Revisiting Band Of Brothers: Replacements

Our daily look-back at the superlative Band Of Brothers continues with episode four, Replacements...

Read the previous part in this series, here.

It’s made clear throughout this series that the men who trained together at Toccoa and took part in the Normandy landings shared a particularly special bond. The replacements who were drafted in to replace fallen soldiers therefore had to work hard to earn the respect of their fellow men.

This episode’s central focus is Denver ‘Bull’ Randleman (Michael Cudlitz), a Staff Sergeant who was widely held by Winters and the other men to be one of the finest soldiers in the company. Quietly spoken and full of home-spun wisdom, Bull is shown throughout the episode helping out and geeing up the new recruits. The Company is involved in Operation Market Garden, an ultimately doomed campaign where the Allied forces parachuted into Holland with the goal of clearing a path to invade Germany. Easy experiences success at first and liberates Eindhoven to a rapturous welcome. Shortly afterwards however, they meet with heavy fire in the town of Nuenen and are forced into retreat. During this conflict, Bull becomes separated from the rest of his unit.

The liberation of Eindhoven is a joyous occasion for the men as they are hailed as conquering heroes by the Dutch people. In amidst the celebrations though, we do witness the ill-feeling felt by the Dutch towards their countrymen who fraternised with the Nazis during occupation. Chilling scenes of the women accused of sleeping with German soldiers having their heads shaved drive home the festering anger caused by occupation.  

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The celebrations in Eindhoven are soon forgotten however, when the Company enter Nuenen and the Germans situated there are far more prepared than the military intelligence had Easy believe. Easy comes under heavy attack and takes a number of losses. One of those who gets killed was a young replacement called Miller, played by none other than Professor X himself, James McAvoy. Across the series, as well as McAvoy, there are minor roles for Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender, and small bit parts for Simon Pegg, Jimmy Fallon and even Moriarty himself, Andrew Scott. Cleary the casting department had a good eye for talent!

The battle in Nuenen was a barnstorming action sequence, with a German Panzer tank causing Easy all sorts of problems. The production crew worked tirelessly to create fully functioning tanks that closely resembled the real period pieces and their quality shines through in scenes such as this. Eventually, after being pushed back out of the town, the company are forced into a frustrating retreat and grudgingly leave Bull behind.

Bull hides in a nearby barn and even with a wounded shoulder, he somehow manages to evade capture thanks to the help of a couple of locals and through sheer guts as he engages in hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier. It’s testament to the regard in which Bull was held that a squad of his men, including several raw recruits, set out as a search party to find him. This, along with Popeye busting out of hospital to be with the men, and Malarkey’s refusal to leave an injured Buck Compton behind, all serve to emphasise the bond these men shared.  

A discussion between Winters and Nixon emphasises the frustrating reprecussions of Operation Market Garden:

Winters: I don’t like retreating.

Nixon: First time for everything.

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Winters: How’d the other divisions fare up north?

Nixon: …….I think we’re gonna have to find another way into Germany.

Come back tomorrow for Rob’s look at episode four, Crossroads.

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