Character Development

Enlisted: 1.3

The toughest part of comedy on television is the dichotomy between making the audience laugh while simultaneously developing character in each of the various roles. A comedian on stage just has to make you laugh for one night. You aren’t going to watch him every week. (If you do, you might need to see someone about that.) However, to keep a TV audience returning week after week, the audience not only has to be amused, but also needs to identify with and come to care to some degree for the personalities in the show.

(If you are huge fan of Anchorman 2 and find the above paragraph absolute rubbish, let me know in the comments. Be forewarned; I may still ignore you.) 

I thought that this third episode of “Enlisted,” Pete’s Airstream, weaved both tasks well. We learn something new about every single role in this episode that makes each more unique, if not enduring. It elicits chuckles and the occasional guffaw, while elegantly introducing the complex, serious issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is certainly no laughing matter.

Sgt Pete's youngest brother Randy tries to get Pete to bunk with him and brother Derrick.

Up to this point, Sgt. Pete Hill has been characterized as the “supersoldier” oldest brother who is clearly out of his element back in the states running a squad of misfit soldiers. As the only soldier beside Sgt. Major Cody on the base who has seen combat, Pete is revered by his youngest brother and respected by the rest of his rag-tag detail. Amidst all the attention, it is clear that Pete is troubled after he rebuffs his younger brothers’ pleas for him to bunk down with them and, instead, gets a trailer and moves to the “single guy trailer park” down by the dump. (Coincidentally similar to Chris Farley, anyone?)

Not realizing the emotional strain the constant hounding was putting on Pete, Randy and the rest of the squad take the move personally. However, Cody, who up to this point as been a goofy, if not irreverent, all-knowing base commander, exemplifies previously unseen wisdom by stepping in and comforting Pete, as well as explaining to Pete’s adoring squad that he needs some space.

The writing for these scenes in the show was so delicately composed that “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” is never even mentioned, and Pete is never made to feel inferior or ostracized for his need to get away.

Thousands of soldiers struggle with PTSD after returning from overseas. Some never fully get over it. The need for support, understanding, and acceptance are critical for the men and women returning from overseas. Regardless of the outer exterior of the “supersoldier,” every soldier needs help from us as individuals, communities, and a country. 

— Zachary Henry is Contributor at the Media Research Center. Follow Zachary Henry on Twitter.