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Thierry Godard as Raymond Schwartz of A French Village

In June 1940, things were getting rough in the French village of Villeneuve, a quaint (fictional) community less than 100 km from the Swiss border. Germany’s invasion of France had gone exactly according to Hitler’s plan: France was rather swiftly defeated and, in a matter of days, occupied in the north by German troops. Yes, that escalated quickly, and the unassuming provincial folks were in for a far more dramatic time than any of them expected, doomed to experience the many ways the chaos and trauma of war can warp even the strongest character. And what characters this fantastic show has given us in just the first season. Some highlights:

From above
Things are, no doubt, confusing when your country is at war. If it’s not happening in your back yard, I suppose daily life goes on as normally as one can manage. Yes, you heard there was fighting several towns over, but your guys are obviously going to take care of that, right? The enemy won’t be bothering you anytime soon – they’re hundreds of miles away! Guess what? NAZIS HAVE PLANES. This lesson is tragically learned the hard way when two of Villeneuve’s teachers, including the beautiful Lucienne, decide to take their eight-year-old charges out on a nature walk.

Naïve Lucienne watches as her teaching partner and two of her young students get gunned down in a field, and loses track of another one – the indefatigable Gustave – when he runs away from this nightmare and gets lost in the woods. Shattered, Lucienne must try to pick up the pieces back at school under mounting pressures from her superiors who blame her for the whole terrible thing. It’s just the first hit she is to take in this crisis and, though she is not exactly the quickest study when it comes to survival, she has many opportunities to learn, including her impressment into refugee management by…

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Audrey Fleurot (LEFT) and Robin Renucci (RIGHT) in A French Village

Doctor, Doctor
If there’s anyone in Villeneuve capable of staying cool under the pressures of war, it’s the town’s moral center, Dr. Larcher. This guy’s holding it down when no one else will, taking care of people who are coming undone at the seams around him. When a Spanish worker goes into labor as shells rain down, he goes many extra miles to save her life, but is unsuccessful. He calls the baby “Tequiero,” believing this to be what the mother named him before she died, and hands the child over to his (gorgeous) wife, Hortense, who is instantly and irrevocably smitten.

Between becoming an insta-dad and the mayor of Villeneuve in the same week, Larcher is repeatedly called upon to negotiate and middle-manage everything from food rations to a coverup about Tequiero’s parentage, to his dumb brother’s futile activism, to the local cop, Marchetti, moving in on his lady. That last thing is becoming something of an epidemic no doctor can control. For example…

Fine romance
Where some Villeneuvians’ problems descend on them from the sky, others just can’t seem to help creating their own dramas. Since her farmer husband has been away at war, Marie has entangled herself in an ongoing tryst with M. Schwartz, bougie director of the local sawmill. It’s not a good look, really, considering her husband’s unknown fate and the fact that she lives across the demarcation line in the south zone. Oh, also? Schwartz owns the farm. Girl. What are you doing?

Still, they’re genuinely in love, and who can blame her, when he’s Thierry Godard? Then again, he has a crazy wife who ultimately controls the purse strings due to the investment of her rich dad into Schwartz’s company, and she spends all her time day-drinking her suspicions into a frenzy. The thing is better left avoided, but Marie and Schwartz can’t manage to keep away from each other, even when the stakes are extremely high – like when they’re in a public movie house or when Marie’s husband, once pronounced killed-in-action, returns from the dead! Patrolling Nazis and angry husbands roaming the land and they’re over here falling into haystacks and coat-check rooms. All that subterfuge training does come to serve her well, however. Unlike…

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Fabrizio Rongione as Marcel in A French Village

The red herring
Oh my God, Marcel Larcher – could this guy be any worse at anything? He can’t even get communism right, and it’s a problem. So distracted by his doomed mission to rally the people, he neglects to properly care for his son, Gustave who has, in his short life 1) been shot at by a German plane; 2) kind of kidnapped by an AWOL French soldier; 3) lost his mother and two friends; 4) had to live with his aunt and uncle while his dad was in prison; and 5) accidentally implicated a Jewish maid in a crime. And Marcel can’t even help him with his homework so he won’t have to spend another day in the dunce cap? Come on, man.

You’d think having to constantly get your butt saved by your brother, your comrades, your boss, and, hell, even the postmistress, you’d eventually learn a lesson. Not Marcel. It’s no wonder he’s a frequent guest of…

Cop shops
With France half-occupied, life for the citizens of Villeneuve becomes a series of negotiations with an increasingly confusing number of authoritarian forces. There’s the local police, two French governments, the German military, and the SS, to name only a few. Everyone’s spying on everyone, ratting each other out, blocking operations, breaking their own laws – the place is a dangerous mess. Marchetti seems like he’ll be a great asset the Villeneuve force, at first, but goody-two-shoes veneer is only skin deep. He home wrecks the Larchers without a second thought, and compromises himself repeatedly in his anti-communist zeal.

Meanwhile, De Kervern, his superior officer, might have kept plodding in his police chief job had he not fallen in love with Lucienne’s old boss, Judith, who is Jewish. Already leaning toward subverting the occupying jerks, the love of a good woman pushes him all in. So…

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Nade Dieu as Marie (LEFT) and Robin Renucci as Daniel (RIGHT) in A French Village

Vive la Resistance
With the execrable Müller, head of the German intelligence force, breathing down his neck, De Kervern recruits Marie for a job she’s trained herself fairly well to do: sneaking around. Things get out of control in short order. People die, and the nightmare becomes all too real, forcing Marie to take matters literally into her own hands and to make yet another choice she never imagined making: to set love entirely aside and sever her old life from the new.

Need to catch up on WWII 2 French drama A French Village?
Dig in to our season recaps below!


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About the author:
Allison Lowe Huff is a freelance writer and editor with an overly concentrated interest in mystery stories from anywhere and everywhere. Follow her on Twitter @lowehuff.