Riding high on the success of the critically acclaimed, Emmy nominated miniseries "Genius," National Geographic has another hit on its hands. Based on the book by Martha Raddatz, The Long Road Home chronicles events that occurred on April 4, 2004 (Black Sunday) in Sadr City, Iraq and their subsequent impact on the American soldiers who fought a fight they did not know they would find, and the families who lost more than they could bear.
Created by Mikko Alanne (The 33, Voice of Dissent), each episode of the miniseries focuses on a specific soldier's story. Though there are several writers, and numerous characters, the soldiers' perspectives are skillfully interwoven through flashbacks and flash-forwards, while the unfolding rescue mission in Sadr City remains the nucleus. The Long Road Home is as careful as it is courageous, with attention to historical detail and sweeping storytelling. It's an edge-of-your-seat marvel that crashes you into scenes so demonstrative of what military families endure, you are left with emotional whiplash.
The first three episodes foil the views of seasoned soldiers who have combat experience, Sgt. Robert Miltenberger (Jeremy Sisto) and Sgt. Eric Bourquin (Jon Beavers), with the idealism of the younger men who do not, Pfc. Tomas Young (Noel Fisher) and Spc. Jonathan Riddell (Joey Luthman). We see a similar balance on the home front, between wives who have endured several deployments and those who are thrust into the immense worry for the first time. As the series continues, it will be interesting to watch the characters' mindsets shift and evolve based on an increased understanding of the realities of war.
There is a challenge in producing a project that delves into the happenings of war, which goes beyond the daunting task of ensuring that the memories and spirit of those involved have been appropriately honored, and that is the test of fairness. While The Long Road Home looks at Black Sunday through an American lens, there is some regard for the devastation innocent Iraqis suffered. E.J. Bonilla, who brilliantly portrays Lt. Shane Aguero, leader of the ambushed platoon, brings a tenderness to his role that shows Aguero's concern wasn't solely for his own men but those affected in Iraq as well. Though the plight of the American soldiers and their families is front and center, it is important to acknowledge the global impact of war and the vast loss of life.
The Long Road Home is a chilling masterpiece that will affect viewers long after their television is turned off for the night. I found myself asking "why" and "what if," while empathizing with the pain of all involved so deeply that at times, I felt it physically. This miniseries deserves your attention, not only because it is a work of art, but because these people's stories should be heard.
The Long Road Home airs on Tuesdays at 10/9c on National Geographic Channel. It is also available on National Geographic's website and Hulu.