Band of Brothers, which HBO released nearly twenty-five years ago, for many remains one of the best, most accurate cinematic representations of World War II ever. Executive Producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks followed-up with The Pacific, a perspective of the war in the Pacific Theater. Sadly, the second entry in what would become a WW II trilogy, of sorts, wasn’t as well-received as the first. Now comes Masters of the Air, the third installment, focusing on the 8th Air Force in the European Theater… and it’s a masterpiece.

The series takes its name from historian Donald L. Miller’s book in which he writes of the 100th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. The group, among others, was responsible for something the world had never seen in warfare before. That, of course, was the use of high altitude, precision, daylight bombing. The men who flew on these missions arguably had the most perilous jobs in the entire war. Masters of their Air superbly tells their tale.

Masters of the Air: another Spielberg/Hanks masterpiece

Masters of the Air
Image: Apple, Inc.

The series focusses on a nucleus of young fliers, including John “Bucky” Egan (Callum Turner), Gale “Buck” Cleven (Austin Butler), Harry Crosby (Anthony Boyle), and Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal (Nate Mann). All deliver exceptional performances, but it’s Mann that truly gives the series the level of emotional depth to rival Band of Brothers. The flyers of the “Bloody Hundredth” flew through literal hell in the skies over Europe. If the goal of Masters of the Air  was to make you feel the excitement, anxiety, fear, and pain of what those men went through, it succeeds at all levels.

Not to be outdone by the human aspect of the series, Masters of the Air similarly blows you away with its visual effects. With so few, remaining, flight-worthy B-17 bombers, the show relies heavily on CGI to depict the air battles in which the 100th participated. The effects are seamless and exceptional. So much so, in fact, that you often forget that you’re not watching actual war footage.

A fine tribute to the 100th

Masters of the Air
Austin Butler as Gale “Buck” Cleven in Apple TV+’s Masters of the Air. (Image: Apple, Inc.)

As does Miller’s book of the same name, Masters of the Air drives home the atrocities of war. Without spoilers, one episode is particularly gut wrenching as you learn first-hand how the Bloody Hundredth truly earned its name. You’ll be hard-pressed to watch the series without it taking a toll on your emotions, and rightfully so. If there’s one negative of the series, it’s that it sadly came too late.

All of the airmen depicted in the series have passed on by the time of the show’s release. That makes me sad, because I believe they would have been honored by the way their lives, peril, and sacrifices are portrayed in the series. If those that fought in WW II are considered the “Greatest Generation,” the men who flew in the 8th Air Force are among the greatest of them all.

Masters of the Air
A shell-shocked “Rosie” Rosenthal (Nate Mann) returns from battle in Masters of the Air. (Image: Apple, Inc.)

Thus, to answer the question, is the series worth the watch? One hundred percent, unequivocally, yes.

Masters of the Air premieres today, January 24th, on Apple TV+.