Review by Tatiana Miranda
Masters of the Air is the latest captivating miniseries from Apple TV+. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and based on the book of the same name by Donald L. Miller, the series centers around the 100th Bomb Group of the US Eighth Air Force as they were stationed in East Anglia during WWII. While the show is based on the real-life bomb group — nicknamed the Bloody Hundredth due to its 77% casualty rate — and features fictionalized versions of its members, it never comes across as a history lesson and is instead a riveting look at the realities of war and the technical aspects of the US Air Force.
Chock-full of recognizable faces, as well as new names, Masters of the Air utilizes nearly every single character who comes across the screen. Led by Austin Butler as Major Gale Cleven and Callum Turner as Major John Egan, the show also features stellar lead performances from relative newcomers Nate Mann as Major Robert Rosenthal and Anthony Boyle as Major Harry Crosby. More established stars such as Barry Keoghan, Raff Law, Bel Powley, Isabel May, and Fionn O'Shea also star, although in more minor roles. Still, each performance is a standout, and even with such a large cast, the characters never feel overwhelming.
While it would have been easy for each episode to fall into a routine of focusing on a specific mission that the Bloody Hundredth faced, it instead weaves different storylines and locations of members to give the series a more cinematic feel. From German imprisonment to celebrations on base, Masters of the Air doesn't focus solely on the fighting aspects of the war or the Air Force. Instead, it paints a multidimensional picture of the 100th Bomb Group and their sacrifices.
One of the more disappointing aspects of the series is its portrayal of the Tuskegee Airmen. Coming in at episode eight of the nine-episode series, the 332nd Fighter Group is portrayed as the supporters of the 100th rather than having their own established storyline and characters. Although the series focuses mainly on the 100th, the attempt to show any of the 332nd, comprising African American military pilots, comes across as a last-minute addition to the storyline. Actors such as Branden Cook and Ncuti Gatwa don't get nearly as much screen time as their white costars, and even when their storyline is interwoven with those of Butler and Turner's characters, they are seen more as background characters.
Overall, Masters of the Air is a fantastically shot and well-acted series, although it does have its few flaws. Still, it's a fascinating look into WWII that doesn't watch as solely a war series but instead features moving portrayals of grief, romance, friendship, and sacrifice in the US Air Force.
Masters of the Air premieres on Apple TV+ on January 26. All nine episodes reviewed.