Masters of the Air episode 7 review: "In danger of fizzling out"

Masters of the Air
(Image: © Apple TV Plus)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Another episode lacking momentum, and one which emphasises how little we really know the Bloody Hundredth

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Spoilers for Masters of the Air episode 7 follow. 

Masters of the Air is well and truly grounded. After the first half of the season took us through pulse-pounding, soaring aerial battles, the latter half is winding down on the action. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but in the absence of large-scale battles, the show is struggling to find its footing. This episode is another installment which lacks momentum, and that's largely because the essential cast members are scattered without a whole lot to do. 

The episode begins in the appropriately grim prisoner of war camp. Though there's some joy to be found in Egan and Cleven's reunion, the situation is, as you'd expect, overwhelmingly dismal. If you were in any doubt about the cruel conditions the men are dealing with, a friendly stray cat being cooked and eaten in the opening few minutes should set you straight. 

While the situation is survivable, it's still fraught with danger. The men have managed to make a DIY radio, which they use for essential updates on the war, but they must quickly dismantle it when their barracks are searched without warning, and it ends up discovered and confiscated anyway. At night, the men are lined up and counted by shouting soldiers in full uniform; there's a deeply sinister moment when a Nazi stops a man with a Jewish name.  

Of course, the show can't help history, but it is unfortunate that the series's most charismatic characters – Egan and Cleven – are stuck in captivity. What the situation does do, really, is emphasise how much the show is lacking a wide cast of core characters. It's a problem that only becomes clearer as the episode continues. 

Missteps

Masters of the Air

(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

Back on the base, the situation also feels hopeless. More replacements are sent in for the fallen members of the Hundredth, but there's a bit of brightness to be found in the return of Quinn and Bailey, the soldiers shot down earlier in the season who were smuggled home. It's pleasant to see them returned, but their sudden reappearance serves to highlight how bizarre it is that they dropped out of the narrative in the first place. They haven't been seen since they reached occupied Paris – under a heavy Nazi presence – and skipping this last, dangerous leg of their journey is an odd choice. 

Similarly, we're told – not shown – that 150 men were lost on a day that came to be known as Black Monday, as relayed by Cros's curiously flat narration. It highlights that persistent problem with Masters of the Air: only a few men are our anchors in the series. All these years after Band of Brothers, I can still recall the names and stories of multiple characters, but, here, the focus is narrowed to just a handful of people: Cros, Egan, Cleven, and Rosenthal. That worked well earlier in the series, but now, with the men separated or indisposed, the structure falters. 

Cros's earlier promotion leaves him spending most of his screen time fretting about the men in the air, but we also see him strike up a casual relationship with a returning Westgate. Aside from the mild mystery of what Westgate might get up to when she's not with Cros, there's not much to sink your teeth into here that we haven't already seen. With no other characters to play off of, Cros's storyline again feels a meandering one. 

Rosenthal, though, gets a moving moment of triumph. He clears his 25th mission, which means he can go home – it's a rousing, victorious scene when he buzzes the tower in celebration. It's all quickly soured, however, by the revelation that the new mission minimum is 30. Rosenthal is visibly unsettled at the thought of going home while others fight on, and, at the end of the episode, decides to re-up, despite being warned that the strategy from now on is for the Hundredth to essentially act as bait for the Luftwaffe. We saw last week that Rosenthal struggled leaving the cockpit, so it's unsurprising that he'd choose to return to combat. Still, it's a reminder that last week's episode failed to properly explore the reasons behind this, which could've made this moment all the more impactful. 

Cleven and Egan's reunion proves that the show is capable of excellent character work, so it's a shame that the series doesn't have more of these key figures to explore. The duo have a heartstring-tugging conversation about sending letters home, where Egan comments he has no one to send his correspondence to – Cleven, meanwhile, has (successfully) proposed to his girlfriend in the States. Cleven comforts his friend by telling him he'll get another chance, and, this time, he'll do it right. It's one of those small, emotional moments that pack a punch, and it's only possible because the bond between these men has been so expertly crafted throughout the series. It's to the show's detriment that this hasn't extended to every character, especially when new replacements are shuttled in but left nameless and often faceless. 

As we move into the final two episodes of Masters of the Air, with only Rosenthal in the air, Cros largely on his own, and Cleven and Egan imprisoned, the show is in danger of fizzling out. It remains to be seen if the series can find its momentum again in the run-up to the finale, but, for now, Masters of the Air seems to have stumbled to a halt. 


Masters of the Air continues weekly on Apple TV Plus. You can fill out your watchlist with our guide to the best Apple TV Plus shows

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GenreDrama
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Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.