The war is over. And so ends HBO’s spectacular miniseries The Pacific. Leaving the bloodshed to earlier episodes, a peaceful conclusion follow the show’s main characters as they make their way to their respective homes.
As Sledge, Snafu and Burgin share a train on their journeys home, we begin to see their transition from warriors to war veterans. When Snafu departs with no goodbyes while Sledge sleeps, I’m reminded how the series’ filmmakers have made a consistent practice of taking viewers to the edge of numerous scenes without tidy conclusions or predictable clichés. The “not knowing” is extremely refreshing.
At home, in spite of his mother’s discomfort, Sledge has no plans to make plans. His most definite decision is to never put on a uniform again. When he is questioned at a veterans advisement center about what skills he acquired while in the Marines—ones that would help him in the real world—Sledge, obviously frustrated, answers, “They taught me how to kill Japs. I got pretty damn good at it.” It was that skill more than any other that helped win the war. Sadly, he learns that a non-combat skill like accounting or journalism would have served him better. His father demonstrates a compassionate perception of what his son is experiencing, even sitting outside Sledge’s door to be there for him when the nightmares come. In one of the more moving scenes, Sledge breaks down while on a morning dove hunt with his father. It symbolizes the patience all veterans would require after the war. The young cast of The Pacific all deserve accolades but Joe Mazzello’s Sledge stands out as a very possible Emmy nominee.
Leckie is welcomed by parents that almost appear inconvenienced by their son’s return. Their coldness, though, is only superficial—although it does help explain Leckie’s antipathy toward life in general. When he goes to visit the neighbor girl whom he had written to during the war we learn that he never sent the letters. But in the show’s epilogue we also learn that they marry and raise a family, and that Leckie writes almost forty books including one about his combat experiences that was used, in part, as a basis for the film.
In this last episode, Lena makes an emotional visit to the family of her late husband, war hero John Basilone, and she presents them with his Medal of Honor. Also from the epilogue, we find that stamps have been made to honor Basilone, ships and highways have been christened after him and he is remembered each year in a hometown parade. (The helpful, seven-minute epilogue gives details of most of the characters’ lives, including those who are still alive today and who contributed to the making of the series.)
The comparisons to Hanks’ and Spielberg’s Band of Brothers are inevitable but not entirely fair. First, the two series were made almost ten years apart. Changes in technology, location, writing and directing give a widely different perspective. Plus, the entire European campaign was strikingly different, both in enemy and location, than that of the war in the Pacific, with its battles that were, statistically, more brutal. The two series will serve well as WWII bookends and, no doubt, will eventually be packaged as such.