In the tenth and final part of Band of Brothers, Easy Company goes on one final mission: to capture the Eagle’s Nest. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Band of Brothers.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of war, Nazism, Hitler, and death.
I’ve been so open about what a challenging thing this was for me because it was the easiest way to allay my own concerns about my writing. I’ve simply never done anything like this, and I also chose a historical drama that has no personal bearing on my life, at least not in any direct sense. These battles ended nearly forty years before I was born. And while I studied them growing up and in college, they were always abstractions, facts learned in history or political science courses, numbers and dates and casualties all slammed together to tell me the impact but not the reality. So watching a dramatization of these battles and events is both surreal and overwhelming. It challenges me as someone who writes about fictionalized narratives because the dialogue is about the only thing fictional here. (Though there are most likely some composite characters in the mix, too.) What do I talk about other than being overwhelmed or impressed? How do I review a show like Band of Brothers?
I’ve tried to do my best, even if my best isn’t all that good. (Seriously, I keep reading my review of “Why We Fight” to try and beef it up, but my brain is just stuck. I can’t figure out how to talk about that episode how I normally would.) And “Points” is a good opportunity for me to reflect on the series as a whole so that I can address many of the larger themes and motifs. As an individual episode, it’s intentionally a lot slower than most, and that’s because it documents the final days of the war for Easy Company. There’s no resistance from the Germans as the Americans take the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s birthday present high in the mountains of Austria; they find no trouble with the surrendering soldiers; and the only real danger they encounter in their final days comes from one another. Drunkenness, boredom, and a penchant for violence all combine terrible to make the remaining men volatile and unstable. They’re their own worst enemy.
This is all set in a number of gorgeous and stunning filming locations, which sits in juxtaposition to the last scenes of violence that we get in Band of Brothers. Austria looks almost otherworld here, and I think that’s also in part because of how dirty and grungy the sets in the prior episodes are. (With the exception of the Ardennes set, though once again, the place is a collection of juxtaposed images and colors, namely the blood and grime contrasted with the pale snow.) There are pristine lakes and mountainsides that look like watercolor paintings. And then there’s Liebgott’s quest for revenge, or Janovek’s death, or the shooting of Charles Grant. All of it lays bare the unease these men feel once they aren’t doing any actual fighting. That’s not just because they’re all eager to go back and fight; I think it was clear that some of them just wanted to be done, but with the war in the Pacific still going, there was a chance that they’d just be shipped out again.
Hell, even Major Winters tried to send himself to the Pacific just to get things over with. But only a few men initially escape the threat of further battle. There’s frustration from a number of men over the Army’s 85-point system that’ll get them discharged, particularly since some of the men who’d been fighting since D-Day somehow didn’t have enough points to leave. And what “Points” does incredibly well is explore this waiting period, showing us how each of these men reacted to the thought of further combat. It’s not always a pretty picture, but then, Band of Brothers has allowed itself to portray these men as flawed characters as long as we understand why they’ve developed and behaved as they have.
I wouldn’t say that Band of Brothers is necessarily a character study, but the way in which specific episodes have had a central character focus reflects the desire to make this show’s journey uniquely personal. We get to know these men over these 10+ hours. We understand Blythe’s fear. We understand Winters’ leadership ability. We understand Doc Roe’s frustrations and numbness. We understand Lipton’s loyalty. It’s hard to cover a war as complicated and layered as World War II, so that’s where Band of Brothers succeeds: in its specificity. At the end of this journey, we view the close of this war through Major Winters, who has spent years with these men and his friend Nixon, and they survived. Not all of them, of course, but that’s the point of the German general’s speech near the end of this episode. Even if they fundamentally disagree with the Germans, the men of Easy Company understood the words of encouragement and pride speak directly to them as well. They’ve spent over 460 days alongside one another, suffering and dying and fighting, and it’s bonded them in inexplicable ways.
I often talk about how the theme of friendship is one of my favorite things to read about, and ultimately, that’s where my love for this show comes from. There is a friendship formed between these men that was crafted in an environment wholly unique to them. I think Band of Brothers does an outstanding job of showing us why the miniseries is titled as it is. The loyalty and love these soldiers showed one another is tantamount to brotherhood. And yeah, we may not ever understand that bond ourselves, at least not to the extent that they do. But it’s been a thrill to get a glimpse of that in the way that this show has done so.
I liked that the real people behind these characters have had a presence at the opening of every episode because it sheds a realism over everything we see. I’ve avoided discussing those moments because I actually couldn’t figure out who was who! Even from a storytelling perspective, I found it compelling that the show waited until the very end to finally reveal who was being interviewed, putting names to faces, and making this all so real. I was sad about this ending, sure, but one of the reasons I started tearing up was that I now had some inkling of an idea what these men had been through. These were actors playing a part, yes, but these battles were every bit as horrific and traumatizing in real life as they were on the screen, probably way more so. And now I’m looking at the men who pulled this off, and I GOT VERY EMOTIONAL???? TOO EMOTIONAL. Some of them found peace; others were haunted by the experience. But for the most part, they had each other, and that’s what I took away from this show.
Goddamn, this was WONDERFUL. Probably the best cinematography and music for anything I’ve seen for Mark Watches. I am so endlessly thankful that I finally got to pull this off. BRAVO! And in case you haven’t checked the Master Schedule, my next Double Feature starts on Monday:
Revolutionary Girl Utena.
See y’all then!
The video for “Points” can be purchased here for $0.99.
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