'The Pacific' - 'Peleliu Landing' Recap
by Jason Hughes, posted Apr 12th 2010 4:02PM
(E05) Another week and another wholly different experience in the Pacific front of World War II. Whereas Guadalcanal was an island oasis, and eerily quiet when the 1st Marines landed, the island of Peleliu was a far different story. From an ocean of cannon-fire and ships to a sea of the dead, dying and injured on the beach, it was warfare from the word "Go!"
Eugene Sledge finally made it into the war, joining Leckie and company in the 1st Marines Division. He hooked up with them on the island of Pavuvu, where we left them last week. Leckie returned as well from his stay at the hospital, and they got to enjoy some wartime camaraderie before shipping out.
Sledge even got some time with his friend from back home, Sid Phillips. The care in which the producers of 'The Pacific' have given to each of these very different wartime experiences has helped to create one of the most diverse and thorough looks at war that I've ever seen.
Joseph Mazzello, as Sledge, was the perfect blend of enthusiasm and terror throughout the episode. His late entrance into the war exemplified the differing experiences that all soldiers face. Some have seen it from the beginning, and must deal with eager new recruits who have absolutely no idea what they're getting into. Those new faces, conversely, have to look into the eyes and faces of boys who have become men in some of the most horrific ways imaginable.
The beaches of Peleliu was just such a place, with ear-deafening explosions occurring everywhere, men getting shot all around you, and only a lick and a prayer that you can make it the next ten feet. It was by the grace of Sledge's god that he was able to pull himself together and get off that beach before he joined the throngs of marines who would never rise again.
Leckie, likewise, was nearly paralyzed upon arrival. Here was something yet again new and horrific. Once the human reaction has had a chance to express itself, marine training kicked in, and these boys got down to business. It's a testament to the strength of the military system that they can maintain their focus in the middle of all that chaos, keep a clear head and still get the job done.
Unlike previous episodes of 'The Pacific,' the campaign on Peleliu was not wrapped up in a single episode. It was such a long, brutal and hard-fought battle that we got only the first taste of it. The marines were able to make their way to the interior of the island and try and set up a fortified presence.
Still surrounded by an enemy that looked well entrenched on the island before our boys even got there, and having to keep 24/7 wakeful vigilance on all sides, it looks like it's going to be a hard-fought battle to take a single airfield, albeit a strategically important one.
This is how 'The Pacific' succeeds in ways that we rarely see. With the pacing of a ten-part mini-series, we can really take the time to look at these seemingly small moments in history, that might warrant a sentence or two in a history book if they're mentioned at all, and fully embrace them. Lives were lost, lives were changed forever, and that one small piece of real estate was as real an experience for the men who fought and died for it as any other in the whole war.
They are able to fully humanize this long war by allowing us to spend time in it and with these men. We feel their boredom, their terror, their uncertainty and their conviction in what they're fighting for. And because our focus is so small, staying with these small groups, we get a better understanding of what living through the length of that war was like, rather than the omniscient understanding of it we get in classrooms, books and many other movies.
It may have taken a little bit longer to pull itself together as a compelling, cohesive singular piece of narrative fiction, but at this halfway point, the mission has certainly been accomplished. Basilone may be back in the states living like a superstar and having sex with Anna Torv from 'Fringe,' but my heart is with the boys in the Pacific, hoping that Sledge's god will see most of them through the worst of it, but really knowing better.