Read the first part of this series, here.
After Currahee provided an initial introduction to the men of Easy Company, Day Of Days was a jolting wake-up call. The veterans at the episode’s start remind us of just how many men they lost on that first jump. Judging by the opening few minutes of confusion and carnage, you begin to wonder why it wasn’t so many more.
This episode revolves around Operation Overlord which took place on the 6th of June 1944. This was the military codename for the Battle of Normandy which famously included the vast D-Day beach landings. Easy’s job, along with that of many other paratrooper companies, was to land behind enemy lines and secure the causeway leading off the beach.
At the episode’s outset, as the armada of aircraft encounter intense enemy fire and other planes begin exploding around them, nervous flight crews flew off course and also let their men jump out early. This resulted in the men of Easy Company being scattered all across Normandy, often miles from their objectives. In one early stand-out sequence, the camera follows Dick Winters as he jumps out of his plane amidst the raging carnage before following him down through the gunfire and into the eerie calm of the French countryside, allowing us to witness the crashing planes and explosions just as he does.
Throughout these scenes you really get a sense of the confusion that reigned on that night back in 1944 as soldiers landed across the vast French countryside, often losing their equipment in the process and winding up miles from their comrades and simply joining up with whoever they could find.
This episode’s focus was again largely Dick Winters and it is he who becomes de-facto leader of Easy Company once 1st Lieutenant Meehan is killed during the jump. In this episode however, you begin to pick out a few of the recognisable characters who will rise in prominence over the series. The likes of Donnie Wahlberg’s Carwood Lipton, Neal McDonough’s ‘Buck’ Compton, Scott Grimes’ Donald Malarkey and Frank John Hughes’ Bill Guarnere, to name but a few. It can upon first watch be hard to keep up with who’s who in a cast as large as this one, especially when the men are sometimes referred to by nickname and are frequently ducking out of the way of gunfire. However there are undoubtedly a key set of ten or fifteen characters you slowly begin to recognise by name. These Toccoa men are the big characters of the Company who will ultimately play a large part in keeping it together in fraught times.
The final big showpiece of the episode sees Winters and a squad of men take out a set of German guns. This sequence cements Winters’ position as a great military tactician and demonstrates why his men respect him so highly. The visceral action and kinetic camera work do a great job of thrusting the viewer into the heat of combat and this assault serves as a small precursor to what will follow in later episodes. Such was the effectiveness of Winters’ assault, we are informed at the episode’s end that the taking of these guns is still used in military training at West Point military academy when teaching an assault on a fixed position.
The episode ends with a thankful Winters delivering a thoughtful piece of narration that points strongly at the huge task that still lies ahead of them:
“That night, I took time to thank God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed I would make it through D plus 1. And if, somehow, I managed to get home again, I promised God and myself that I would find a quiet piece of land someplace and spend the rest of my life in peace.”
Come back tomorrow for Rob’s look-back at episode three, Carentan.
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