So, that episode left me pretty much applauding. Or at least the second half did. The Pacific enters the halfway stage, and after setting up the many plot strands and thematic elements, finally lets them loose as the war in the Pacific theatre becomes increasingly brutal. This is not Europe, and the traditional rules of war do not apply.
However, the first half of the episode gives little indication of what is to come. After a quick opening sequence catching up with Basilone and his newfound celebrity status back home (and all the perks that entails), Eugene Sledge finally enters the show proper, after several weeks of cameo appearances at boot camp. And in doing so, effectively resets the show, as previous star Leckie takes a backseat to the main narrative drive.
Sledge’s welcome is not quite what he imagined, though, as he is greeted by a collection of war fatigued, half-cracked and downright hostile fellow soldiers. He is mocked and given grim oil drum cleaning duty, watched by the seemingly sadistic and mad soldier Snafu. Only his childhood friend Sid is a comfort, although not for long as he is due to be rotated out back to the USA.
So far, so normal for The Pacific. And to be honest, it was nothing which we hadn’t already seen, except back to the beginning again. There was contrast between the veterans and the new recruits, and the usual line about ‘Welcome to paradise’. There were also references to fighting the Japanese, which we haven’t really seen all that much of so far.
After my review last week, RikkyB commented that the show, by its very scope and nature, could only show small parts of the wider tale, and one that has so far covered around two years in four episodes. That had not been a concern of mine until tonight’s episode, but I found the odd references to things I had missed slightly distracting.
Added to this was the apparent lack of action for a third week, and I was ready to write my first negative review. However, the episode soon began to improve with a killer exchange between Sledge and Leckie, in which the former’s faith in a Christian God is put to the test by a jaded Leckie.
Reasoning that if God created everything then he also created “Japs”, Leckie questions what type of God would set them against each other. When asked what he believes in, Leckie replies, “I believe in ammunition.” It is this scene which neatly defines the philosophy that The Pacific believes in, and that World War Two is perhaps one of the ultimate expressions of, that of the Jungian path of having us as both God and Satan of our own world, responsible for our own actions, and concerned with our conduct as both an individual and a society, posing questions of our existential and spiritual nature.
And then the action kicks off. The beach landing at Peleliu is surely one of the most impressive set-pieces in television in recent years. Following Sledge’s company in their landing craft, the anticipation builds before the landing craft is set free to begin its arduous slog to the shore.
The motion and first-person viewpoint reminded me of a really, really bad rollercoaster ride. One which ends with a lot of death. The craft then lands, and the camera then settles in on the nightmare surrounding Sledge and stays on him, in an epic tracking shot, as he somehow works his way through the chaos. It’s brilliant and intense, and made me feel as if The Pacific had finally burst into kaleidoscopic colour, and I’m not just referring to the amazing palette of the tropical location. It was a change not to have another night battle.
The action then finally cuts back to Leckie, who gets to sit up top on the landing craft firing the machine guns before scrambling onto the beach with the rest. We then follow the Marines as they attempt to create a beachhead, including a tense tank standoff, and some more acts of atrocious and shocking brutality towards the dead Japanese from the American soldiers.
This was certainly an episode of two halves, but one which moved this series forward into a definite positive direction. With two more episodes following the battle for Peleliu to come, it seems that concerns over a disjointed narrative threads are being answered, and with epics such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa to be addressed, the dramatic momentum should hopefully be maintained.
Read our review of episode 4 here.
The Pacific is screening on Sky Movies Premiere and Sky Movies Premiere HD.