Masters Of The Air Review: 4 Ups & 6 Downs

A war drama that soars in the skies but slumps on the ground.

Masters of the Air
Apple TV+

Masters of the Air - the latest and long-awaited chapter in the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks-produced shows detailing the lives of Allied servicemen during World War II - might go down as the biggest disappointment of the 2024 TV season.

Based on the book by Donald L. Miller, the high-flying miniseries follows the wartime trials of the 100th Bomb Group, switching focus from the grounded drama of Band of Brothers and The Pacific to the skies, where war was an entirely different beast.

There was a lot riding on the shoulders of Masters of the Air. Following the success of Band of Brothers and The Pacific, HBO was quick to announce a sequel series in 2012, but they never moved forward with the plan. In 2019, Apple TV swooped in to adapt Miller's book with showrunner John Orloff, the first series produced entirely by Apple Studios.

Given the success of its predecessors and Apple's desire to put itself on the map with an innovative prestige drama, Masters of the Air seemed destined for greatness, and whilst it's not without its moments of brilliance, it's also a formulaic war series that fails to live up to its promise, or do justice to the airmen it brings to life.

With that in mind, here are 6 Downs & 4 Ups from Masters of the Air, with only mild spoilers throughout.

10. Down: Key Stars Are Hung Out to Dry

Masters of the Air
Apple TV+

As expected, Masters of the Air has put together an impressive ensemble cast, led by the likes of rocketing up-and-comers Austin Butler (Elvis), Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin), Ncuti Gatwa (Doctor Who) and Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts), as well as a whole host of young talent surely destined for impressive careers. 

Unfortunately, despite the talent involved, few are able to wring much from Masters of the Air's weightless scripts, which reduce their characters to thin archetypes and little more. Butler, still working with the infamous Elvis Voice, is so overblown in accent and drawl he verges on becoming a cartoon.

And look, it's not always fair to compare one show to another, but given the high calibre performances found in, say, Band of Brothers (where the likes of Damien Lewis and Ron Livingston shined), it certainly is a disappointment to see so many great actors trying to give so much to so little. 

It's not all bad - some cast members break through when the material rises to match them - but it sure sucks to see such talent go to waste. 

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