In the fourth part of Band of Brothers, the new replacements in Easy Company face terrible setbacks. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Band of Brothers.
Trigger Warning: For talk of war, death, and blood.
Holy shit, holy shit.
- I’ve sat here with this document open and blank for about ten minutes, because what the hell can you say about “Replacements”? This episode is the most stressful to watch because there’s almost no hope in it. It’s framed around Operation Market Garden, which was considered a failure on the part of the Allies, and thus, what we see is a whole lot of emotional and physical devastation suffered by those on the front lines, many of whom are from Easy Company.
- And it’s right before this that the first batch of replacements for the men lost in Easy Company arrive, and holy shit, THEY’RE SO YOUNG. I know that a lot of these men are barely over 18, but this particular group – Heffron, Miller, Hashey, and Garcia – look like they graduated high school the day before and were immediately shipped to Aldbourne.
- But that’s the point. They come into Easy Company as outsiders, some even without any battle experience, and they’re dropped into one of the more horrific battles that Easy Company has ever faced. “Replacements” examines the way in which these men cope with the reality of war and how they integrate themselves into the company.
- It also splits time with the story of Sergeant Randleman, who look as boyish as the others at times, but IS CLEARLY WAY MORE EXPERIENCED. Oh my god, his scenes at that farm are terrifying.
- Allow me to repeat myself once more: I don’t understand how this was filmed. The entire siege at the farm is shockingly violent and realistic, and it looks like the entire thing was one single take and then David Nutter and company were like THAT’S A WRAP good job everyone, go home. How? HOW WAS THIS DONE?
- Anyway, it was clear that the Easy Company members were viciously defensive of their own, and that meant that they were prone to treating newcomers with disdain or suspicion. And I get it. These men are about to go into battles that they have high odds of dying in, and not knowing the man next to you is nerve-wracking. You don’t know if you can trust them or depend on them, so in this case, the replacements have to prove themselves.
- There are a couple of notable scenes prior to the execution of Operation Market Garden, though, that I want to discuss. LIKE THE RE-APPEARANCE OF SOBEL. HOLY SHIT, THAT WAS SO UNEXPECTED. Maybe he has changed a little bit, but he still seemed like the same asshole to me.
- And then there was the sequence in Eindhoven, which was a necessary reminder of what the Allied forces meant to a lot of nations where Nazi forces had been expelled. It’s the first liberation we’ve seen on the show, and it was clearly a celebration. It wasn’t without its own awkward and uncomfortable moments, such as when the women who had apparently slept with Germans had their heads shaved.
- Like much of how this show is framed, “Replacements” gives us the calm before the storm. It’s a cyclical nature of these men’s lives, honestly, and that’s why the pattern repeats. These men enjoy what little they can in Eindhoven before THE WORST THING YET.
- I suppose I’m still struggling to come up with compelling things to say that aren’t repetitive whenever I talk about the way Band of Brothers includes such detailed battle sequences. They’re filmed masterfully every time, and the one in “Replacements” is no exception. The action here is both in close shots and wide ones, so it feels a lot bigger than usual. Well, that, and there actually were way more soldiers in Nuenen than we’ve seen in some of the other engagements.
- For me, it’s the story that follows Randleman that made this episode stand out the most to me. His scenes were unbearably suspenseful. Stuck alone on that farm, surrounded by Germans for hours, he does whatever he needs to in order to stay alive. I don’t know who the two strangers were who come across him in the barn at one point. Did they live nearby? Did they own the place? Perhaps they were escaping the Germans, too. That wasn’t all that relevant to Randleman, though, because he helped them regardless. It’s amazing to me that he made sure they got out safely before he did so himself.
- Of course, I would be remiss not to bring up the thrilling and heart-pounding confrontation between Randleman and the German soldier he eventually killed. Goddamn, it was so intense! And I noticed that the sequence deliberately showed both sides of Randleman to the woman who witnessed what he did. Note that he spared her father when they came upon him, but he did not spare the German while she was watching. Instead, she looks upon him, his face covered in blood, and she glimpses what he’s capable of.
- And Randleman is how the replacements come to earn the acceptance of the veteran Easy Company soldiers, too. They all go after their Sergeant without the order to do so and at great risk to their own personal safety, all for a guy they’ve only known for a few days at best. And if they were willing to do that already? Well, it was clear that Guarnere was ready to accept them as part of Easy Company.
- This was disheartening to watch at times, but it’s an important step in the Allied forces attack against Nazi Germany, as well as a chance for Lt. Winters to experience his first retreat as commanding officer. Does it suck? Of course. While the losses were huge in Neunen, they probably saved even more lives by retreating.
- Onwards I go into more devastation!
The video for “Replacements” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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