19 January 2017

FWS TV Review: History Channel's SIX (2017)

Its seems that every US Special Operations unit has their day in the sun in regards to the public's love affair with that unit. Currently, that love and attention is paid to the US Navy's SEALs, and their secretive unit: Team Six (AKA "DEVGRU"). This elite unit of NAVSPECWAR was formed at a time when there were far fewer Navy SEAL teams, two in fact, and the name was chosen by Richard "Rogue Warrior" Marcinko to confuse Soviet intelligence and when international terrorism was on the rise. Marcinko envisioned ST6 to be the maritime counter-terrorism akin to the US Army's newly formed CT unit: DELTA Force. This unit, like much of modern US Special Operations, was founded in the failure of Operation: EAGLE CLAW in 1980. The first few years under Marcinko's "creative" leadership style were hard and the unit had a bad rep around the military. In 1983 Marcinko was out and DEVGRU was searching to reorder themselves. For years, the unit was largely in the shadows of operations with DELTA Force taking the limelight. Today, DEVGRU is one of the best direct action black operations TIER-One level funded units in the US Armed Forces that has honed its skills, tactics, and abilities to be one of the best direct action units in the entire world with the mission to kill Osama bin Ladin in his compound Pakistan in May of 2011 being the true expression of their new status and skills. It was that mission, in addition to fury of media attention, that give rise to the current love affair by the global public to ST6. The US History Channel was in developed the television show "SIX" based on real ST6 missions for years and with expert advice. It premiered on Wednesday, January 18th, 2017. It is my hope that this show takes the good and the bad along with the lessons of CBS's The Unit to form one of the best military television shows. 

The PLOT and Aim of SIX
According to the History Channel's own SIX website, the first season will be comprised of 8 episodes centered around killing an Taliban leader with gritty attention being paid to the real world DEVGRU via their missions, training, gear, behavior, and their relationship with the world outside of the Teams. The pilot jumps around from just before the capture of former Team leader "Rip" Taggert in Africa, to two prior, then jumps to his capture. According to the press about the show and what has become a trend in war films, the show will explore the human cost of being an member of ST6 along with the toll on the families of these elite warfighters. The center of the show, or the season, as much as we know at present is "Rip", the character played by Walton Goggins, who replaced Joe Manganiello, who many might known from his role in 2010's Predators.  

Overall, SIX is an impressive show about the Jedi Knights of SEAL Team Six, with attention paid to the little details of the unit that are not often discussed or even seen in most productions about ST6 or available on the vast internet resources about SEALs. For example, the bar inside the Team Room being made out of pile wood and each established team guy having an assigned mug, or the hazing the FNG. These are all nice touches that will set SIX apart from other shows or productions. I also enjoyed the honestly paid to the real-world of Black Operations with the spin-up and spin-down reality of our Special Operations Forces and the stress that this inflicts on the warfighters. This was best seen in the heated discussing between husbands and wives, and the battlefield actions taken by Team leader Rip. It was just recently that news came out about some ST6 members committed similar actions between 2002-2011, adding some nice realism and perspective. All of the actors in the production, from the SEALs, to their children, wives, and people within their orbit are all cast well and turn in good, believable performances. This is especially true of Walton Goggins who pays Richard “Rip” Tagger. He turns an amazing performance that demonstrates the hard road of being an SEAL and manages to steal the show whenever he is on-screen. While I was unimpressed with the first half of the show, however, the second half really gelled together and made me believe that I would return to the show next week and the week after.

While I praised the little details of the show, there are also errors and issues that cause SIX to be rough around the edges. The initial battle were American and Afghan units are pinned down in a “village” and the SEAL Team (I believed called “White”) is the QRF that is there to unfuck them is a shit show of bad direction, bad set, bad OPFOR actors. It is nice to see a daylight mission with DEVGRU, but it looks like that piece of real estate that every show films an “Afghanistan” location on and it looks bad frankly. The scene is a mess, not shot well, confusing, and the car bomb does not make any sense. Couldn’t the production team film in New Mexico?
It actually looks like parts of A-Stan. There is the in-mission scenes where the assault team is too small for an actually SEAL team and where is the equipment on their backs? Every SEAL Team member carries some sort of tool, like a collapsible ladder or bolt cutters, and they notably absent. There is weakness in some of the tactics in the actors’ performance, especially during a night HVT raid on an Afghan village. They need more training and better presence on scene. There is also a lack of support jobs. While every ST6 operator is a shooter, they also have medics, comms guys, snipers…and none were on-screen. These are errors that some will not see, but to me, SIX is a show that needs to get it right. Oh, and command staff doesn’t refer to DEVGRU as “SEAL Team Six”. The operators and command staff often refer to a generalized name, like the guys and gals of DELTA Force referring to it as “The Unit”.

Modern war films, television shows, and video games that focus on Special Operations (especially ST6) have often informed us of the sacrifice that these warfighters make on our behalf; both on the battlefield and on the homefront. The press on SIX hammers home the fact that is going to focus on the messy civilian lives of our ST6 Jedi Knights, and the pilot episode hits us over the head with that fact over and over. There is also the tension with the team itself, which is a nice element, but once again, it turned up to 11 with the frogmen at each other’s throats…literally. Honestly, I think Medal of Honor: Warfighter did a better, more even job at exploring the lives of these warriors and their families. My hope is that the show claims the hell down and relaxes the volume and chaos, because this is not a new aspect that SIX is showing us, but the characters, and the show needs to play to that strength.

Should You Watch SIX?
If you are interested in Navy SEALs, ST6, or Special Operations, than I think giving this show a change is well worth the time investment if you understand that SIX is still a little rough around the edges with some rough characters that are operating in a dirty world that exists on top of ours. It is likely the best cable American military show since FX 2005 Over There. I have high hopes for the show.

Will SIX Survive?
American television has a complicated relationship with military TV shows. While most start off with the best of intentions, many fail to attract the public or live beyond one or two season. The Unit. 24, MI5, and M*A*S*H being some of the highlights of long running and respected military television shows. The real question is if SIX will become causality or a prime example of how military shows should be. After seeing the first episode, I can say that History Channel has the foundation for a truly compelling military show about American’s commando sweethearts, and I believe that we will see SIX complete its initial run of eight episodes.  Only the course of those episodes will determine if the show is renewed. After all, I didn't believe that Vikings would last...


  1. Out of interest, what do the command staff call Seal Team Six?

  2. In most of the sources I've read, it is referred to as "the team", when some of the command are discussing ST6 to others, they use names like "the boys", "my frogmen", "my command". There could be use of the current code name, which use to be Naval Development Group or DEVGRU.