X Company Creators on bringing their series to “a natural, full-circle conclusion”

CBC
CBC

The team from Camp X’s time will soon be coming to an end. If you were surprised upon hearing the recent news that the upcoming third season of the CBC WWII drama X Company would also be its last then you’re not alone. We here at The TV Junkies are right there with you. We’re pretty big fans of the show and like you, we wanted some answers about why creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern thought this would be the right time to end the series.

When we last saw the X Company team at the end of Season 2 they were suffering a huge loss at Dieppe and the loss of one of their own in Tom (Dustin Milligan). However, small victories like turning Faber (Torben Liebrecht) had left us with some signs of hope heading into Season 3. Ellis and Morgenstern will now have 10 episodes to tell the conclusion of their story and the duo recently answered a few questions from The TV Junkies about why this is the right time to end the series. Morgenstern will also be making her TV directorial debut this season and she spoke about why the series’ final two episodes offered her the perfect time for that to happen.

The TV Junkies: In general fans are pretty surprised about the announcement that this will be the final season of X Company and the show has always garnered a lot of critical acclaim. Why was this a good time to end things?

Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern: In the pilot episode, Franz Faber’s eyes fall on a report about a group of Allies that have wrought havoc on the Germans in a small corner of France. They’re led by a mysterious young woman, whose photo is clipped to the file. The lives of Faber and this team become bound, their war story is deeply intertwined. This series is about how our five heroes come up against one of the most formidable Gestapo officers in Europe. How they fight him, how they undermine him, how they connect with him, and finally, how they try to turn him to their cause. We designed the last 10 episodes to build to a natural, full-circle conclusion.

TTVJ: Do you feel that three seasons has given you enough time to explore the Camp X stories in the way you wanted to do from the outset?

ME and SM: Yes and no! Yes, because we wanted to focus on the story of a single team, rather than the comprehensive history of Camp X or of the Allied espionage effort in WWII in general. But no, because there will always be more fascinating true stories that surface every year that you wish you could do justice to. There are stacks of books we barely got to skim the surface of, so many more compelling and heartbreaking true stories out there worth celebrating. But our hope mainly was to inspire Canadians with a little curiosity about the secrets their country has kept, and with a little pride that we were an important part of the bigger picture. And to wonder what they would have done, if they had been that agent, or that German officer, or that team leader, or that wife…

We also wanted to pull out all the stops this year, without feeling we should be saving any drama for somewhere in the show’s distant future. The theme of this final season is: sometimes to fight the enemy, you must become the enemy. The line between right and wrong has never been more elusive. Our guys are tested against unimaginable adversity as they go from Paris to Poland and finally Berlin. So knowing we were bringing things to a close, we gave ourselves permission to play all our strongest cards, and leave everything on the battlefield.

Credit: Jan Thijs
Credit: Jan Thijs

TTVJ: Stephanie you are directing television for the first time this season. Was that always something you wanted to do and why did you decide that you’d direct the final two episodes of the series?

SM: Directing feels like a natural evolution from what I’ve been learning, over the long years I was acting, and then over the last eight years since Flashpoint began in 2008 and the creating/writing thing became full-time. When we launched X Company I didn’t have any master plan of proposing myself as a director down the road. But over the seasons I watched some truly outstanding directors at work–it was like a three-year shadowing position–and I realized I was gathering tools and insight and tricks of the trade with every episode. Working intimately in the post process afterward also unexpectedly turned into its own kind of master class in directing. Editing can be a brutal and merciless process and you learn fast what material is essential, and what’s not, to get the story told.

I didn’t visualize myself even a year ago as a person who could confidently jump into a leadership position on a crew, especially for an ambitious hour-long drama–and especially for a two-parter season finale. It’s intimidating. But with so much public conversation happening now about women behind the camera, it got me thinking–if not now, when? You asked me back in our earlier interview about women in TV what advice I’d give a young woman trying to break in, and I came up with something about being your own protagonist in the narrative of your life and career, provoke your own inciting incident, etc. etc. It hit me, after that, that I wasn’t even taking my own alleged advice if I let this chance slip by.

X Company is a world I know well, the crew is brilliant and supportive, the cast as well, they all totally have my back, Temple Street and CBC too… I realized, weirdly, my main doubts were actually not about my ability to do this well, but about how it might ‘look.’ Isn’t it a little arrogant? Elbowing in on that slot, on my own show? As if I’ve earned the right to be right up here, alongside the outstanding Canadian directors we’ve had as guests, on my first TV directing attempt? I have a female friend who was listening to me fretting about ‘perception’ and she basically shut me up with–“Steph. Lean the f*ck in.” So I did. I proposed myself as a potential director.

And it’s a really nice full circle from where X Company started… Back when Aurora and Alfred were characters in Mark’s and my OMDC Calling Card short Remembrance (2001), that was something I directed with every intention of using that as a step toward a directing and writing career. Those plans were put on hold because Flashpoint happened. It feels right that I’m able to take this step now, in this setting… to have a very personal hand in crafting the end of this whole journey, just as I did in its beginning 15 years ago.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: This will be the first season where we have to deal with not having all of the core group that started the series. Can you give us any indication about how the team will move on from Tom’s death?

ME and SM: The shadow of Tom’s absence stretches long into this season. They develop their next ‘safe house’ plan based on an idea of his. Harry (Connor Price) gathers inspiration for an audacious propaganda coup by thinking big, like Tom did. And when Neil (Warren Brown) realizes the only way Alfred (Jack Laskey) can gain access to intel is by flirting his way into a young woman’s confidence, he asks the obvious question: ‘What would Tom do?’ There are many tributes to him, even when his name isn’t mentioned. The ache of the loss of a loved friend is felt by Krystina (Lara Jean Chorostecki) as well, and we see her channel her grief in a particularly badass way. In a sense, they all double down: they refuse to let his loss be in vain, and they are more resolved than ever to get this war won, at any cost.

TTVJ: Last season you made a point of really humanizing and giving insight into the Fabers. Will we continue to see that couple’s relationships with our core team explored this season?

ME and SM: We’re careful how we characterize our Germans in X Company. We shine a light on the brutality, the atrocities, the psychopaths who took advantage of a terrible time in German history. But we also want to acknowledge that not every German was a cold-blooded Nazi. Many Germans did what they thought they had to because they’d been conditioned by the trauma of the First World War, because they wanted to go to university, because they were forced to enlist, because they wanted to feed and protect their families. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold them accountable for their actions. But it does mean we should look at why they made the choices they did. And we should ask ourselves if we can honestly say we’d have done any differently.

Franz Faber is a man with a conscience. He feels forced into killing his son to save him from a worse fate at the hands of his government. It’s a huge catalyst and the team exploits it by challenging him to join their cause. To fight the regime that labeled his son a parasite. That ordered him to kill innocent civilians…

The question is: how far will Faber go to help the Allies, if it means compromising the safety of himself and his wife? His war has never been about ideology. It’s been about the people he loves. What will he do when that is threatened? And how will Sabine react to her husband’s offer to become a traitor to their nation? Especially when her father, one of Himmler’s most trusted men, arrives on the scene. Sabine herself has an unexpected journey this season. The overprotected environment she’s always lived in begins to crack and a brutal and disillusioning reality spills in. As a privileged woman, who’s been doted on, and to some extent condescended to, by the men in her life – she experiences a kind of coming of age of her own.

So yes, our team’s stories are bound tightly with Faber and Sabine’s in Season 3. As we said, sometimes, to fight the enemy, you must become the enemy. Each side gets a taste of what that’s like, in moments that are truthful and, sometimes, horrifying.

 

What do you think about X Company ending? Are you excited for what’s to come? Sound off in the comments below!

X Company returns for Season 3 on CBC in Winter 2017. The first two seasons of X Company are now available on BLU-RAY and DVD in Canada and can be viewed online on the CBC player.

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