The first two episodes of Masters of the Air introduced us to the 100th Bomb Group and made it clear that Major Gale ‘Buck’ Cleven and Maj. John ‘Bucky’ Egan were the protagonists of the series. Bucky was disillusioned regarding the glorious nature of war first, and then it was Buck’s turn. In a desperate attempt to be by his friend’s side during the 100th’s bombing run over Norway, Bucky got himself demoted. The endeavor was somewhat successful, as they managed to drop the bombs and hurt the Nazis. Lt. Curtis Biddick got separated from his group and crash-landed in Scotland, but he was safe and sound. The 100th celebrated their success, and then, at the end of the party, Buck, Bucky, and the rest of the gang watched the night sky light up due to the battle going on around Norwich.
The 100th Takes Some Severe Hits From The Germans
Episode 3 of Masters of the Air opens with an expository scene where Col. Neil ‘Chick’ Harding tells the 100th that they are going to bomb two things: one is the Messerschmitt 109 engine assembly plant in Regensburg, and the other is the ball bearing factories in Schweinfurt. One task force is going to go to Regensburg, and two other task forces will go to Schweinfurt, thereby confusing the Nazis about which spot they should defend first. While that sounds great and all, the biggest issue with this plan is that the bombers have to fly over German-occupied territory for a very long time before getting to their targets. That means they’ll have to face an endless barrage of anti-aircraft bombs and fighter jets. If they survive all that, then they’ll get to do their job, i.e., bomb the Nazis. To make matters worse, they won’t get to return home after that. They have to go all the way to Algiers for replenishments, refueling, and repairs. In addition to all that, they are going to be the victims of bad weather, which is something they experience when they are about to take off via something all of us are familiar with: fog.
While waiting for the green signal to take off, the focus jumps between the members of the teams who are about to take to the skies. And that’s where the issue becomes apparent. The dialogue writing is simply horrendous. I can pardon the lack of depth in the conversations between the supporting characters. But what about the interaction between Buck and Curtis? What in the seven hells is that? On top of that, Austin Butler and Barry Keoghan are doing next to nothing to elevate the material because they care more about their accent and voice than trying to inject some substance into their respective characters. Anyway, the squads get the green light, and they face heavy bombardment over Belgium (it was under German occupation from 1940 to around 1945). The team being led by Buck is hurting the most. They are forced to randomly drop the bombs and then bail out. Amidst all this chaos, Quinn is faced with the difficult decision of whether to save Baby Face, risk dying on the airplane, or jump out and save himself. After trying his best, Quinn decides to jump, thereby leaving Baby Face to die. I’m guessing this will come back to haunt him later on in the miniseries.
Sgt. William Quinn Gets the Option to Escape or Surrender
After Buck’s whole squad is wiped out, he tries to join the rest of the team, even though his plane is failing due to the damage that has been inflicted on it. Buck’s copilot keeps telling him to bail, but Buck says that he is going to persevere for as long as he can. Curtis’ plane is badly hit as well. While everyone bails, Curtis decides to go for a crash landing because his copilot, Dickie, has been hit, but he is breathing. If he is made to jump out, he won’t be able to open his parachute, and he’ll die. Curtis assumes that if they crash land (which is something he has done in the past), Dickie will get a fighting chance. Unfortunately, Curtis’ calculations are totally off, and he ends up nose-diving into a forest, thereby killing himself and his copilot. Side note: The CGI and VFX are atrocious during this moment. I know that it’s a TV show, and we aren’t supposed to have high expectations from it. But if you are making a show that is heavily reliant on CGI and VFX, then it has to be top-notch, or you have to choose another story. I mean, there’s a shot of aerial chaos going on that’s backed up by some somber music. However, the visuals are not impactful at all.
Anyway, the planes reach their target, and despite facing a lot of gunfire from the Nazi fighter jets, they manage to drop the bombs and destroy the factories. Elsewhere, in Flanders, Belgium, Quinn manages to make his way to a family living on the outskirts. He states that he is an American, and he gets some food and water from that family. Eventually, though, he finds himself facing a group of rebels who give him two options: escaping into England and risking getting killed for being a spy, or surrendering and being tried as a prisoner of war and hopefully living to tell his tale. The episode doesn’t show what Quinn chooses to do, but I’m guessing he’ll choose the first option because who wants to stand trial in front of the Nazis? He has survived a Nazi attack in the air. I’m sure he can do the same on land and at sea. Back in the flying fortresses, there’s a nice moment where Crosby tries to keep track of the units they’ve lost, even though he doesn’t have to. He wants to make sure that the lives that have been lost aren’t forgotten.
Did the 100th Reach Africa After the Bombing Run?
At the end of Masters of the Air episode 3, the surviving planes make their way to Algiers. Some of them are forced to land in the water because of the state of their aircraft. Buck somehow manages to get his plane over the finishing line and into Algiers. There’s a small moment where Crosby’s navigational skills are doubted because the landing spot isn’t noticeable. But that moment doesn’t last very long because the planes eventually spot the place where they’ll be able to repair their planes, get the fuel they need to go back to England, and tend to the wounded. Everyone is relieved to be on solid ground again. And it seems like Buck and Bucky are going to have a meaningful conversation about their horrifying ordeal, or maybe they are going to just sit in silence and digest what they have faced. That doesn’t happen. Instead, they simply state the obvious (something that the audience can anyway see on their screens), and the episode fades to black, as if they have achieved something substantial. I am well aware of the fact that this is military propaganda, and I shouldn’t look for artistic merit in it. However, is it really that hard to instill some heart into the storytelling? Well, evidently, it is. I’m sure that fans of World War II history are loving this because of the objectivity of the narrative. I’m not liking this at all because, at the end of the day, it’s not a documentary. It’s a miniseries with actors reenacting possible real-life instances. That demands some subjectivity. Where is that? I don’t know. Maybe in the next few episodes? We’ll see.