THE LONG ROAD HOME is the National Geographic series based on a true story of soldiers and the horrors that they faced while fighting in the war in Iraq.
Many times, when one sits down to watch a horror movie he or she will be immediately struck by an opening scene of shockingly gruesome violence or some other shudder-inducing sight. Once that first scene concludes, the viewer will then be transported to a place of relatively mundane calmness. Then characters are introduced, the plot moves forward and tension is built over time. Fittingly, that is also the case with this premiere episode.
After a short Saving Private Ryan-esque scene depicting grievously wounded soldiers in Iraq, we find ourselves amidst a picture of serenity in Fort Hood, Texas. It is there that we are first introduced to Lt. Shane Aguero (E.J. Bonilla) and his children. It is the interactions between Lt. Aguero and his son Elijah (Parker Weathersbee) at the start of the show that provide the audience with the first examples of the biggest strength of the premiere episode.
That strength is the manner in which it builds up dramatic tension. Elijah lashes out in anger at his father for making the decision to venture into harm’s way. In those of us who are watching, the young Elijah’s outbursts serve to instill a piercing sense of fear of what’s to come.
Furthermore, by putting the audience right in the middle of these dramatic family moments, the show makes sure that we get a full picture of what the soldiers and their loved ones are going through. That full picture ensures that we truly care about the outcome of the events that we will eventually witness.
We soon meet a number of the men who serve alongside Lt. Aguero, as well as their families, as they say goodbye before leaving for Iraq. The instant likability of all the soldiers becomes a significant source of the show’s magnetism once the soldiers get to Sadr City, Iraq. As the troops travel through the town they joke around, tell stories and make observations about their new surroundings.
Yet, the start of their time in the country is also marked by a few disturbing occurrences involving members of the local populace who are either scared, angry or both. Seeing these soldiers journey through this environment is similar to seeing a horror movie’s main protagonist and her friends slowly walk through an abandoned building. The casual chitchat between the heroine and her companions makes them relatable.
What really keeps you glued to the screen is the fact that with every passing moment, and every sight of something that looks remotely suggestive of danger, a sense of dread grows within you that something horrendous is about to befall these characters in which you have become emotionally invested.
The end of the premiere episode of The Long Road Home, just like its beginning and its middle, is thoroughly engaging and suggests that viewers who stick around for the entire series will not be disappointed.
The war on terror has led to the creation of quite a few television programmes. Judging from the first episode, it doesn’t appear that The Long Road Home will offer viewers the frantically paced, non-stop action of a show like 24. It also does not look like it will offer the intriguingly complex storylines of a show like Homeland. However, the apparent absence of those traits does not mean that National Geographic’s new series does not contain all the ingredients it needs to fully satisfy almost any fan of quality television dramas.
- Aired on National Geographic, November 7 2017 at 21:00.