Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you’ve watched X Company‘s season finale, “August 19th.”
War has its casualties, and unfortunately, the X Company team suffered a big one during Wednesday night’s episode. Tom Cummings (Dustin Milligan), the fast-talking former ad man, suffered a fatal fall from Dieppe’s cliffs while fighting off Germans alongside Neil and Harry. Pair that with Aurora and Alfred successfully (it seems) getting Franz Faber to turn against his own country, and X Company delivered a stunning season-ender.
We got co-creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern on the phone to talk about it—including some things viewers didn’t see—and where the show goes from here.
Stephanie, how did you and Mark come to the conclusion that Season 2 would cover a month-long period ending in Dieppe?
Stephanie Morgenstern: We knew from the beginning that we wanted to pick up the split-second we left off from Season 1, to have Alfred and Faber face to face finally and to have the entire team in disarray and the chaos of unforeseeable events landing on them. We wanted to start from a point of maximum disaster, so if we had fast-forwarded a couple of weeks in story time it really would have been a missed opportunity. It’s partly the way we like to write; when the events unfold almost in real-time it just feels like you hit the ground running and you don’t have time to inhale.
Let’s talk specifically about the season finale. Within the first few minutes, I was hoping Sabine and Faber would escape Germany.
Stephanie Morgenstern: One of the things about elaborating their story this season is that it really is a love story. It’s hard to imagine a more conflicted love story considering the secrets they’ve had to hold onto and I think if people are rooting for them not to be lined up and shot as traitors we’ve done something right. Obviously, we want a whole array of portraits of Germans. Some will be full-on bad guys and some will be conflicted and some will be complete innocents.
You had Alfred and Aurora kiss. Why did you decide to do that?
Stephanie Morgenstern: It’s something that we talked about for a long, long, long time and also, ‘If they do kiss, what is that like?’ Do we play it straight and let viewers think about what it feels like for a synesthetic man? I think what landed us in favour of finally having them kiss, after a lot of debate, was that I think everyone does want to see it happen. But at the same time we’re confident that it’s the opening of a can of worms rather than the resolution of anything. It’s the beginning of where you go from here and that’s something I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with in Season 3.
Mark, let’s talk about the decision to have Tom die. How did you come to that conclusion? Did Dustin Milligan ask to leave?
Mark Ellis: There’s a little bit of both. From the very first season, our network executives at CBC have pushed us to put our money where our mouth is when we say that the average like expectancy for an agent in the field is only six weeks. And we have tons of impossible gunfights where Germans die and none of our guys do. [Laughs.] So it felt in some way we needed to bring that authentic layer to the show. We wanted to push the characters that surrounded Tom to a new place that involved not only seeing the devastation at Dieppe but also losing someone close to them. It’s a great springboard for our other characters and will galvanize them, Neil especially, in Season 3.
It was a tremendously difficult discussion between the two of us and Dustin. He has family that live in the States and on the west coast, so I think that was part of the decision as well. But if we were ever going to kill a character, we wanted to create an arc that justified that death. We didn’t want a sudden exit. We had a great conversation all season long and even in the table read for that episode, to discover what those final moments would be for Tom. Dustin is a very sharp, very smart actor, and encouraged us to peel away his dialogue and final words and leave him with things unsaid.
So, you originally had lines for Tom on the beach?
Stephanie Morgenstern: Yeah, we did. We had a longer speech, and then we had a shorter speech and then a couple of lines and then nothing. It just seemed like that would be the most powerful statement to make. This is a life that should have continued, a breath that should have continued.
Mark Ellis: It underlines the agony for all of us, and for Harry and Neil especially.
Stephanie Morgenstern: But then we had the letter delivered to Camp X two days later and Krystina was able to share it with Sinclair.
Mark Ellis: We had a lot of debate over that as well as to whether we would hear Tom’s words in his voice as Krystina read the letter and we played with the sound mix a lot and decided this was the way to go.
Tom’s death was immediately followed by the young German soldier collecting the dog tags of his fallen comrades.
Stephanie Morgenstern: We’d known for awhile that this would be the breaking point for Harry, that he would take it out on this sort of doppelgänger of himself. We even gave him Harry glasses.
By the end of the episode Faber has presented himself to the team and offered his services. That was another shocking moment.
Mark Ellis: We wanted to marry the scene from earlier in the series where Faber is face-to-face with Alfred. We weren’t sure whether he would turn or not but we knew there would be a showdown. I don’t think we can know for sure whether he’s turned or not until we see things play out in Season 3.
Where do we go from here? What can you say about Season 3?
Mark Ellis: Whether Faber turns or not is the central question to Season 3. We’re interested in creating some great scenes with Sinclair and Faber. Hugh Dillon is such a great actor and he’s delivered a huge season for us and we want to keep pushing that role. But we should never feel certain that Faber is on our side.
Faber isn’t headed for Camp X?
Mark Ellis: He is staying in Europe.
Is Sinclair headed to Europe then?
Mark Ellis: I think it’s too much fun for him not to do that.
What’s the situation with Scuba Man? Will he be back?
Stephanie Morgenstern: We’re not done with Scuba Man. [Laughs.]
What about new characters?
Stephanie Morgenstern: Now that Faber is potentially on our side, we do need a major new threat and we have something up our sleeve that we’re very excited about.
Mark Ellis: There are two new characters that we’re imagining that are going to scare the pants off you.
What did you think of X Company‘s season finale? What do you want to see happen in Season 3? Comment below or via Twitter @tv_eh.