in Television

TV Review: Enlisted Has Its Final “Alive Day”

In a season of comedy where Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Trophy Wife, and Broad City debuted, it’s hard to say that there was a new show that did better.

But there was, and that show was Enlisted. It finished its 13-episode run last night with “Alive Day,” the episode setting up for fun in its staging of a regimental ball, while also reminding viewers of the serious subject matter behind this show, when it confronted Sergeant Pete Hill’s own Alive Day: the one-year anniversary of his near death while fighting in Afghanistan.

Maybe Enlisted has been so easy to love because it was the underdog this television season: FOX aired its episodes out of order on Friday nights, starting in January. It never did have the greatest chances of survival (as admitted by the network themselves), not when they already had three competent comedies (and also Dads) to fill out their now-defunct Tuesday comedy night. (Brooklyn Nine-Nine is moving to Sundays with Mulaney in the fall.)

It’s hard to be a network comedy that survives more than a season these days. And yet Enlisted felt more alive on Friday nights than nearly anything else on the schedule. It was a show that instantly felt as bright as Parks and Recreation, and has always been just as funny, if not funnier than, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Revolving around three brothers assigned to the same army base in Florida, Enlisted is a workplace comedy in the loosest sense, with ridiculous plots, and more than enough poignancy and sentiment to make the most of its military setting.

The brothers aren’t alone, either, with the cast around them diverse in every sense of the word. The characters are all flawed (ranging from middle brother Derrick’s apathy, to Pete’s fellow Sergeant Jill Perez, and her determination to remain professional at the expense of her personal life), but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t all deserve and receive love, which was what the show excelled at. Enlisted was led by three brothers, but it was really about a family much larger than that, one forged through military bonds.

Enlisted was so funny because it was smart, but often chose to be silly. It carried an instant unsaid yet recognizable history in both its set of brothers, and in the army framework itself, something that the show didn’t only use for great humor, but to make commentary on, too. Pete returns home, reluctant to be leading a platoon through tasks that at first seem meaningless to him, but the show wasn’t afraid to take his character further than this, digging into his return, and the PTSD that he brought home with him. Midway through the season, in “Vets,” Pete is encouraged to get therapy, something that he’s grateful for the in the finale. But when Fort McGee’s deployed troops are shown to the ballroom through skype, Pete’s PTSD comes crashing down on him again, during his shining moment of the great, successful event that he organized. He ends up on the beach, feeling guilty for surviving and even having an alive day, when so many other friends and soldiers that were around him didn’t. But as Sgt. Major Cody tells him: it’s OK to feel guilt. …And more importantly, It’s OK to feel joy, too.

Enlisted was consistently ridiculous (Pete’s platoon are charged with finding a dog in the first episode), but there was always an undertone of something so important and meaningful running beneath all of its scenes. The jokes were never malicious, and everything about Enlisted, from the very episode, had a wondrously joyful vibe about it. That the show is now over, with only thirteen episodes under its belt, is a painful fact to accept. But as Derrick himself realized in “Alive Day,” it’s worth spending all the moments that you can with the people that you love, even if there is a goodbye looming on the horizon.

Enlisted‘s total run only lasts around five hours, but I guess I’m just reluctant to say goodbye to something that has been so, so good. More so than anything else that’s been cancelled recently (Trophy Wife, Suburgatory, Happy Endings and Community included), Enlisted is the one show out of them all that truly deserves a longer life.

But if it doesn’t get it, I’m glad that we at least got these thirteen episodes. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a show so quickly. Hooah, Enlisted.

Series Grade: A