The Unit – Seasons 1&2

The show is made of two halves which contrast and complement each other beautifully. The most prominent aspect is the military half, following a five man special forces team on their covert missions which could be anything from acting as body guards to diplomats, extracting information from behind enemy lines, or assassinating unfavourable characters. There’s plenty of spy stuff, running and shooting, jumping out of planes and explosions.

To contrast with that however is life on the base. A meaty chunk of each episode is dedicated to the wives of these men who live on base, keep their secrets and never know where their husbands are. Their lives raising kids, paying bills and dealing with the military machine is shown to be almost as much a battle as their husbands missions.

All this could be very cheesy but there’s a brutal honesty which makes it compelling. The series is based on a book written by a former special forces soldier and he serves as an executive producer and writes several episodes. While some of the missions may seem far-fetched, he swears by them and gives them credibility. Likewise the home life stories don’t pull any punches, showing how hard it is for these women to live, with their husbands bringing in pretty poor pay for their dangerous work and living with the knowledge that their husband may not come home and they will never be told why.

The storytelling is extremely well done. The action sequences are brutal and feel extremely real, I believe these characters can shoot and drive and speak all these languages, they really feel like a team of highly trained soldiers. Likewise the home life all rings true, the way the wives band together, doing whatever is necessary to protect their families and secrets.

The way the show also works well. Everything is handheld and has that slight documentary feel to it, energy and closeness. But at the same time the dialogue is slightly too perfect, almost poetic sitting on top of the chaos. It shouldn’t work, but it really does.

My only criticism of the first couple of seasons are that some of the characters are underused, it’s a five man team, but the two members without wives really aren’t developed, often entirely absent from episodes. It would have been interesting to contrast the families with the bachelor soldiers a bit more. There’s also some very questionable continuity in places, most notably the first season ended with an incident that (unless I missed something) was never really explained or followed up on.

Special Features
I have the full series box set, so I’m not sure if the special features are slightly different from individual season sets, it’s a nicely compact set, but nothing spectacular. There’s plenty of commentaries spread throughout with a good mixture of cast and crew. They do get a little samey after a while though. There’s a few interesting making of features, but I was disappointed there wasn’t a comprehensive featurette on how the series came about, how it was developed and cast. Those are usually pretty staple for first seasons.

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