May 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Masters Of The Air “Part Three”

Episode Three

I think I am starting to get the feel for this mini-series and how it’s supposed to go.  It’s not just the story of the two guys at the center of it as with Dick Winters in Band of Brothers.  There is that with Buck and Bucky, but there’s something else going on too that I think is maybe more of the point.

To be clear, my recollection was that Band of Brothers did this as well, but the idea is not so much to showcase the steady hand in charge (and Buck’s hand is incredibly steady as seen in this episode), but it’s to show what life was like for these men as well as showcasing just how freakin’ dangerous what they did actually was.  This episode mostly focuses on a single attack, a daytime bombing of a few factories, after which one group of planes will instead fly to a airfield in Algeria rather than fly back to Great Britain.  The attack is planned in such a way to make German resistance minimal in that there would be one heavy attack just before the bombs drop on one group, but it wouldn’t last long because the German planes would need to fly off to refuel and reload afterwards and then it would be more or less clear flying for the  surviving planes.

And yes, the protagonists here are the guys who get attacked.

So, having the planes get shot up and go down is the obvious danger, but this episode actually opens with what looks a lot like the old military adage of “hurry up and wait” as the planes don’t even get to take off right away due to heavy fog.  Taking off in the fog is, as one guy says, something the pilots can do, but at the same time, they can’t account for things like a cow on the runway that could do a lot of damage to these not-particularly-sturdy planes before they even get a chance to take off.

All that happens (or doesn’t as the case may be) before the planes can even take off.  From there, it’s really the sort of thing I have come to expect in many ways when the Germans attack.  What surprised me here is how much worse it seemed, and not just because Lt. Biddick died when his plane went down, something I didn’t expect because he’s played by one of the more recognizable actors in the cast.  Granted, he may not have been as recognizable during filming, but he did get a few prominent appearances, had his name pretty high in the opening credits, and now he’s dead.

What made this one different was the little things.  Buck’s refusal to bail even after his fuel line was hit and had to somehow still get to Africa.  Crewmen shot through and killed even in planes that managed to land.  Planes that gradually go down, one in a water landing in the Mediterranean.  Navigators who have to brush bullet casings off their maps in order to see and do their jobs.  And the horror of having to leave a ball turret guy  behind when his escape hatch jams.

If anything, I was pleasantly surprised to see Sgt. Quinn’s storyline continue as he bailed out and landed in Belgium where the local resistance fighters gave him a choice:  surrender to the Germans now and be treated well under the rules of the Geneva Convention or try to go back to England and be executed as a spy if caught.

Now, if only the “next episode” previews didn’t show what choice Quinn made, it might actually be more suspenseful.