Third-episode verdict: Generation Kill

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 1

We have a little dilemma for The Carusometer here. Generation Kill, the Iraq war mini-series from the creators of The Wire, started well, scoring probably a 1 or a 2 on the Caruso scale. Since then, each episode has been better. The Carusometer doesn’t believe in half marks, so it’s finding it tricky to know how to score the series. I’m sure it’ll work something out by the time I’ve finished writing.

Three episodes in, it’s becoming clear that this really is The Wire of the Iraq war – not necessarily in terms of “showing it how it is”, but in terms of message. Those who have been parsing the text, so to speak, will know that The Wire‘s message is that a lot of people in organisations are rubbish; there are a few good ones but there attempts to change the status quo or affect their superiors’ decisions will be quashed by politics; and that the higher-ups will give orders that are as much – or more – about their attempts to climb up the hierarchy or maintain their position than what’s actually right on the ground. In essence, nuance and practicality will be crushed by politicking and ideology.

And this is what we have with Generation Kill. The US Marines depicted are very well trained and good at what they do. But their natural organisational inclination to kill anything that moves isn’t necessarily a good thing when you’re trying to win hearts and minds. The love of medals and the need to win generals’ approval means bad decisions are made and often praised. The man on the ground isn’t given the resources he needs to conduct the war properly. And those few that use their brains to inform their decisions with the wider picture are often penalised.

As I mentioned in my review of the first episode, this isn’t a wholly new message. However, its slow building up through demonstration is and makes it more effective.

We have other Wire-like characteristics as well, such as the way one character can seem to be ‘good’ in one episode, only to be revealed as a hindrance in another is more nuanced than other war shows have depicted. And we also have the banal bloke-to-bloke dialogue that fills much of the episode, as war is shown to be mostly waiting and discussing South Park.

While it doesn’t wow in the same way as The Wire, since its message isn’t as new or devastating as that show’s, it’s certainly worth watching as a piece of intelligent drama.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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