X Company: Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern Talk “Remembrance”

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CBC
CBC

*** Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the X Company series finale episode “Remembrance” ***

Coming to an end and tying things up in a nice pretty bow can be tricky, especially when it comes to television. A finale, especially a series one at that, is not an easy thing for many shows to master, but when done correctly, it can provide fans with a much needed sense of closure as they bid farewell one last time to their favorite characters. Such was the case on this week’s X Company, as creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, along with their cast and crew, bid adieu to the CBC drama after three seasons.

The finale, “Remembrance,” written by Ellis and Morgenstern and directed by Morgenstern, kept tensions high and viewers guessing about the outcome of the team’s final mission. In the end, Franz Faber (Torben Liebrecht) redeemed himself, especially after last week’s betrayal that caused Sinclair (Hugh Dillon) to take his own life, and sacrificed himself to put a stop to Operation Marigold. Aurora (Evelyne Brochu) was exposed to Schmidt (Morten Suurballe) but Alfred (Jack Laskey) and Neil (Warren Brown) were able to save her in the end.

The entire remaining X Company team all got satisfying conclusions to their stories, as Neil was reunited with his niece, Alfred and Krystina (Lara Jean Chorostecki) ended up teaching back at Camp X and Aurora continued to fight on in Belgium. After deciding that they must stop leaving people behind, Aurora broke the news about Faber’s sacrifice to Sabine (Livia Matthes), and helped her and Ania relocate to Poland. It was an emotional finale for viewers and one that was sure to be emotional for its creators Ellis and Morgenstern. They spoke to The TV Junkies for a final time to break down the series finale, the fate of their characters and what may be up next for them.

 

The TV Junkies As a viewer, and as someone who is sad there will be no more new X Company episodes in our future, I felt immensely satisfied by that finale. What are your feelings on the finale and how everything came together for that? Are you feeling satisfied as well?

Stephanie Morgenstern: We were satisfied story-wise, but there’s always a bittersweet side to parting from a complex fictional world, and a massive creative undertaking, and a very precious group of collaborators that have been a part of your life for so many years. We always knew the series wouldn’t end with the end of the war itself, but instead with the sense that the fight must go on… even though the torch may have to be passed on to the next fighter to carry it to the finish line. But to be honest, we had no idea, when we began this whole X Company journey, that the message of resistance would become as timely again as it has recently. It turns out the struggle is still far from over. The ‘finish line’ of Allied victory was just one threshold among many to come.

Mark Ellis: When we started writing the final season, we knew certain things must happen. We knew Faber must ultimately transcend his instinct to protect himself and his family. That he must discover the resolve, through Aurora and the team, to strike a blow against a Reich that is destroying innocents and ruining his country. We didn’t know what the final images of the series would be. We worked through many ideas with our writing room, in our final days in Budapest, until finally, it felt like the closing sequence fell out of the sky — a bit like Alfred and Aurora and Neil leaping from the plane.

TTVJ: You knew going into this year that it was going to be the last and I know you planned accordingly for it. Did that plan always involve just three seasons because everything really seemed to come together and play out perfectly in just the right amount of time?

ME: We didn’t know when we began the show that it would only last three seasons. But in between Season 2 and Season 3, it began to feel like it was the right time to write a final chapter. We’d walked our spies through many of the horrors of war, and we felt there was only so much more we could sustain. We lost two beloved spies along the way, and the remaining three defied extraordinary odds to survive as long as they did. Although we’ve painted them as heroes, we didn’t want each of them to live 20 lives. We wanted them to live one extraordinary journey, and leave it at that. This is the story of how a small cell of spies manages to turn a senior Gestapo officer against the dark forces occupying his country, and strike a blow for their cause, in the name of humanity.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: After everything and so many questions about his loyalty, Faber did something pretty darn heroic. We saw his fight with Sabine and Aurora’s comment about Ulli, but can you walk us through his final decision?

SM: The game Faber was playing — struggling to pacify his conscience while managing the perceptions of his superiors while serving his country while keeping himself and Sabine safe — that’s not a game you can keep playing forever. He had genuinely not intended to end up with Sinclair trapped and tortured, let alone dead. He just improvised when under pressure with his superiors, pretending that using Sinclair’s son against him had always been the plan, which it wasn’t. (And if Edsel hadn’t betrayed him to Schmidt in the first place, he never would have bad to admit having Sinclair Junior in his custody in the first place — that was a card he was cornered into playing too.) Then, if Oster hadn’t intercepted Faber on his way down to the cells, we might have heard Faber devise the next step of a plan with Sinclair… but from that point on, on the stairs of the HQ, Faber was trapped within his lie of being a triple agent, and Sinclair’s destiny was out of his hands. That’s when Faber goes into full self-protection mode to keep himself and Sabine safe: lay low, behave, stay out of trouble. It’s the combination of Sabine’s last words to him, Aurora’s as well, and his own growing sense of ethical clarity all colliding in his soul that, in the end, tell him what needs to happen if he is to find redemption.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: Speaking of Sabine, I can’t tell you how happy I was to get one last moment between her and Aurora. I love the ending you guys gave to her and Ania. Livia Matthes was so beautiful and I loved seeing Sabine with her hair down and in pants! We are all living with the assumption that she is going to help Zosia open the candy shop, right?

SM: Why not? We know for sure that Sabine has reached a point of ethical clarity by the end. When Faber protests “Don’t you see it’s not that simple” and she replies “Actually I think it is,” about doing the right thing, we know there’s no turning back for her. In her last scene with Aurora, she warns her that her husband is about to betray them — in fact showing an allegiance to her friendship with Aurora and the Allied cause above her allegiance to her own husband and country.

ME: The writing room had been looking forward for a long time to that final image of her in pants, no lipstick, no heels, hair falling freely, striding through the trees with a new sense of purpose and belonging that she defined on her own terms.

SM: Livia performed the whole Sabine journey so beautifully, from the sheltered Nazi trophy wife all the way to the unexpected warrior in the woods… the scene where she weeps in Aurora’s arms was actually the last scene she played as Sabine, and the bittersweet feels were very real that day.

@BridgetOnTV
@BridgetOnTV

TTVJ: Even after all of Mark’s evil teasing, Aurora lived! Evelyne Brochu turned in another amazing performance and I really just want to thank you for writing a character like Aurora Luft. After everything she’s been through, in the end why can Aurora still not quit the spy game?

SM: Why would she quit the spy game when there is still so much butt out there in need of being kicked? She has a new identity, she’s relocated to Belgium, and we really couldn’t see her hanging up the thigh-strapped commando knife and retiring to civilian life anytime soon. They are still years away from VE Day and an agent with her experience and skills is in as much need as ever.

ME: I think the connection Aurora had to Faber was real. Yes, she hated him, but she also grew to understand the impossible position he was in. She learned firsthand what it is to be complicit in atrocity, because you feel you have no choice. Her words land in Faber, as Schmidt drags her away. Only the thing is, they’re mostly his own words that she’s recalling, and she’s simply giving them back to him. She’s triumphant when Faber sacrifices himself to destroy Voigt. But in that moment, their connection is complete. She was ready to blow herself up too, they’re both now exactly on the same page. And so, there’s no way she can stop fighting on the heels of Faber’s sacrifice. She doesn’t owe him for it, but she has to live up to it. She has to continue to atone for the horrible things she’s seen and that she’s been asked to do. She’ll be the last woman standing at the end of the war, if she has anything to say about it.

TTVJ: Was there any thought to giving Alfred and Aurora a happy ending where they ended up together? Maybe one where they were working together at Camp X?

SM: We actually do see the ending they have as happy. Their parting in the airplane is a loving one, still full of promise, and if they both survive the war, we could imagine them picking up where they left off. But this show is more of a war story than a romance, so ending with them side by side, going off into the same sunset, would have felt like the wrong tone.

ME: We wanted them each to carry on the mission where they were of best use: Aurora in the field, Alfred in the one place where he can speak freely about the stories he has lived and witnessed, helping to train a larger army of spies to replace the ones they’ve lost.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: It was nice seeing Alfred in Sinclair’s role back at Camp X and felt right that Krystina was alongside him. Since this all started out as Alfred’s story, how do you feel about his journey and how it ended?

SM: We don’t actually say that he is replacing Sinclair. That’s why, when he sits with the new recruit, he doesn’t take Sinclair’s place behind the desk, but faces the young man in a chair opposite him. Alfred’s been promoted as a valuable instructor, but we don’t spell out who’s actually running the place, whether it’s a Brit or a Canadian or Krystina as interim leader… we didn’t think it was that important for our purposes. But we did know we were working toward a future where Alfred would come full circle, where his memory would no longer be a source of distress or vulnerability in the field, where instead they could serve to guide the next generation.

TTVJ: No one has been through more or had more losses than Neil. Is that why he chose to get out of the spy game and be with his niece? It was a lovely ending for him and another great performance by Warren Brown in this episode.

ME: Neil’s always been a protector. It’s why he became a cop, and then it’s why he wanted to fight in the war. To protect his remaining family and his country, to channel his rage and his grief, to wreak revenge. But he discovered along the way that no matter how hard you fight, or how hard you love, you can’t save everyone. And not everyone behind a uniform is a monster. Time becomes subjective in the ending we created. Neil may have been dropping out of the plane and into a new mission of his own behind enemy lines. Or he may have been dropping into England and taking leave, or choosing to train others at home. What’s really important is that when Neil comes through the door and holds Mags in his arms his promise is fulfilled. He kept Mags safe. He kept her from the war. And he’ll keep protecting her in the life to come.

TTVJ: Is there any X Company in your future in any form or is it fully put to bed?

SM: Right now we have no further X Company plans. We love the time period, the characters, the intrigue, and the espionage genre, but we are happy with the conclusion we bought his particular story to and are ready to put this baby to bed.

ME: And yet, I like to imagine one more mission for them all. The Allied troops are on the ground in Europe. Alfred sheds his uniform to go back in the field. Krystina straps a knife to her thigh once more. And Neil signals Aurora from another table in a cafe…

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: What’s next for you guys? Vacation? A new project?

SM: We’re taking a break from the hamster wheel a little while. We’ve had the great fortune to be working, preparing, researching, developing nonstop for about ten years… but what we’re looking forward to now, more than anything, is to step back onto firm ground and catch up on some reading and movie and TV, seeing human friends, without having deadlines and business as our constant priority. When our next idea strikes, we want to have no regrets about what we did or didn’t do with our freedom.

ME: And in the midst of this period of recharging, I’d love to see Steph direct some more. I know I’m biased but I’ve worked with a lot of directors over the years and she’s the real deal. I’ve seen Steph’s ‘recreational’ reading and it mostly involves cinematography and lenses…

TTVJ: I’ve mentioned this before, but when I watch the show part of me is really sad because no one outside of Canada can see how amazing it is. With all my yelling about how much I love the show on Twitter, I have people ask me all the time where they can see it. Are there any plans for it to be available in any form outside of Canada?

ME: The show already airs in many countries including Japan, Iceland, Mexico, Central and South America. I think the show will find a home in the US and the rest of Europe too. It’s suddenly become very topical, and I believe our shelf life will be long. We’ll keep you posted…

@BridgetOnTV
@BridgetOnTV

 

What did you think of the X Company series finale? How do you think the team did in sending off the series? Sound off with all your thoughts in the comments below!

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