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article imageReview: X Company 2.02: 'Night Will End' Special

By A.R. Wilson     Feb 4, 2016 in Entertainment
The question of Alfred's fate is answered and the Faber/Forst saga comes to a shocking conclusion in 'X Company,' Ep. 2.02, "Night Will End."
"Let her remember me the way I was." - Rene, "Night Will End"
War, they say, changes everything, and X Company has changed a great deal since last season. That's true not only of the show's characters — who all start the season bearing emotional wounds as deep as the gunshot to Tom's (Dustin Milligan) gut — but also of the series itself.
The first few episodes of Season 1 were episodic tales that involved the X Company spies zooming back and forth between Canada and German-occupied France like they had access to the Concorde. While the episodes themselves were very entertaining and well-acted, the conceit of the team easily traveling in and out of enemy territory for each mission-of-the-week was more CW-like than the rest of the production — an intriguing look at the little-known role Canada's spy school Camp X played in World War II — deserved. The strong ensemble cast and promising storylines begged to be set free, and, miraculously, that's just what creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern did, largely dropping the episodic format and letting the serialized cat-and-mouse game between the spies (now permanently in France) and German Oberführer Franz Faber percolate right up until Alfred's (Jack Laskey) capture in the finale.
Thanks to that midseason change-up, X Company is now an in-depth character drama as much as it is an action-adventure series, and that mix is already paying enormous dividends in Season 2, as evidenced by "Night Will End." Penned by Hannah Moscovitch and directed by Grant Harvey, this nail-biter finds the spies internally grappling with their litany of rookie mistakes while still attempting to facilitate Alfred's escape. It features some top-notch performances, particularly by Torben Liebrecht as Faber and Julian Michael Deuster as his meddling underling Forst, and provides some big payoffs while also laying tantalizing groundwork for future installments.
One of the best parts of the episode is the extra helping of Hugh Dillon afforded by Sinclair's surprise arrival in France. The Camp X boss, who was sadly underused in Season 1, does a bit of everything, rallying his troops, compassionately manipulating an old German war buddy into helping with Alfred's rescue and, in a nice nod to Dillon's Flashpoint days, coolly picking off a handful of German soldiers with a sniper rifle. When he's not busy being awesome, he also takes the pulse of his beleaguered team members, testing to see if Aurora (Evelyne Brochu) is still up to her job as team leader and if Harry (Connor Price) and Neil (Warren Brown) can continue on after suffering personal losses.
It's fascinating to see Aurora — who was so deferential to Sinclair last season — bristle instead of bend under his questioning, but she is also in full denial mode, which could spell trouble down the line. Meanwhile, Harry is pulling away from the others after being betrayed by his nurse crush Siobhan, and Neal is still guilt-ridden over knifing that baby-faced German radio operator last season. This is far from the idealistic group who first left Camp X, and the fact that their ever-growing collection of emotional baggage will be addressed over the entire season (and, hopefully, more) instead of only an episode or two is part of the reason the show's format change is so important.
Also of note is the decidedly darker tone Season 2 is taking. X Company signaled it was willing to "go there" when Faber killed his son Ulli in Season 1, but if "Night Will End" is any indication, things will be even grittier this season. Frustrated by his failed efforts to break Alfred — who, in a beautifully shot sequence last week, found that synesthesia allows him to shut off pain — Faber goes to increasingly gruesome extremes to crack his prisoner. Former spy team leader Rene (Francois Arnaud), who was shown to be alive in the finale, is reintroduced as the very unfortunate key to Faber's plan. If Alfred cannot feel his own pain, perhaps watching and hearing Rene having glass ground into his chest or seeing and smelling him burn to death — full sensory memories that will haunt Alfred for the rest of his life — will do the trick. These scenes are pretty horrific, but sandwiched between them is a moving scene where Rene and Alfred share a moment of humanity, one man broken and the other, against all odds, just discovering the depths of his strength. Both Arnaud and Laskey shine here, and it's a needed breather in an otherwise relentlessly brutal torture sequence.
Things might be even worse for poor Rene and Alfred if it wasn't for that weasely little schlub Forst.
Neil (Warren Brown) and Aurora (Evelyne Brochu) consider their next move in  X Company  episode 2.02...
Neil (Warren Brown) and Aurora (Evelyne Brochu) consider their next move in 'X Company' episode 2.02 "Night Will End."
With permission by CBC Television
Blinded by his need to upstage, impress, protect (take your pick) Faber, Forst falls for Sinclair's fake intelligence of an impending attack by resistance fighters, cuts the torture short, and leads Alfred and Rene right into the Camp X team's ambush on a dusty vineyard road. Afterward, it's shocking to see Faber unleash his bloody rage on Forst — who notified the Nazis about Ulli and lost his prized prisoner — but the fact that Faber's actions, chilling as they are, feel both understandable and inevitable is a testament to both the show's strong writing of his character and Liebrecht's next-level performance. This guy is one of the most fascinating antagonists to hit the small screen in recent memory.
As for the team, when it was revealed Rene was alive last season, viewers anticipated there would be a big emotional beat when Aurora, his lover, laid eyes on him again. Seeing that the show has been slowly but surely playing up a romance between Alfred and Aurora since Rene's "death," this moment could have hit any number of trite love triangle notes. However, instead of going with the obvious, X Company chooses to emphasize the bond Alfred and Rene earned as tortured prisoners of war. Instead of Rene falling into Aurora's arms, he shrinks from her and the rest of his old friends and falls weeping into Alfred's arms. Which is not to say Aurora doesn't get her moment. Brochu, wide eyes brimming with tears, nails Aurora's shock, relief and love in the scene, but the fact that she must do so from a distance underscores the emotional chasms that are developing between the show's characters. War does, indeed, change everything.
X-tra observations
* Rene tells Alfred not to try to save him because of what happened to "Brigitte." Uh, oh. Who is Brigitte?
* Nice throwback to Season 1 when Aurora pays the accordionist to play E flat major in order to tip off Alfred of his impending rescue.
* With Tom headed back to Camp X, it appears his Season 1 fling with Krystina (the wonderful Lara Jean Chorostecki) may be rekindled. Far more intriguing, however, is Krystina's continued interest in getting into the spy game. Yes, please. (She can kick back whiskey like a pro, she's ready!)
* Just before the ambush, Neil takes a swig of wine and then splashes some on his face eau de vin-style to convincingly play a drunken Frenchmen. Nice touch.
* Julian Michael Deuster gives good corpse. Forst's open-mouthed final repose provides a memorably grim exit for a character viewers love to hate.
'X Company' airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC
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