This episode belongs to First Sgt Carwood Lipton. While the company is seen throughout the episode, the overarching narration belongs to Lipton, the calm voice of Donnie Wahlberg. No matter what happens in this episode, and a lot does, Donnie’s calm overtones centre you while you watch. The narration keeps your attention firmly where it needs to be.
After Easy repelled the Germans at Bastogne, they moved on to be stationed in the Bois Jacques area of the Ardennes. German forces occupy the nearby village of Foy. Easy Company continued to suffer many casualties amidst the frequent shelling that the German artillery were dishing out.
While the events that were shown in episode six (Bastogne) were harrowing for the men of Easy, those that followed Bastogne, see the men suffer even further from the trauma of war. Corporal Hoobler`s tragic accident with the Luger, being just the beginning. Despite all interventions, he was unable to be saved. Hoobler was well-liked amongst the company and the mental torture that they all felt from this was very real. Lt Buck Compton noticed this and lectured the men, reminding them that “no matter how bad things get, they are not to do anything stupid.” While he talked to his men, they themselves noticed that he had ‘hardened’ since his injuries in Nuenen and since Bastogne. The man that they could rely on for his positivity had changed. The positivity had slid away.
The episode continues. We see Hoobler`s death being reported to Winters by Sgt Lipton. Here there is another issue brewing and Winters knows this. On top of losing men and attitudes changing, Winters realises that Lt Dike is not making the grade. The problem for Winters is that Dike is there as a favour to someone higher in command.
Winters knows that this leaves the men in potential danger but also knows that there are limited things he can do. Winters is seeing so much that he has no control over. Winters has seen a much loved company man die needlessly. One of his most reliable soldiers has had a change in attitude and now he is looking at a leader who cannot lead.
The company are now back at their front lines in the forest overlooking Foy. As foxholes are dug, the shelling continues. Joe Toye loses half of his right leg. On hearing him yelling, Guarnere, one of his best friends rushes out to assist him. Guarnere, also loses his right leg. The shock of seeing both men, same injury, lying in front of him is Buck Compton`s breaking point. Winters takes him off the line.
Further shelling sees the loss of Penkala and Skip Muck. George Luz witnessed this happen. Lipton goes to see Malarkey, who is grieving the loss of his friend. Sgt Lipton hands over the Luger that belonged to Hoobler. Malarkey takes it for his kid brother.
When assaulting the town of Foy, Dikes capabilities are shown to be exactly what Winters had feared. Dike freezes, compromising the assault and ordering a retreat. Spiers is sent forward to take over.
Spiers safely controls the raid, taking on most of the action by himself. It’s almost as if the Germans could not believe what they had seen this man do! An unseen sniper however, takes down several men during the raid. The sniper is taken down by Shifty Powers.
We close the episode with Easy watching a choirs performance. As the camera pans around, faces disappear as Lipton narrates the fate of the men. He also finds out he has been given a field promotion.
This episode is beautifully shot. You feel the cold, you hear the shelling, you feel the bullets whizzing past you. (When you have a great surround sound system, you find yourself ducking!) Director David Frankel takes the reins and allows each of the men their moment to shine.
This episode, like the one before it, is a tragic one. We see the harsh realities of war hitting home with someone who the men felt was invincible (Buck Compton). We see the grief etched on the faces of those who have lost friends (George Luz and Donald Malarkey) . We see the concern on the faces of the men and the discussions about Dike. We see the courage in Lipton, standing up to Winters in discussing Dikes capabilities. We see the bravery in Spiers, not just taking over the raid, but leading it from the front. We see Guarnere and Toye injured and out of the war.
But the toughest part despite all of that, is watching the costs of war. Watching the faces disappear as Lipton narrates. That is war and loss at its harshest.
The Last Patrol
Private Webster returns to Easy company in Hagenau. Following a lengthy time away ,as well as not being with the company for Bastogne and Foy, the men are resentful of him and display their hostility. Of course, Easy know of all the other men who made efforts to go awol from hospital to rejoin the lines, but they feel Websters actions were myopic.
Easy is joined by a young second lieutenant, whose graduation to acceptance into the company is just as hard as Websters return. There is a patrol and prisoner snatch that is planned for that night. Webster aims to use diplomatic skills that he clearly has, and convinces Winters and Spiers to allow the inexperienced Lt Jones to join the patrol, replacing Malarkey. Webb also secures Liebgott for covering fire on the allied side.
As the patrol cross, one boat capsizes. Reaching the other side, Pvt Jackson enters a building after throwing a grenade. He enters too soon, and as a result is that he is fatally injured, dying later on return to battalion headquarters. German soldiers are brought back and are in danger due to the death of Jackson. The men want retaliation, a combination of anger and adrenaline that bubbles to the surface. Lt. Jones steps in and restores order.
During the patrol, explosives had been planted. The building collapses the next morning, watched by Spiers and Winters. Colonel Sink reports another patrol is scheduled.however this one is going further and deeper into enemy territory making the risks much higher for Easy.
Winters tells the men, they are not going. He continues and says that he will report they went and were unsuccessful. They are told to get a good nights sleep. At this, Easy recognise that Websters diplomacy played a part in this and they welcome him back as they depart from Hagenau.
This episode, directed by Tony To, focuses on processes rather than the men. It’s the process of getting a hot shower. The process of arranging meals. The process of supplies coming in and being given out. The process of the raid for German prisoners. The process of directions and orders from Sink to Winters and subsequently to the men.
Overarching the processes here, is the process of return and acceptance. The return of a man to his unit and what happens. This is David Websters story.