“The Liberator” Review

Story posted November 17, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by Colton Pleslusky.

“The Liberator” is a new Netflix show that dives into the actions of the Thunderbirds during WWII, but most specifically Captain Felix Sparks.

For some background, the Netflix series is adapted from Alex Kershaw’s “The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-day odyssey”. Based on true events, the story details the 45th Infantry Division, commonly known as the Thunderbirds.

This specific unit contained over 1500 Native Americans, more than any other in the US Military at the time of WWII, as well as many Mexican Americans. It is a story of how, despite the racial tensions back home, this unit was able to pull together and unite in the face of their opposition.

Captain Sparks himself was the driving force behind all this, disregarding the norms of America at the time and inspiring his men by leading from the front and commanding their respect throughout the war.

It is refreshing to see an officer who cares, Captain Sparks faces slight opposition even from other military members who do not see his unit as he does. He stays focused and doesn’t waver, believing his men to not be lesser than their white counterparts. Everyone is on equal ground for Captain Sparks, and he makes that known.

As for the show, it has four episodes, and all are roughly an hour long. Each episode does a great job of sucking the viewer in, encapsulating the audience in the war story it is telling.

The overall storytelling is nicely done, taking the time to introduce and show some form of changes in each character as the war goes on. The hardships and change of character are well represented in the show, with the constant theme of “war changes people”.

The viewer sees some of the characters radically change throughout the course of the show, becoming increasingly numb due to the conflict that surrounds them. Some are able to hold on, and they seem to be the anchors that keep the unit tied to reality.

A perfect example is Captain Sparks, who discusses meeting his own breaking point as the show moves forward and how he needs to feel hope again.

It's done well enough that it is hard to watch a character be killed, and it is easy to be watching fingers crossed that they survive their terrible situation. Unfortunately, war is war, and the show represents that with the situations presented.

The show does a great job showing the building of camaraderie between the soldiers, especially between Sergeant Coldfoot and Captain Sparks. Starting off with basic resentment to ending with utmost respect, Sergeant Coldfoot has one of the better character arcs of the show.

The main plot surrounds the Thunderbirds and Captain Sparks, but it also presents a short B plot from the perspective of a German soldier who is seen as a hero by civilians. It is brief, but how it unfolds is a representation of the brutality of Nazi Germany.

The animation style is a bit strange, seeming to take what looks like actual actors and outlining them with pencil or pen. It is akin to the animation-style of the “Borderlands” game series.

Explosions will go off, and the men caught within will just disappear as if they were clicked on and deleted. However, if that is an issue to a viewer, the story that is being told makes it easy to look past.

The show was originally conceived as an eight-part war epic for the History Channel, but due to the cost restraints of creating such a project, the creators settled for an animated Netflix series that was cost efficient.

With that in mind, it does not hinder the show. In a way, it removes the typical over dramatization and special effects showcase that war films seem to be at times. That is most certainly a positive. The show is simple and gets its story across without anything fancy.

The animation style also doesn’t cause much effect on the characters either. The cinematography, combined with the acting, is good enough for the viewer to see the emotion in each soldier’s face, whether it is dread, happiness, or if they are sadistically enjoying themselves a bit too much.

Overall, the show is certainly worth a watch. It is always interesting to see shows like this, ones that describe the atypical units that fought in not only WWII, but all wars. “The Liberator” does a fantastic job of representing this theme and leaves the viewer with the to-be-expected feeling of sadness sprinkled with glimmers of hope. “The Liberator” goes right for the feelings, and it does it well.

Rating: 5/5

Colton Pleslusky is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email csp5289@psu.edu

About the Contributors

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Colton Pleslusky

Fourth-Year / Telecommunications

Colton S. Pleslusky is a fourth-year from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania majoring in telecommunications at Penn State. He is a director and writer for the CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Department as well as the host on Nittany Stories and a co-host on Nittany Record Club alongside Emily McGlynn. He does behind the scenes tasks, including directing, producing, programming and more for the Centre County Report. To contact him, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).