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‘SEAL Team’ is surprisingly good TV

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SEAL Team Season 4

Military dramas on TV tend to be… well… not very good and sometimes, just eye-rollingly bad – HBO being the exception. So, I tend to avoid military drama shows. However, due to the VA, I watched this one.

I was sitting in the VA waiting room, and they had SEAL Team playing. I watched about 20 minutes of an episode, and I was rather impressed. Although I mostly watched through an action sequence, it was enough to convince me to later watch through the first season – and I was pleasantly surprised by SEAL Team

Lights, camera, action 

SEAL Team follows Bravo Team, which falls under DEVGRU, also known as SEAL Team Six, the most elite of SEAL teams.

Bravo Team is led by Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Jason Hayes and is involved in a diverse range of missions around the world. The show also depicts at-home drama, as well as SEALs training for various missions and deployments. 

Season 1 follows a young SEAL named Clay Spenser who is going through Green Team, a DEVGRU training and selection pipeline, but, spoiler alert, he makes Bravo Team.

With Jason we get the experienced SEAL team operator and leader, whereas Spenser acts a bit like the audience surrogate. He allows us to see things through new eyes and acts as a way for exposition to be realistically dumped without feeling heavy-handed. 

SEAL Team show
(Paramount Plus)

The show’s team does have an actual elite special operations veteran in the form of Tyler Grey who plays Trent Sawyer, the team’s corpsman. In real life, Tyler Grey was a sergeant first class, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, and eventually, a member of Delta Force. He retired due to a severe army injury that we can see throughout the series. He was also a military advisor for the series.

The show does a good job of balancing real-life drama with the action and demands of being an elite operator.

What I like is that the creators incorporate different story themes, at least in Season 1, to add to the excitement and drama: One episode might have your traditional terrorist bad guy, whereas in another the antagonist might be another SEAL Team leader our heroes are butting heads with. This prevents the show from having just one more cookie-cutter bad guy every episode. 

SEAL Team also seems to understand that the interpersonal drama of the operators’ lives back home isn’t the focal point of the show. Yet, the creators dial in just enough drama to show that these guys are real people – husbands, dads, and more. However, they take that external drama and use it to reinforce the stress these guys are facing. This humanizes their decisions, and when they are in danger, the stakes feel higher as you know the character has a newborn or a waiting wife at home.

Related: Deadliest Warrior: A campy, absurd, but so much fun show

SEAL Team and authenticity 

SEAL Team show
(Paramount Plus)

Obviously, it’s still is, “lights, camera, action,” not” lights, camera, realism.” I can’t speak for sure, but I doubt DEVGRU teams are infiltrating China every week like the TV show portrays.

Also, the series omits the mundane parts of being part of an elite outfit – but who wants to watch SEALs sit on a C17 aircraft for 12 hours to fly to who-knows-where only for their mission to get scrubbed? (Although, that’s not to say that missions don’t get scrubbed. It happens in the show. Even after the team trains and trains and trains, someone higher up pulls the plug.) 

I was never a SEAL, so I can’t speak for the tactics or culture portrayed in the show. When you get that high up in the special operations world, I’m sure the culture is extremely different than what I encountered as a Marine grunt. I bet most of the training, weapons, and tactics of DEVGRU won’t be leaked or shown on TV either, thus making the show authentic might be impossible. 

I can speak on what I know regarding a thing or two. For one, the firearms seem accurate. The SEALs are using RMR-equipped Glocks, HK 416 rifles, HK MP7s, and MK 48 machine guns. The guns are even equipped with some common aftermarket swaps, like a Super Duty rail system replacing the 416’s stock standard option. 

Related: Visiting the impressive National Infantry Museum 

SEAL Team show
(Paramount Plus)

In terms of gear, the guys are using real gear you’d see high-end operators use, for example, we see stuff from companies like Crye. One of the most interesting pieces of gear included in the show is the Eagle Industries’ NSW plate carrier which isn’t available to the general public. Another is the lightweight Spritius chest rigs used in one episode for a low-vis mission. It’s very clear that someone behind the scenes is making sure these guys aren’t in airsoft chest rigs. They SEALs in the show even do rehearsals for missions, which is something actual operators do.

It also bears mentioning that the SEALs are all very handsome. That’s important because of all the Special Ops guys I’ve met and worked with, the SEALs are always the most handsome. 

SEAL Team is a fun show, and while it has an overarching narrative, each episode mostly focuses on a specific mission. The show presents some heavy topics, including an accidental shooting of a nonhostile, issues with race, and operators hiding injuries to keep deploying. At the same time, it remains entertaining and tends to end on a high note. It’s not going to sweep the awards season, but it’s a well-made show that’s quite entertaining. 

If you have duty this weekend, give it a watch! 

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.