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article imageReview: X Company 2.05: 'Nil Nocere' Special

By A.R. Wilson     Feb 25, 2016 in Entertainment
Harry takes a dark turn, Aurora goes undercover to find out more about Faber, and Neil and Miri find more common ground in X Company 2.05: 'Nil Nocere."
That's the kind of pain where you almost have to make yourself a different person to go on. - Aurora/Helene, 'Nil Nocere'
With "Nil Nocere," X Company reaches its midway point of Season 2, and it's again worth noting just how consistently good this season has been. Even when the show does extensive table-setting, even as it slows down for a meditation on loss — as it does in this episode — it leaves no slack in the line. Written by Denis McGrath and directed by Kelly Makin, the fifth installment of the season skillfully weaves together reflective character moments, an unusually sweet and believable romance, and a horror film ending that inks a dark resolve across the heart of the team's most idealistic member, all the while continuing to lay the pieces for the looming and tragic invasion of Dieppe. And it accomplishes this with an often quiet — almost lonely — tone, with several wide shots that leave characters looking small in abandoned rooms, wide open fields, and eerily empty offices, and sound editing that pushes wind, birds, and the rustling of trees. Frankly, a supposed pause in the action has no business being this beautifully and efficiently done.
Let's begin with Aurora's mission to get close to Sabine, Franz Faber's wife. She rents a Paris apartment that has been forcibly evacuated by a Jewish family (fate unknown but assumed), their belongings packed but left behind. The show introduced Aurora as French-Canadian-Jewish-German, but other than a couple of brief mentions in Season 1, her Jewish and German roots have never been explored. When she picks up a dress with a Star of David pinned to it, her tearful reaction is both moving and a needed reminder of how personal this fight is to her (aside from her relationship with René). It's poignantly subversive that she wears the same dress — sans star — to meet Sabine, whom Tom describes as the "picture of Aryan perfection," and begins a friendly conversation in German.
Last week, it was noted with anticipation that Aurora and Sabine's storylines were due to intertwine, and their first multi-venue "date" does not disappoint, a complicated dance that is — for Aurora — a mix of deception and unexpectedly genuine connection. Sabine is friendly, likable, and desperately lonely, but when Aurora conspiratorially informs her that her favorite (and verboten) musical was the composing collaboration of a Communist and a Jew, she waves her off with a flippant, "Who cares about politics?" Her response is both heartbreaking guileless and chillingly clueless, and one can't help but wonder if Aurora — a Jew standing in the midst of a Nazi's home — feels pity or disdain for her. Yet, posing as Helene Bauer, Aurora is also finally able to freely express her grief over René by talking to Sabine about the death of her fictional husband "Max," and she clearly feels empathy for Sabine's loss of a child, even as she's calculating how to best turn this blue-chip intelligence to the team's advantage. This is complicated business, and based on this episode alone, the storyline is already a top contender for the season's best. Evelyne Brochu and Livia Matthes share a warm chemistry and bring aching life to the baggage both Aurora and Sabine drag into their would-be "friendship." The more time the series spends with these two, the better.
Speaking of chemistry and baggage, Neil and Miri quickly escalate their flirting over firearms from last week into a surprisingly organic and lovely romance. Credit Denis McGrath for some particularly charming exchanges between the soon-to-be lovers and the wonderful Warren Brown and Sara Garcia for making the two most outwardly aggressive members of the team the most openly vulnerable with each other. Their kiss is sweet, tentative, and real, and in an episode filled with ghosts, it's beautiful that the two who have lost everyone are not ready to give up yet.
Alfred (Jack Laskey) and Harry (Connor Price) to the rescue in X Company 2.05  Nil Nocere.
Alfred (Jack Laskey) and Harry (Connor Price) to the rescue in X Company 2.05 'Nil Nocere.'
With permission by CBC Television
But "Nil Nocere," which is Latin for "first, do no harm," also provides much darker reasons not to give up the fight, thanks to Tom and Harry's horrific run-in with a French doctor who ostensibly helps Jews escape to Switzerland but really murders them for their money and valuables. Something seems a bit off when Tom first visits the doctor's large but uncomfortably quiet clinic, but it's still a stomach-turning jolt when Harry later discovers the acid bath the good doctor uses to dispose of his victims in the basement. Harry hasn't had much to do since Siobhan's death in the first episode of the season, but he re-enters the action with a literal vengeance, saving Tom by stabbing the doctor to death in a seething rage that rivals Franz Faber's freakout on Viktor Forst. Connor Price sells it so hard that he broke the knife and required stitches, and the incident harkens back to Harry's overkill moment while shooting a German soldier earlier in the season. This darkness has been simmering for a while, but Harry's newfound determination to "slice every Nazi's throat" likely spells trouble both for him and others and potentially gives the episode's title a more layered meaning.
X-tra observations
As convincing as her delivery is in the episode, Evelyne Brochu has not added German to her linguistic repertoire of French and English (yet). In a sneak peek of an interview to be published March 1, Brochu explains to Digital Journal that she successfully pulled off Aurora's extensive Deutsch dialogue by listening to a recording of co-star Torben Liebrecht (Franz Faber) reciting her lines and then working meticulously to replicate the sounds and meanings.
"It's an exercise that I really, really like, just listening and trying to nail every little sound — how that sound travels my mouth and my body — and make it right," she says. "I think if a German would listen to my scene, he'd be like, 'Yep, she doesn't speak German,' but I think I went far enough that I actually did sound like Torben, which made me super proud."
Andrea Flesch's glorious (and Canadian Screen Awards-nominated) costuming on X Company cannot be complimented enough. Just gobsmacking levels of beauty.
Tom gives Aurora a wedding ring to wear for her cover as German widow Helene Bauer, which is heart-rending reminder of René. Between that ring and the dress of the likely dead Jewish woman, she spends much of the episode clothed and accented by ghosts.
In a similarly haunting use of personal items, Harry happily gives up his father's pocket watch to help pay for Jacob and his mother's passage to Switzerland, only to find it laying among the valuables of the doctor's victims.
When Sabine looks out Faber's office window, she intimates to Aurora that she doesn't know what her husband sees or thinks. Aurora simply replies, "You should ask," stealthily deploying an intelligence ploy disguised as marital advice.
Bonus points for having Neil take off his shirt in front of Miri so sex is clearly telegraphed. Viewers had to depend on chocolate eclairs and a wayward suspender to figure out Aurora and René relieved their wartime tensions.
With the addition Jacob and Martin, the training team for Dieppe is quickly expanding. It's a nice touch to fill out the group with characters viewers meet over the course of the season. However, that just means it's going to hurt more when they're killed off. Well played, X Company writers, well played.
The episode has some memorable Neal quips, including:
"Our Lady of the Immaculate Forgers."
"Show a little French annoyance, it makes you less suspicious."
"Probably why the tide is so punctual."
Here's hoping that Ludwig the First-Class-Traveling Dog is a recurring character.
'X Company' airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC
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