Television, Television Reviews

TV Review: MASTERS OF THE AIR (Apple TV+) Part 9 and Final Thoughts

Posted: March 18, 2024 at 9:03 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

With the release of Part Nine, the official run of Masters of the Air has been completed. It’s been a hell of a roller-coaster, for mostly good reasons. I don’t want to spoil what happens to the remaining cast, so I’m going to do more of an overview of the highlights and lowlights.

When The Pacific was released in 2010, I (unfairly) watched it through the lens of a Band of Brothers fan. They’re similar yet different, and holding it to the standards of its predecessor presented a bias that I had a hard time overcoming. After watching it again in preparation for watching Masters, I came out of it with a much more favorable opinion. I still prefer Brothers over it, but the gap wasn’t as close as it had once been.

And so I tried to go into the series with an open mind, and I’m glad I did. There’s still a lot of combat and excitement (that term seems wrong to use knowing war is truly horrific, but I’m not sure how else to describe it), but it’s a different measure of it. Rather than being on the ground facing down the enemy, the men were placed in a giant flying death machine, unable to maneuver much and instead forced to absorb the bullets and flak while on a predetermined course. There are plenty of aviation buffs out there, certainly, but most people tend to consider the stories of the fighter pilots sexier. I can understand this; I recently discovered I’m first cousins three times removed with Butch O’Hare. But the stories of the bomber pilots and crew deserve attention as well; their actions were no less heroic.

Visually, the series has been about as good as you could ask for. The sweeping panoramas of the bombers flying in formation, the frenetic combat as German fighters race past, it’s all absolutely gorgeous. The directors of cinematography did a masterful job of blending aerial shots with scenes on the ground; they will hopefully be up for some hardware come award season.

Austin Butler and Callum Turner headline the cast, but there’s still a tremendous amount of talent to go around. Bel Powley, Joanna Kulig, and Barry Keoghan are all stars in their own right, and if Band of Brothers and The Pacific are any indication, the rest of the cast may develop into worldwide superstars in the coming years. Thanks to Elvis, Butler has turned into a legitimate star; he’s still struggling to drop the Elvis accent, but with his looks and ability, he and Turner are going to be leading men in Hollywood for a while.

Perhaps the biggest revelation for me in terms of the cast was Anthony Boyle. Although it turns out I’d seen him before (he was in an episode of Game of Thrones as well as the movie Tetris), this was the first time I’d seen him in a starring role, and I think he nailed it. His character, Lieutenant Crosby, was portrayed more as an everyman than a calm, collected badass like Dick Winters in Band of Brothers; he excelled at his job, but he wasn’t unflappable, and as we saw with Sandra, he wasn’t perfect. Boyle was tremendous, and I hope to see more of his work in the future.

The biggest gripe I had with the series as a whole was its consistency between each episode. Some episodes were brutal trips to hell that were equal to or greater than any war film or series I’ve seen (Parts Three and Five in particular) and were, at least in my opinion, the stronger episodes of the series. Others were slower and more deliberate with a dearth of any combat. It’s possible they had to do this for budgetary reasons (unlike Band and Pacific, which were mostly ground-based and didn’t have to rely on a ton of CGI, Masters had to utilize it a lot, as there aren’t a lot of operational B-17s left), but it is a bit of a letdown, especially when we see just how incredible it worked in other episodes. I did appreciate that they included the efforts of the Redtails as part of the series as well, but the part they played in the series was tiny compared to the men of the 100th, and because they showed up so late in the series, it was harder to get as emotionally connected to them.

I have to give props to John Orloff and John Shiban; making a series of this scope takes a tremendous amount of dedication and work to pull off, but they (with the help of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, of course) managed to create not only an educational series, but ultimately, and most importantly, an entertaining one. It’s been 14 years since The Pacific, and it was ten years between that and Band of Brothers, so who knows whether Hanks and Spielberg will try to make another series in the future. I certainly hope so, but if they don’t, it’s been an amazing ride. If I had to put them in order of preference, I’d go Band of Brothers, Masters of the Air, and The Pacific. This isn’t a knock on Masters, though; rather, it’s just a testament to how good Brothers was. You could do far, far worse than watching Masters of the Air.

Masters of the Air gets an A-