The Good Soldier
Writing this after Monday’s episode, pretty sure nothing is going to top Gary’s description of what happened in Afghanistan.* Gary has been unraveling since he came home. He’s pushing his parents and Izzy away, missing physio appointments. Unable to cope, yet unable to tell anybody why or what happened when his patrol was attacked.
After Izzy has enough of rude Gary and leaves him in the street, he apologizes. They talk a bit. He says he hasn’t seen Quinny’s parents. She says “maybe that’s what you need to do.”
He phones them, but doesn’t tell his parents he has. Quinny’s parents come to the Windass house. Anna comes home unexpectedly, makes tea all around, offers to leave if that would make it easier for them all. No, Quinny’s dad says. No, Gary says, I want you to hear it too.
An IED exploded
Then he tells about the IED that exploded under their vehicle. He ended up under Quinny, who was still alive. Some of the guys got out and ran to safety. Gary told Quinny to run but he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t leave Gary.
In the vehicle, they came under enemy fire. Sounded like rain on a caravan roof, Gary said, like he remembered from childhood. Quinny got him out, carried him, running for shelter. Almost made it, then Quinny fell. Someone pulled Gary to safety. Quinny was dead.
Gary has been carrying around the guilt of this, survivor guilt and the guilt that Quinny would still be alive if he had run when he first had the chance.
It was absolutely beautifully acted – real and heartfelt. You could see it as Gary talked. You could also see the agony he felt, at the time and now, safe in his living room. A soldier still, but a broken one, telling of the death of his friend.
I cried throughout it: for Gary and Quinny’s parents, for Anna who had to be thinking this could be the story of her son’s last minutes of life. And for all the real-life soldiers who have lost their lives or been scarred by living through attacks just like this in Afghanistan and Iraq. The casualties, both living and dead, of these protracted wars.
Mikey North researched this storyline by talking with veterans of Afghanistan. They taught him well.
Unfortunately, this final picture is Gary pleading as much as a soldier can in front of his Commanding Officer. He was discharged from the Army. PTSD wasn’t sufficient reason to overlook a charge of assaulting a police officer. Too bad. And too bad having David Platt as a friend isn’t enough of an excuse.
* Also unfortunately real life matched it. Betty Driver, who has played Betty Turpin Williams, Rovers’ barmaid and hotpot cook since 1969, died Saturday Oct. 15th at the age of 91. What will we do without her?