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A Review of HBO's "The Pacific"

(To read the rest of our series on Band of Brothers, please click here.)

Here’s a question we’ve haven’t received but might as well answer: are you going to do a series of posts on The Pacific?

Ah, The Pacific, Band of Brothers’ sister mini-series. The short answer is no. Why? A few reasons:

1. People may be tired of reading about Band of Brothers. We’ve only got two posts left after this one, but we’ve been writing about Band of Brothers for seven months now. We don’t want to do (at least) 10 more weeks on another mini-series.

2. We want to stop writing about World War II. As I wrote about in my post on “Points”, I dislike America’s hyperfocus on World War II, which celebrates a good versus evil triumphalism that ignores the ugly nature of most wars. Other wars deserve more attention; World War II needs less.

3. The Pacific just isn’t as intriguing. When I first proposed this series to Michael C, I came up with four ideas linked to four episodes of Band of Brothers off the top of my head. He had another three. I’ve got nothing for The Pacific.

4. Michael C hasn’t seen The Pacific and doesn’t have time in business school.

5. Most importantly, I didn’t really like The Pacific. In lieu of a series, I’m going to review The Pacific today, sharing some stray thoughts and opinions on what worked in the series and what didn’t. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t like a lot of it.

The Good:

Leckie. Just a brilliant character. Literary, aware and shell shocked, his journey fascinated me. Then he exits the series five episodes in. I wish the whole series had followed his journey.

The scene from episode five where the boats leave the ship. The best clip I could find is this British trailer:

Just brilliant.

Snafu. Oh my god Snafu. I have no idea if this character is based on real-life or not. Allegedly it was, but Rami Malek’s brilliant portrayal is too...odd...to be based on anything other than great acting. Take, for example, this exchange, as Snafu smokes a cigarette in front of a “No Smoking” sign and watches the new guys clean out barrels:

Snafu: “You assholes are gonna miss cleanin' out oil barrels pretty soon. You gonna be humpin' up some fuckin' hill...or across a beach, Japs pourin' shit for fire, pissin' your pants, cryin' boo-hoo, wishin' you were back here with nothin' asked of you but to scrub oil outta drums.

Bill: Why don't you grab a brush and give us a hand?

Snafu: Fuck that shit, I scrub drums for no man.

Sledge: Can we take a break?

Snafu: Do whatever you want, this ain't my detail. I was supposed to dump y'all off here and report back to the C.P.

Oswalt: Then why're you still here?

Snafu: I like to watch the new guys sweat.


The episode in Australia. I’ve never seen a cinematic depiction of Australia during the war, but I could have watched three more episodes of the marines there. It just worked for me, as a viewer.

So that’s the good. Not a lot of it. Which brings us to...

The Bad

The Pacific suffers from inherent structural issues; the series had no narrative consistency. Band of Brothers had an amazing self-contained story of one company that landed on D-Day, fought in Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and ended up liberating a concentration camp. All with the same characters and a catchy title.

The Pacific is a loose mash-up of three stories that kind of follow each other, all under the banner of The Pacific. As I wrote earlier, my favorite character disappeared midway through the mini-series.

Worse yet, I hated Eugene Sledge, one of the two main characters. He’s whiny and he always seemed to be doing the thing he knew he should be doing as opposed to just doing it. This is an odd criticism to write about a character in a TV series based on a real person, but everything he did was so cliched. He couldn't go to war because he was 4F, so he pouts. Cliche. He finally deploys, and he has no idea what’s going on! Cliche. A pretty girl ladles him soup after he returns from battle, and he looks at her like she has no idea what he just went through! Cliche.

Compared to Leckie, who never does the cliched thing, Sledge always did the obvious thing, which means that half of the series just didn’t work for me.

Worse yet, I didn’t get any ideas form the series, mainly because it didn’t ask the same big questions that Band of Brothers asked.

In the end, that’s The Pacific’s worst failing.

five comments

You should read Sledge’s book With The Old Breed. It is a brilliant book. Unless you have read it your criticism of Mr. Sledge is more a criticism of whoever wrote his character for the mini-series.

The camera actually steps back to give more spatial context to action scenes for the viewer from time-to-time in The Pacific, whereas Band of Brothers piles on the shaky cam. Points to The Pacific.

As Eric C pointed out, I haven’t seen the Pacific, so I can’t really comment. As to your point Carl, yeah Eric C is criticizing the characters portrayal because it comes across as a caricature, not a fully fleshed out person.

It just popped into my head the other day, but I do remember being impressed while watching The Pacific with how it managed to produce an atmosphere in which the characters did not know the hows, wheres, and whens of the direction and ultimate end of the war. So often historical fiction feels like the boxes of a prefigured outcome are being checked. I imagine that doing otherwise is pretty hard to pull off.

The Pacific was harder to follow. The characters all seemed to blend. As did the plots. It lacked the distinct locales that Band of Brothers had as well as the same tone. While BOB had a sad desperation and a disparagement of war, it still had the overarching tone of duty, honor, and perseverance. The Pacific was much darker and seemed to have less of a focus on the friendship of soldiers.