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The Morning After: Welcome to The Jungle

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HBO

While I was in New Orleans earlier this month, I went to a premiere screening of the first episode of The Pacific sponsored by the National World War II Museum. Tom Hanks, introducing the episode, said that the challenge in this miniseries “was how to enter into this massive map with no recognizable names like Paris.”

In Band of Brothers, Hanks’ and Steven Spielberg’s war-in-Europe miniseries, the makers could assume more knowledge of the war itself and could use that to gradually reveal the members of Easy Company. The Pacific, as the first episode shows, in some way works in the opposite way, taking more time to introduce its central characters, and through them introduced the audience to a war that’s been less familiar in pop culture.(With the help of some exposition from William Sadler’s Lt. Col. Chesty Puller, above.)

Having reviewed the miniseries overall, I’m not sure if I’m going to do episode-by-episode recaps of the series, but I thought I’d get your reactions to the first installment. What impressed me, in particular, was the no-turning back moment, when the Marine unit stepped from the tall grass into the dark jungle, and metaphorically, stepped into a new kind of warfare—one that was more like a horror movie than any concept they’d had of war previously.

That horror, we quickly see, directly relates to the ugliness and racism that the fighting would bring out in some men, having seen evidence of torture by the Japanese and been subjected—and this was just their first taste—not only to the physical difficulties of the jungle but to a state of constant threat, in which death could break out from the dark at any second. Fittingly, the episode ends with the Marines returning into the jungle, singing “Happy Birthday” with grim, salty humor: “How fucked are you now? / You’re surely fucked now.”

Did you watch? And if you’ve seen Band of Brothers recently enough to recall it, how do you think they compare so far?

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