By Cory Robinson
For the fifth episode in the series, I’m taking a look at probably one of the most infamous episodes during the show’s run entitled The Mission. Steven Spielberg returns in the director’s chair with a script from Menno Meyjes (who wrote the screenplay to The Color Purple) while bringing in A-list talents Kevin Costner and Kiefer Sutherland plus having John Williams to write the score, made this one of the more hyped episodes in the series. Even though the cast and crew involved is phenomenally good, many viewers debate if this is a good episode or not with people either loving it or hating it. Why you may ask? Well read the review below and you’ll get a good idea (or just watch the episode).
The episode takes place in Europe during World War II with a group of Air Force soldiers going on their 24th and final mission bombing areas controlled by the Axis powers. The group is led by their Captain (Kevin Costner) who will retire after this mission as well as Jonathan (Casey Siemaszko who was best known as the lead in Three O’clock High) who acts as the belly gunner on all missions while also being the group’s lucky charm. Jonathan is known for his increasingly good luck due to helping the group succeed on all missions while getting married to a local European girl and getting accepted to work at Walt Disney Studios as an animator since Jonathan likes to doodle caricatures of himself and his squadron in his spare time. Before the start of the Mission, the captain pleads with Jonathan not to go on the mission because it’s superstition in the Air Force for anyone to fly on their 24th mission but Jonathan says that he is too lucky for anything to happen to him or his crew.
While flying to the battle scene, Jonathan talks with fellow crew member Arnold (Kiefer Sutherland) about their future careers after the War is over with Arnold being accepted to Minnesota for a future degree in engineering. Talk is short lived as a bunch of enemy fighters start shooting at the plane with the crew members quickly going to their battle stations. Things go as normal until Jonathan can’t seem to shoot a plane that is heading towards him until the last possible second when the enemy fighter explodes sending with the head rudder heading straight towards him. The rudder punctures the plane missing Jonathan but ends up trapping him below his belly gunner station with no way of getting out. The crew tries to remove the rudder but it is so hot it welds the belly gunner hatch shut with the only way of getting him out is to use a blowtorch which they don’t have. The crew suspects that they will have to wait to get him out until they land but Jonathan’s luck has ran out because the landing gears were destroyed in the dogfight with the enemy planes thus meaning when they land, Jonathan will be crushed on the runway dying instantly.
The crew along with the Captain have to figure out how to get Jonathan out but unfortunately too many enemy bullets took out most of the fuel reserves on the plane leaving very little time or limited options on how to get Jonathan out. The crew ultimately comes up with two plans: one is to take out an emergency parachute to have Jonathan kick out the Plexiglas right when the altitude is right enough for him to drop or the other plan is to have his friend Arnold give him a mercy killing before they land thus giving him a quick and painless death. Unfortunately plan one fails since the parachute rips open before it is fully transferred to Jonathan and Arnold can’t bring himself to kill his best friend so everyone wait for the inevitable doom to fall on Jonathan while the Air Force awaits on the runway below with a priest reading last rites to Jonathan on the communications speaker with his wife watching closely behind.
Now I’m going to spoil the ending of this episode because it is very crucial to how I critique this episode and I will try in future reviews not to spoil the ending so if you want to watch the episode first before I spoil everything else here is a link to which you can watch the whole episode here on the NBC Site. http://www.nbc.com/amazing-stories/video/the-mission/2909096
Right before the plane lands, Jonathan has another plan and starts doodling on his sketch pad while pleading with the Captain to pull down the landing gears one more time on his command. They wait until the last possible second and when Jonathan gives the signal, two cartoon landing gears inflate like balloons out of fucking nowhere and help land the plane complete with cartoony sounds effects and pixie dust. I’m not making any of that shit up. Everyone on the landing pad stares in bewilderment at what they are seeing (including me) as they trying to open Jonathan’s hatch from below as he is in a daze so not to wake him. As soon as they pull him out, Jonathan is stuck in a sort of trance until his Captain slaps him across the face which wakes him up and makes the cartoon wheels disappear completely destroying the belly cockpit. The episode ends with everyone asking Jonathan questions as to what the fuck they just witnessed to which the Captain responds with “some people just have all the luck” complete with Costner’s trademark monotone line delivery.
Let me go on record saying that this was leading up to be my favorite episode of Amazing Stories as well as probably being my favorite standalone anthology episode that I have watched until this fucking stupid ending. The acting is great, the writing is great, the directing by Spielberg is fantastic other than some cheesy moments (also brought on by John Williams’ score which is still good), the suspense of this episode is fantastic with the moments leading up to Jonathan’s doom being some of the most anticipating moments in which I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen until that stupid ending happened with those goddamn cartoon landing gears.
I apologize for swearing so much but I really want to get through that this ending really hurts this episode and ruins what the rest of the episode tried to do. I know that Jonathan is supposed to be a cartoonist but this “miracle” comes up last minute so unexpectedly that it ruins the rest of the episode. If the ending was different I would’ve gave this episode a 10/10 but since the ending clearly still disturbs me after multiple viewings, I sadly have to give it a 8/10 which really sucks because I LOVED this episode so much until the final couple of minutes. The blame probably goes to Spielberg who came up with the story for this episode and no matter how much effort you put into an episode like this, it’s hard to make a classic with a crappy idea of an ending. Overall I would recommend anyone to watch this episode but be forewarned about what’s coming up later in the episode.
Come back next week as I take a look at The Amazing Falsworth starring Gregory Hines.