ranking Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies (extended editions, naturally).

This blog post is a contribution to A Tolkien Blog Party 2022 hosted by The Edge of the Precipice.

I may have some quibbles with how Peter Jackson chose to portray Tolkien’s stories and characters (more on that later), but the fact remains that Jackson got many, many more things right than he got wrong. I truly love both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy! But…I do love some of those films more than the others, so today I’ll be ranking all six from least-favorite to most-favorite. There will be fangirling, a few critiques, and maybe a controversial ranking or two. Let’s go!

6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

What I like: The usual suspects‚ÄĒMartin Freeman’s Bilbo, everything with Smaug, the beautiful visuals. The spider fight in Mirkwood is also good stuff, particularly the bit where Bilbo goes crazy over the ring. Excellent work from our beloved Martin Freeman. I also enjoy the soundtrack! The new leitmotifs for Kili + Tauriel and Laketown are great.

What I don’t like: It’s boring? Really boring? Your mileage may vary, of course, but there are only a handful of scenes in The Desolation of Smaug that really capture my attention. Beorn, Mirkwood, Gandalf investigating the return of Sauron…sadly, I’m bored more often than not. Oh, and don’t get me started on the orc attack in Laketwon. *yawns*

Ultimately: One of these films had to be in last place. There’s still a lot about Desolation that I like, but at the end of the day I’m not a fan of its too-long sequences (river chase, sneaking around Laketown, orc attack) and downer ending.

5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

What I like: All of the Shire scenes are pitch-perfect, no question about it. And casting was not one of the faults of the Hobbit trilogy. I know I’ve already mentioned Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, but he bears mentioning again! Rarely have I seen an actor and a character so well suited for each other. The opening bit with him and Gandalf and “good morning” is cinematic gold.

(Oh, and the soundtrack is also splendid, as always.)

What I don’t like: Radagast. ūüėõ And the whole Goblin-town sequence is (again) boring.

Ultimately: An Unexpected Journey is perhaps the coziest of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films. I’ll always be happy to rewatch it, even if I do skip over Radagast’s scenes. (I just do. not. like. him.)

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

What I like: Rohan, Th√©oden & family, Gandalf’s return, Andy Serkis’ brilliant performance, Helm’s Deep, “Look for my coming,” THE MUSIC, the flashback scene w/ Boromir, the last march of the Ents, Merry and Pippin.

What I don’t like: I’m not going to talk about this at great length, but Faramir’s character (or lack thereof) in The Two Towers consistently rubs me the wrong way. Not a fan. I also think that TTT is the slowest-paced and least uplifting installment in the LOTR trilogy. (Which I suppose isn’t suprising, as it’s the middle section and so much still has to be resolved.)

I also don’t care for the subplot with Aragorn’s ‘death.’ It doesn’t add much (if anything) to the overall story, so it feels like a waste of time.

Ultimately: There really is a lot to love about The Two Towers (especially Th√©oden’s character arc!!!), but even Sam’s speech at the end can’t lift the forboding, gloomy vibes.

3. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

What I like: It’s the cast and characters that really elevate this movie. Bilbo, Thorin, Gandalf, Bard, Thranduil, Kili, Fili and the list goes on. I love them! The relationships between these characters, the drama, Thorin’s downward spiral and subsequent redemption, Bilbo’s return home, that final scene, ‘The Last Goodbye’…it’s all so good. Not as epic as The Return of the King, no doubt, but very, very good in its own right.

What I don’t like: The titular battle drags on and on and, if you watch the extended (R-rated) edition, it ends up being extremely gory. Ugh.

Ultimately: On a different day, I might have ranked The Two Towers above The Battle of the Five Armies. But I really do love Armies this much. It’s bittersweet and beautiful and I want to rewatch it right now.

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

What I like: Where to begin??? I’m getting choked up just thinking of certain scenes and lines from this glorious film. But I’ll try to write out a list of my absolute favorite things. They are…

Minas Tirith, Faramir and Pippin’s friendship, Frodo not giving up, the music (always have to mention that), the ride of the Rohirrim (!!!!!!!!!), the 1.5 scenes devoted to √Čowyn and Faramir’s romance, Gandalf and Pippin discussing the afterlife, Gandalf and Pippin’s friendship in general, everything after the ring is destroyed, and I could keep going.

What I don’t like: Frodo and Sam’s fight on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. Nope, nope, nope.

Ultimately: The Return of the King is a masterpiece, deep and detailed and wonderful in every sense of the word. The very best send-off possible for both the characters and the fans. I doubt it will ever be surpassed, as epic finales go.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

What I like: Pretty much everything. No lie.

What I don’t like: I’m sure there’s something, but…what?

Ultimately: The Fellowship of the Ring has three things going for it that no other Middle-earth film has‚ÄĒthe entire fellowship travelling and fighting and sightseeing together, (almost) all of Boromir’s scenes, and Howard Shore’s indescribable ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship.’ I absolutely love this film, and it could never have been anywhere on this list but here.

Are you shocked, absolutely shocked that I placed The Battle of the Five Armies higher than The Two Towers? How would you rank these six films? Do let me know in the comments!


a Tolkien Blog Party 2022 tag.

The annual Tolkien Blog Party (hosted by Rachel @ The Edge of the Precipice) is running for the duration of this week, and it’s been a LOT of fun so far. As always, Rachel has provided a tag for the party participants to fill out. Here are my answers!

Who first introduced you to Middle-earth?

My oldest brother. He bought all three LOTR films (extended editions, thankfully) and showed them to my family. Although it wasn’t until I watched the trilogy by myself a few weeks later that I became really obsessed, I’ll always have my brother to thank for opening my eyes to the wonders of Middle-earth.

Has your love of Middle-earth affected your life?

I have a whole shelf dedicated to Tolkien books and movies and merch, so…yeah. ūüėČ The books and movies and movie soundtracks are all so beautiful; my life is richer because of them.

Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character?

Nope. Maybe someday though!

What people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor?

The first person I thought of was my pastor. Which might sound a little odd, but he’s a good archer and knows a lot about the outdoors, camping, edible plants, and all that. He’d also provide spiritual guidance and encouragement when the ring/the quest threatened to send us all plunging into despair. I see this as an absolute win.

As for the rest of our group, I can think of a few other people in my church who’d be good to bring along. But my pastor is my number one pick.

What Middle-earth location would you most like to visit?

Rivendell, for Elrond and the beauty and nostalgia and friendliness of it all. My second and third picks are easily Minas Tirith and Ithilien

Are there any secondary characters you think deserve more attention?

√Čomer. Farmer Maggot. Beregond. Almost everyone from The Silmarillion.

Would you rather attend Faramir’s wedding or Samwise’s wedding?

I’M TORN. Probably Sam’s wedding, even though I love Faramir a lot more. If I saw Faramir, I’d probably end up wishing I was the one marrying him. XD Whereas at Sam’s wedding, I could focus on the delicious food and possibly have a chat with Frodo and/or Merry. Which would be wonderful.

How many books by J.R.R. Tolkien have you read?

The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, Letters from Father Christmas, and Leaf by Niggle (which is more a short story than a full book).

Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) that you recommend?

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War was quite good. As was On the Shoulders of Hobbits.

List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.

...[the Ring] abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire! Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought. ‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘The Shadow of the Past’

The dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them. The orcs yelled and poured over the stone gangways. Then Boromir raised his horn and blew. Loud the challenge rang and bellowed, like the shout of many throats under the cavernous roof. For a moment the orcs quailed and the fiery shadow halted. ‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘The Bridge of Khazad-d√Ľm’

“But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,” said Frodo.

Sam looked at him unhappily. “It all depends on what you want,” put in Merry. “You can trust us to stick with you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the ring. We are horribly afraid – but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.” ‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘A Conspiracy Unmasked’

“Look at me. You look at me.” ‚ÄĒBard, The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

“A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land… ‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘The Field of Cormallen’

“If ever beyond hope you return to the lands of the living and we re-tell our tales, sitting by a wall in the sun, laughing at old grief, you shall tell me then.” ‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘The Forbidden Pool’ (especially because Tolkien also quoted this in one of his letters to Christopher, who was away fighting during WWII ūüė≠)

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise. ‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘The Grey Havens’

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. ‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘The Land of Shadow’

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last. ‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘The Siege of Gondor’

“I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.‚ÄĒLOTR, ‘The Council of Elrond’

How were you introduced to Middle-earth? What are some of your favorite Tolkien quotes? Let me know in the comments!


an appreciation of √Čomer.

This blog post is a contribution to the 10th Annual Tolkien Blog Party hosted by The Edge of the Precipice.

While Frodo will forever be my favorite Lord of the Rings character (with Boromir not far behind), √Čomer has had a special place in my heart for a while now. √Čomer doesn’t get a lot of attention within the fandom, from what I’ve seen, but like many of Tolkien’s characters, he’s wonderful. So today, I’ll be taking a closer look at what makes him one of my favorites.

√Čomer is loyal to his family…

The chief obstacles to an easy conquest of Rohan by Saruman were Th√©odred and √Čomer: they were vigorous men, devoted to the King, and high in his affections, as his only son and his sister-son; and they did all that they could to thwart the influ¬≠ence over him that Gr√≠ma gained when the King’s health began to fail‚ĶIt was [Gr√≠ma’s] policy to bring his chief opponents into discredit with Th√©oden, and if possible to get rid of them.

It proved impossi¬≠ble to set them at odds with one another: Th√©oden before his “sickness” had been much loved by all his kind and people, and the loyalty of Th√©odred and √Čomer remained steadfast, even in his apparent dotage, √Čomer also was not an ambitious man, and his love and respect for Th√©odred (thirteen years older than he) was only second to his love of his foster-father.

‘The Battle of the Fords of Isen,’ Unfinished Tales

Right from the start, we see that √Čomer is a loyal, honest, and true-hearted man. The fact that all of Gr√≠ma’s manipulation and machinations couldn’t make √Čomer waver from his love/respect for his uncle and cousin…it’s truly admirable.

In the movie, of course, it’s very easy to see that Gr√≠ma is a creep. But I think that, at the start at least, his deceptions and lies would have been very difficult to spot. If √Čomer had already been harboring resentment, dislike, or disloyalty in his heart toward the more royal members of his family, he could have been easy prey for Gr√≠ma’s lying flatteries. That he withstood them all says a lot about his character.

…and to his friends, no matter what.

i know it’s a behind-the-scenes pic. but my point still stands, y’know?

At length Aragorn spoke. ‘As I have begun, so I will go on. We come now to the very brink, where hope and despair are akin. To waver is to fall. Let none now reject the counsels of Gandalf, whose long labours against Sauron come at last to their test. But for him all would long ago have been lost. Nonetheless I do not yet claim to command any man. Let others choose as they will.’

‘As for myself,’ said √Čomer, ‘I have little knowledge of these deep matters; but I need it not. This I know, and it is enough, that as my friend Aragorn succoured me and my people, so I will aid him when he calls. I will go.’

‘The Last Debate,’ The Return of the King

√Čomer’s friendship with Aragorn had a shaky start, but by the time we reach ‘The Last Debate,’ they are firm friends. I mean, √Čomer literally walks into Mordor for Aragorn! It makes my heart happy to think of Aragorn ruling Gondor and √Čomer ruling Rohan, with such a great friendship between their two countries.

√Čomer is a good brother‚ÄĒif a little unobservant at times

Then [Aragorn] laid [√Čowyn’s] hand in √Čomer’s and stepped away. ‘Call her!’ he said, and he passed silently from the chamber.

‘√Čowyn, √Čowyn!’ cried √Čomer amid his tears. But she opened her eyes and said: ‘√Čomer! What joy is this? For they said that you were slain. Nay, but that was only the dark voices in my dream. How long have I been dreaming?’

‘Not long, my sister,’ said √Čomer. ‘But think no more on it!’

‘The Houses of Healing,’ The Return of the King

‘I knew not that √Čowyn, my sister, was touched by any frost, until she first looked on [Aragorn]. Care and dread she had, and shared with me, in the days of Wormtongue and the king’s bewitchment; and she tended the king in growing fear. But that did not bring her to this pass!’

‘My friend,’ said Gandalf, ‘you had horses, and deeds of arms, and the free fields; but she, born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and courage at least the match of yours. Yet she was doomed to wait upon an old man, whom she loved as a father, and watch him falling into a mean dishonoured dotage; and her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff he leaned on…Who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?’

Then √Čomer was silent, and looked on his sister, as if pondering anew all the days of their past life together.


√Čomer is a wonderfully protective brother to his younger sister. Yes, he should have probably realized just how difficult things were for √Čowyn in the days of Th√©oden’s ‘illness.’ But there was a lot going on, and just because √Čomer didn’t see everything that was going on doesn’t mean he didn’t care about √Čowyn. Consider this quote that comes right after he discovers she’s still alive after the battle of the Pelennor:

Then hope unlooked-for came so suddenly to √Čomer’s heart, and with it the bite of care and fear renewed, that he said no more, but turned and went swiftly from the hall.

√Čomer truly cares about √Čowyn, worries about her. And he’s very, very happy to see that she and Faramir have fallen in love. In fact, √Čomer’s happiness for √Čowyn leads to happiness for himself as well‚ÄĒhe ends up marrying Faramir’s cousin Loth√≠riel. ‚̧

√Čomer is capable of great humility.

Th√©oden rose and put his hand to his side; but no sword hung at his belt. ‘Where has Gr√≠ma stowed it?’ he muttered under his breath.

‘Take this, dear lord!’ said a clear voice. ‘It was ever at your service.’ √Čomer was there. No helm was on his head, no mail was on his breast, but in his hand he held a drawn sword; and as he knelt he offered the hilt to his master.

‘How comes this?’ said Th√©oden sternly.

‘It is my doing, lord,’ said H√°ma, trembling. ‘I understood that √Čomer was to be set free. Such joy was in my heart that maybe I have erred. Yet, since he was free again, and he a Marshal of the Mark, I brought him his sword as he bade me.’

‘To lay at your feet, my lord,’ said √Čomer.

‘The King of the Golden Hall,’ The Two Towers

‘‚Ķwe could find a use for Gimli’s axe and the bow of Legolas, if they will pardon my rash words concerning the Lady of the Wood. I spoke only as do all men in my land, and I would gladly learn better.’

‘The Riders of Rohan,’ The Two Towers

Literally, just…read that second quote. I rest my case. I LOVE HIM.

√Čomer is brave in the face of terrible danger and overwhelming odds.

The Rohirrim indeed had no need of news or alarm. All too well they could see for themselves the black sails. For √Čomer was now scarcely a mile from the Harlond, and a great press of his first foes was between him and the haven there, while new foes came swirling behind, cutting him off from the Prince. Now he looked to the River, and hope died in his heart…

Stern now was √Čomer’s mood, and his mind clear again. He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot till all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man should be left in the West to remember the last King of the Mark. So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.

‘The Battle of the Pelennor Fields,’ The Return of the King

When all hope was lost, √Čomer continued to fight‚ÄĒboth on the Pelennor Fields and in Mordor itself. His courage shines through so clearly on both battlefields. And that’s yet another reason why I love him: like all of Tolkien’s best characters, √Čomer doesn’t accept defeat even when everything seems hopeless. The result? The Shadow is destroyed, and √Čomer got to be a part of its defeat. He gets a happy ending, and it’s a well-deserved one. ‚̧

Although I’ve focused on Book √Čomer in this post, I have to say that Karl Urban’s portrayal of √Čomer is pretty close to perfection. That heartwrenching cry when he finds √Čowyn on the battlefield? I rest my case! Or the whole “Th√©oden king stands alone” “Not alone” exchange. *happy shivers* OR when he takes out two oliphants with one spear throw. o.O And also…he’s just one very, very handsome guy. Which doesn’t hurt matters. At all. ūüėČ

What are your thoughts on √Čomer (book and/or movies)? Did this post help you see him in a new light, or have you always known just how awesome he is? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Wyatt Earp & Doc Holliday in ‘Hour of the Gun’: a legendary friendship.

This blog post is a contribution to Legends of Western Cinema Week.

The dust has settled following the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The Earps and Doc Holliday stand trial for the shooting. The courtroom is crowded, jumpy, hostile. Doc Holliday takes the witness stand.

“I don’t need a badge to kill,” he says, in response to the prosecutor’s barbed questions.

“Only the word of Wyatt Earp,” the prosecutor sneers.

“I’d go to hell and back on the word of Wyatt Earp,” Doc snaps. Little does he know that that is exactly what he will do: follow Wyatt into the hell of one man’s relentless, bloodthirsty hunt for vengeance.

But let’s go back to the beginning…

Hour of the Gun is a tense Western, unique in that it deals with the aftermath of an event that most films would instead build to as the finale: the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. That narrative choice makes for a fascinating look at the character of both Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and their friendship. And that’s because we see Wyatt and Doc essentially switch roles as they each deal with the consequences of the gunfight.

At the beginning of the film, Wyatt is shown to be a law-abiding, law-upholding man. He is one of the most respected men in Tombstone. He follows the letter of the law and the dictates of his own conscience, the two working together in unison. Doc admires Wyatt’s honesty and sense of honor, even though he might sometimes scoff at Wyatt’s (relative) uprightness.

Wyatt begins to change, however, when Ike Clanton’s men cripple Virgil Earp and kill Morgan Earp, Wyatt’s brothers. The case against Clanton’s men is thrown out of court, so Wyatt and Doc form a posse to bring in Clanton’s gang. (It’s legal for them to do so, though I’m fuzzy on the details.) They are supposed to bring in the men alive, if they want the bounty money, but the first three members of the gang end up being killed‚ÄĒby Wyatt.

Each time, it’s a case of self-defense. Each time, Wyatt had no choice but to shoot. Each time, there were ‘extenuating circumstances.’

And by the third time, Doc begins to suspect something is wrong.

When Wyatt’s posse finds the last member of the gang, Wyatt forces the outlaw into a draw and then loses all self-control, shooting the man multiple times. And Doc sees the truth about his friend.

“Those aren’t warrants you’ve got there. Those are hunting licenses.”

Wyatt has become vicious. Vindictive. Vengeful.

It’s a difficult scene that follows, one where Doc tears into Wyatt for stooping to what is basically (if not technically) murder, for turning his back on law and order.

It’s a scene in which Wyatt says nothing, the truth of Doc’s words clearly shown by his silence.

“Five minutes after we left the OK Corral, I wanted to say, ‘Get Clanton, Wyatt. Get him before he gets you.’ But I didn’t. You don’t speak that way to Wyatt Earp. You’ve got too much respect for him.”

I think on some level, Doc’s bitter rant against Wyatt’s actions is due to the fact that Doc has always looked up to Wyatt a little. Respected him, definitely. And now to see that Wyatt has been engaged in a vengeful killing spree the whole time, that he’s been eaten up by cold, calculated hate…it rattles Doc. Doc has always been ‘the wild one,’ if you will. The one who drinks too much and gambles too much‚ÄĒand kills too much. But now the roles have been reversed. Now Doc is the level-headed one, the man standing on a higher moral plane than Wyatt.

Wyatt was a hero, in Doc’s eyes. But not anymore. And Doc’s anger and regret and even sadness boils over into a tirade that is almost as painful for us to hear as it is for Wyatt. Why? Because Wyatt and Doc are friends. We know this. They know this. So as much as Wyatt needs to hear what Doc has to say, it still hurts.

It hurts so much, in fact, that Wyatt ends up hitting Doc. (I hate that. So much.)

“That’s all right,” says Doc as he fights off a coughing fit. “This stops.” But Wyatt’s mission of vengeance won’t.

Wyatt is offered the job of Chief U.S. Marshal by men who have no idea that he’s turned vengeful. Instead of giving an answer right away, Wyatt heads down to Mexico to seek vengeance one last time‚ÄĒagainst Ike Clanton, the man who orchestrated Virgil’s injury and Morgan’s death. Wyatt intends to go alone, but Doc figures out what he’s doing and gets on the same train. Wyatt doesn’t want him along (for obvious reasons), but Doc doesn’t care.

“Buy a return ticket and go take care of yourself.”
“No thank you.”

You have to understand that this isn’t just a friend refusing to leave another friend (though it is that). It’s a dying man refusing to go home and get the treatment that could, if not save his life, then at least prolong it. Doc is dying of tuberculosis, but he won’t leave Wyatt alone. Even if he can’t stop Wyatt from taking his revenge one last time, he’s not going to desert his friend. He’s not going to stop trying to bring Wyatt back to the right side of the law and common morality.

Doc points out that when Wyatt killed Clanton’s gang, it was at least under cover of the law. But tracking Clanton to Mexico and killing him will be a completely lawless act.

“You’re throwing away all the years you’ve lived by the rules.”
“I don’t care about the rules.”
“They’re the only rules there are. And they’re more important to you than you think. You can’t live like me.”

But Wyatt doesn’t listen. “Go back to the hotel. Take care of yourself,” he tells Doc, as he fingers the badge that doesn’t seem to mean much to him anymore.

“No thanks,” Doc says again. In his own way, he’s as relentless as Wyatt.

They find Clanton. And as Wyatt prepares for a shoot-out with the man who killed his brother, he pulls his badge from his pocket and throws it aside. He won’t dishonor the badge, won’t hide behind it any longer.

Whether Wyatt intentionally threw the badge to Doc or not, Doc does catch it. It’s a small moment, but one loaded with meaning. Consider this exchange between Wyatt and Doc from the beginning of the film:

“Doc? Did Virg deputize you?”
“I swore to something he was muttering about.”
wear the badge.”

Throughout the course of the film, Wyatt has stepped further and further outside the law‚ÄĒmaybe not always judicial law, but certainly moral law. And Doc has, from the moment he decided to go to the O.K. Corral, been driven toward the law and justice and doing what’s right…all for the sake of his friend. As Wyatt’s moral compass corrodes, Doc’s begins to work again.

And now Doc catches Wyatt’s badge. He has gone from having to be ordered to wear the badge, to safeguarding that symbol of law and order‚ÄĒjust as he has tried to safeguard Wyatt’s sense of law and order throughout the film.

Wyatt does kill Clanton (it’s a fair draw…but still vengeance). A few days (weeks?) later, Doc gives Wyatt back his badge and, in effect, gives Wyatt his blessing in regards to continuing to work as a marshal. Wyatt takes the badge, but he won’t work for the law again.

I like to think that Wyatt makes that choice because he has seen how wrong he’s been, that Doc was right all along, and that it wouldn’t be honorable for him to take up his old job (or a new one, as Chief U.S. Marshal), with the trail of vengeance killings stretching behind him. I like to think all that because it means that Doc did get through to Wyatt and helped re-align his skewed moral compass.

Doc may not have been able to save the lawman, in the end, but he did save the man. He stuck by Wyatt and remained his friend even when they disagreed so sharply, even when it would have been easier and safer to return home and let Wyatt continue to spiral downward.

Hour of the Gun may be bleak at times. But in the middle of the killings, the thirst for vengeance, and the fracturing of a legendary hero, you’ll find a loyal man trying in his own feeble, sarcastic way to rescue his best friend. And that is something worth seeing‚ÄĒworth emulating, even.

Have you ever watched Hour of the Gun? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


the Legends of Western Cinema Week tag.

It’s that time of year again, folks, and I am so excited! Rachel, Heidi, and Olivia are once again hosting the Legends of Western Cinema Week, complete with all sorts of fun festivities as we celebrate our favorite Western films and characters. I’ve got a blog post about Hour of the Gun (1967) planned for later this week, but right now I’ll be answering the tag questions created by our hosts.

1) Favorite western focused on a lone hero?

I love Shane (1953). A quiet stranger defends the lives, freedoms, and peace of a small group of farmers, then leaves as suddenly as he arrived. Shane is the quintessential Western loner‚ÄĒhe represents everything I like and admire about the character type.

2) Favorite western focused on a group of compadres?

The Magnificent Seven (1960) is the obvious answer, and it’s certainly my favorite. But Rio Bravo (1959) is worth a mention as well. Four very different guys band together to ensure a murderer is brought to justice. My favorite of those guys is Dude (Dean Martin), but they all have their good points.

3) Favorite western with a female main character?

True Grit (2010)! Mattie is brave, resourceful, and stubborn‚ÄĒone of my favorite female characters in general. The fact that she’s only fourteen makes her daring deeds all the more impressive. A close second on my favorites list would be Cat Ballou (1965). Jane Fonda’s plays Cat, another young woman who hires a grubby gunfighter to avenge her father’s death. Almost a comedy version of True Grit, if you think about it!

4) Favorite western with a POC main character?

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever watched one. Sigh. I’ve started one: The Magnificent Seven (2016), which I should really give another chance. (It bored me, so I gave up. I think I’d like it better now though.) Any other recs for POC-led Westerns?

5) Favorite western with kids in it?

Does Old Yeller (1957) count as a Western? I think so! Anyway, that’s my pick. If I can manage to type through my tears, that is… ūüėČ

6) Favorite western set somewhere other than the United States?

You know, I thought that The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) might have been set in Mexico‚ÄĒbut nope. It takes place in New Mexico. So I’m going with Hidalgo (2004), because sometimes The Vibes are more important than The Decade In Which the Film Is Set.

7) Favorite “western” that doesn’t fit the genre’s dictionary definition?

THE MANDALORIAN. Impeccable Old West energy. Din sounds like a young Clint Eastwood and it’s delightful. He also protects the weak, has a fast draw, and tames a blurrg. What more do you want in a cowboy???

(If you’d like a more in-depth look at TheMandalorian-as-a-Western, check out ‘The Mandalorian: Cowboys in Outer Space‘, an article written by our very own host Rachel!)

8) Favorite funny western?

Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) because I LOVE JAMES GARNER.

(I just rewatched Hour of the Gun last night, so I’m a bit hyper when it comes to JG. Apologies extended. XD)

Seriously though, Support Your Local Sheriff is an absolutely hilarious Western. Jason McCullough (James Garner) arrives in the town of Calendar, CO and is almost immediately elected sheriff of the brawling town. Jason cleans up the town, falls in love with the mayor’s daughter, and faces off against the dastardly Danby family. Such a fun film‚ÄĒI can’t recommend it highly enough for fans of Westerns!

9) Favorite tragic/sad western?

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) is steeped in sadness from its very first scene.

Like…the cactus rose. CAN YOU NOT, JOHN FORD?

10) Favorite western TV show?

Wanted: Dead or Alive, starring Steve McQueen, has been my favorite for several years now. Each episode is short (less than a half hour), but many of them pack a narrative punch unmatched by some longer and more well-known shows. I also love F Troop and I think I’d love Maverick if I watched more of it. Oh, and there’s Bonanza and Rawhide of course! But Wanted remains my favorite. ‚̧

this is one of the funniest production stills
I’ve ever seen.

What are some of your favorite Westerns? Let me know in the comments!


‘you are my lucky star’: Don & Kathy’s romance in Singin’ in the Rain.

This blog post is a contribution to The Singin’ in the Rain Blogathon hosted by The Classic Movie Muse.

2022 marks the 70th anniversary of Singin’ in the Rain, a film which is quite possibly the greatest movie musical of all time. Originally, I planned to write about my personal history with the film (including my childhood crush on Gene Kelly), but then I started to think about how many of the musical numbers in the film illustrate the progression of Don and Kathy’s romance. The more I started thinking about that concept, the more fascinated I became. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today!

“All I Do Is Dream of You”

Don and Kathy’s relationship doesn’t begin in the most conventional way. Don jumps into Kathy’s car in a frantic attempt to escape his rabid fans. The conversation that follows degenerates into trading insults. When Don finally exits Kathy’s car, they’re sure they will never see each other again. But just a few minutes later, Kathy and her chorus girl colleagues show up to entertain the guests at a party held in Don’s honor.

This is the song they sing:

At this point in the story, Kathy and Don are in the ‘enemies’ stage of the enemies to lovers trope. Kathy even tries to throw a pie in Don’s face after the performance! Still, this musical number is a sign of things to come. Don does end up thinking about Kathy all. the. time. after she runs out of the party that evening.

(This wasn’t included in the movie, but originally there was a scene where Don sings a wistful reprise of “All I Do” after Kathy leaves. I would have loved to see that.)

“You Were Meant for Me”

Man. This scene and this song made my heart go crazy, back in the day. ūüėČ

At this point in Don and Kathy’s relationship, they’re on good speaking terms. There’s even some hints of a budding attraction. But Don isn’t ready to commit. Yes, he sings a very, very romantic song to Kathy. He even sings it with great sincerity and tenderness. But he’s still holding something back‚ÄĒjust look at the lyrics.

If I but dared

To think you cared

This is what I’d say to you

And then the rest of the song is what he would have said…if she cared. At that point, it’s pretty clear that Kathy does care about Don. A lot. But he’s not yet willing to be completely vulnerable and tell her right out how he feels, without relying on a stage or an ‘if only’ song.

“Singin’ in the Rain”

Having bonded over the terrible preview for The Dueling Cavalier, Don and Kathy are truly falling in love. Don walks home in the rain after Kathy bids him goodnight, and he bursts into the spontaneous song we all know and love. By now, Don is becoming more comfortable with admitting that he’s falling in love.

The sun’s in my heart

And I’m ready for love

However, the important thing to note is that Kathy isn’t there to hear his (near) declaration of love. Yes, Don is opening up…but only to himself. (So far.)

“Would You”

Once Cosmo’s idea of dubbing Lina Lamont’s screechy voice is implemented, Don and Kathy spend lots of time together in the recording studio, working on their lines. By this point in the film, they’re in love with each other and know it. But they’re keeping the relationship a secret until after The Dancing Cavalier is released. (It’s kept a secret because Lina isn’t supposed to know that Kathy is on set, much less dubbing her voice.)

In one scene, Kathy dubs over a particularly poignant line while Don watches.

“Our love will last ’til the stars turn cold.”

This line, as spoken by Kathy, moves Don so much that he declares they shouldn’t wait any longer to reveal their secret relationship. He’s ready to move forward with Kathy and let the chips fall where they may. But then Lina bursts in, furious and threatening to blackmail the entire studio…

“You Are My Lucky Star”

Lina’s machinations are finally uncovered in front of everyone. Kathy runs down the aisle, eager to escape the stares and murmurs of the audience. But Don steps in and, uncaring of the hundreds of people watching, begins singing a song meant for Kathy and Kathy alone. A song in which he shares with Kathy just how much she means to him.

You’ve opened heaven’s portal

Here on earth for this poor mortal

Kathy responds in kind. And the film ends with Don and Kathy kissing, fully in love and completely open about that love. It’s a wonderful character arc for both of them, particularly Don (which makes sense, as he’s the main character).

Have you watching Singin’ in the Rain? What’s your favorite song in it? Did you ever have a crush on Gene Kelly? Do let me know in the comments!


movie review: Scaramouche.

This review is a contribution to the MGM Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings.

The French countryside seethes with talk of revolution, but Andre Moreau (Stewart Granger) has bigger problems on his mind‚ÄĒhis father has stopped giving him money, his old flame Lenore (Eleanor Parker) is marrying someone else, and‚ÄĒworst of all‚ÄĒAndre just found out that Aline (Janet Leigh), the beautiful woman he met on the roadside and fell in love with, is his half-sister.

With so much on his mind, Andre brushes off his friend Phillipe’s talk of a coming day of reckoning for the French aristocracy. But when Phillipe is killed by Noel, the Marquis de Maynes (Mel Ferrar), Andre vows revenge. He will stop at nothing to avenge his friend‚ÄĒincluding joining a travelling theatre troupe and hiding behind the role of ridiculous clown Scaramouche.

Scaramouche is a movie I’ve seen many, many times, and it’s always lots of fun. I’m not much a fan of Andre himself‚ÄĒhe’s a little too loose for my tastes (and I feel as though Granger is a bit too smug in the role). But the rest of the cast really shines. Eleanor Parker’s Lenore is fiery and breathtakingly gorgeous, giving as good as she gets and holding her own against Andre’s madcap ways. Parker and Granger’s scenes together are full of chemistry and sparks that almost set the screen on fire.

Janet Leigh also does good work, although Aline’s childish character fades a little into the background when contrasted with Lenore’s sparkling presence. (I do love how the two of them work together to save Andre from dueling Noel on more than one occasion. Female allyships are so great to see!)

My favorite character in Scaramouche, surprisingly enough, is Mel Ferrar’s villainous character Noel, the Marquis de Maynes. Noel and Andre are connected on a much more personal level than either of them suspect. Rewatching the film with knowledge of that connection adds even more depth to Noel’s encounters with Andre.

I’m not ordinarily a fan of Ferrar’s work, but he is, in my opinion, the best piece of casting in the whole film. Noel is proud and cruel toward those who cross him, a brilliant swordsman, and…actually a decent boyfriend? He is in love with the queen herself (Marie Antoinette!), but since that can never go anywhere, he courts Aline after the queen recommends her. The moments of thoughtfulness and care that we see from Noel in regards to Aline really do something to humanize him. (Also, Noel’s respectfulness toward women is such an interesting and marked contrast to Andre’s *cough* problematic treatment of Lenore.)

I’m not saying that Noel is not the villain of the film. He definitely is, remaining cold and calculating and heartless throughout. But I did like his relationship with Aline and how sweet he could be to her.

Anyway! I’m here to review Scaramouche, not write an essay about Noel. XD Besides the cast and characters, Scaramouche also boasts detailed, beautiful sets and costuming in vivid Technicolor. This is France just before the revolution and the costuming and set design reflect that. Bright, opulent excess on the part of the aristocrats, darker shades and tones for the common people (good for sneaking around and plotting).

In addition, Victor Young’s score is amazing: rich, thrilling, sumptuous. One of my favorite movie soundtracks. Here is the theme that plays over opening titles, so you can enjoy a sample of the music. (And really, the whole soundtrack is worth a listen.)

If you’re in the mood for an entertaining swashbuckler, I highly recommend Scaramouche. There are some The Scarlet Pimpernel vibes and some The Vikings (1958) vibes. Overall, it’s a terrific film that I’m sure I’ll enjoy for many years to come.

Have you watched Scaramouche? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!


movie review: flightplan (2005).

Whenever I become obsessed with interested in a new actor, I usually end up watching movies that I would never have watched otherwise. That was the case with Flightplan, which I watched solely for Sean Bean. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by just how much I enjoyed the film in general. (Though Sean Bean remains my favorite part. *wink*)

So what is Flightplan about? Jodie Foster plays Kyle, an American aviation engineer who is heading back to the States (from Germany) with her young daughter Julia and the body of her recently deceased husband. While en route to America, Julia disappears. Kyle is understandably frantic‚ÄĒhow on earth could a child disappear from a plane that has been searched top to bottom? As Kyle’s fear and paranoia grows, questions arise in the minds of the crew as to whether or not Julia even existed in the first place.

It’s a bit hard to talk about Flightplan in detail because it’s best if you experience it spoiler-free. That’s what I did and I LOVED all the plot twists. What I can comment on, however is the cast. (Also: James Horner composed the soundtrack. So there’s that.)

Jodie Foster is great as a panicked, yet determined woman with a singular mission: find her child. Peter Sarsgaard is Gene, a sky marshal who acts as a liaison between Kyle and the captain. Sarsgaard was great in the role. And then, of course, there is dear Sean Bean as Captain Rich. As I mentioned already, he’s my favorite part of the film. The captain is in a pretty difficult situation, dealing with an distraught passenger who may or may not be delusional. But he does such a good job. Favorite character. ‚̧

(Do you know how rare it is for Sean Bean to play a good guy AND *spoilers* survive as well? It’s rare. But it’s what happens in Flightplan, so yay!)

To sum it all up: if you enjoy well-made, well-paced thrillers, The Lady Vanishes (1938), and/or Sean Bean, I highly recommend Flightplan!

This review is a belated contribution to 18 Cinema Lane’s Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon, under the ‘Horrifyingly Wrong’ category.

Have you watched Flightplan? Do you enjoy thrillers? Let me know in the comments!


the 8th annual Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon: Combat!‚ÄĒ’Billy the Kid’

Check out the rest of the blogathon posts here!

The last time I participated in this annual blogathon (hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts) was back in 2019, when I reviewed an episode of The Fugitive. This year, I’m returning to my roots with a review of a Combat! episode (the very first year of this prestigious blogathon, I also reviewed a Combat! episode).

‘Billy the Kid’ is one of my top ten favorite C! episodes; I’m super excited to share it with all of you. There will be spoilers‚ÄĒif you want to watch this episode spoiler-free, it’s available on YouTube.

And now, on to the episode review!

We start out the episode with a good bit of archival footage. Shelling, explosions, all of that. Actually, this episode probably has the highest concentration of archival footage that I’ve ever seen in a single Combat! episode. Kind of boring, tbh, but the rest of the episode more than makes up for that.

Anyway, we then cut to the squad enjoying a little rest and relaxation‚ÄĒwell, maybe not relaxing so much since they seem a bit nervous about all that shelling nearby. But still, it’s a rare moment of downtime for the squad. Nice to see. Honestly, this show could just be scenes like this and I would still watch and rewatch it (as evidenced by my love for the episode ‘Losers Cry Deal’, which is almost nothing but the guys sitting around, talking, etc.). But I digress!

Hanley shows up and announces the Mission of the Day. Saunders and his squad have been assigned to escort an artillery spotter in an attempt to find the Germans’ big artillery gun‚ÄĒthe one that’s been making so much noise and causing so much trouble. Hanley also lets them know that the officer who will be leading today’s mission is Lieutenant Benton, the son of the famous, heroic General ‘Bull’ Benton. (According to rumor, General Benton led an attack on a village while standing in his jeep, a .45 blazing in each hand.) The squad perks up a little‚ÄĒmaybe this Lieutenant Benton will share his dad’s tenacious spirit and dogged courage.

Then the scene cuts to a shot of Lieutenant Benton (Andrew Prine) travelling toward HQ (or the outpost or whatever it is). The truck (bearing Benton, his sergeant, a couple random GIs, and the artillery spotting equipment) pulls up alongside the squad. Benton steps out of the truck. As he gets out, he accidentally bumps his head against the top of the truck’s doorframe (is that the right word?). I don’t know if that was an intentional choice on the part of the director, or if it really was an accident. But either way, I love that detail. It’s very small, but it speaks to Benton’s inexperience. We learn in a few minutes that he’s never seen combat, that he’s been more or less behind a desk ever since he got into the war. So yeah. I love that little detail.

Sergeant Stoner introduces himself, then Benton: “He’s here to knock out that big German gun.” There’s a bit of a shocked silence before Saunders walks over and leads Benton away to see Hanley. The opening scene ends with Littlejohn grinning and shaking his head. At this point, the squad doesn’t know that Benton has never been in combat before. I just think they’re all a little surprised, simply because Benton is so young. Andrew Prine was 29 when this episode aired, but he honestly looks much younger. (Like, very early twenties, in my opinion.)

*opening credits*

With Benton off to speak with Hanley, Sergeant Stoner explains to the squad that Benton hasn’t seen any combat and generally runs Benton down in a pretty disrespectful way (calling him ‘Billy the Kid’, which is where the ep title comes from).

Stoner also asks about Saunders’ date of rank in an attempt to figure out who will be in charge of the mission‚ÄĒhim or Saunders‚ÄĒ”when the kid fouls up.” Saunders shuts him down brilliantly. “I don’t care what your date of rank is. I still run this squad, Stoner.” (One of Saunders’ many talents is getting guys to shut up when they’re being annoying.) Stoner subsides, obviously embarrassed. It’s a great moment in an episode chock-full of great moments. XD

Hanley calls Saunders back into his office so Benton can brief Saunders before they head out. Benton’s briefing is, well, brief, and it’s obvious that Saunders already knows everything Benton is telling him. But Saunders doesn’t say anything, just listens and agrees with what Benton says. It’s a nice contrast to Stoner’s disrespectful, dismissive attitude a couple minutes ago.

Saunders heads back outside to round up the squad. Benton thanks Hanley for his help. And then comes the moment that makes me love Benton.

Hanley: “By the way, how’s your father [super famous General Benton]?”
Benton: *pauses* *smiles the tiniest bit* “He’s fine.”
Hanley: *nods*
Benton, oh-so-casually: “How’s your father?”

Yep, I love him. And I wonder just how many times Benton got asked about his dad before he started throwing out that little comeback.

When Benton leaves Hanley’s office, Saunders points out that they’re bringing along double equipment. Two scopes, two radios, etc. Saunders suggests that they leave some of it behind, since the squad will have to carry everything themselves when they reach the front lines. Benton calmly overrides Saunders’ suggestion‚ÄĒall they equipment will be taken, no matter the extra hassle. It’s important to note that Benton is not nasty or abrasive about this. He simply says what he means, what he wants to happen, and leaves it at that. He doesn’t posture, make demands, or become petulant. He lets his rank and his word speak for themselves.

Hanley walks over to Saunders for a final word before the squad leaves.

“Lieutenant, he hasn’t had five minutes in the field,” says Saunders, referring, of course, to Benton.

“You have,” Hanley says.

(If I haven’t mentioned yet that I love these guys…I LOVE THESE GUYS. I wish that Saunders and Hanley had gotten more scenes together throughout the show. They did in the first season, but then it kind of petered out. And that’s a shame, because the two of them understand each other so well and have such a great friendship. We love to see it.)

The squad sets out with Lieutenant Benton, Stoner, a couple extra GIs, and a whole lot of equipment in tow. They haven’t travelled very far down the road when they’re stopped by a soldier who tells them that there are snipers up ahead. Benton listens to what the soldier, Saunders, and Stoner have to say (basically telling him he shouldn’t go on in the truck and that they can take all the equipment by hand), but all he says is “Thank you, sergeant. Let’s drive on.” Very calmly and coolly. And so they drive on (though not without a look from Stoner).

Of course they do run into some Germans. And of course there’s a firefight, which I won’t detail‚ÄĒexcept to say that, for someone who hasn’t seen combat before, Benton handles himself well. His rifle even jams for a bit, but he figures it out.

After the fight is over, Benton announces that they’ll now go forward on foot, carrying all the equipment. Once again, Saunders brings up the fact that there’s double equipment‚ÄĒa seemingly unnecessary burden on his men. Benton says “I know, sergeant. Everybody take a load.”

So they do. However, one of the random GIs forgets to bring both radios. When he goes back to the truck to retrieve the radio‚ÄĒsurprise! One of the Germans from the firefight faked being dead. The German kills the GI and then Saunders kills the German.

“I hope it’s worth it, lieutenant,” Saunders say to Benton, as they stand around the dead GI.

Benton doesn’t respond as he stares down at the fallen soldier. Is this the first man he’s seen killed in combat? The first person he’s seen dead who was alive just a couple minutes earlier? We don’t know‚ÄĒthe script doesn’t tell us. I tend to doubt it because, while there’s definitely something going on behind Benton’s eyes, I don’t think it’s shock at seeing a dead body for the first time. Plus, I don’t know if he’s been that shielded from the realities of war. But whatever the case, it’s a great bit of acting from Andrew Prine.

The squad keeps going until they reach the spot where Benton will do his artillery observer stuff. And he’s pretty competent! Which is nice. I like competent characters. Benton relays a bunch of information to Saunders and Saunders and Stoner send it in to headquarters or the artillery locations or…wherever. I’m kinda vague on the technical aspects of this episode. Guess it’s a good thing I watch this episode for the characters and interpersonal drama instead of ‘How to Be an Artillery Observer 101’. ūüėČ

“He gets on target real fast,” Saunders says to Stoner, speaking about Benton. And of course Stoner has to be a jerk. “He’s only following the data I plotted for him, sergeant. Any corporal that can divide by two can do the same thing.”

Okayyyy, Stoner. Whatever.

Benton finishes registering their position‚ÄĒseems like their mission is complete. But before Stoner hangs up the radio, a new message comes through: the infantry in the area is pulling back, which means that Saunders and the rest will be all alone on the front lines.

They report the news to Benton. He thinks about it for a moment. Then, “This could work for us.”

Saunders explains that, with the infantry gone, the Germans can bring out their big gun and shell Benton, Saunders, and the rest off the ridge. And all Benton says (once again) is “Yes, I know, sergeant” before going back to observing the valley before him.

“Well, what are we going to do?” Stoner asks. You can hear nervousness in his voice.

“Finish the mission,” Benton replies.

Stoner protests. “I was sent on this mission because I have the field experience you haven’t had. I say we go!”

Benton regards him. “You’re out of line, sergeant,” he says. Calmly. Quietly.

Then he walks off.

Stoner and the rest stand there for a moment, and Stoner starts yelling at the squad. “You’re going to stand there and get killed just because you’re too afraid to talk back to Bull Benton’s little boy?” he demands.

“Lieutenant Benton’s in command,” Saunders snaps. And then he, too, walks off to talk to Benton himself.

In the conversation that follows, Benton opens up a little bit. Up to this point, he’s remained remarkably self-possessed. But as he goes into a bit of a monologue, there’s some frustration and bitterness that comes to the surface. We learn that Benton knows exactly what everyone says about him, what everyone thinks of him. Benton has to get that big gun, to prove to everyone that he is capable, that he’s not just ‘Billy the kid’. And, I think, to prove something to himself as well.

But as relatable as his motivations are, Saunders “isn’t concerned with [Benton’s] personal problems”. He’s concerned with the lives of his men.

“So am I, Saunders,” says Benton. “But I’m sticking to my plan.”

Up until this point, Saunders has given Benton a lot of space to do his own thing. But when it comes to the possible demise of everyone in the squad, Saunders can’t keep silent any longer. “You’re asking my men to risk their lives on a plan they know nothing about!”

I love Benton’s reaction to those words. (Or, more specifically, how Andrew Prine portrays his reaction.) It’s all in the eyes. A sudden realization. “Oh. That’s right. I haven’t actually explained my plan to anyone.” It’s like the thought that other people might have questions never occurred to him before, with how wrapped up he was in his own thoughts and worries and plans. “Oh…” he says. “I’ll fix that right now.”

So Benton goes back to the rest of the squad and explains his plan. The reason they drove to the front lines, even with the risk of snipers, was that Benton actually wanted the Germans to know that an artillery observer team was coming up to the front. The reason they hauled an extra set of equipment was so that they could leave one set to make it seem that they’d fled in a panic, while actually staying holed up in a cave nearby. Why? Because, if the Germans think that there are no artillery observers in the area, they might roll their big gun out of hiding‚ÄĒand then Benton can spot it and call in artillery to destroy it.

(Just want to say that whatever Benton lacks in experience, he makes up for with intelligence.)

After Benton explains, enemy shelling starts. Searching fire. “Let’s get out of here,” Benton says. He orders the squad to take one set of equipment to the cave and leave the other set at their primary position.

“We’re going to get clobbered,” Stoner insists. “We’ve gotta go back!”

“We’ll go back when he orders us to,” Saunders says.

But then a couple shells hit really close. Benton gets hit in the face with a bunch of rock dust, debris from an explosion. His eyes fill with blood and will soon be swollen shut, according to Doc, which obviously means that Benton can’t do anymore artillery spotting. (I know I keep bringing up Andrew Prine’s acting, but he really does SUCH a great job after Benton gets hit. Jerky hand movements, keeps instinctively trying to touch his eyes, but then forces himself not to…soooo good. Prine really sells it.)

“Let’s get out of here,” Stoner says. “He’s blind‚ÄĒhe can’t finish the mission.”

“Sergeant Saunders,” says Benton.

“Yes, lieutenant?”

“I need one man to go back to the cave with me. You tell the rest of the men to go back. I just need someone to spot for me when they bring that gun out.”

Of course Saunders volunteers to stay. And of course the rest of the squad won’t let him go it alone. How will he defend himself when the enemy comes searching the area for any remnants of the squad? I just love how Littlejohn, Kirby, Caje, and Doc all insist on staying behind. My guys. ‚̧

But you know who doesn’t love it? Stoner. Because…naturally. “What are you?” he asks scornfully. “A bunch of heroes?”

(Yes, Stoner. Yes they are. XD)

“If you don’t like it, Stoner, take off. Nobody’s holding you,” Saunders says.

“Okay. All right.” Stoner moves off. “I’ll tell ’em where to pick up your dog tags.”

“Don’t let those [sergeant’s] stripes get to heavy for you on the way back,” Kirby mutters to Stoner. Stoner stops, looks at him…and then keeps going, away from his lieutenant, the squad, and the mission. Sigh.

This is getting very, very long, so I’ll quickly recap the next several minutes. The rest of the squad + Benton moves to the cave. A German patrol noses around in the search of any remaining observers. Saunders and Benton work together as a team to relay the big gun’s position back to the artillerymen so they can shell the gun into oblivion. It takes a few minutes and a few tries to nail the gun, but at last Saunders and Benton (and the shells) do just that. And Benton’s grin of pure relief is a lovely thing to see.

However, it’s not over yet! A firefight broke out while Saunders and Benton were spotting the gun, and it’s still raging around them. With the Germans’ big gun destroyed, Saunders joins the fray.

And someone else does too‚ÄĒStoner. A few minutes earlier in the episode, there was a shot of him pausing in his walk back to friendly lines, adjusting his rifle, and then noticing his sergeant’s stripes. Kirby’s words come back to him. (Side-note: I absolutely love that it’s what Kirby says that gets Stoner to change his mind. Kirby has come a long way from his first season days where he would’ve been complaining right alongside Stoner.)

So yeah, Stoner pulls a Han Solo and comes back in the nick of time to help save the day. “What took you so long?” Saunders asks him when the fighting is over. And Stoner just shrugs, a little smile on his face. I’ve spent most of the episode greatly disliking Stoner, but somehow I always really do like him by the end. I’m a little bit amazed how the writers were able to give Stoner such a great, genuinely moving character arc in less than an hour’s run time (along with all the other stuff going on in the episode).

The two sergeants rejoin the rest of the squad. Everyone prepares to head out. Benton starts to stand, struggling a little, and Stoner reaches out and steadies him, helps him to his feet. “Thank you, Doc,” Benton says, unaware in his blindness.

Stoner pauses, like he’s searching for the right words. Then, “It’s me, Lieutenant Benton.”


(I always get a little choked up during this scene. Always.)

“Yes, sir. Let’s go, lieutenant.” It’s the same kind of thing Stoner has said several times in this episode, but this time it’s said differently. Respectfully, even. Benton smiles. And Stoner guides him as they walk back down the hill.

The End

Now that we’ve reached the end of this episode review, I’d like to say a few general (hehe) words about Benton. Benton is a young, inexperienced lieutenant, the sheltered son of a famous general. He could have been weak and cowardly. He could have been demanding and entitled. He could have had a chip on his shoulder, a relentless bad attitude that exploded in bitter outbursts and tirades. He could have been immature and stupid. I’ve seen many, if not all of those ‘qualities’ in other one-episode characters on this show.

But Benton is none of those things. Rather, he is a mature, intelligent, cool-headed young man trying to do the best he can with what little respect and responsibility he is given. He is under a lot of pressure‚ÄĒboth external and internal‚ÄĒbut he remains polite, (mostly) unruffled, and professional. The same can’t be said for many other characters who are much older and more experienced than him!

And Andrew Prine’s portrayal of Benton? Perfection. Literally. Combat! had some pretty great guest stars‚ÄĒJames Coburn, Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, Charles Bronson, Jeffrey Hunter, Roddy McDowall…and the list could go on! But there have been only two guest stars whose characters I have liked so much that I view them as (almost) on par with The Squad: Rip Torn as Sergeant Avery in ‘A Gift of Hope’‚ÄĒand Andrew Prine as Benton. (They are also the only one-episode C! characters I’ve written fanfiction about, for what that’s worth.)

TL;DR‚ÄĒI love Lieutenant Benton and Andrew Prine, Your Honor.

Wow. That was quite a long blog post. XD Even if you just skimmed through it, thank you for taking the time to check out this episode review! Again, if you want to watch the episode yourself, it’s available on YouTube. (And, of course, I highly recommend it. *wink*)

Have you watched any episodes of this show? I’d love to fangirl over it with you!


my top ten favorite fictional detectives.

With the We Love Detectives Week going strong over at Hamlette’s Soliloquy, I’m pleased to contribute a second post to the event‚ÄĒa list of my top ten favorite fictional detectives. There was a bit of difficulty compiling this list, as I have a tendency to forget favorites AND I definitely have more than ten favorite detectives. But in the end, I’m quite pleased with how this list turned out. Enjoy!

(Oh, and just so you know, it’s not reeeeally in order of least- to most-liked, or vice versa‚ÄĒwith the exception of the first detective on the list.)

Mark McPherson – Laura (1944)

Mark just might be my favorite fictional detective of all time. To begin with, he’s played by Dana Andrews‚ÄĒthat’s about a dozen extra points in his favor right there. ūüėČ But the character himself is great as well. Mark is extremely good at his job, and remains unflappable in the face of great annoyances‚ÄĒand there are some pretty annoying suspects in Laura. Like Waldo Lydecker. Or Shelby Carpenter. Or Ann Treadwell. But Mark remains calm, polite, and (mostly) professional throughout.

Besides Mark’s skills as a detective, I also love how sweet he can be. (Sweet toward whom, I can’t say‚ÄĒspoilers! You’ll just have to watch the movie.) If you’ve seen Laura and you’d like to spend more time with Mark, I highly recommend Vera Caspary’s book (of the same title). Part of the story is told from Mark’s point of view, and you can just hear Dana Andrews’ voice reading the lines. ‚̧

John Anderton – Minority Report (2002)

What’s a detective to do when all murders are now solved before they’re even committed? Well, John Anderton (Tom Cruise) works instead on interpreting the the visions of those who ‘pre-witness’ the murders. It’s honest work‚ÄĒor so he thinks. When John himself is accused of future-murdering a man he doesn’t even know, he goes on the run to escape the authorities and possibly clear his name. John could have been just another action hero, but Tom Cruise brings a lot of depth to the character by highlighting John’s grief, protectiveness, and determination.

Sherlock Holmes – original stories/novels by Arthur Conan Doyle, BBC’s Sherlock, the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer, and The Jeweled Peacock of Persia by Jake Theone and Luke Theone

I could NOT have a list like this without mentioning the world’s greatest fictional detective. I mean, when you’ve got the public mourning when you kill off said detective…you’re doing something very right. There has not been a version of Sherlock Holmes that I didn’t like (as you can see from all the sources listed above). What about Sherlock appeals to me so much? Well, he’s a genius. It’s very fun to read about well-written geniuses. And he has a heart‚ÄĒand empathy, despite his often biting remarks.

Also, Basil Rathbone played him. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Basil of Baker Street – The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and the Basil of Baker Street series by Eve Titus

“But wait!” you might cry. “Shouldn’t Basil simply be included in the section about Sherlock Holmes?”

I say “no”, for the simple reason that Sherlock Holmes is actually his own character in the Basil books (and The Great Mouse Detective). Therefore, Basil does not equal Sherlock‚ÄĒnot totally, at least. Anyway, I love Basil. Probably more than Sherlock, to be completely and perfectly honest. Again with the brilliance! Again with the compassion! Barrie Ingham is delightful as the voice of Basil. Also, The Great Mouse Detective is nostalgic for me in a way no other Sherlock Holmes property is.

Jedediah Jones – Dancing & Doughnuts by Rachel Kovaciny

There is no movie of Dancing & Doughnuts, but I have it on good authority that Bobby Darin would have been perfect casting for Jedediah…

Jedediah Jones is the first amateur detective on this list‚ÄĒhis tenure as detective actually only lasts a couple of weeks (if I recall correctly), before he takes up a different career (which I won’t name, for the sake of spoilers). But I’m still such a huge fan of Jedediah-as-detective. When faced with an increasingly puzzling problem, he doesn’t get mad and he doesn’t quit, just keeps searching for a solution. And he’s honest and kind and funny to boot‚ÄĒjust an all-around wonderful guy.

Trixie Belden – Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell/various authors

I just love this cover, that’s all. (source)

I grew up reading both Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books, and Trixie’s adventures were always the most fun and interesting. While Nancy is perfect in every way, Trixie is a tween who definitely doesn’t have everything figured out yet. But that’s okay, because her sympathetic nature and quick thinking never lead her in the wrong direction‚ÄĒat least, not for long. In addition, Trixie has the most splendid, supportive group of friends. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with Honey, Brian, Mart, Di, and Jim (especially Jim, lol)?

Lady Grace Cavendish – The Lady Grace Mysteries by various authors

Another book series I read as a kid! Grace is a Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth I, and ends up solving several different mysteries for the queen (almost always involving a grisly murder). Now, Grace is only thirteen, so the books are *cough* a tad unrealistic. XD But Grace is such a sharp, witty, brave heroine that I don’t really mind.

Bastian Dennel – The Midnight Show by Sarah Pennington

Funny thing: this is the second detective on this list who comes from a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling (the first being Jedediah Jones). I just read The Midnight Show for the first time this year, and fell in love with Bastian Dennel‚ÄĒwithout warning. Bastian is hired to shadow popular singer Dayo Temitrope to figure out why she wakes up with sore feet and vague memories of horrible nightmares. His gentlemanly demeanor won both Dayo’s heart and mine.

Iris Henderson – The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Dear, courageous Iris. Despite being gaslit by almost everyone on the train, she persists in searching for Miss Froy. Iris is one of my favorite heroines ever!

Shawn Spencer – Psych

Shawn is an immature goofball but, man, do I still love him. And I believe that’s because Shawn’s heart is in the right place. He fiercely loves his family and friends. He makes me laugh. He makes me cry. And he’s brilliant at crime-solving. We love to see it.

Although the mystery genre is not my favorite, I do love detectives. Their job is really that of restoring order to a disordered world‚ÄĒand, as you can see, my favorites do so with a compassionate heart and brave resolve.

Do you spot any favorite characters on this list? Who are some of your favorite fictional detectives? Let me know in the comments! ‚̧


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