Thoughts on Army Wives

Friday, September 12, 2014

Knowing this starred an actress (Catherine Bell) I saw for ten seasons on a television show, I was always curious about Army Wives, but it wasn’t until I went looking for something new that I finally took the bait and gave this Lifetime series a shot. Below is a synopsis of the show beginning in season two, because while I enjoyed season one, it didn’t have near the impact of its sophomore season.

Tragedy has struck the families of Fort Marshall. They’ve just buried five of their own because of a bombing on base… a place that only ever meant safety. Despite that, all of them are trying to move on as best they can. There are things that still need to be done and family members alive to love. Pamela (Brigid Brannagh) copes by carrying on with her radio program offering a voice of reassurance to her listeners regardless of the fact that her husband, Chase (Jeremy Davidson) has again left with his Special Ops unit without a goodbye. Because of this, she is able to offer support to Roxy (Sally Pressman) who is frantic with worry over not hearing from Trevor (Drew Fuller) whose unit was part of the recent deployment. Denise (Bell) is coping by working all her shifts at the hospital with injuries of her own, and going through the motions of another deployment for husband, Frank (Terry Serpico) – and getting ready to say goodbye to her only son (Richard Bryant), who she is losing to the Army.  

As General Holden’s XO, Lt. Colonel Joan Burton (Wendy Davis) is in charge of media statements and making sure all of the families are notified only she too has emotional fallout from the bombing, husband Roland (Sterling K. Brown) was in the bar. Then there is Claudia Joy Holden (Kim Delany) and her daughter, Amanda. They are setting out to get Amanda off to college and not even the bombing is enough to stop Claudia from making sure her eldest is settled into her new dorm room. But, no one will be the same again.

Wow. Where season one of this show fell more into the trap of being a “soap opera” (albeit still way addicting), the ensuing seasons of this show are really… dynamite. (The summary of the characters above is from the premiere of season two.) The writing is… incredible, particularly in that opening session of season two, and made me tear up on more than one occasion – and to this day, this show still does. After a cliffhanger in the first season, the first episode of season two is masterfully filmed, keeping us in suspense of which characters didn’t make it through the bombing and which were going to remain a permanent fixture in the sophomore season. It was this episode that really was the “defining” hour for me. It pulled so much into that, leaving me with the realization that in spite of its flaws, this would probably be something I’d watch until its conclusion.  

What endears this now-cancelled Lifetime show so well are those characters; the writer’s may gloss over some of the realities of army life, however they aren’t afraid to depict realities in various other instances. Entering season five, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things about the show.  

+ Michael (Brian McNamara) and Claudia Joy Holden. This on-screen marriage is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s charming, emotional and full of strife that never strays from the bounds of normalcy – the two of them fight and disagree, yet rarely end a day mad at each other. They find a way to compromise, to work through their differences even if it means making some changes.

+ The emotional output in this show is… emotional. I’m not ashamed to admit, I’ve cried one too many times in the episodes and while (as I said previously), some of the politics of the show have been embellished for the sake of “good television,” everything else seems very realistic – from the normal teenage hysterics to the deep heart wrenching sorrow of watching a loved one deploy (and dealing with the months of loneliness and worry), the writer’s pay careful attention to the characters and what they are going through in what seems a realistic, respectful way.

+ Since I’m a huge crime drama fan (don’t get me wrong, I love it), it’s nice to enjoy something “lighter” now and again and overall, that’s what I’ve found with this show. Even when it is tough to watch, it still doesn’t have that same drag as some of the crime shows hold. BTW, if you have any such recommendations, leave them below.

+ Friendship plays a positive part in this show and it’s done with a lot of realism as well. Perhaps not in the sense that the higher-ranking wives would socialize with the lower-ranked soldiers spouses, but in the sense that things go wrong in the friendship, yet no matter what, these women (and Roland, of course) are always there for each other. They support one another and give each other a “shove” whenever they need it.

While there are elements of this show I wish had been different (think a runaway teenager and her older boyfriend wanting to marry), I do so enjoy it. The characters (I also love the relationship between Roxy and Trevor and the goings-on in their home, despite their not-so-wise beginnings, theirs isn’t a relationship that easily falls into stereotypes, which I admire) make all the “bad” worth going through as does the general patriotism of the stories. That alone is enough to keep me coming back. 

(Content note: the show is one for mature audiences. There is some violence when the characters are in theater [injuries] and some profanity as well. There are also extra-marital affairs, intimacies between married couples as well as some sexual conversations over the course of the seasons I’ve watched. The show is rated TV14.)

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