This specific platoon is the joke of the base, a group of clumsy misfits who don’t know their left from their right — literally, in some cases — but the show is careful to always respect its characters, even when they are fucking up. Setting a comedy in the Army can be tricky because of that respect, and the emotional weight, that is attached to the premise, yet Enlisted tackles this setting with surprising cleverness. The characters are in Florida, not overseas, and the focus isn’t on the waging war but on the brotherly relationship and the bonds that are formed between soldiers. It pairs up heavy-handed scenes with big laughs and never feels shallow.
The best example of this is in last week’s “Vets,” the series’ greatest episode to date. (It’s available on Hulu, as is most of the season, and if you’re on the fence about the show, I’d suggest watching either this or “Randy Gets His Gun” for a good introduction.) “Vets” takes on a wealth of serious topics: three veterans of the Korean War, the funeral of a soldier, post-traumatic stress disorder, and spending a lifetime carrying around the weight of what happened in a war without opening up to anyone else. It is, without a doubt, incredibly heavy stuff, but it’s all running parallel to a very funny Ocean’s 11-esque, hijinks-ensuing plot that finds our three young’uns and our three veterans coming together. They road-trip to invade a bar and steal a coin; they grapple with their past decisions and future fears. They drink beer and take punches; they say goodbye to a friend and take steps to better themselves as people. It just might be one of the funniest sitcom episodes that I watched last week, and it’s definitely the only one that made me tear up.
Enlisted has some typical sitcom tropes and often goes for broad laughs but still manages to be unique. It’s a comedy that always salutes its source material and isn’t afraid to evoke a little emotion. It doesn’t shove the gut-punch to the end of the third act to force a reaction out of viewers, instead subtly letting things develop throughout episodes, resulting in everything feeling organic. Enlisted has proven to be an impressive feat of a television program, and one that is destined to only get better as it goes on — if Fox lets it.