X Company 306: Scribe Julie Puckrin breaks down “Supply and Demand”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen X Company Episode 306, “Supply and Demand.”

X Company doesn’t pull any punches, as this week’s episode, “Supply and Demand,” once again proved. Written by Julie Puckrin, the instalment saw Sinclair (Hugh Dillon) sacrifice a “discard team” in Poland in order to keep Aurora (Évelyne Brochu), Alfred (Jack Laskey) and Neil (Warren Brown) on the trail of Operation Marigold. Watching Faber (Torben Liebrecht) coolly shoot the inexperienced agents in the head to win the favour of his father-in-law—and knowing that Sinclair sent the young men for that purpose—was chilling. But it represents the very type of bold storytelling that attracted Puckrin to the show—first as a viewer.

“I was a big fan of X Company,” she says. “I loved the first two seasons. It was really exciting television, especially at the end of Season 1, where they went with Franz Faber’s character, and the places they were willing to go with the spies and the stories they were willing to tell. They just really didn’t pull their punches, and I was so impressed with that.”

So when Puckrin—who previously worked on Motive and Gracepoint—was offered a spot in the Season 3 writers’ room, she jumped at the chance.

“This was probably my first experience of having been a viewer of a show and really, really loving it,  and then finally getting a chance to be in the room and play with those toys,” she explains. “It was really exciting to get to be in that room, especially for the final season. It was exciting as a fan to be part of the final thought for all of these characters and just follow it to the end.”

Puckrin takes a break from her current gig on Killjoys to break down “Supply and Demand” and tell us what’s coming up in X Company‘s final episodes.

First of all, you interned on Season 5 of Mad Men. What was that experience like?  
Julie Puckrin: It was very cool, because up until then, I thought that maybe I wanted to be a feature writer and then you get a chance to be part of a show like Mad Men, and it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh, TV is where it’s at. There’s just no question.’ That was a pretty cool experience.

You also worked on Gracepoint. Is the experience in an American writers’ room much different from the experience in a Canadian one?
There’s a slight bit of a cultural difference that’s not really in the room, it’s more within TV. In the United States, the model of the showrunner as the major head of the show and the voice of the show has been in place a lot longer. And in Canada, it’s partially been these amazing showrunners like [X Company co-creators] Mark [Ellis] and Stephanie [Morgenstern] who have really established the creative importance of having a really strong showrunner at the helm and the importance of empowering those showrunners to really tell their stories. I think that Canada is in a bit of a Golden Age of television, and I think it’s because we’ve been looking more to our showrunners and empowering them, and they’re really stepping up and telling some amazing stories.

Canadian television has really upped its game.
Oh, my goodness. I mean even, right now, if you just look at Wednesday nights in Canada, you’ve got Cardinal and Mary Kills People and X Company, and they’re incredible shows. So I think we’re really coming into a Golden Age.

X Company’s final season has been pretty heavy, and “Supply and Demand” continued that trend with the deaths of Peter and David and the fates of the Jewish workers. What were your goals for the episode?
We knew as soon as we decided that the show was going to Poland that it was going to get very dark because many of the greatest atrocities of the war happened in Poland. So we knew there’s this fine line where you want to be respectful and true to that, and we did a lot of research and there were so many stories that we could have told in Poland that were so intense . . . The story of Jana is based on true stories that we read about keeping skilled Jewish workers around, and people would tell stories of how, one day, the Jewish workers just weren’t there. They’re just gone. And it’s hard to imagine that, that your co-workers would just be gone one day. So we knew that that was a story we wanted to explore, and also it’s part of Aurora going into this incredible dark place, that the deeper and deeper she gets into being Helene Bauer, it’s pushing her more and more to be a different person.

And then the idea of the discard team, that is something that they really did do. They would feed spies with misinformation and send them out into the field. And, of course, they couldn’t know that the information they had was wrong. And this idea of becoming your own enemy, we’ve explored a lot of Sinclair going to some really dark places and the decisions that he’s had to make as a leader, and obviously the decision to send a discard team was really difficult. But we now understand that that is why he decided not to send Krystina in the field.

But, of course, our team is realizing this, and I think Neil says it at the end of the episode, and it’s quite true, ‘At what point are we disposable, too?’ That is something that we wanted to explore because it’s interesting that, in order for them to be doing what they’re doing in the face of all of this, you have to be incredibly committed, and how terrifying it would be to realize that you’re committed, but the people on the other end might see you as disposable for the greater good.

X Company covers a very dark period in history, but were there ever discussions in the writers’ room about how dark you were willing to go?
Absolutely. Yes, it’s a dark show, but it was really important to us not to be dark for the sake of being dark. Mark and Stephanie never want to do shock value just for shock value, and neither do any of the writers. We always want it to be that there’s a point to this, that there’s a reason to this, that we’re trying to talk about something. I think one of the things that we found interesting about the war on both sides is that these are good people who are being forced to make decisions that they would normally never make, and that the stakes are so high, and to see the toll of these decisions.

I think we will see that with Sinclair, that this was not an easy decision, that this was something that he’s struggled with. I think Hugh Dillon has been giving some incredible performances this season, and I think you’re seeing the weight of the leadership on him, and I think that was important for us to show that, as a leader, he wasn’t going to make these decisions if he wasn’t going to carry them. So we did talk about that a lot : At what point are things too dark? What won’t our characters do? And I think we had to always feel like, ‘Is there a greater good to this?’ ‘Did this person believe they were making a noble choice?’ ‘Is this person taking a burden that’s for the greater good?’ That was important to us.

Sabine was disturbed to discover bullet holes in the clothes she was mending for the Women’s League. Is this going to be a turning point for her?
Sabine’s a really interesting character. When we look back at the war now, we ask lots of questions like, ‘How did people not know these things?’ and ‘How were they going about their day-to-day life?’ I think Sabine is our window into exploring that. And for the first two seasons, she was pretty sheltered, and at the end of Season 2, Aurora opened her eyes. At the beginning of this season, we see Sabine kind of be in denial about that, and sort of trying to rationalize and try to avoid it. I think this episode is a real turning point for her character. There’s no avoiding this. It doesn’t matter where you go, the machine is everywhere. And we’re going to see a real shift in her character moving forward, because she’s realizing now that she cannot be passive, that she now has to make a decision.

Neil was very angry that Sinclair sacrificed Peter and David. Is he going to disregard Camp X orders from now on?
Neil is one of my favourite characters, and I think it’s partly because when the series began, he was a soldier, and he had no problem following orders and no problem doing what was right. I think for him it’s hard when the ground is shifting and you can’t trust the orders, and he’s really starting to question Sinclair and leadership. And we’ve seen that all season when Neil chose to go ofter Miri, and Sinclair was maybe not happy with that, and now he’s realizing that [Sinclair] is willing to sacrifice these green agents who never even had a chance—and I think that’s what bothers him the most, the injustice of it, that these kids never even had a chance. I think he feels really responsible, because after the loss of Harry, he was not ready to accept these new rookies, but he can’t help himself. He’s a good guy, and he sort of bonded with them, and so this is a huge emotional betrayal for him, and we’ll see him continue to question Sinclair’s orders and Sinclair’s leadership.

We saw a new side of Alfred in this episode. Was that fun to explore?
It was a lot of fun. You know, all these characters carry a burden, and for Alfred, he’s always been the person with perfect memory. And we talked a lot in the room about it’s almost like having a superpower. It’s a great gift, but it’s also a huge responsibility, and he never gets a break from that, and it’s been very heavy for him. We saw in Episode 304 that he’s carrying the burden of the story of these Jewish people who have been massacred. It was kind of like, ‘What would it look like if Alfred had a chance to be normal?’

And I think also because he’s in love with Aurora, she’s the love of his life, it’s not been an easy go, and what would it be like for him to have an opportunity to look into a window and see, ‘This is the life I could have had with this very open and loving woman, and I could just be normal’? It’s interesting seeing him in the midst of all this war and trauma be tempted by that, and I think the sadness for him over upcoming episodes is that that’s not actually a possibility for him, but we wanted to give him a moment to enjoy it.

We found out that Operation Marigold is actually a scientist named Voigt who is working on synthetic oil. What will the team do to stop him?
The big push is going to continue to be to try to cut off the supply of Nazi oil, and we’ve kind of hit a dead end. We’ve made a big push, and we’ve gained some information, but Voigt has been removed and is even harder to get to now. So we’re going to have to up the stakes a little bit, and they’re going to have to take more drastic measures.

The episode ended with Aurora plotting with Alfred to stop Heidi from clearing out a Jewish neighbourhood. Can she really stop the raid without blowing her cover?
Things are going to get even more complicated for Aurora, because she’s going to continue her natural instinct to help and to do what she can, but her surroundings are closing in around her even more. I think her natural urge is always going to be to do what she can to help, and we’re going to see those avenues continue to be cut off from her, which is I think the greatest loss for her. Going undercover, she’s telling herself, ‘I’m doing this for the greater good,’ and she’s going to struggle with having less and less opportunity to do things to help.

What scene are you most proud of in the episode?
The one with Sabine seeing the bullet holes in the dress. I read a memoir, and they talk about that, and that was a scene that I really wanted to show because it really sums up everything about what was happening in Poland.

What can you preview about the rest of Season 3?
I would just say that as a writer and as a fan that it gets pretty dark, but I think ultimately where we’re getting to is going to be a very satisfying conclusion.

X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

A.R. Wilson

A.R. Wilson

A.R. Wilson has been interviewing actors, writers and musicians for over 20 years. In addition to TV-Eh, her work has appeared in Curve, ROCKRGRL, Sound On Sight and Digital Journal. A native of Detroit, she grew up watching Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant on CBC, which led to a lifelong love of Canadian television. Her perpetual New Year's resolution is to become fluent in French.
A.R. Wilson
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