MORIARTY Reviews BAND OF BROTHERS: "The Last Patrol"!!
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
The survivors at the beginning of this episode talk about life in the aftermath of Bastogne, about trying to pick up and carry on, and how hard it was after seeing their friends die in such great numbers. Everything was about what needed to be done. They also speak of a feeling that started to spread among the men, a gut feeling that the war had turned a corner and might be ending, a feeling like they might actually live through this thing.
The episode takes place on a few days in February of 1945. Easy Company is stationed on the line at Haguenau, France, just across the river from a full German company. The 101st Battallion is known now as the “Battered Bastards of Bastogne, and the episode picks up with David Webster (Eion Bailey) rejoining Easy after an extended stay in the hospital. He’s been absent since Operation Market Garden, basically, and watching him try and rejoin these men after all the experiences he’s missed, it’s obvious that there is enormous resentment felt towards him. Other guys like Popeye and Guarnere managed to go AWOL from their hospitals to help Easy fight in Bastogne, and the fact that Webster took advantage of every possible minute of rehab and rest doesn’t sit well with anyone. Webster feels that resentment from the moment he arrives. He’s treated worse than the replacements are treated.
When he goes to check in for formal assignment, he finds Carwood Lipton (Donald Wahlberg) still working, even with a wicked case of pneumonia. There’s other men volunteering for dangerous work or returning early from medical leave all around Webster, reminding him of his decision. There’s Lt. Jones (Colin “Baby Tom” Hanks), a West Point graduate who is eager to get right into things, to get his hands dirty, and who has no idea how to step into the chain of command above battle-hardened soldiers. Nixon and Winters show up to discuss a patrol that’s been ordered by Col. Sink (Dale Dye). It’s a dangerous night raid on the other side of the river, and no one wants to go. Nixon and Winters have been told to find 15 men to go, and it’s obvious that they want to be cautious, that this seems unnecessary to them. Lt. Jones volunteers several times to go, but they refuse, telling him he doesn’t have the experience to go.
Webster and Jones are assigned to 2nd Platoon, and they arrive as the bearers of bad news, having heard the names of the men who are supposed to go on the patrol. It’s like handing them a death sentence. McClung, Heffron, and Ramirez are picked first, then Malarkey is picked to lead the patrol, and then Popeye, Jackson, Shifty, and Webster are also chosen to fill out the ranks a bit. In the day that unfolds before the patrol, we see the way these men are living at this point. The smallest things have become luxuries. A new shipment of PX supplies. Showers. Every death feels even more pointless. Someone carrying a sack of potatoes from one building to another catches a stray shell. There’s exceptional work by Scott Grimes as Malarkey this week. He’s somewhere beyond tired by this point, eyes sunken and burnt, and it’s like he’s been crushed in some way, his posture that of a man who can barely keep holding himself up. Jones makes the case to Nixon and Winters that Malarkey needs a break, and Miller ends up assigned to lead the patrol instead, with Jones along to observe.
The mission briefing by Winters is succinct and direct: cross the river, search a house, take prisoners, blow it up, come back alive. The difficult part is the waiting from the time of the briefing to the moment of the actual patrol. Everyone handles it differently, and watching this montage, I was struck by the subtle power of the script by Erik Bork and Bruce C. McKenna and the direction by Tony To. This episode does as good a job as I’ve ever seen of dramatizing that particular drive that’s needed to be an effective soldier and a good company. There’s really no room for thoughts of self. People have to be willing to volunteer. There’s a sense of duty that simply becomes part of daily life. You do things because they need to be done. No one wants to do them. No one sane would do any of them. But still, there’s work to finish, and people step up. Webster doesn’t fit in Easy because ultimately it’s his own ass he’s most worried about. This is the real nature of heroism we see in these guys, a simple comittment to the greater good. Bailey does strong work, and so does the cast around him. These guys have gotten to be such a limber ensemble by this point, their chemistry so solid, that there’s no weak link to single out. Everyone shines when given the chance.
The patrol itself is a remarkable set piece. There’s a great sense of geography, especially after the briefing. We know what they’re supposed to do, so we’re able to keep a running barometer on how well (or badly) things are going. One boat out of the four doesn’t even make it across the river, flipping just a few feet from shore. As the other three boats land and everyone heads in, the action becomes immersive. Once again, we don’t just watch these scenes on this show; we feel them. Credit all the tech departments for such consistently impressive work.
Things almost go perfectly. Only one American is killed, and it’s actually his own fault. Still, just the sight of his blood seems to craze some of the other men, and Jones has to work hard to keep the soldiers from killing the German prisoners they take. The cumulative grief has just gotten to be too much for these men to keep carrying at this point. This close to the light at the end of the tunnel, things truly get dark. The next day, Cobb, Miller and Webster stand on the bank on their side of the river, listening to the anguished cries of a wounded German they left on the opposite bank the night before. He hasn’t died yet, and no one has moved to rescue him. His cries echo across the otherwise quiet morning, an eerie sound. “Should we put him out of his misery?” Webster asks. Cobb practically spits his answer. “Fuck his misery.”
Because of the “success” of the patrol, Col. Sink wants another one, and even shows up for a few minutes to pep talk Winters and Nixon. He’s spent the day bragging to the other brass about what his battallion did. It makes Winters sick to think about sending the men back across for no good reason. We see him wrestling to make sense of the idea, and when he arrives to brief them for the second patrol, he lays out the plan with the same efficiency as always. It’s how he ends it that gets their attention:
”Okay... now I want you all to get a full night’s sleep. In the morning you will report to me that you made it across the river but were unable to secure any live prisoners. Understand? I want you sharp tomorrow... we’re moving off the line.”
And just like that, the patrol doesn’t happen. There’s a report filed and everyone acts like it happened, but the men of Easy Company are spared this last lurch into the breach. It is an act of unspeakable kindness on the part of Winters, and as the episode ends, we see other small joys visited upon some of these men. Lipton is given an honorable discharge. Jones is promoted to battallion staff. Winters is promoted to Major. And Webster is in some small way forgiven and welcomed back finally. The 101st rolls out, and the credits roll with them poised to enter Germany.
The next two episodes of the series are strange and exceptional, and this is the last one for those of you who watch simply because you’re battle junkies. Get your fill of Cinesite’s persuasive tracer fire here, because what’s coming in episodes nine and ten is something totally different. Also, just to note, the episode I have on tape is called “The Last Patrol,” but HBO’s website seems to indicate that the title has been shortened to just “The Patrol.” Not sure of the reason for that, but I prefer the original.
”The Last Patrol” premieres tonight at 9 PM on HBO, with repeats throughout the week.
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Oct. 21, 2001, 9:26 p.m. CST
Since Saving Private Ryan is one of my all-time favorite films, it pains me that I can't watch this on a regular basis. I will have to wait until it is all released on DVD, then shell out tons of money for it. Oh, well...
Oct. 21, 2001, 9:28 p.m. CST
And it's not like I can just order HBO because I live in a college dorm. Ah, the joys of film school... at least I got to see Three Kings, another brilliant war film, on campus last night in digital sound. It almost makes up for this.
Oct. 21, 2001, 10:19 p.m. CST
First thing is first: I thought Lipton was going to get a battlefield commision, not a discharge. I guess I have to watch the thing again but I thought he was being discharged from being an Enlisted Man and then getting his commision. I heard someone say, "Welcome back" ,as though they were making a joke about him being discharged and then commisioned. They may have been talking to Welsh though, who I am glad to see back. The guy who plays Welsh is great, I loved it in ep 3 with Blithe in the foxhole right before Spiers showed up. Maybe someone versed by Ambrose can clear this Lipton discharge thing up. Furthermore, I really hope next ep brings Nixon to the fore finally. I think throughout the series he's been relegated to Winter's sidekick. I love the guy playing him (gone a long way from Office Space) and especially considering the magnitude of the next episode, it would be great to have Nixon fleshed out in greater detail. Spoiler WARNING: Which Concentration camp do they liberate next week? Please e-mail me if you know. Zubalove OUT.
Oct. 21, 2001, 10:22 p.m. CST
Brilliant. I can't wait to have them on DVD. Personally though I Can't wait to see next weeks episode when they encounter the concentration camp. From the trailer at the end of tonight's episode next weeks episode looks like it could be one of the best. I remember when I was in Munich and I went to see the concentration camp there. It's over half a century since it's been occupied and you could still feel this overwhelming sense of disgust that the whole place seemed to radiate. I'm curious as to how they are going to portray the soldiers going into the death camp and seeing the horrors that lie within.
Oct. 21, 2001, 10:26 p.m. CST
Lipton got an battlefield commission. So first he gets discharged as an enlisted man and then he gets a commission as a second luitenant. Of all the episodes I felt this one was the weakest. Unlike the previous episode the voiceovers were too distracting this time.
Oct. 21, 2001, 10:46 p.m. CST
I read the book. First off the episode called 'The Last Patrol' was indeed called in the book, 'The Patrol'. I agree with Moriarty that the later is more appropriate. *SPOILER* Now mind you this is the book. I dont have any clue on how they are approaching this in the mini-series.They are supposed to enter a German town and realize the Germans are the ones that need saving. Some are relieved to see the Americans, though some are not, and Easy and the rest of the battalion are going to look for important people (ie spies soldiers, officers etc)most of whom want to surrender anyway,knowing full well the game is afoot. The work camp is part of the Dachau complex, before the real concentration camp is seen. *END SPOILER* Than the last episode should be the defining triumph of Easy. I started reading the book at episode 6 and now at episode 8 have finished it. The series is a fine companion to the book. Very closely followed and a beatiful tribute to Easy Company. READ THE BOOK. PLEASE. It is a more in depth view of this wonderful and inspiring company. Not a dull, too detailed moment in the book. A fine read. Bravo Tom Hanks, Stephen Spielberg and Stephen E. Ambrose and all the cast and crew involved.
Oct. 22, 2001, 1:03 a.m. CST
I thought they saw Aushweitz(spelling?) and not Dachau. The place I visited was Dachau and it was heartbreaking. I can only imagine what it was like to stumble on to a place like that. They have handled all the other material well so far so I can't imagine them dropping the ball on an episode as important as this. Here's hoping they do it justice.
Oct. 22, 2001, 1:43 a.m. CST
Ok, just saw The Last Patrol on HBO, they did retain the title. Well two things, Lipton was indeed given a promotion, he was discharged as an enlisted man and given a commission. The second thing the Sergeant's Name is Martin not Miller, he is Sgt. Johnny Martin. Trivia question there are two second generation actors in this episode one is the aforementioned Colin Hanks(Lt. Jones). Who is the other one?
Oct. 22, 2001, 1:51 a.m. CST
You got plot right, but were inaccurate on a couple of the details. Firstly, Easy Company is part of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Airborne Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Secondly, Lipton was discharged as an enlisted man and then immediately given a commission as a second lieutenant.
Oct. 22, 2001, 8:58 a.m. CST
All names are real including Dyke and Sobel. BTW, David Schwimmer even looks like Sobel. Lipton was discharged from his enlistment then commissioned as an officer. That is normal procedure.
Oct. 22, 2001, 9:18 a.m. CST
After THE LAST PATROL, I saw an ad for what I've been hoping for! On November 11th, HBO will air a documentary on they REAL Easy Company guys. It's like Episode 11! It showed bits of the survivors and the actors playing them side by side. The two Guarnere's look almost exactly alike! Good Casting! I got really choked up just watching this promo, so I know I'll be a sorry sack when I watch the whole thing. I read the book and it's been sad this whole time, especially knowing who makes it though the war, who doesn't, and certain guys who have very sad stories after the war.
Oct. 22, 2001, 1:25 p.m. CST
and turned in a false report that said the second patrol was a success and that's OK. They are not caught or punished. I get warm fuzzies. They even get promoted in the end. And the lesson for all of us is? Individual soldiers can decide which orders are important enough to follow and which ones aren't? That so long as the soldiers at the lower level can determine that the leadership has a less than honorable motive for ordering a patrol, they are free to ignore those orders?
Oct. 22, 2001, 2:33 p.m. CST
I'm glad that someone else pointed it out, but I just wanted to float an opinion. I would normally not dare to question the actions of those whose bravery far exceeds anything I ever have or ever will do. But to blatantly disregard orders is (I believe) an act of treason. Whether or not the second mission was pointless is not the decision of those who ended up making it. The military is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship, and rightfully so. You get your orders, and you do them. End of story. I understand the rationale behind what was done, but that doesn't make it right. If you can't follow orders, you shouldn't be in that position. There is a certain amount of discretion given to different officers about what to do, but this was not one of those cases. What they did was wrong, even if they did it for the right reasons.
Oct. 22, 2001, 4:59 p.m. CST
In the book its Dachau, in the mini-series for Spielberg's sake its probably Auchwitz (butchered the spelling, sorry about that).
Oct. 22, 2001, 5:44 p.m. CST
The ep. was showing how demoralized the unit was. It also showed the Col., a man they literally jumped out of perfectly good airplanes for (my dad is retired USAF-sue me), had by 1945 become more concerned about securing his star and getting a prestigious command after the war was over. That was why he ordered the second patrol. It also showed, IMHO, the seeds that led to the mistakes in Vietnam. Next weeks ep. is titled "Why We Fight" and going to the camp snaps the unit out of it's selfish mentality. And once again, Auch. is in Poland so that won't be the camp. Sometimes my fellow fanboys I wonder what you were doing in history and geography classes. But hey, I can't recite every line from the graphic novel "from hell".-----later-----m
Oct. 23, 2001, 2:19 p.m. CST
Are there actually some people out there judging these guys for refusing orders? "What they did was wrong". Put yourself in their position, being at the tip of the spear of the allied campaign in Europe since D-day, you're given the chance for a brief reprieve from hell, and you're saying you would have turned in Capt. Winters to the Colonel? You're some pretty self-righteous, eagerly brainwashed, ignorant fucks. Remember, Capt. Winters executed the de-armament manuever of those heavy guns after D-day which is still being taught at West Point today. You probably are in no position to judge.
Oct. 23, 2001, 4:16 p.m. CST
The point that you seem to be missing Twan-Deeth-Ree is that these guys were SOLDIERS. That means that they follow orders from the person above them in the chain of command. Until you understand that distinction, we will always seem like ignoratn, self-righteous fucks to you when, in reality, you are the clueless one. The entire military works on this principle, and there is no way that WWII or any other war would ever be won if the soldiers did not follow their orders. What I would have preferred to do in their position is beside the point. I suspect that soldiers often are not given all the facts by their higher ups about why they have to do the missions they are given, and so they just have no right to decide on their own wehat orders to follow and what not to follow. Those soldiers simply put their own personal welfare above their duty, and that is indefensible.
Oct. 23, 2001, 4:40 p.m. CST
You're right. These guys were slack lazy grunts and Winters deserved to get court-martialed. Forget that this was one of the most decorated Companies in US military history. What a pretentious asshole you are. Smug, so safe and secure from behind your keyboard. Was it a questionable call on WInter's part? Sure. Do I think less of him as a soldier, or a leader. No. And I doubt many other people do as well.
Oct. 23, 2001, 4:44 p.m. CST
by Bad Man
Just my two cents worth here. First off, I read the book a few years ago and fell in love with it, so I had very high expectations for the series. These were increased tenfold when I heard that Ambrose and the E company survivors were all going to be involved with the production of the series in one capacity or another. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the series was a.) reasonably accurate and b.) just plain old fashioned good TV. Has anyone noticed that large chunks of the series seems to take place in the spaces during the book that Ambrose doesn't cover every little detail? This gives the writers an opportunity to stretch their wings a little without directly contradicting anything that's been historically recorded. Smart, but I was hoping that this would be the series that would find a way to recreate history and keep it dramatically interesting and entertaining without significantly deviating from what actually happened. This only bothers me when they begin to place people in places and at times that they actually were not present. F'r example: Webster did not participate in the raid across the river in Hagenau. This bugs the shit out of me, although only because what he was actually doing during the raid was just as hardcore and heroic as what the patrol guys did. Let me know if you're curious as to what actually happened...
Oct. 23, 2001, 5:01 p.m. CST
You think you speak with some knowledge, but it's clear you never served since you believe subordinates are not able to modify or disregard what they believe is an illegal or ill informed order. In fact, it is in the Code of Conduct that enlisted men and officers are obligated to do so and can be held responsible for their actions in following orders that contradict common sense and rules of war. Please don't comment on how soldiers should behave if you have never been one yourself. Oh, and yes, I am a veteran.
Oct. 23, 2001, 5:34 p.m. CST
In fact, I'm a West Point grad, class of '83. I have served and so I know something of what I speak about. Your point is well taken, but slightly wrong. Subordinates can refuse an illegal or immoral order (i.e., shooting civilians), but not just any order that they think is, as you put it "ill-informed." If that were the case, then every private would think that the order he got was just ill-informed and ignore it. If you really are a veteran, you must know that. SBD
Oct. 23, 2001, 5:36 p.m. CST
1) The decision not to follow orders in 'The Last Patrol' is a nice juxtaposition to what happens in ep. 7 (Breaking Point)when they do follow the orders of an incompetent commander (Dike) and about 4-6 get killed needlessly by trying to flank the town of Foy. 2) Haven't I heard this 'Must follow orders at any cost' argument in a little WWII event called The Nuremberg Trials?? I didn't think it held water there either (for the reasons cited above)
Oct. 23, 2001, 11:57 p.m. CST
You're not in the service. You are just some fuck-up. No one in their right mind would be stupid enough to give you a uniform, much less one in the military. If you really did graduate from West Point, you would know that to send them back in would have gotten all of them killed for sure. No one could believe that they could pull that off again. The officers just though that "Hell, if this one worked, and we got praised by our commanders, MAKE 'EM GO BACK AGAIN! IT'LL BE TWICE AS GOOD" That whole "Follow orders no matter WHAT" theory is bullshit. If a commanding officer gives you an order you truly believe will harm civilians or the lives of the men needlessly, you are not obligated to follow them. You must make an official protest, and move from there. But had Winters done that, it would have been devastating to the morale of the men, and would have crippled the momentum of the fight. You are such a fuck-up, I hope that in the memory of all those REAL men who gave their lives over there, that you get put in a situation where your fuck-up theory is put to the test, and you lose someone close to you. If you were really in the military, you would not be so god-damned disrespectful...
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