TV Review: MASTERS OF THE AIR (Ep. 4) on Apple TV+
And now for the aftermath.
While Part 3 showed the extent of the Regensburg bombing mission, Part 4 is a decidedly less exciting episode, as the 100th deals not only with its success in the previous mission, but also its losses. It’s a change of scenery and pace from what I consider one of the better episodes of Masters of the Air, but it’s also crucial for people to not only see the harrowing missions the men undertook, but the repercussions and the ordeal that some of them were forced to go through.
When doing the math of the Regensburg results, Part 4 is in a sense similar to the Band of Brothers episode 4, “Replacements.” After losing 23 of their initial 35 bombing crews, the 100th is forced to fill their ranks with babyface recruits, guys who barely got enough practice time in the B-17s to qualify.
One of the crew they’re forced to replace is Sgt. Quinn, whose B-17 was shot down with one of its crew that he was forced to abandon. Discovered by locals, he is teamed up with another survivor and members of the French resistance as he tries to make his way to Spain and eventually back to England. It’s unsettling to think about the situation he and many other young men were forced into: alone in a foreign land where you don’t speak the local language, relying on the kindness of strangers who are literally putting their lives on the line to assist you. When you watch war movies and television series, you don’t often consider just how much work and sacrifice went into ensuring the soldiers, pilots, and sailors even had a chance to fight.
One such role is filled by Sgt. Ken Lemmons (Rafferty “Raff” Law), one of the incredible mechanics responsible for repairing the heavily damaged B-17s after they fly their sorties. Lemmons works on Cleven’s plane and by all accounts is masterful despite being only 19. This point is driven home sharply in Part 4 when Lemmons repairs one of the engines on Cleven’s B-17 as it’s being taxied onto the runway for take-off. It’s a brief moment of tension in a mostly unexciting episode, and it drives home just how crucial non-combatant roles were for the war effort. Certainly, the men in the planes played a massive role in winning the war, but it’s nice to see credit given to the men behind the scenes, without whom the pilots, gunners, and bombers wouldn’t have been able to do their part.
Part 4 is a decided tonal shift in the series from its predecessor, which some may find unsettling, but at the same time, I think it’s also essential. To distant observers like ourselves, it isn’t necessarily an exciting or fun episode, but it’s crucial to see the lives of the men outside of combat missions. For us, we watch the next episode and move on with our lives; for these men and women, this was how they lived for several years, not knowing whether they and their comrades would make it home in one piece. Those that didn’t left people to mourn them or worry about them, and for that I’m glad we’re not simply force-fed nine episodes that solely focus on combat.
Still, if there’s a fault in the series, it’s similar to one of the biggest issues Band of Brothers faced: there are a lot of characters to keep track of initially, and it isn’t made any better by filling their spots with new replacements. We barely had three episodes to become familiar with the cast, and now in Part 4 we’re given even more new faces to get accustomed to. Obviously, this is something that the actual members of the 100th also had to deal with, but it’s still a decent bit of mental math that’s unusual for a source of entertainment. I’m thankful for the internet and its resources, without which it’d be much tougher to appreciate the series without having to re-watch it over and over.
Masters of the Air Part 4 gets a B-