In the seventh part of Band of Brothers, 1st Sgt. Lipton copes with the increasing dips in morale and loss of life while the Easy Company is holed up in the forest of Ardennes. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Band of Brothers.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of war, blood, death, gore, and PTSD.
- Shit, what can you say about something like this? What hasn’t already been said? And I don’t just mean about “The Breaking Point” itself, which I’m sure has been written about plenty of times before. This feels like the series’ biggest hour, and it’s the other part of Easy Company’s tour that I was sort of dreading to get to. I knew that the time Easy Company spent in Ardennes was unimaginable to most people, but seeing it play out with this much detail? It was overwhelming in every sense of the word.
- There’s just so much heartbreak packed into a single episode, but it all serves a purpose. It shows us the brutality. It shows us how Lipton rose to the occasion to look out for his fellow men and how that probably saved a lot of their lives in the process. And it also shows us that while most of Easy Company pressed on, war can break you.
- The first to go? Corporal Hoobler, who in a tragic irony shoots himself with the very Luger pistol he’d been trying to get his hands on the whole series. I never thought about how the layered clothing would actually get in the way of medical aid, but it was a reality these soldiers had to deal with.
- This sets the tone for “The Breaking Point,” not just due to the tragic death, but to show us that Lieutenant Dike is the worst commanding officer. I hadn’t recalled seeing him in any of the recent episode, but that’s sort of the point. He’s a wanderer who is constantly avoiding any sort of confrontation or command, which is a terrible quality to have if you’re leading a company of men into battle. Initially, no one can find him so that he can inform Captain Winters of Hoobler’s death; it’s Lipton who has to do it. Which also sets up the ending of this episode, too! Right from the start, we see how Lipton works in the best interests of the company. And it’s not like this is the only episode in which he mattered, of course, but I love the shift in focus and the narration from him. Like the previous episode, it’s a fascinating story choice.
- There is a small moment that isn’t from Lipton’s POV early in this episode, but it’s very necessary. Since Lt. Dike has largely been in the background, we need to know why the company is stuck with him as commanding officer. Nepotism played a part in it, sure, but Winters and Nixon know they can’t buck the chain of command. Dike might be CO just to move up the ladder, but the problem is that he’s affecting morale now. I mean, would any of y’all feel safe with that man in charge? I can’t even say I’m all that familiar with military culture (despite that I did have an Army father), but I AM DEFINITELY SURE THAT HOW DIKE BEHAVES IN THIS EPISODE IS NOT AT ALL ACCEPTABLE. But I also can’t forget how much desperation plays into this, too. They’re already short of men, so it’s not like they can just afford to can Dike.
- I’ve truly never seen anything like the mortar bombardment on that forest, and while there’s certainly a lot that’ll stick with me from this experience, that might be the most awe-inspiring thing. Again, I have no fucking idea how any of this was filmed. More importantly, though, the show did an incredible job re-creating that assault and showing us how absolutely terrifying it was. (Well, and the mortar assaults that followed, too.) The sound was deafening. The trees exploding were surreal. (And I understood Lipton’s awe at the sight, too. None of those men had ever seen anything like that.)
- But we’re not allowed to forget the violence of it all. Jesus, I was so fucked up after seeing Toye’s leg blown off, and then UTTERLY DESTROYED when Guarnere was hit while trying to save Toye. The whole thing unfolds just feet from Buck’s foxhole, and it’s here that we begin to understand what the title of this episode is referring to.
- We know that Buck has been through a lot in this war, but all the way back in the first episode, we saw that he was incredibly close with the men he trained with at Toccoa. Buck’s breaking point is watching the horrors of that mortar assault claim Toye’s right leg and destroy one of Guarnere’s. And shit, y’all, for the remainder of this episode, you can feel Guarnere’s absence, and it’s so haunting to me. His accent and his sense of humor is part of the fabric of Easy Company, and there’s a void now that he’s gone.
- AND THEN MUCK AND PENKALA ARE KILLED
- i’m so done oh my god
- It’s relentless. The beating that these men take in that forest in simply unbelievable, despite that I watched it happen, because how can anyone have any morale after witnessing all of that?
- But that’s why 1st Sgt. Lipton was so important and vital to Easy Company. I don’t know how that man did it amidst such horror, but he pushed away his own fear for the betterment of his company. He does precisely everything that Lt. Dike does not: he cares. He cares about knowing his fellow soldiers; he anticipates their needs; he encourages them and reminds them of why they’re fighting; and when the situation calls for it, he offers himself up to save the others.
- All of this comes to a head in the terrifying siege on Foy, which demonstrated perfectly why Lt. Dike was absolutely terrible to lead this company. My god, the man yawns like he is BORED after Winters gives him his directives. But then, in a matter of sixty seconds, the very specific plan he was supposed to execute falls apart when he doesn’t commit to it. It’s so frustrating to watch because every second Lt. Dike doesn’t act, more and more men are picked off. Winters can’t command anymore, and for part of the siege, he just has to stand there and yell.
- HOLY SHIT WHERE DID ANY OF THAT COME FROM
- I MEAN
- WHAT THE HELL, THAT WAS INCREDIBLE.
- Gods, I love Lipton’s narration over that scene. Speirs CAME BACK. RIGHT THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF ALL THE GERMANS. But it’s such a vital moment because in just a few minutes, Speirs demonstrates that he is there to lead, and he is there to fight. It’s shown to be this huge, heroic, and morale-boosting moment, one that certainly turned the tide in the favor of Easy Company and helped them secure Foy.
- So it’s not lost on me that when a sniper takes out a couple of men during their celebration, Lipton himself is the one to run out and act as bait so that Shifty can snipe back.
- Which is all part of the reason Lipton is eventually promoted after Easy Company makes it out of Belgium. That scene in the convent is another striking sequence in Band of Brothers, particularly the moment where Lipton recounts who is still left. There are barely over sixty of Easy Company left to fight, and yet those men are still pushing on.
- I just having nothing but good things to say about Donnie Wahlberg here. He’s perfect, his performance was incredible, and he absolutely held this whole episode together.
- Oh god, Haguenau is next? SHIT.
The video for “The Breaking Point” can be downloaded here for $0.99.