'The Pacific' - 'Basilone' Recap
by Jason Hughes, posted Mar 22nd 2010 8:26AM
(E02) After watching this second installment of 'The Pacific,' I think I have a feeling why people who've seen further along are talking about how things pick up once we get into the next episode. With these first two parts, we spent virtually the entire time on Guadalcanal, and there was virtually no time for any sort of character connections.
After this, the 1st Marines are finally getting off the island to move onto their next campaign, which means a change of scenery, and a chance for the impact of what they've just gone through to start hitting both the marines themselves, and the audience. Just like them, we've had virtually no time to process all the horror and warfare these men endured on the island.
While last week spotlighted most of the hour on the beauty of the island, this week it was the brutality of war itself that took center stage, with almost constant gunfire from the opening credits to the closing credits.
As accurately as the confrontations appeared to be presented, they were no more comfortable to watch. I will say that the latter third of the episode did seem to move along at a much better clip. While no less compelling, the first portion didn't feel like we were necessarily moving anywhere dramatically further than we were in the first installment.
The onslaught of Japanese soldiers was certainly more relentless, but things were risking becoming dramatically repetitive. There's only so much you can do when adapting true stories into dramatic format, and I'm not even sure I could come up with a better way for 'The Pacific' to have started than at the beginning of that campaign.
Perhaps we could have been given a bit more time with Leckie, Basilone and their friends before they went off to war in the first episode, or something more substantial to sink our teeth into as sympathetic viewers before all hell broke loose. We have Leckie's letters to Vera and the growing camaraderie within his small group of friends, but we had to wait until this episode to see most of that.
The most powerful moment in the episode came when Basilone grabbed that heavy and hot barrel without a grimace of pain and headed off to reposition and take out more enemy soldiers. His response to the pain that must have been there was so non-existent I turned to my wife and said, "Wouldn't that be hot?" It wasn't until we saw the burns later that we saw the extent of damage he'd done to himself; adrenaline is a powerful tool in war.
After the assault in the night, Basilone was commended and advised he'd be recommended for a medal, while Leckie and the 1st Marines were shipped off, where they met a cook who told them they were famous heroes back home. Their stories were plastered across the front pages of newspapers nationwide. That's the kind of impact and those are the moments that resonate with us as viewers, and we didn't get those until the end of the episode.
It may sound like I'm beating on a dead horse with this, but it's only because I'm starting to see the potential brilliance of 'The Pacific' unfold, albeit slowly. I'm worried that the slow pace in which the story is revealing itself may have been enough to turn off more of the potential fan-base than this mini-series deserves.
Maybe the mini-series should have started with the cook asking them how it was on the island, and then we could have gotten a flashback sequence of that first major campaign in the Pacific front. That way, we'd have a sense of where we're coming, and we'd get that sense of kinship these men must feel, seeing them sit together and drink coffee on the ship, while flashing back to their first meetings with one another and that bond developing that only almost dying together can forge.
All of that is to say that not all that much happened dramatically in this episode. It was more or less a massive battle, followed up by the short moments I discussed toward the end. Oh, and we checked back in with Eugene Sledge, now free of that heart murmur and ready to enlist. That was about three to four minutes.
The good news is that 'The Pacific' is still brilliantly put together and the acting performances of the entire cast are simply flawless. It's a matter of the method in which the story was told in these first two installments that I call into question. There's no doubt that this is a powerful story, and we got an immediate sense of this war with these two installments. But without those last ten minutes or so, I wouldn't be nearly as excited about the next eight episodes as I now am.
It went from an almost documentary-style presentation of the Pacific front of World War II to a dramatic character story in those final few moments, and that character development and growth throughout the war is what has me more excited than ever to see where we'll follow the 1st and 7th Marine Divisions next ... and how Eugene Sledge gets in on the action.