Monday, July 21, 2008

Generation Kill, part 2

I forgot to mention two aspects of last week’s episode that I loved. First, the 1st Marine Recon Battalion being introduced to their embedded Rolling Stone reporter. The marines crack jokes about the liberal media; they’re much more impressed with the writer, though, when they learn he also used to write for Hustler.

The second great sequence closed the show, and on an ominous note. The marines run into retreating Republican Guard soldiers. Deciding that handing the surrenders would slow down their advance towards the front lines, the decision is made to “unsurrender” them. The men are sent back to where they came from, to be killed, tortured, or, best case scenario (for them), to eventually fight the Americans. The war’s first big mistake came the war even started.

This second episode, “Cradle of Civilization,” is much easier to follow, the characters easier to tell apart. It also has The Wire’s dark humor and institutional pessimism (not to mention a hilarious, profane discussion of the men's most hated patriotic country music songs). This week’s episode also opens with exactly the sort of vision of modern American war-making that you’d expect from David Simon, Ed Burns, et al: the opening campaign not as a firefight or triumphant rolling out, but as a traffic jam of tanks and personnel carriers.

For the rest of the episode the marines bitch about their incompetence of their officers (why are they crossing an exposed bridge in daylight? Because doing it the night before would be “not retarded enough”) and wait for the fighting to start. Sergeant Major Sixta is this show’s Rawls or Burrell figure. He interrupts the marines while they’re celebrating surviving an ambush to remind them they’ll need to shave to be in accordance with grooming standards.

When the waiting ends, the violence is sudden and scary. The gunfights on The Wire were generally brief and kind of awkward. The ones in Generation Kill are interminable, like the longest minutes of these guys’ lives.

Again, though, there are portents of what is to come. When the marines happen across an enemy encampment, one of them pisses in enemy soldiers’ supply of rice (“denying the enemy”). Another observes the threadbare blankets and campfire remnants and observes, “these are some fucking hard men.”

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