The original program on Beirut was famously changed by the suddenly erupting war in Lebanon during the shooting. As such, we got a harrowing and real look at the uneasiness of a nation at war against the Israelis and amongst themselves. I believe the episode won a lot of awards. I think the effectiveness of the episode was the earnestness and fear portrayed. These people were very scared and you can tell. Tony dropped all pretense of cool and rejoiced in being on board the Navy ship and eating tuna noodle casserole.
I was kind at two minds about the return, will they be overwrought, imbuing the episode with heart wrenching drama or will they ignore the richness of what they had done and return to the snarky modus operandi that they are so famous for.
I thought they showed that they weren't all too sure about how to approach this episode either. They came back to the people who were taking them around the first time, a few years older, a few years more vulnerable. I think the idea of returning to make the same episode was a good one but a limiting one. The food porn scenes were, as always, delectable. The slightly deeper foray into social and political commentary was less so. The trek into the Hezbollah neighborhood didn't really tell us anything we did not know. The most touching social and cultural statement was the mien and comparison of the two young men who were showing them around. Both seemed more somber, both seemed to have much more gravitas, whether that was age or experience, or both, I am not sure. But the juxtaposition of the footage made good points.
In the end, it was a great travelogue, the shots of the Bekah Valley made me want to go visit, the foods, arak, and street scenes were de rigeur. But the ending commentary by Tony made me wonder whether he had accomplished what he set out to do, or whether the situation was so complex and enveloping that he himself didn't know what questions he was asking, let alone answering.