This show is not for me.
I’ve always known this, that’s why I have never watched it. I’d start thinking about the subject matter, remember photo stills of the scenes I’ve glimpsed over the years, and just KNEW it would be nightmare city for me. You can call me delicate, call me a wuss, I don’t really care. This show? This show is not for me.
But I need to be clear: I do not want, for one moment, for my thoughts on war or my inability to sit through a show this intense, to be mistaken for criticism or ingratitude for the sacrifices made by so many. I am a descendant of men and women who served, and I benefit every day of my life because of those who went before me. I would never disparage their time spent defending our country, and their great sacrifices in doing so.
I also do not want to seem critical of the show for its very subject. While a lot of media will glorify war, Band of Brothers certainly does not. It explores war in all its ugliness, all of its pointless waste and death. It illustrates the sacrifice and the cost so very clearly, and without judgement. War brings out the very best and the very worse in all of humanity, and this show did not pull any punches in depicting that.
Aside from the grit and the gore, the strongest element of Band of Brothers is the humanity it brings to these people, to those who are caught up in it, to those brave enough to face an inevitable darkness and fight to see the light on the other side. That humanity is present in the very title, is the very core of the entire story, and it is what makes this show great, for those who can handle the subject matter. The writing is so interesting and compelling, it can easy to forget how this was all based on the real life and times of a real group of people. It just seems so fantastical, so theatrical, so much larger than life! If it wasn’t so terrifying to imagine, it might be considered thrilling. The fact that it did actually happen was part of the distress, for me, in watching it. It’s easy to detach from the science fiction hero being shot by the space laser. It’s a lot harder to detach from something that actually happened. Even though what was on my screen was not real, my mind could not escape that these people were re-enacting actual events. My empathy was in overdrive!
The entire cast “brings it” in such a major way. They all seem to carry the weight and the realism of actually depicting real people who walked the Earth during World War 2. This reality made it a painful, immersive watch. I really begin to wonder how any of these people came back with any shred of sanity. It’s a point made even sadder when you consider that those who made it home, did so at a time when their PTSD wasn’t even formally recognized or treated. The show doesn’t pull back from any of that trauma, as men fire off rounds through tears, and hold their fallen brothers as they die.
I have not forgotten, dear reader, that this is a blog about Damian Lewis! I guess should say a few nice words about our favorite fella.
To us, his most devoted fans, it is no surprise to find that Damian’s portrayal of Dick Winters is absolutely stunning. Seeing him so young is striking, right off the bat! Barely a man, himself, with a smooth complexion, absent of his well-earned smile lines, in Band of Brothers, Damian portrays a stoic soldier, a man of great conviction and discipline. It’s incredible in so many ways. It’s so different from who he is, and such a departure from the many dynamic characters we have seen him take on since. So quiet, so dialed down, so serious.
It struck me in a very personal way. There was something about the way he carried himself, the tempered way he spoke, that was oddly familiar. It was as though I had met this man, before. Then it dawned on m: I realized that he reminded me of my Grandfather, John, who has also fought in WW2. Damian managed to nail something so essential about the posture, the body language, just the very essence of the men of that generation. I am not sure how he managed to do it, but he really did. It was absolutely eerie, feeling as though I was watching someone I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing since his passing in 2003, and one I had never known at that particular age. What a gift Damian can give, in such a role. I wonder how many people had that moment, as well.
It is rather stunning that, even as such a young man, that he was able to pull that off. It’s obviously all the more evidence of Damian’s talents and abilities, which he seems to have been born with. That’s not to say that he doesn’t expend any effort, or that he didn’t need study, direction, and education to hone his craft. But it does seem that this ability to “be the part” is something he’s always had. His range is really incredible, to even believe that this is the same man who swaggers down the hallways of Axe Capital these days. How can he be both? How can he play such opposite ends of the spectrum?
From the moment the first episode started, and the faces of the real men behind this story began flashing across the face, sharing their accounts, I knew I was in over my head. I made it 3 episodes in before turning it off. At the top of each episode, the real-life men, teary-eyed at times, share incredibly personal insight into these stories, of what it was like to have this not just as story, but as memory. Again, it’s the humanity that makes this show extraordinary and special. It’s the fact that it DID happen. We could talk all day about the production value of this show, the efforts that must have went into it. The costuming, the writing, the research, the talent on all sides. It’s a tremendous undertaking to bring such a period piece to life, and to do so correctly, authentically, respectfully and truthfully. I can see why this show is beloved by so many, my darling husband being one of them. His box set of the show gets a re-watch at least twice a year.
But it’s still not for me.