Masters of the Air – Season 1 Episode 9 Recap & Review

Part Nine

The final of Masters of the Air picks up in the aftermath of the Normandy invasion. The timeline jumps a year ahead into early 1945 when the Allies were firmly in the driver’s seat. The Allies were invading Germany through the West, the Russians closed in from the East, and the 8th UAF flew uncontested in the skies: a true and absolute defeat awaited them.

This is what compels the SS to force the Stalag prisoners into marching deeper into the country. We see the American prisoners being marched toward a forced brick labour factory in Muskau. The weather is unyielding and completely averse to anything living. Yet, the American prisoners march on with the SS hounding them from all sides.

During the opening scenes, we see the 8th flying through German skies unopposed. Rosie is once again leading the formation as lead pilot as the Allies destroy all German lines of communications and transport.

However, in an unfortunate accident, the plane becomes inhabitable. Rosie and his copilot make the decision to bail. He is cognizant of their position over the German territory, thereby ensuring that he waits long enough to be in no-man’s land. This is right by the Eastern side of the Oder River where the Soviets and Germans are involved in heavy gunfire. Rosie, unsure of who’s who, takes out his pistol and buries himself in a ditch. When soldiers approach him, Rosie communicates his identity to them as he realizes they are Soviets.

After leaving Stalag III, the cries for an escape become firmer. Subconsciously, everyone is thinking about it but the SS officers sense that. The weather conditions make it harder for Egan’s plan to materialize. He still tries to convince Cleven to make a move but to no avail. Many prisoners and officers get sick en route. When they finally get to the factory, the prisoners clamour for some warmth. They stay the night inside but Cleven believes they will be taken via train further near Bavaria.

He is proved right as the Germans load the prisoners onto trains to take them to Nuremberg. This city is at the heart of Hitler’s evil Nazi regime and extermination plans for Jews, forcing Solomon, a Jewish American pilot, to cry out for his life. Cleven and the others calm him down as the prisoners are taken to another Stalag.

Back at the Thorpe and Abbots base, Croz and the others lose their calm on many occasions. Although it is likely that the Allies will win the war, the number of casualties is so high that they do not want to lose more men.

Rosie is informed by a Soviet general that he will be boarding a flight to Moscow shortly. From there, he will be transported back to England and the air base. En route to the Soviet camp, the entourage stops near the Zabi Kowo Camp. Historically, the site was used as a gas chamber for Jews and a prison camp during the war. Mostly Polish and Soviet prisoners were brought to the camp, tortured, and killed. Rosie gets down to inspect the camp and cries out in horror when he sees the dead bodies lying around in the place. He forgets about the smell as his mind tries to comprehend the unspeakable atrocities on these people.

The focus on this brutality of the Germans continues well into the next few scenes where Rosie talks to a Jewish man saved by the Soviets. He tells of the difficult circumstances under which his family was killed and how he had to bury them.

For the American prisoners in Stalag XIII, the journey ahead gets more difficult. Come April in 1945, the Allies were in the driver’s seat to win the war. The SS force them deeper into Germany with another night march. This time around, the weather isn’t as bad. Egan, Cleven, and two others make a plan to escape the march. However, as they are in the midst of their plan, one of the officers spots them.

Egan is left behind, allowing the other three to escape successfully. They aren’t able to get too far from the march before running into more hostile Germans. While sleeping in the woods, children dressed in the army’s uniform and carrying their weapons attack the men. One of them, Neithammer, is killed. Cleven spares their lives and carries on with the other soldier.

At the T&A Base, Rosie is given a rousing welcome. The real-life hero is the most decorated American pilot during WWII, having flown record missions and continuing to stay back for his men despite winning a ticket home. He reconnects with Croz at the base, where it is revealed that Jean, Croz’s wife, is pregnant.

They also discuss the vanity of war and lament the number of lives lost. But there is also the question about the necessity of having to fight back against unjust rule like Hitler’s.

Cleven and the other soldiers make it to a safe haven. Cleven flies back to the T&A Base, welcomed with enthusiasm by Croz and Rosie. The US is flying supply missions for Dutch populations caught in the midst of war. Cleven is asked to join and he happily accepts, even with the added risk that the Germans might release flak in the air, despite a ceasefire agreement.

Victory awaits the Stalag prisoners, who find themselves in another camp in Moosburg. They overpower the German officers and raise the American flag to secure their independence. The Germans keep their promise as Cleven and the others successfully fly the supply missions.

As they are landing, Egan gives Cleven the clearance, surprising him. The two friends are ecstatic to see each other, and so are the others at the camp to see Egan alive and hearty.

Finally, on 8th May 1945, the WWII ended with the surrender of the Germans. The 100th, whatever remained of it, packed up shop at the T&A Base and flew back home.

The Episode Review

The finale is along expected lines, flowing gently to a tepid conclusion. It is not the greatest of endings to the show that promised so much in its first three episodes. But Masters of the Air makes you feel things that very few shows about war can. The brotherhood of the crewmen, especially Cleven and Egan, set the tone for character development that continued with Rosie and Croz.

Episode 9 features many instances of social commentary on Hitler’s evil Nazi propaganda and the shocking brutality in his dealings. Rosie’s stride into the Zabi Kowo camp is a symbolic ode to all the Jewish lives lost to the Nazi extermination plan. The old man’s story is so affecting that it is difficult to hold back tears at that moment. We don’t need reminders of how inhumane the war was but the show makes a genuine place to rekindle the discussion.

Masters of the Air ultimately stumbles its way to an ordinary conclusion that feels nothing like HBO’s Band of Brothers. However, it still remains a high-value offering for its technical brilliance and scale of production.

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You can read our full Season 1 Review of Masters of the Air here!
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