Nat Geo premiered a scripted eight-episode mini-series on the Iraq War this week. Based on Martha Raddatz book, The Long Road Home, the series depicts the harrowing events of Black Sunday when the First Cavalry Division came under surprise attack in Sadr City on Sunday, April 4, 2004. Expecting an uneventful peacekeeping mission, soldiers are thrown into deadly conflict as they set out to rescue a small group of soldiers trapped in Sadr City.
The drama isn’t limited to the war front. The families left back home get screen time, showing the painful goodbyes and the emotional fallout when they find out the unit is under attack. Character development happens through flashbacks to past combat and pre-deployment family time. Viewers get a glimpse into the soldiers’ faith, values, and some of their baggage.
The series honors the bravery and courage of soldiers while simultaneously recognizing the underlying conflict of the US in post-Sadaam Iraq. Dialogue bounces between the validity of the peacekeeping mission and the controversy surrounding the absence of WMD. Scenes of inner conflict help viewers appreciate the difficult decisions soldiers face when conscience clashes with duty.
The wide-eyed wonder of a soldier’s first encounter with combat is well represented–both those who are eager to engage and those who are fearful or reluctant. Each episode builds, adding elements of suspense ensuring viewers return each week for more of the story. Admittedly, the drama of war will hold viewers more than the fallout depicted on the homefront.
The Long Road Home highlights the pivotal decisions that change lives forever. The weight of a commanding officer’s order is felt in the dramatic pauses between information received and orders issued. The bravery of the men who follow that order is honored as well. In fact, this series accomplishes the mission of esteeming our military. I finished each episode with a deeper sense of gratitude for those currently on the frontline, our military veterans, and the families who wait at home.
The Long Road Home airs on Nat Geo Tuesdays, 10/9c. Previously aired episodes are available to enjoy on the Nat Geo website. The cast includes Michael Kelly, Jason Ritter, E.J. Bonilla, Kate Bosworth, Sarah Wayne Callies, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Sisto, Jon Beavers, Darius Homayoun, Jorge Diaz.
The Long Road Home is a war-time drama, full of violence, death, and language (although the language is not as bad as some military feature films).