‘Generation Kill’ Shifts Into Death Drive

Photo: Photo courtesy of HBO Films

If it’s an arc you’re looking for, you’ll want to note that “Combat Jack” found soldiers protesting the incompetent leadership so forthrightly established last episode. But in summer 2008, we all know better than to expect a movement climaxing with “mission accomplished” — or even an unhappy ending, given that McCain seems to have been right about the surge. Generation Kill won’t resolve easily, and if it doesn’t feel a bit chaotic in the meantime, well, that wouldn’t be very true to life (and death!) now, would it? What we have, halfway through the series, is a game of You Sunk My Battleship! When a town, lit up at night, is mistaken for an enemy convoy, the 11,000 pounds of bombs the gang call in fall on a placid parcel of desert. Whiff. But when they shoot up a sedan at a road block, a little girl is killed. Whoops. What’s there to do but drop more bombs, let off more rounds?

And so we encounter another smattering of profundities. The look of those craters — the size of small swimming pools, out in the godforsaken desert — alone has us contemplating the nature of existence. And is it Poke, guarding angry women expelled from their homes during a search for a missing Marine (and Chemical Ali), who says, “Brings me back to my repo days in L.A.,” where the women always fought back hardest, because “they think they’re protected”? Volumes in there, right? Or try this: The girl shot in the sedan — her father apologizes to the soldiers. (The translator mutters something about cultural difference. Sounds about right.) But the hinge that slams the door on this episode, the operating metaphor, has to be Brad shitting in a hole as bombs drop nearby. It’s an existential har-har, a mirror held up to a mirror. (See also incompetent leader Encino Man chiding the grunts for their dissent — “I’m reminding you of who the enemy is — the enemy.”) Modern war isn’t hell, apparently; it’s purgatory. —Nick Catucci