X Company: Staring Down the Devil

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CBC
CBC

Well it happened, the moment X Company fans knew was coming for weeks now, but still couldn’t possibly have prepared for. Our worst fears for Aurora–ever since she set down the path of befriending Faber’s wife Sabine–were realized Wednesday night. Written by series’ creators and showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, along with Sandra Chwialkowska and directed by Amanda Tapping, “Fatherland” confirmed everything we knew could go horribly wrong for Aurora should Faber find out what she’s been up to, and let us see just how things played out when he did.

Truth be told, I first watched this episode over a week and a half ago, but in a lot of ways haven’t been able to shake it since. While I know the entire season is building toward the invasion at Dieppe, this confrontation on the train instead felt as if everything had been leading us right to this moment. These three characters in particular have been close to breaking all season long–Aurora because of René, Faber because of what he did to his son Ulli and Sabine from the loss of her child and her husband’s distance. Yes, we knew eventually they’d all probably break, but who could’ve guessed it’d all be at the same time? Luckily for viewers, that’s exactly what happened and it made for an absolutely glorious–albeit terrifying–television viewing experience.

As I watched the scenes on the train, I felt myself alternate between holding my breath one moment, to yelling at my screen from the sheer intensity of it all the next. How can three people, doing no more than just staring silently at one another, be more suspenseful than some of the best action movies out there? The answer is simple. It’s because of outstanding performances from Evelyne Brochu, Torben Liebrecht and Livia Matthes, along with brilliant writing and wonderful direction that let us feel as if we were privy to a super secret conversation taking place on this otherwise busy train. X Company has done a stellar job of raising the stakes all season, and as a viewer we’re certainly aware of how high those have gotten, not to mention that we know and feel for all parties involved. It’d be easy if one could just say “Go Aurora! The Nazis and Germans are bad!” But as much as we may hate him, the X Company team has made us know and feel for Faber and what he’s been through.

CBC
CBC

As I touched on before, the lack of dialog in key moments during the scenes on the train only served to heighten the tension. Brochu’s face constantly flipped from sheer panic one minute, to hate and rage the next. While for his part, Liebrecht was masterful in showing Faber feeling smug and proud at himself for figuring it all out, then being hit with the realization that in the process he’s hurt his wife, the one person left on the planet that he truly cares about, before finally succumbing to defeat as Aurora got the best of him and he was forced to let her leave the train. Finally, not one to be outdone, Matthes skillfully played Sabine’s confusion and hurt over the betrayal of not only her husband, but someone she viewed as her only friend, and turned it into sheer confidence by the end of the episode as she told Franz they were through.

The entire sequence of events on the train were a lesson in the old rule that sometimes less really is more. There was nothing flashy or showy here, but instead the real impact moments came when I would just start to think to myself, ‘Can Aurora really it make it out of this? Will he let her go?’ Then Liebrecht would inject the slightest bit of menace into Faber’s voice, and put a glint in his eye, that let me know Aurora wasn’t escaping any time soon. On the flip side, as Faber got more and more out of control with his anger, Aurora’s remained much quieter, simmering just beneath the surface, until she could no longer keep it to herself and spilled the truth to Sabine.

“Did you really think you’d get close to my wife and I wouldn’t find out?”

As the door shut behind Sabine, I felt my heart beating even faster at the prospect of what would happen now that Franz and Aurora were left alone. As he checked her for weapons it was hard to imagine anything worse for her at that moment, as we know that she’s fully aware of the sheer evil this man is capable of. Tapping made an excellent directing choice in giving viewers the close up of Brochu’s face, something that has spoke volumes all season long, lending a sense of intimacy to the scene that helped viewers feel as violated as Aurora did by the whole procedure.

CBC
CBC

It was then that I felt this round was going to go to Faber, and it was clear he was feeling pretty proud of himself over it all as well. But never one to be shaken, Aurora swiftly turned the tables, hitting him where it hurts the most, Ulli. Liebrecht allowed for a subtle facial tick to come across Faber’s face as Aurora spoke of his son, and that’s when it was clear she had him. With each passing second, Brochu’s voice and body language proved that Aurora was gaining confidence, and she was going to turn the tables to get out of this one alive. By using his wife and son against him, Aurora played the last card she had to get out of the situation unharmed.

“No one is above suspicion, Franz. You have to admit, she’d make a great cautionary tale to keep people in line.”

But as we know with war, there are never any real winners here. Aurora will re-team with the others, but it’s clear their Dieppe invasion is in jeopardy. Faber has once again let a member of the Allied team escape, and his wife has informed him that she wants nothing to do with him. How will this go over with his superior officers when he returns to Paris? I know one thing, it can’t be good.

I also realize in closing this review, that I have yet to make any mention of another crucial, and wonderfully acted story, going on back at Camp X with Sinclair and Klaus. Time and again this show tests people’s loyalty, and asks how far they are willing to go in the name of serving their country? For Klaus, I am certain what sent him over the edge was the note from his father, telling him how proud he is, but am thankful Harry and the boys were able to signal in time to stop him from executing his plan. It was a great touch to have Krystina be the one to save Sinclair in the end. Not only do these two have a great working relationship, and this should only serve to bring them closer, but it was her first kill, and I’ll be very intrigued to see how that affects her moving forward. The fact that this storyline is left to little more than a footnote here should only serve to underscore how enthralled I was with what was taking place on the train.

I find that the only regret I have while watching this episode is knowing that X Company is currently unavailable to TV viewers outside of Canada. It’s one of the finest programs on my screen, and the fact that more people don’t have access to it is a damn shame. Here’s hoping that gets rectified in the near future, because this is too good of a show to go unnoticed by the masses. It deserves heaps of praise and all the awards we can throw at it, but for now, I hope that Ellis, Morgenstern and Co. know they have at least have one viewer watching at home who gave everyone involved in this episode (and season for that matter!) a huge standing ovation. Bravo!

 

What did you think of “Fatherland”? Do you have any predictions for the last two episodes of Season 2? Sound off in the comments below!

X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC

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