Read the previous entry in this series, here.
Carentan stands out as one of the most action-packed episodes of the series. The Battle of Carentan was fought in order to ensure that the allied forces had an unbroken defensive line to protect against German attacks. When the blistering assault on Carentan begins and the bullets are whizzing by and people start being picked off, you get a small taste of the chaos these soldiers walked into.
The assault itself was a tremendous piece of action with the men of Easy Company coming under heavy fire and taking several casualties. There is one gruesome moment where a soldier inadvertently walks into an exploding building and emerges with ghastly injuries to his face and body. As the characters start taking these terrible injuries you also see the bonds forged in surviving such hell as the men risk life and limb to rescue their buddies.
While the first two episodes of the series primarily had Winters at their centre, this time out we see a great deal from the perspective of Private Albert Blithe (Marc Warren). Blithe wasn’t a character we’d seen much of up until this point but the severe shellshock he suffered following the chaos of D-Day acts as a timely reminder of the mental effect this conflict would have on these men.
The second big set piece of the episode revolves around the Battle of Bloody Gulch, an extremely violent and brutal confrontation with the German forces that once again tested Easy’s limits. At one stage it even looks as if Easy may be grossly outnumbered and it’s only when some Sherman tanks show up that the encounter swings in their favour. In the heat of battle, it is Winters who finally helps Blithe find his courage and convinces him to stand up and fight, once more showing his great importance to the Company. There’s a great shot by director Mikael Salomon where Blithe spots a retreating German solider running away and after carefully picking his aim, fires his rifle moments before a tank passes before his line of sight. By the time the tank has moved out of the way, the German soldier has slumped out of sight. Blithe later finds the soldier’s body and removes an ‘edelweiss’ flower from his lapel. We are told that the flower is highly symbolic to the German army and it is common for soldiers to climb high into the Alps where the flower grows in order to retrieve it. It is seen as the mark of a true soldier, which is perhaps fitting given Blithe’s new-found confidence after proving himself in battle.
The haunting final scenes see a newly confident Blithe agreeing to take the lead scout role on a patrol, only for him to get shot and badly wounded. At the end of the episode we are told that Blithe never recovered from his wounds and died in 1948, however it turns out this was actually a mistake on the showrunners’ part and he actually died in active duty with the army in 1967.
Another character who comes to the fore in this episode and become more prevalent later on is Captain Roland Speirs (Matthew Settle). He becomes the subject of much gossip amongst the men regarding his treatment of a group of German POWs in an earlier episode. His big moment here however comes when he tells a struggling Blithe:
“We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function. Without mercy. Without compassion. Without remorse. All war depends upon it.”
This is the first indication of Speirs’ apparent death wish which would crop up several times throughout the series. His character is an enigmatic presence at first, but he more than proves his worth in a later episode.
Come back tomorrow for Rob’s look-back at episode four, Replacements.
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