X Company (S02E02) Night Will End
X Company: Night Will End, picked up exactly where last week’s episode left off with Alfred (Jack Laskey) being thrown into a cell with the very much alive though not terribly well Renee (Francois Arnaud) who was thought to have been killed at the end of season 1, and the story motion never stopped from there.
A great deal of strategic importance took place in tonight’s episode. Despite his best and truly horrific efforts, Franz Faber was unable to break Alfred who was rescued by the team along with Renee through a brilliant plan put together by their commander Major Duncan Sinclair. Sinclair risked his career by secretly going to France in an unsanctioned effort to rescue Alfred and the team and thereby hopefully salvage the upcoming Allied offensive operation.
Sinclair’s plan involved making the German’s believe that the Resistance and the Allies were planning to attack the Gestapo Headquarters where Alfred and other high value POWs were being held and tortured. Sinclair used his connection to a Nazi bureaucrat in charge of transportation logistics to manipulate the moving of the prisoners to allow the team to ambush it.
Bonus: the ambush included a pretty great shoot out and even some much needed comedic moments from Neil (Warren Brown) and Aurora (Evelyn Brochu). They rescued Alfred and to their shock Renee as well. Best of all, and I say this with no guilt whatsoever, it provided for the brutal but equally satisfying end for Faber’s slimy, conniving assistant Forst.
You have to hand it to show writers who can actually make you feel empathy for a Nazi who mere moments ago was prepared to set a character’s internal organs on fire to cause his slow agonizing death. Was there any fan of this show who didn’t cheer just a little when Faber executed Forst? Anyone? I didn’t think so!
The true brilliance of this episode was the character showcases for Faber, Alfred and Sinclair. All three actors gave tremendous performances in Night Will End and offered up important defining moments for their character.
Alfred and Faber
Much of the first episode was devoted to Faber trying to break Alfred through physical torture but Alfred was able to mentally enter his “safe space” making himself unaware of what was happening and Faber realized this. This was our first clue that Faber may be a more clever man than first realized. He ended the beatings and instead entered into a quiet conversation with Alfred, focusing on Alfred’s family and his own. It was a clever cat and mouse game between the two men when each was truly at an emotionally vulnerable time. It ended abruptly after Alfred described his father’s suicide and the trauma of experiencing it fully as a synesthate – the horror of feeling the life leave his father’s body while holding him.
Franz listened with laser focus and genuine tears filled his eyes. Oh yes, Faber knew exactly what Alfred was feeling having just murdered his own son in an attempt to save him from a more horrific existence under the Nazi regime.
But what appeared to be a moment of shared grief was actually a truly brilliant moment of master manipulation by Faber. He now knew that the only way to break Alfred was to force him to feel someone else’s pain and death. He wasted no time in having Renee, tortured in front of him. When the first attempt did not work, Faber made it brutally and coldly clear to Alfred that it was going to get far worse and that the only thing Alfred would ever see, feel, smell and taste again for the rest of this life was the agonized screams, sight and burning flesh of Renee dying because Alfred would not talk.
Faber’s keen intellect and ability to see the big picture came through again when he trusted his gut and recognized the intercepted attack plans were phony, leading the prisoner convoy into an ambush. By the time he reached the convoy, Alfred and Renee had been rescued and the only one left alive was Forst.
Faber was so angry that he finally confronted Forst on his scheming and when Forst brought up Faber’s son, Faber lost control, viciously beat and then shot Forst dead.
Although filled with rage, he quickly regained composure and left the scene. I think it will be important throughout this series to never forget that Franz Faber, although often a sympathetic character, is a Nazi through and through.
There is absolutely no doubt that one of the biggest strengths of X Company is Torben Liebrecht’s performance of Franz Faber. The character is brilliantly written there is no denying that, but the uncompromising energy and commitment that Liebrecht pours into his performance is breathtaking on a weekly basis. Never have I been so horrified by a character and yet still feel great compassion for him. This is a testament to how vulnerable Liebrecht allows himself to be in this performance. Not for one minute does he allow Faber to relax.
I feel for this guy even though my brain tells me this man could walk away from all of this at any minute. He has the means and position to stop, to escape. Why does he stay when he at least appears to truly despise what he is doing? It is Liebrecht’s portrayal of Faber’s story that so much of this entire series rests upon within an amazing ensemble cast.
Alfred endured his worst fears in this episode and came out far stronger and more compassionate as a result. Jack Laskey gave the performance of his series thus far. We never lost connection with the fact that Alfred was not just watching the torture happen to Renee but enduring it equally with him. When once that would have overwhelmed Alfred, he was able to use his abilities to connect with both Faber and Renee and turn it to his advantage. He offered Renee hope but also stayed strong enough in the face of what he knew would be unimaginable horror with Renee’s imminent torturous death to use Faber’s own words against him and shield himself from the agony of the death that Renee was willing to accept.
Laskey’s gut wrenching performance made it impossible not to feel the terror of the situation as well as the reinvigoration he felt when he understood Aurora’s musical signal. This entire episode was one big cry after another and Laskey caused most of them!
More from Sinclair
The real surprise treat of the episode was how much we learned about Sinclair (Hugh Dillon.) We’ve known Sinclair is the man in charge but we’ve really only seen him as a chair born ranger until this season. In this episode we were treated to a master class in spy management and team leadership as well as a precisely controlled, nuanced performance from Dillon.
Sinclair took a serious risk in putting his boots on the ground to save Alfred and the team but most importantly the overall mission. Yes he wants them all to come out alive and will spare no effort to help ensure that but he is above all else committed to winning the war at whatever cost necessary. His plan to retrieve Alfred was brilliant and he worked his friend from WWI deftly to achieve that goal. But it takes little imagination to believe that if the ambush had not gone well, he would have carried out the original plan to execute Alfred.
Sinclair cares deeply for his team. He has their backs but he also has his priorities in clear order, even if we may not like them. He knows the team’s mistakes have put the entire war effort in jeopardy but instead of simply leaving them in the wind, or worse yet having them eliminated, he chose to work with them and make things right. He questioned each of them separately, each on his or her own level and appealed to each team member’s emotional needs as well.
He knows Aurora is lying and makes it clear that he questions her current leadership ability but stays the course, giving her the ability to regain her confidence.
He confronts Harry (Connor Price) on his gullibility and offers Harry the chance to make excuses. When Harry takes responsibility and makes it clear he is committed to redeeming himself and still abide by any consequences later, Sinclair knows Harry is solid.
When Neil (Warren Brown) questions him about his risky trust in his old friend, Sinclair takes the opportunity to equate the situation to what Neil went through in getting too close to the German communications officer he was forced to kill previously. He let Neil know that he understands the price Neil paid for that action. Of all the team members it is Neil who repeatedly takes an emotional beating and yet is steadfast to the mission, exactly as Sinclair just told him he would be.
Sinclair is a brilliant strategic leader of spies because he has been where they are and has not lost his humanity. It is that humanity that enables him to understand what each of his team members needs at the given time allowing them to regain confidence and complete the mission.
In the end, the team pulled it off, rescued an unbroken Alfred and to their shock a very broken Renee. The episode concluded with a heartbreaking scene of the team all together, Aurora overjoyed that Renee is alive but Renee so ashamed and broken that he is unable to face any of them. Even with all of them expressing their understanding and support Renee collapses into the compassionate arms of the only person he knows truly understands what he went through – Alfred, man who could barely be physically touched when we first met him.
The previews for the next episode lead us to believe that the team is ready to continue its mission and we are more than ready to join them on it. X Company quite simply gets better, more intense and more surprising with each masterfully written episode.
This entire series may take place in WWII Canada and Europe but what is happening so often rings perilously close to current world affairs that it’s impossible not to watch and think about what we may have failed to really learn from the previous World Wars. Every week offers a valuable, if admittedly mostly fictional, lesson.
X Company airs weekly on Monday nights at 9:00pm eastern on the Ovation network.