In the fifth part of Band of Brothers, Lt. Winters discovers that a promotion isn’t always a good thing. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Band of Brothers.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of war, violence, and severe PTSD/trigger episodes.
- I’m now halfway through this miniseries, which I am absolutely enjoying, but I still feel like I’m struggling to find my voice in terms of how I write these reviews. Looking back on what I’ve written in the past couple of days, I feel a bit off, so to speak. (If you’re not familiar with how I do all this, I write a week in advance, so all five of this week’s reviews were written over the course of a 24-hour period.) That’s okay, and I don’t actually mind talking about my process or admitting that I am, frankly speaking, in way over my head.
- I have certain things I love talking about and look for as I dissect fictional narratives. Character development is my bread and butter. It’s fun analyzing plot structures and suspense narratives. I love the chance to speak openly about social issues that affect me! And all of this isn’t quite applicable to Band of Brothers in any traditional sense.
- Which isn’t to suggest that none of this is there in the show. “Crossroads” has the most literary structure out of the five episodes I’ve seen. It’s largely a flashback episode that centers on Lt. Winters trying to recall the events that led to his promotion to Battalion XO, and memory is a recurring motif of the story. He’s able to recall the events of how his company successfully captures a crossroads after using a bold tactic, but it’s the end result of it that haunts Winters more than anything else.
- One of the reasons I have trauma-related PTSD is from experiencing a violent arrest over five years ago, and I can confirm that what we see here – Winters’ vivid flashes of memory sliding over reality – is pretty much my exact experience with PTSD. That’s how mine manifests. I can’t control it to the extent that sometimes the mere sight of a cop in uniform sends me into an episode, but I certainly avoid specific situations (protests or large gatherings where I know cops will be there) or heed trigger warnings. Which is why they are so, so important for common triggers!
- But before we talk about this specifically, I wanted to address how the show covers Winters’ journey throughout “Crossroads.” We don’t know that Winters is now the Battalion XO during the in media res opening; we’re left to assume that he just needs to file a report with Sink. I think this was a clever way to frame the story because we go through Winter’s experience taking the crossroads from the Germans first before we learn why Sink was waiting on paperwork.
- And that, by gods, was a hellish operation, one that was lead by Winters and his impromptu tactics. We’ve seen time and time again how good he is coming up with a plan and executing it with virtually no preparation. When Easy Company accidentally discovers a small group of German soldiers nearby, Winters is able to successfully command his group to ambush them and then hide for hours before he comes up with the GUTSIEST PLAN I HAVE EVER SEEN ON THIS SHOW. I thought Speirs was ridiculous, but Winters sprinted across that field without a drop of cover just so he could flank the Germans hiding over the ridge entirely by himself (AND NOTE THAT HE HAD NO IDEA HOW MANY OF THEM WOULD BE THERE).
- Then he shoots a teenager.
- Now, that’s reductive, and I know that. The situation is far more complex than that sentence. But in Winters’ mind, he can’t unsee that split-second decision. He shot that young man based purely on instinct, and one that probably saved his life and the life of his men. I don’t think that alleviated his horror, though. I don’t think that made him feel all that better. Even Nixon could tell that Winters was more stoic than usual on that battlefield.
- I wasn’t quite sure of the timeline, but it was clear that days has gone by – possibly weeks – before Winters’ mandatory trip to Paris. Prior to that, we see him promoted by Sink. We watch him struggle with being stuck behind a desk due to his promotion as Operation Pegasus is carried out – perfectly! – by Easy Company. And it was clear that Winters desperately wanted to be back on that field, not just for himself, but for his men. I wouldn’t say that he didn’t trust anyone else to be in control, but we know that the men who all trained at Camp Toccoa were incredibly close to one another.
- Without these men at his side, Winters ventures to Paris, completely alone, and it’s kind of sad to watch, though it was nice to think that he finally got to relax… somewhat. I say that because his first night there, he’s haunted by the memory of killing that soldier after seeing a Parisian teen who resembles him. The whole thing triggers such an intense memory that he actually spaces out on the Metro, staying on it until it reaches its final stop.
- This entire thing plays out without any dialogue whatsoever, so all we’ve got to go on are Damien Lewis’s facial expressions, and the man is incredible during these sequences. He often chooses to play Winters with a lot of subtlety, and that’s still the case here as he navigates his time alone in Paris.
- It’s also yet another example of the cyclical lives of these men. Winters goes from relaxation to crisis and back again. This time, however, the episode ends with a disturbing set-up to the legendary Battle of the Bulge, the one battle I’ve been dreading the most. My guess is that the next episode will cover Bastogne, and goddamn, it’s going to be brutal, I already know it. They’re setting up the fact that these men are unfortunately ill-prepared for the forests of Ardennes. They don’t have the proper clothing, they’re already low on ammunition and other supplies, and they’re essentially walking into one of the most difficult fights of the whole war.
- Where they’ll be surrounded.
- In the winter.
- FOR DAYS.
- But now, Lt. Winters is in charge of the whole battalion, and he’s back in the field, too, right where he wants to be.
- I’ll be interested to see what other characters get the chance to be the focus of the narrative in the second half of this mini-series. I know that these reviews are not quite as long as they normally are, and I’m definitely out of my element. I am not, however, feeling any sort of regret about watching Band of Brothers. I’m only halfway done, and I already get why this is so loved by so many people.
- Onwards I go!
The video for “Crossroads” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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