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A field guide to the buttoned-up, Canuck espionage of X Company

It goes down easy like syrup soaked pancakes; Joseph Harper puts you through boot camp on the “unconventional warfare” in Canadian WW2 drama, X Company.

What’s the story?

The world is at war – World War II to be exact. Canada has a role to play: assembling a small team of (mostly) Canadians who can pop over to occupied France and perform spy stuff. X Company follows a team of five, each with their personal strengths, as they go about the spying.

One is a massive nerd (wears glasses) who is good with explosives. There’s a Brit who mostly is good at kicking butts via some kind of street kung-fu. There’s a “Yank” who is also an “adman” who is therefore a master of Don Draper-style suit-wearing war. There’s a Canadian woman who speaks many a language and is the Faceperson of the crew. Lastly, there’s a new recruit who is brought to the team by a conveniently bald, Charles Xavier type who’s on the prowl for people with exceptional abilities.

The new fellow has synesthesia which gives him one helluva photographic memory. I don’t totally understand synesthesia based on this, but on the show it triggers buzzy, factory setting screensaver-type sequences, or sometimes Wallflowers-style jump zoom montages.

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Each week there’s a new mission. Apparently the shows creators took much inspiration from an IRL Canadian espionage unit called “Camp X”, which is cool. Ian Fleming trained there apparently! And of course there’s the overarching storyline (WW2 obviously).

What’s the vibe?

The first 10 minutes of X Company are massively, incomprehensibly confusing. It’s not helped by the highly-stylised credit sequence. Given the comfy and satisfying procedural groove the show works itself into, it’s pretty baffling. After it gets rolling, X Company is super easy going – and at times genuinely thrilling – stuff. The party really kicks off in the third episode.

I kept thinking of the Famous Five while watching it, possibly because of the young cast mixed with the hijinxy nature of the plot-points. It’s a nice tonic to the more dour prestige dramas and self-serious procedurals out there.

The X Company gang are skilled for sure, but things rarely goes over smoothly and there’s plenty of ‘by the seat of their pants’ stuff here. In saying that, it’s not kiddy stuff. There are heaps of Nazis and people get killed in pretty much every episode. In one episode, [SPOILER ALERT] Evelyn Brochu’s character makes out with a Nazi and slips him a cyanide pill during a round of tonsil hockey.

Other critics have noted the use of real German actors. So there’s that, if you go in for that kind of thing.

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What do I need to know?

Not much. Probably helpful to know some of the key WW2 figures (eg Hitler). Just watch this:

What are the styles like?

They range from “Extremely Sweaty” to “Fancy Nazi”. It’s a trip.

Do I need to speak German, French or (God forbid) French Canadian?

No.

Is it cool?

Yes, especially if you like sneaky stuff. They are sneaking around 24/7 and almost all of their allies are French resistance fighters who 24/7 wear scarves and 24/7 have skinny little guns.

What do you mean by “skinny little guns”?

Look, I’m no expert. I played that French resistence co-op level of Conker’s Bad Fur Day just like everybody else, but I don’t know my fishy Vichy governments from my fish-based ceviche gourmandise. But I’m telling you, the guns are skinny as in this show.

Voila. Voila. Und Voila.

Watch for yourself and tell me they aren’t very skinny.


Sneak away from life’s troubles and watch every episode of X Company on Lightbox

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