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article imageReview: X Company 2.08: 'Fatherland' Special

By A.R. Wilson     Mar 17, 2016 in Entertainment
Faber tracks down Sabine and Aurora on a train, leading to the exposure of painful truths in 'X Company' 2.08: "Fatherland."
"She's more than a friend to me, she's also...a very valuable source of intelligence." - Aurora, "Fatherland"
Two weeks ago, I wrote that X Company had transformed itself into Canada's best dramatic series. It wasn't a claim I made lightly. I have long had a massive crush on 19-2, which deservedly won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Drama on Sunday. I also loved recently departed Blackstone, and I have a fierce adoration for the beautifully acted This Life. And then there is Orphan Black, which even on its most convoluted days, still draws me in with the performance(s) of the incomparable Tatiana Maslany. Canada, contrary to popular belief, is producing some fantastic TV dramas right now.
But, at this moment, none of them is better than X Company. To prove my case, I need only point to last night's episode, "Fatherland," the highlight of a consistently great season. Written by series co-creators/showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern along with Sandra Chwialkowska and directed by Amanda Tapping, it features one of the most intense confrontations I've ever seen on TV, made all the more impressive by its simplicity: Three people on a train faced with the truth. There's nothing flashy, no tricks. It's all cutting dialogue, telling glances, and artful framing.
And it's damn near perfect.
The Aurora and Sabine storyline has been building for weeks, built on lies, denial, and a genuine bond based on the unusual mutual experience of killing for mercy and love. Then there is Faber, burying himself in work to avoid what he did to Ulli, only to be confronted with the full horror of the Nazi system when he was ordered to murder innocent townspeople. All three characters are ready to shatter, and all three of them are pushed into a claustrophobic train compartment and forced to face each other. The stolen pearl necklace that, weeks ago, Oster told Faber to give to Sabine is passed around like a hot potato, representing something different but horrible to each player. For Faber, the jewelry is an ill-gotten reminder of both the regime he serves — the "monster" who stole his son — and the loss of his wife's affections. For Sabine, it's a bribe from the distant husband who wants to erase the memory of Ulli. For Aurora, it's all the war's victims, it's "the Jews, the Communists, homosexuals, gypsies, defectives" as she spits at one point. Faber gives it to Sabine, who gives it to Aurora, who gives it back to Sabine. Cursed thing, the truth. It practically burns their skin to touch it.
The entire Aurora/Faber arc captured in a single frame: They are much more alike than they would lik...
The entire Aurora/Faber arc captured in a single frame: They are much more alike than they would like to admit.
Courtesy of CBC Television
And then there are their needs. Yes, Aurora, Sabine, and Faber are all here because of the war and a battle for intelligence, but there are much more personal motivations at play, as well. Faber needs to focus his grief and growing horror about the Nazi system on the X Camp spies — the face of which has been Aurora since he saw her papers in Season 1 — to keep him from confronting his own culpability in his son's death, and he needs Sabine, or he has nothing left. Likewise, Aurora needs Faber to focus her grief over René, but she also needs Sabine, whose friendship has given her the only respite she's had in months. And poor Sabine, caught in the middle of these two people who love her but lie to her, needs the respect and autonomy that only truth can bring. All these desires — Faber's prematurely victorious, "She's a spy," Aurora's hopeful plea, "Even if our friendship has to end here...." and Sabine's defiant, "I'm not a child" — are verbally unleashed and ricochet off the walls of the tiny compartment, desperate and devastating. Spy games as domestic drama. The Americans isn't the only show that has mastered this.
Finally, there is the surface layer of the sequence, the practical matter of Faber and Aurora, cat and mouse, spy and target. Only their roles keep shifting throughout the episode, just as they have throughout the entire series. For all of Season 1, Faber was hunting the agents. In Season 2, Faber has been infiltrated. In the train, Aurora appears utterly trapped, and Faber tries to go in for the psychological kill by recounting René's autopsy report to her. But Aurora flips the table, not only offering condolences on Ulli but spelling out in detail how she has entrapped Sabine. "Actually, I met her often," she says. Game. Set. Match.
But what now? Many truths were revealed, but many questions popped up in their place. Aurora gets off the train alive and is on her way to Dieppe, but history tells us that ends tragically. After losing René and Alfred, Faber has now lost Aurora, plus he knows he and Sabine could end up like poor Kruger. Sabine is no longer in the dark about what her husband does and the ideology that killed her son. Everything (and everyone) appears broken beyond repair, but could these three people still need each other? Say a prayer to the Gods of Great TV that they do. And hope it all goes down in another small room.
Torben Liebrecht just picked up a Canadian Screen Award, or a "Candy" as it's been newly coined, for his performance in Season 1. Based on "Fatherland" alone, he, Evelyne Brochu, and Livia Matthes should all win Candys next year. Just outstanding, nuanced work all around. For that matter, Ellis, Morgenstern, Chwialkowska, and Tapping should also win CSAs. Pass the Candy around, this episode is one-stop shopping for the best in Canadian TV this year, a perfect storm of writing, acting, and directing. Yes, I'm gushing, but it is very well deserved.
X-tra observations
Krystina saves Hydra.
Krystina saves Hydra.
Courtesy of CBC Television
The epic nature of the train sequence forced me to skip a detailed discussion of the episode's other major events. Hugh Dillon, Lara Jean Chorostecki, and Vinzenz Wagner are all excellent in the sad climax of Klaus Frommer's story. Klaus tries to die in the service of his country but just ends up dying, Krystina kills her first person, and Sinclair has basically lost another son. No winners here.
Don't mess with the women protecting Hydra.
Tom calmly and efficiently kills a man because he is in the way. This is not the same guy who tried to talk his way out of every lethal situation and bungled his first Nazi kill in Season 1.
Harry punches out some of his frustrations on Neil. Hopefully, he'll decide to be a team player again in time for the Dieppe mission.
Hey, Showrunners of North America: Hire Amanda Tapping. A lot. I love her composition style and the performances she pulls from actors.
George, Miri, and Conrad are still out there...somewhere.
Have we seen the last of Scubaman now that his plan to blow up Hydra failed?
'X Company' airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC
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