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article imageReview: CBC's 'X Company' makes frenetic return Special

By A.R. Wilson     Jan 26, 2016 in Entertainment
CBC's hit spy thriller 'X Company' kicks off its sophomore season with a tense, emotional premiere as the Camp X team deals with Alfred's capture.
World War II spy drama X Company begins its second season (Wed., Jan. 27 on CBC at 9 p.m.) in utter chaos, and that's a compliment.
Created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, X Company — inspired by real life Canadian spy school Camp X — was a ratings winner last season, and CBC rewarded it by expanding its order from eight to 10 episodes in Season 2. Based on the first two frenetically-paced installments (and last week's Canadian Screen Awards nomination for Best Dramatic Series), the network's faith was well-founded.
Picking up immediately after the events of the Season 1 finale, everyone on the Camp X team is in a panic because Alfred (Jack Laskey), a spy with perfect memory due to a cross-wiring of his senses called synesthesia, has been captured by the Nazis.
At Camp X's Ontario headquarters, Sinclair (Hugh Dillon) and Krystina (Lara Jean Chorostecki) scramble to identify every shred of intelligence Alfred came in contact with. Meanwhile, in German-occupied France, team leader Aurora (Evelyne Brochu) is distraught over her inability to kill Alfred before he was captured; Tom (Dustin Millgan) is dying from a septic gunshot wound; and Harry (Connor Price) is sick that his nurse girlfriend is the one who ratted Alfred out to the Nazis. Even tough guy Neil (Warren Brown) is out of sorts, still reeling from having to kill a helpful German soldier. To top it all off, the Allies are planning to invade France in four weeks. Basically, all hell has broken lose, and as Sinclair grimly notes, if the team doesn't find a way to save Alfred, the fallout will "end the war" for all of them.
And what of poor Alfred?
Well, he finally comes face to face with the man who was hunting him most of last season, German Oberführer Franz Faber (Torben Liebrecht). That's bad news for him but good news for viewers because the encounter is worth the wait. In one of the boldest and most heartbreaking storylines last season, Faber chose to kill his young son Ulli, who had Down syndrome, rather than turn him over to Nazi doctors. His raw grief makes him an uncommonly complex and unpredictable villain, and Torben Liebrecht (Homeland), who nabbed a CSA nomination for his compelling work in Season 1, mixes empathy and rage to great effect during the interrogation scenes.
There are other standouts as well. As reluctant leader Aurora, Evelyne Brochu (Orphan Black) is the central force of the show, as good at slapping around traitors as she is at portraying subtle shades of self-doubt, and Jack Laskey (Endeavour) ups his game as the literally and figuratively tortured Alfred, adding an unexpected layer of steeliness to his shy, compassionate spy. And if the first two episodes are any indication, Hugh Dillon (Flashpoint) and Lara Jean Chorostecki (Hannibal) — two of the most appealing and distressingly underused actors on the show last season — will be given more to do in the sophomore round.
X Company had some minor struggles in Season 1, as its early mission-of-the-week format creaked under the weight of its historical subject matter, but as the storylines became more serialized, the show gained considerable steam. Season 2 loses none of that momentum, featuring plenty of derring-do and exciting spycraft, but — much like Ellis and Morgenstern's last ensemble drama Flashpoint — it also places emphasis on the toll perpetual violence and loss takes on its characters.
And despite its relatively conventional structure, the series is capable of surprises. For instance, while there are a few thrilling but largely bloodless shootouts with Nazis, there are also some grisly torture scenes and darker depictions of death that remind viewers that the show isn't afraid of getting its hands dirty. That, combined with Ellis and Morgenstern's tease that Season 2 ends with the disastrous Canadian raid at Dieppe, France in August 1942, should leave viewers very intrigued.
And very nervous.
'X Company' airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC
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