Last week longtime BAD commenter VyceVictus, an active duty service member currently deployed overseas, started reviewing Enlisted, and we loved his review. VyceVictus agreed to continue writing up Fox's new Army sit-com for us on a weekly basis. We're thrilled to have him!
Before I get started, I'd like to express my appreciation for the overwhelmingly positive reception of my initial BAD article. That said, I shouldn't be trying to fool anyone, most of all myself, into thinking I can hang with professional critics. But since people seemed to be genuinely interested in a service-member's POV of this show and the representation of the military in modern fiction in general, I'm happy to oblige with a review of another episode of Enlisted for as long as the editors and readers will care to have me.
This week's story revolves around a distraught Randy's inability to qualify with his weapon, the most critical of all soldier tasks. The episode is peppered with hilarious humiliation and revelations as Derrick endeavors to coach his little brother in some BRM*. Meanwhile, the secondary plot line initiates when both SSG Hill and SSG Perez tie for first place at the shooting competition, prompting a series of challenges to prove who is the better soldier. Of course, as tends to happen with pretty leading actors, indications of the will-they-won't-they romance begin to surface in the midst of their battle.
But¹ really, how can you care about that admittedly cliched romance subplot when this Parker Young guy is just so damned lovable??
And² it is here where I once again key in on the element that now after a second episode will bring me back to this series for as long as it airs: pure, sincere heart. General spoilers follow.
You see, we learn throughout this episode that it is not a physical or technical limitation holding PFC Hill back from qualifying; it's a mental block stemming from his overabundance of compassion that keeps him from wanting to...well, shoot people. One of the funnier bits has Randy taking aim at the target, only to visualize an entire tragic back-story of one hard luck silhouette ("..he works too hard but he never complains, that's just the kinda guy he is"). Though probably not a big deal on the surface, I was actually surprised how the story progressed as CPL Hill essentially began indoctrinating the "stone cold" killer mentality into PFC Hill (though to be sure, in the Hill Bros' own delightfully nutty way, involving a revisiting of the emotionally devastating opus that is Toy Story 3).
(Tangent: Check out my man BigGhostFace and his dissertation on why TS3 is one of the realest gangsta ass movies you will ever see.)
Though Randy eventually qualifies, Derrick feels guilty for creating a potential monster out of his loveable sibling. Derrick confides in CSM Cody, who drops several pearls of profound wisdom that only the likes of Keith David can do. He reminds CPL Hill about how teaching him this skill is an act of love in its own way as it will save his life as a soldier. When Derrick wonders if Randy really is made to be a soldier at all, we come full circle to the observation that Randy is truly a credit to himself, his unit and his country by providing comfort and solace to the spouses in the FRG*. "Randy is a fine soldier. We need more men like him..not less," the Sergeant major remarks, with an extra well placed verbal jab at the young CPL for good measure.
That part really hit a nerve with me, since developing a sense of compassion and empathy is something that I've always believed in throughout my career. Let me be clear: I do not think caring about human life and being conditioned and prepared to take said life are mutually exclusive concepts. It's just that dehumanizing the enemy is a mechanism that has been used since the inception of warfare to succeed in battle, but it can lead so easily to a dangerous lasting sense of apathy about all people. That is something I take great care in trying to prevent, both in myself and those I serve with. It is a complex emotional and philosophical issue to deal with, certainly too much for a simple TV Talk column to expound upon, so I applaud Biegel and his writers for touching on that concept with graceful simplicity.
Speaking of emotional issues, I got another gut punch with this episode. The wife there confiding to Randy, and his sharing in return, and the line: "I just wish my husband knew how much I missed him."
GYYYYYYYAAARRHHHHH I MISS YOU TOO WIFE ALLL THE FEEEEELSSSS
My wife and I have actually lived apart for employment reasons this past year or so. In fact, we got married when I was midway through my time at a recent overseas duty station. We are used to separation. And yet, it does not get any easier at all. Service-member or not, if anyone has ever been apart from their loved one for an extended time, this will definitely hit home with you.
So that's my take on the second episode of Enlisted; I'm having a great time with it and hope to see it continue. I hear it's doing pretty badly in ratings, frankly, but I guess word is the Chairman at FOX is willing to let the 13 episodes ride out till the end. Ill be right there with it. One more thing of note: while looking up news about Enlisted I stumbled across this terrific webcomic blog called TerminalLance, created by a former Marine. I embedded a video of some Marine Corps shenanigans in my previous post, so I guess it's only fair I share this comic strip that gives us Army folk a bit of ribbing right back:
As it happens, the author did a bit of advising for the show and also gives it his stamp of approval. Check out more of his work here and hit him up here. As always, I look forward to all your comments, critiques, and that famous one-of-a-kind mix of reasoned, intellectual and hilarious discourse that only Badass Digest can provide. Peace.
*Basic Rifle Marksmanship
**Family Readiness Group: a command function in a unit is comprised of family members, soldiers, civilians and volunteers that provide activities and support to enhance the flow of information, increase the resiliency of unit soldiers and their families, provide practical tools for adjusting to military deployments and separations, and enhance the well-being and esprit de corps within the unit. .
¹,² Okay, basically I am living a dream come true writing stuff for BAD, so I wanted to take it a step further and live out the fantasy I've had ever since I saw Finding Forrester and dreamed of being the angry black youth whose hidden genius writing talent is discovered by a grumpy old Scottish guy. In this case I am reliving the scene where Jamal argues for the correct use of conjunctions to begin a sentence. Look, it's gonna be a long year. Just let me have this.