look in his eyes is just gutwrenching, gets me every time.

Anonymous said...

Years on from this post, I'd like to add something. This is the most impressive piece of writing in the series. The framing that McKenna uses here of making the episode a quest for morphine is the best way to get a view of everyone in their individual foxholes, get a sense of what was bothering each of them, and dramatize the act of waiting as suffering. In addition, this is maybe the most stylized episode visually, to the point where it reminds me of certain Japanese films (especially the scene shown in the picture at the top.) And somehow they manage to give Roe a full character arc. It's really remarkable, and I steal from it all the time as a writer.

Doug Eisenstark said...

It was a great episode. I dd find the forest staging episodes 6 and 7 were too artificial. Not enough breath coming from mouths and those sweeping camera moves through the trees just confirmed the soundstage. Thought it should have been more confined. I would have liked it more if the nurse wasn't the same age and frankly attractive. I think the bond would have been even stronger as it wouldn't be so predictable.