Read the previous part in this series, here.
Crossroads is another episode with Dick Winters as the focal point and it starts off with the real men of Easy telling us just what a great leader and model soldier he was. They are all quick to point out that he was never shy about leading from the front and when he was Easy’s commander, he was always the first man into battle.
The episode itself plays out partly in flashback as Winters, now in effective Battalion command, sets about writing up his numerous reports on the recent events that have effected Easy. It’s clear throughout this episode that while Dick is proud and content to be a high ranking officer, he misses the camaraderie and closeness that came with being a part of Easy.
The episode’s central set-piece sees Easy storming a crossroads where an unexpected pocket of German resistance has been spotted. As one would expect of Winters, after giving out his orders to the men, he fearlessly leads the charge forwards towards the Germans. This episode was actually directed by Tom Hanks himself and for me this sequence, where Winters gallops forward and we follow his sprint, complete with heavy breathing and swirling camerawork, is his finest moment.
Winters arrives at the crest of a hill long before the rest of his men and with just a split second hesitation as he catches the eye of a young German officer, he opens fire on the Germans he finds there. Eventually his men catch up and kill or take hostage a large group of Germans who it turns out were a crack SS division. While this sequence does show Winters’ courage and bravery, it also shows the effect killing has on his conscience as he is repeatedly haunted by the face of the young soldier he shoots. When he is rewarded for his bravery with permission to take some leave in Paris, he is unable to forget what he has seen and seems at a loss with the jollity that surrounds him. Lewis plays these scenes wonderfully, capturing perfectly the sense of confusion and disconnect that Winters now felt when thrust briefly back into civilian life.
After Winters was moved up to Battalion command, the popular officer ‘Moose’ Heyliger was given control of Easy Company. However after a nervous new replacement accidentally shot and wounded him, he was replaced by the incredibly unpopular Norman Dike, a poor leader who was criticised heavily by Winters in his own memoirs and who earned the nickname ‘Foxhole Norman’ from the men due to his ability to disappear whenever trouble arrived. Dike’s questionable leadership and the great loss of Winters being moved up to Battalion becomes increasingly important in the coming episodes.
At the end of the episode, the men ready to enter Bastogne at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. The sight of haggard and broken men trudging the opposite way is a worrying indicator as to the horrors that are to come. The Easy men scrounge and borrow all the ammo and medical supplies they can spare from the men being pulled off the lines, but little did they know just what a maelstrom they were walking into.
Come back on Monday for Rob’s look-back at the next episode, Bastogne.
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