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Masters of the Air Series Finale Review

Anthony Boyle, Austin Butler and Nate Mann in the series finale of Masters of the Air (episode 9)

Masters of the Air ends how it began, with an emotional but frustrating series finale that signals promise for epic storytelling on AppleTV+

For an episode that deals with the end of World War II, there are long stretches of episode 9 of Masters of the Air that don’t really feel like the finale of a limited series. Even with an episode that stretches past 70 minutes with credits, there are a couple of plot lines which were set up earlier in the season and left dangling. Still, “Part 9” keeps the emotions front and center, so it’s hard to complain much.

One of those plot lines is in the Tuskegee Airmen, who were front and center for about half of last week’s episode. Here, they’re barely given a few moments of screen time, and the same number of lines as they make their way from one prison camp to another. Also missing resolution is Crosby’s (Anthony Boyle) affair with Westgate (Bel Powley), who we saw last week behind enemy lines as a spy. I’m more upset about the former than the latter, especially given their importance in real life events – to say nothing of adding some diversity to Masters of the Air.

I appreciate the thematic throughline in most of the finale. That is, the remnants of humanity in the final days of a cruel war. Screenwriter John Orloff doesn’t hit us over the head with it, but finds natural ways to sprinkle the ideas into the arcs of these characters. We see it in Bucky (Callum Turner) as he sacrifices himself to allow Buck (Austin Butler) to escape the POW march. We see it in Crosby (Anthony Boyle) and Rosie (Nate Mann) as they work to drop necessary aid into the Netherlands, in spite of the risk of German hostility and Rosie’s recent return from behind enemy lines.

My favorite scene in episode 9 is brief, but it smartly speaks to how Rosie and Crosby’s shifting views on the war, and their roles in it. Crosby quotes Nietsche, touching on how, in war, we must be careful not to become the monsters we sought to destroy. He’s speaking about the war overall, but it comes after he reveals his impending fatherhood, and we know he’s likely thinking of his guilt over his affair with Westgate. Any TV show where a character casually quotes Nietsche can easily come across as pretentious, but it’s executed well enough here.

Anthony Boyle sighs in relief with eyes closed in the series finale of Masters of the Air (episode 9)
Anthony Boyle in the series finale of “Masters of the Air”, now streaming on Apple TV+. (Courtesy of Apple TV)

On the less intellectual side of things, episode 9 features a harrowing series of journeys across the German countryside in the dead of winter. Given their survival thus far, I wasn’t expecting Bucky or Buck to be in much danger as they marched endlessly after their camp was evacuated. But their friendship proves to be the emotional glue to Masters of the Air, given how much the series has devoted to their reliance on one another. Even something as simple as revealing that Bucky refused to send off Buck’s trunk shows what these men mean to each other.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call the finale of Masters of the Air a bad episode, nor would I say the show has failed to live up to expectations. Of course, its totality doesn’t measure up to Band of Brothers, but as I’ve written before, perhaps it’s unfair to compare the two. If nothing else, Masters of the Air showed that there are still World War II stories worth telling on a grand scale in the streaming era.

Watch on Apple TV

The Series Finale of Masters of the Air is now available to watch on AppleTV+.

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