Television Review: Masters of the Air

I’m a big fan of the earlier World War II series, Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Both of them brought home just how much of a struggle the war was in Europe and in the Pacific. Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg after they worked on Saving Private Ryan together, the series are both very well done. Acting, casting, plot, production values–you name it. (My personal preference from a story perspective is Band of Brothers, as it’s more of a contained narrative. The Pacific is more sprawling, though it’s also far more horrific. I knew next to nothing about the war over there, while I had a fair idea of the general arc of the battles in Europe.)

In any case, I was excited to hear Hanks and Spielberg had produced a third entry in their WWII “series”: Masters of the Air. The complete show is on Apple TV+ now, and Denisa and I finished it last night. It’s a fine addition to the other two shows, though I think I’d put it in third place if I were to rank them. I felt like the first half of the series was stronger, simply because it was (again) more of a contained story with characters you grew to know and understand. It was also startling and disturbing to see just what those men faced up in the skies.

Then again, it’s not as if you could make an entire series consisting of one gruesome air battle after the other. (Well, I guess you could, but I think it would tend to get pretty repetitive.) So it’s only natural that they extended the scope of the story to look at other areas, like the Tuskegee Airmen and POW camps. The same characters weave in and out of the stories, so there’s still a connection, but it wasn’t as horrific as the Pacific or as powerful of a single story as Band of Brothers.

I still gave it an 8/10. It’s based on real stories of real pilots and real battles. It does a great job expanding the scope of the earlier shows while not feeling like it’s walking over the same territory (with the exception of the “Coming across a concentration camp horror” scene, though honestly, with so many people seeming to want to completely forget that or question it, I’m all for reminding people as often as necessary.)

I’d suggest watching all of the shows if you haven’t seen them, and I’m considering giving the first two another viewing in the near future.

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