In the first part of Band of Brothers, the men of Easy Company prepare for their destiny. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start Band of Brothers.
Oh, this should be interesting.
A few rules before we get this going, and even if you’re a regular around here, you should read these. They are different this time around.
1) Please be wary of spoilers specifically for this show. Upon reflection, I thought the idea of enforcing a spoiler policy for actual recorded history is the most absurd thing imaginable, so all I ask is this: Don’t go out of your way to tell me or any others watching this for the first time what certain episodes will cover, what actors appear in later parts, or any specific scenes. I understand that while the series takes some literary license, most of this actually happened. Talking about history? Totally fine. Don’t be rude or inconsiderate to someone who is clearly watching this for the first time. Let them experience the wonder and the shock on their own. If you’re uncertain about what counts as a spoiler or not (and I know this is going to be confusing), the best bet is to just use rot13 to cypher your commentary anyway.
2) Please listen to the moderators if they choose to rot13 something you’ve said or they warn you about your language. We attempt to have a safe community here, and that means you may be asked to take care of what you say and how you say it. Consider what they say as coming from me.
3) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT POST GIFS OR IMAGES OF GORE/BLOOD IN THE MAIN COMMENT OF A THREAD. Please keep them behind a cut and warn for such images at the top of the thread. I actually have no idea how violent this show is in terms of gore on the screen, but still. Don’t do this.
4) My video commission files are available for $0.99 a piece, and they can be downloaded/shared ten times each! These videos are my live commentary while watching each episode for the first time. As is customary ’round here, the first episode is available for free during the duration of this double feature. It’s also in the store as well. Please note that the first file is nearly 900MB in case you’re surprised by the increase in size.
And with that, let’s begin Band of Brothers.
I nearly watched this show in 2012 for Mark Watches, but ultimately decided against it. And even as I began to watch “Currahee” for the first time, I still had the same concerns I had then. I’ve stuck to fictional narratives for Mark Watches because I’ve never been sure that I could actually do my style of analysis for a non-fiction narrative, and I’m very much aware of the challenges this presents me. Non-fiction narratives have more to them because there’s now the element of realism. Were things replicated properly? Are they historically accurate? If famous figures are represented, is the portrayal on the screen believable? Even my normal method of dissecting plots and character development doesn’t truly come into play here.
But I mainly kept away from Band of Brothers because I wasn’t sure I knew enough.
I studied World War II in college, but nothing terribly expansive; the same goes for my education in high school, though I studied it more in-depth than most kids because I took AP European History during my sophomore year. But was that enough? This was a long and internationally vital period in history. It shaped governments. It changed the way international diplomacy operated. I mean, there’s no way to summarize the affect World War II had on this planet. There’s just not. So how do I write about this? How do I deal with a very specific narrative? All I knew about this miniseries was that it followed Easy Company, and I had a general idea of the battles they were involved with.
Honestly, it was intimidating. So I moved it off the schedule, thinking that someday, I’d eventually get around to it. Now that I am, I knew that there’d be no way to ever feel like I was properly “prepared” for this miniseries. I’d just have to experience it. And you know what? There’s no way everyone who has watched it and loved it is an expert in World War II. There’s no way that I’m the most ignorant person who’s going to attempt watching Band of Brothers, and there’s a comfort in that. I have to start somewhere.
I can see, though, that the framing of this miniseries will allow me to talk about some of the more familiar things I discuss. There’s a clear poetic narrative to “Currahee” that follows the Easy Company from training to those C-47 planes headed to Normandy. Again, I don’t know what liberty the writers have taken here, and I was only familiar with a few of these names, like Lieutenant Richard Winters. But this first part focuses on his point of view from that in media res opening back to the training he and the other men received under 1st Lt. Herbert Sobel. Played by David Schwimmer in a role I AM NEVER GOING TO FORGET. I didn’t know that man had that in him, and even for a brutal and cruel drill instructor, he’s unlike any drill instructor I’ve ever seen. “Currahee” doesn’t skimp on portraying his vicious nature, but for all the dramatics to Sobel, he’s also not that good at his job. Well, that’s not quite right. He does whip Easy Company in shape (better than any of the other battalions) through his disciplinary style. Even when he’s later transferred away from Easy Company, Sobel’s superior admits what a fine job Sobel has done.
But there’s a quiet desperation to Sobel that only comes out when he’s out in the field with his men. On the base, during training, he’s an efficient and brutal force, but he’s unsure and hopeless once he’s away from the structure and certainty of training. It’s through this that Winters begins his growth as the natural leader of Easy Company. There’s no nonsense to Winters, no theatrics, and none of the unbridled intensity of Sobel. And I think the rest of the company respected that becauseâ€¦ well, Winters never surprised the others. He was remarkably dependable, and isn’t that the reason Winters gave Meehan about why these men volunteered for Easy Company? They wanted to make sure they were next to the best man possible in the foxhole.
It’s the explanation for why they are all so upset and frustrated with Sobel. This man and his refusal to let go of his ego is going to get them killed when they’re facing real guns and real Germans. I mean, look, I’m an ignorant asshole, and even I knew what a huge deal it was that the Sergeants all got together to refuse to serve under Sobel. I’m sure Colonel Sink knew this, too! He took their protest seriously, even if he blasted them to their faces.
So there is character development here, even if it’s strange to talk about because these are all real people. We don’t think of our friends and loved ones as developing like characters. (Oh god, maybe we should.) But as I mentioned before, the way this unfolds feels like a novel. It’s ridiculously detailed. There’s a massive cast of characters, and I admit that I can barely recall the names of most of them aside from the ones I’ve mentioned and Nixon, Guarnere, and Toye. (HI KIRK ACEVEDO. YOU ARE ONE OF MY FAVORITE HUMANS EVER.) I know that is going to be a challenge, too.
But gods, y’all, the way the story unfolds is already incredible. I kept commenting on the rapidly approaching date of the Normandy landing – June 6, 1944 – because the way this part is framed is deliberately to build suspense. Well, suspense and dread. Even if you don’t know what happened on D-Day, you know that these people are heading towards something huge, daunting, and flat out scary. It’s a clever way to dramatize the story, I admit, and it’s only made better by the gorgeous cinematography. I loved how gritty the soldiers looked in the plane. I love that shot of the soldiers staring upon the Statue of Liberty, many who were probably seeing it for the first and last time. And I even noticed the deliberate way that light was framed as a storytelling device. Nearly all of the training sequences were bright and full of contrasting colors, but as Easy Company got closer and closer to Europe, the color palette became more and more limited, until we’re inside that dark, grimy airplane.
At this point, though, I’m still uncertain of how Band of Brothers will unfold. I imagine we’ll follow Winters for the most part, and I’m guessing the next episode will cover the Invasion of Normandy. They’re also setting up Guarnere into a heartbreaking place right at the beginning, and y’all, I’m pretty sure this is a sign that I should prepare myself for a lot of devastation. Like, a lot of it. I don’t think the violence will affect me all that much, but I’ve always felt a little strange watching war films or re-creations of war. It’s because of my father, I know that, and I know that it’s largely irrational. He passed nearly 8 years ago, so being worried about what his life was like while he was in a war is sort ofâ€¦ moot? I used to have nightmares about it as a child, and that anxiety lingers in me.
Still, I really liked this episode. I thought it was entertaining, informative, and engaging, and I’m eager to see more. AND EAGER TO SEE WHO ELSE IS IN THIS BECAUSEÂ EVERYONE EVER IS IN THIS.Â Simon Pegg? Michael Fassbender??? WHAT THE HELL.
Mark Links Stuff
– If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
– Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often.Â My next Double Features will be: Band of Brothers, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and then Farscape.
– I will be at quite a few conventions and will be hosting events throughout the US, Canada, and Europe in 2014, so check my Tour Dates / Appearances page often to see if I’m coming to your city!
– Inspired by last year’s impromptu event in London, I am taking Mark in the Park on the road! You can see all currently planned dates and pitch your own city here.