Twenty years ago, on Sept. 10, 2001, the TV miniseries Band of Brothers premiered on HBO. To this day, it stands out as one of the most impactful and moving pieces of war media ever produced, due to its focus on human connection.
Currently streaming on several platforms thanks to its anniversary, the show is worth discovering for new viewers and worth watching again for those who are familiar with it. Its focus on our common humanity is especially poignant in today’s world, where it is so hard to build a connection with others.
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, Band of Brothers centers around members of Easy Company, the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, and their experiences in World War II from 1942 to 1945. It would be easy, if one did not know the show, to brush it aside as a simple glorification of war and violence like so many other war movies.
This could not be further than the purpose of Band of Brothers.
Yes, Band of Brothers is a big-budget, often action-driven piece, and it’s true that the battle scenes are a draw. At the time, it was the most expensive TV miniseries ever made by any network.
However, the heart of the show, and what keeps it in the public eye more than twenty years later, are the relationships the characters form and the relationship the audience forms with them.
The show’s crowning glory is its ability to make the audience care for the entirety of Easy Company. It is an ensemble show, and each episode centers around a different character. The concept could have been poorly executed if the show did not spend so much time making the company a character in itself.
The first episode begins with the group preparing for D-Day. At first, they are nothing but anonymous strangers; the audience doesn’t have a connection. The camera singles out faces, but they are insignificant and unknown to us. Then, the show flashes back to the beginning of training. We see this group grow from a bunch of civilians to accomplished soldiers, see their frustration with their incompetent first leader, feel their joy when they finally become paratroopers. At the end of the first episode, those same closeups on single faces are repeated, but with a new meaning. The audience may not know all the names or faces of Easy Company yet, but we feel for them as a whole because of what we’ve seen them go through.
The focus of the show in general is not on either how “cool” war is or how “wrong” it is, but on the human connection people make in difficult situations. Throughout the course of the miniseries, the show always finds time to come back to small, intimate moments with Easy Company, reminding us how human and real they were. Action sequences are interspersed with either humor or slow, quiet explorations of characters among the large cast. It is a show that reminds us how important connecting to others is. How important humanity is.
Though few of us will ever go off to war and fight alongside our comrades, Band of Brothers shows us that we can still handle the troubles of day-to-day-life by reaching out to those around us. The world may have changed drastically from the world pictured in Band of Brothers, but its emphasis on human connection will never be outdated.
Band of Brothers is available to watch with subscription on HBO Max, Hulu. YouTube TV, and Amazon Prime.