Television Review: “The Pacific: Part Two”

3/23/2010 Posted by Admin

Television Review

“The Pacific: Part Two”

By our guest blogger, Tim Strain

Survival is the name of the game in the second episode of “The Pacific.” The Marines of 7th Company find themselves with dwindling rations on an oppressively humid island surrounded by the Japanese navy. They have experienced battle and are not laughing about “the gooks” anymore, after having witnessed the suicidal lengths they are willing to go to in order to protect their land. When a naval cook who hasn’t witnessed battle informs the men they are on the front page of every newspaper and considered heroes at home, their collective reaction is one of chilling apathy.

“The Pacific” is getting gritty, and not just by caking more and more dust to its protagonists’ increasingly tired-looking faces. “Part Two” evades much of the clunky dialog that held the first episode back from submerging the viewer in the experience. The focus shifts from PFC Leckie to John Basilone (Jon Seda), also known as something very similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Commando.” Basilone runs the shows in a stunning display of bravery that I’m kind of surprised I had never heard about before. He practically singlehandedly holds back the Japanese onslaught in another impressive action sequence, handling a steaming hot machine gun with his bare hands, laying down covering fire with a pistol, and even engaging the enemy in a bit of hand-to-hand combat. In a series dedicated to showing the fear and confusion behind men’s eyes during battle, it is refreshing to see one man who knows precisely what to do and proceeds with cold efficiency. The interaction between Basilone the Badass and his fellow soldiers during battle, those looks of astonishment at his mental composure and physical tenacity, emphasize how this particular man really stood out. It also helps offset the notion put forth by the writers that the war experience is similarly hellish for all those involved.

Basilone is clearly given the most screen time in the episode, and as such feels like the most fleshed out character of the series thus far. Leckie and his closest quartet of friends are also given some screen time, but not enough outside of battle to create much of an impression. Their best scene is one in which they raid a supply of Army rations and personal effects. Leckie breaks into a crate hoping to find something more substantial than crackers and jelly to eat, but instead uncovers a woman’s photograph, some broken-in moccasins, and a few books. It turns out to the be an officer’s crate, which puts a human face on a typically rigid archetype. Officers, too, have left lives behind in order to get a job done. While they can be reduced to a caricature of a barking dog, this moment captures real emotion without a word being spoken or even a face being seen.

The Marines’ dilemma is that they are forced by the enemy to always stay on their toes. There is nothing glorious or heroic in their faces, there is anxiety and a clear lack of sleep. A more experienced enemy outnumbers the Marines, and they are a a guerilla enemy, popping out of the foliage in a split second to snipe a Marine who pokes his head a bit too far above the bush. Fear is visible in Lt. Col. Puller’s (the always solid William Sadler) eyes as he informs his men that in the event of a Japanese takeover, the Marines will be cut off from a communications standpoint and will be forced to pick up the Japanese’s guerilla tactics. The men ponder the idea of dumb luck being an essential key to victory. Basilone understands that his actions were courageous, but that he could have been killed just as easily as his friend, who he remarks would be alive had he taken one step to the left, rather than the right.

The series’ third main character, Eugene Sledge, is still stuck at home, but as been cleared by Doctor Dad to enlist in the armed forces. The writers unfortunately try to tell the viewer what it has already seen: that men come back from war disillusioned, questioning their purpose and not getting much joy out of life. Sledge’s is an unnecessary scene, one that takes the viewer out of the mindset of Guadalcanal and subjected to bland exposition. I hope the writing gets tighter in focus as the series progresses, and that the series does not continue to underestimate the viewer’s IQ.

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