Judge P.S. Colbert prays that all our brave fighting men and women return home safely and soon.
Our review of Army Wives: The Complete First Season, published July 2nd, 2008, is also available.
"Home Of The Brave."
Army Wives: The Complete Seventh Season, fall out for inspection:
• "Ashes To Ashes"
Straight up: I volunteered for this mission. I didn't necessarily want the assignment, but I'd been seeing the title showing up on the weekly DVD Verdict product list for almost two months without being chosen, and it was almost as if…
…as if it chose me.
But, why? After all, the show ran on Lifetime—"Television for Women," right?
I'd seen the ads, featuring a group of military MILFs, sporting camouflage fatigues and come-hither looks. Instead of sexy, they looked silly to me! Didn't these people realize there was a war on, that men and women were dying horrible, bloody deaths on a daily basis in the God-forsaken climes of Afghanistan?!
What I came to discover was that Army Wives was ultimately the victim of miscommunication and misunderstanding. The sexist marketing slogan of the cable network has absolutely nothing to do with this scripted, searing examination of service life (based on Tanya Biank's non-fiction book, Under The Sabers: The Unwritten Code Of Army Wives), which in fact, counts a male spouse (Sterling K. Brown, Our Idiot Brother) among its titular group.
Not only is this show aware of the situation in Afghanistan, it spends a good bit of the season hunkered down in the thick of it, including a nerve-rattling firefight that serves as its centerpiece. And death? Unfortunately, it's everywhere.
If you've been following the story so far, you'll remember that season six ended very much up in the air (pun inevitable), with a planeload of Fort Marshall's finest—several leading characters included—heading into treacherous weather, on its way to the battleground. Meanwhile, base commander General Michael Holden (Brian McNamara, Short Circuit) takes an emergency phone call.
"What?" Holden asks, slowly easing into his desk chair, eyes growing with dread as he listens to the receiver. "When? Oh, my God. (slowly exhaling) Oh, my God."
The good news is that the plane touched down safely. The bad news? Holden's wife Claudia Joy (Kim Delaney, CSI: Miami) has died of heart failure.
It probably shouldn't come as a shock, considering the woman's sudden spate of health problems (she'd recently been diagnosed with Diabetes, and undergone a kidney transplant), but of course, the shock and devastation of losing the title group's unofficial leader has a profound effect on everyone, and it permeates each episode thereafter. Amazingly, given this last fact, year seven of Army Wives is not bogged down in morbidity. Unlike most series losing a primary character, it seems to elapse in real time—at least, in terms of the survivors striving to adjust and move on, while being occasionally blindsided by intense flashes of grief.
Season six was also notable for its purging of principal characters from its rolls: Roxy (Sally Pressman, Scandal) and Pamela (Brigid Brannagh, Over There) found themselves pulling up stakes as their husbands were reassigned to different posts. Indeed, Fort Marshall itself underwent a major transition. Rechristened Joint Base Marshall Bring, the compound set about reconfiguring to accommodate incoming Air Force operations, resulting in a shared command center. Ring out the old, ring in the new.
Enter Air Force Colonel Katherine 'Kat' Young (Brooke Shields, Lipstick Jungle). The wing commander first lands with a resounding thud; her attempts at establishing authority misinterpreted as uncooperative—even combative—behavior.
Though Brooke Shields might be the last person one would imagine as a hard-assed military careerist, her casting couldn't be more ingenious. Who better to understand the nervy desperation of a woman under pressure to assert her strength in a systematically macho-dominated environment than a cultural icon best remembered for Calvin Klein ads, a string of celebrity ex-boyfriends (including Michael Jackson and George Michael), and The Blue Lagoon?
Navigating the hairpin turns necessary to transform Kat from an officious shrew into one of the strongest (and most sympathetic) characters of the season would be no mean feat for any actress, but Shield's triumphant turn here surely represents her finest work to date.
Perhaps even more surprising is the astounding work done by ex-pop idol Jesse McCartney (Wish Gone Amiss), playing Private Tim Truman, a (get this) teenage hayseed fresh from a little town in the Midwest, who's married his high school sweetheart (Elle McLemore, excellent as Holly, his sweet, wide-eyed and innocent wife) and left her to fend for herself while heads off on his first deployment. The horrors of warfare and PTSD are among the souvenirs he brings home with him.
Corny and rote though all this may sound, there's not a whiff of unbelievability about the events portrayed, as anyone who's followed the news about the war's progression and its effects on those with skin in the game can attest. There's a razor-thin line between cliché and history repeating itself; for better and worse, Army Wives manages it as sure-footedly as an expert tightrope walker. Okay, there's a notable lack of non-photogenic people on display, but this is television, after all!
Looking nearly as good as star Catherine Bell (Bruce Almighty) are the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfers in this ABC studios release. You won't miss a whistling shotgun shell with the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, either. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are available, as are (slight) extras in the form of deleted scenes (mostly heads and tails) and a Blooper reel—whoopee!
Sadly, the folks at Lifetime have recently decided to demobilize the Army Wives, making these thirteen episodes a bittersweet coda, but cheer up, and always remember:
A good series never dies, it simply gets rerun.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Studios
• Deleted Scenes
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