Chapter 52 – Ascending
As the most highly anticipated drama of this spring, “The Pacific” immediately became the topic of heated discussion as soon as it premiered, especially with the divergence of opinions between film critics and viewers, which cast a shadow over the future prospects of the miniseries.
“A $230 million investment, is HBO going to fail this time?”
This article from “US Weekly” was a bit alarmist, but it reflects the main comments after the premiere of the drama. Under the crazy praise of “Band of Brothers”, “The Pacific” was under enormous pressure and had difficulty progressing. The subsequent reputation of the drama, DVD sales, and the prospects for the Emmy Awards were all shrouded in a mist of uncertainty. What’s worse is that the arrow has been released from the bow, and regardless of the situation, the show must go on.
Every week, the broadcast of “The Pacific” becomes the focus of attention, although the ratings have fallen, with the number of viewers waiting for the premiere decreasing significantly, and more people are choosing to record or wait for the DVD release. However, the discussion on Yahoo community, IMDb, and other platforms is heating up, and the controversy is increasing.
Especially after the first three episodes were aired, the criticism increased with each wave, and disappointment, anger, disdain, and blame towards “The Pacific” grew. The storyline focused on Robert Leckie and John Basilone gradually unfolded, and the plot and ideas were revealed in full, but failed to move the audience. The audience gradually lost patience, as the weak core ideas, scattered main plot, and repeated war scenes made the entire series seem to lack a cohesive force, losing the spirit of “Band of Brothers”. This sparked a strong backlash from netizens – the higher the expectations before the premiere were, the more intense the anger is now.
Online controversies targeting Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were gradually getting out of control, and some people even sarcastically commented, “Having spent twice the cost, HBO has shot a series with less than half the quality of the previous one, and this time they really lost big.”
This trend was clearly reflected in the IMDb score, where the original rating of 7.7 was already disappointing, but it is still dropping after the third episode aired. The rating once dropped to a low point of 7.3, and “bad” ratings were no longer enough to describe the audience’s feelings, “terrible” is the true portrayal, just like a nightmare that one cannot be awakened from.
It seems that people have completely lost faith in the “The Pacific”, and a large part of the audience has given up watching it. The feeling of being unable to vent their frustration was really hard to bear. Another part of the audience continued to watch the series with a “break the pot” attitude, angrily wanting to see how bad the show can get, and whether it can even pass the minimum standards.
This was bad news for HBO.
Although HBO has never cared about ratings or viewership, the satisfaction of their subscription users was plummeting, which was definitely a fatal blow. They can ignore the ratings, they can even ignore the Emmy Awards, but they cannot ignore the complaints and appeals of their subscription users.
Now the situation became extremely serious. Will the prediction in the “US Weekly” article really come true? If so, HBO will really suffer quite a blow.
When the fourth episode of the “The Pacific” aired, the viewership has dropped below two million, with only 1.83 million viewers and a rating of less than 2, or to be precise – 1.6.
Of course, objectively speaking, this result still outperforms all other dramas that are being broadcast on television, and even in the competition among cable television, “The Pacific” can easily rank in the top three. This result cannot be described as “poor”. However, compared with the crowded scenes of the premiere and the rave reviews of “Band of Brothers”, this gap is really hard to accept.
The situation seems to have become so grim to the point of no return, but surprisingly, the feedback of the series after the fourth episode aired began to improve!
The core plot of the fourth episode still focused on Robert Leckie. The psychological trauma he suffered during the war finally exploded, and he had to be sent to the hospital for psychological observation.
After this episode aired, the flood of praises from film critics once again arrived as scheduled. Their admiration for “The Pacific” has not changed since the first episode, and even surpassed “Band of Brothers”. But surprisingly, the audience’s evaluation also began to slowly improve. The online criticism seemed to have weakened, and many people exclaimed, “After the broadcast of the fourth episode, the quality of the series finally started to come back! This is the ‘The Pacific’ we want to see. I hope the subsequent episodes can keep up the momentum!”
Although the situation of “The Pacific” was still very precarious, HBO had finally got some breathing room. Many professionals speculated that perhaps the underlying plot in Robert Leckie’s character has finally been revealed, and the audience has finally understood the purpose of the series, leading to the positive reviews.
In the following fifth and sixth episodes, the ratings and viewer numbers did not show much improvement, but the positive reviews were growing visibly fast. If after the fourth episode the positive reviews were just a small spark that didn’t catch on, this time, on the discussion forums like Yahoo Community and IMDb one could clearly feel the audience feedback warming up.
Especially the sixth episode was the one that received countless praises. It was the first time that the series was centered around Eugene Sledge as the main character. After Eugene went into battle, he finally experienced a frenzied dance on the brink of life and death and witnessed a comrade’s death up close that night. That comrade of his screamed because of a nightmare, and his colleagues couldn’t stop him. In order to avoid exposing the entire unit’s position, they had to kill the soldier themselves.
Eugene’s world suffered a tremendous shock, and in the real world of the Internet, the first wave of positive reviews erupted.
“Fantastic! Truly a fantastic episode! In the baptism of gunfire, Sledge’s shocking education was so cruel and intense. Watching a pure and kind soul being slowly torn apart by blood and slaughter, but we can do nothing, the invisible wounds and pain were clearly presented in Sledge’s eyes, as his whole world falls apart! This is what we call the ‘The Pacific,’ this is what we expect from ‘The Pacific’!”
“In the darkness, Eugene sat quietly and woodenly, staring at the lifeless body of his comrade, and at the same time, sleeping forever with his naive and pure soul. God, the level of brilliance in this episode is comparable to the classic of all classics ‘Battle of Bastogne’ in ‘Band of Brothers’! With the same name Eugene, the same pair of deer-like eyes, the same sincerity and kindness, and the same helplessness in the face of life’s passing, Renly Hall gave a more delicate, profound, and rich emotion than Shane Taylor did back then, hitting hard on the chest and making people unable to breathe!”(T/N – This person is talking about character Eugene G. Roe played by Shane Taylor.)
“Classic! A true classic! After being scrapped from the beginning, ‘The Pacific’ has finally won its ticket to be recognized as a classic! In just one episode, it portrays the torment and downfall of a soul. We watch as Eugene is slowly getting destroyed, and the impact was far more shocking than just mere death. Renly’s performance illuminates the entire screen and presents the entire process in a cruel and bloody way, making people unable to hold back their tears and feel a tightness in their chest.”
In the Yahoo community discussion thread, netizens have completely filled it up. The second discussion thread has broken through 10,000 pages, and overnight, it has reached 13,000 pages, creating a new high in popularity. This time, before Yahoo officially locks the thread, netizens spontaneously started the third discussion thread. The first post reads, “Salute Eugene Sledge, salute Renly Hall for giving ‘The Pacific’ a truly vivid soul! I’m not sure if this is a better show than ‘Band of Brothers,’ but I can for sure say that this is a show that will not lose to ‘Band of Brothers.'”
The replies under the thread expressed their agreement and this thread quickly rushed towards a thousand pages. The discussion heat couldn’t be contained, and in their discussion, “Renly” undoubtedly became the absolute keyword, not only because the sixth episode is the first time Eugene completes the connection as the protagonist, but also because Renly’s performance has received unanimous praise from netizens!
At this moment, people suddenly realized an interesting fact: Eugene’s second appearance was in the fourth episode.
In the fourth episode of the story, Eugene finally passed the medical examination and was able to enlist, although he had a small role, that was actually the second appearance of Renly after the first episode, and this was also the first time the drama’s reputation began to recover. The next two episodes continued this upward trend, especially in the sixth episode, where Robert gave the torch to Eugene as he become the series’ main protagonist. Prior to this, the narrative mainline was always carried by Robert, but after that, the narrative perspective switched to Eugene.
So, what does this mean? Is Eugene the shining point of the entire series? Did Renly save “The Pacific”? Did Renly single-handedly turn the tide?
This… is really too unbelievable.
Although Tom had said before the TV series officially aired that Eugene was the soul of the entire mini-series and had expressed this sentiment in previous media interviews, no one really believed it because this was an ensemble cast drama, it belonged to Tom and Steven, and Renly was just a newcomer who had barely started acting.
To say such a thing would surely make everyone laugh out loud, “A newcomer? Saved a drama produced by Spielberg and Hanks? Although it’s only April, this is definitely the best joke of the year.”
Coincidence, all of this must just be a coincidence, and the sixth episode was also just a coincidence. What really made the audience’s reputation recover was the solid quality of the drama itself. This is the most reasonable explanation! But is it really so?
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