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Series / Secret Army

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Secret Army is a 1970s drama centred around a World War II Belgian resistance group called Lifeline, operating in and around Brussels, loosely based on the real-life "Comet line". It was produced by the same team that made Colditz and features a few actors in common with that series.

Parodied by the sitcom 'Allo 'Allo! so successfully that the sitcom is more well-known than the original. Despite the serious tone and the fact it's played completely straight, if you've seen Allo Allo you'll probably find it impossible to take seriously. There was also Fairly Secret Army, a pseudo-spinoff of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, which inverted and played with various aspects of the concept.

This show provides examples of:

  • Ate His Gun: Brandt does this upon learning that he has been implicated in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler and will almost certainly be shot, after being arrested and tortured like his friends. Coupled with the recent death of his wife and son and the discovery of what his comrades are doing to the Jews in Poland, it’s not surprising that he chooses this way out.
  • Anti-Villain: Brandt definitely qualifies as a Luftwaffe officer who prefers subtler methods over brutality. Reinhardt is also this but is also the Cynic.
  • Artistic Title
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lifeline successfully remained hidden throughout the occupation of Belgium. But Monique has fallen out of love with Albert and moves to Britain, Natalie has lost both her parents and her two love interests, and the honourable Reinhardt is executed by a revenge seeking Kessler on trumped up charges. Kessler then escapes with his mistress.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Many of the Germans in this series are variously Punch Clock Villains or those who believe My Country, Right or Wrong. Even the nastiest character, Kessler the Gestapo chief has depth to his character. He is flawlessly sweet to his girlfriend, unlike Resistance leader Albert, who is quite ghastly to his. The various resistance groups argue among themselves and contain some rather nasty individuals. The Communists in particular are shown as backstabbers and Lifeline send British pilots home so they can continue bombing German cities. Lifeline also think nothing of killing a single mother in a hit and run before she could alert the German authorities to a hidden airman in series one.
  • British Brevity: Something of an aversion. While the show only ran for three seasons, those seasons were sixteen, thirteen, and fourteen (counting the unaired "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy") episodes, respectively.
  • Christmas Episode: The Episode "Guests at God's Table" in series two. It is also the episode in which Monique recognises and acknowledges the dissonant morality of their activities.
  • Code Name: Lisa's - and, later, Albert's - is Yvette.
  • The Cynic:
    • Reinhardt is probably the most cynical character in the whole series. A trait that makes him the only character in the whole series whose openly defiant towards Kessler.
    • Brandt becomes this as time goes on and the war and the loss of his family takes its toll on him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bradley.
    Bradley: [about sharing a table with Germans] I don't like them much, but their table manners are faultless.
  • Dirty Communists: The Communist resistance are shown in an extremely negative light. Particularly when they tip off the Gestapo so that they shoot Francois when he discovers Max Brocard is working closely with them.
  • Dramatic Downstage Turn: Quite a few of these.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Happens once in an attempt to destroy a V2 Rocket site. Also happens throughout the series as German officers pose as British airmen in attempts to expose lifeline.
  • Driven to Suicide: Brandt after implication in an attempt to kill Hitler.
  • During the War
  • Foil: Whilst Brandt and Kesller have their disagreements they always remain professional. It's only with the arrival of Reinhardt that Kessler meets his opposite. Kessler is a devoted Nazi, fastidious about his duties and a rear-echelon bureaucrat. Reinhardt is a cynic, laid back and a decorated soldier.
  • Foreshadowing: When Brandt’s wife Erika comes to visit him, she begs him to allow herself and their children to live with him in Brussels in order to escape the worsening air raids in Berlin. A few months later, Erika and their son Kurt are both killed in a huge air raid in Berlin, plunging the poor Major into grief.
  • Final Solution:
    • An early episode of the first series touches on The Holocaust where Curtis attempts to help a Jewish family escape from Brussels.
    • Brandt also talks about it with Kessler; he is horrified by it. But Kessler tells him to shut up.
  • First-Name Basis: When John Curtis is first introduced, Yvette refers to him as 'Mr. Curtis', later moving onto 'Curtis', and finally just 'John'.
    • Later, Bradley asks to be addressed by his first name, Nick.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Monique becomes this from series two onwards as the Candide moves from a cafe to a new upmarket venue. Aided by the fact that actress Angela Richards wrote and sang many of the songs.
  • Harmless Lady Disguise: An airman is disguised like this so makeup can be used to cover up his heavily scarred face.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Natalie.
  • La Résistance: The Belgian resistance is shown accurately to be not one group, but a variety of them, with different motivations and methods.
  • Last-Name Basis: Kessler, Brandt, Reinhardt, Curtis, Bradley.
  • Nazi Hunter: Kessler was a sequel set in the (then) present day in which journalists, a German police officer and a Jewish girl hunt down Kessler.
  • Nephewism: Sometime prior to the first episode of the show, Yvette's parents (and fiancé) died and Yvette moved in with her aunt and uncle.
  • Officer and a Gentleman:
    • Captain Durnford is this in the third and final series as well as being a Reasonable Authority Figure considering that he prevents Monique from having her head shaved by a lynch mob. Kessler is also this but only towards his girlfriend.
    • Luftwaffe officers; Reinhardt and Brandt.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Reinhardt has no real reason to keep his investigation into lifeline going. Not with the allies knocking at the door. But he carries out the search regardless.
  • Pet the Dog: Kessler has his moments with Madeleine.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: In the Days of Judgement. Kessler's car runs out of petrol and he becomes separated from his command. As the series is set in Belgium. Kessler can't really disappear into Germany until the end of the war. So it is a contrived situation to keep him there.
  • Put on a Bus: In the finale of season one, to escape to Switzerland, Curtis poses as the driver of a bus full of Hitler Youth on a day trip. He never returns, despite mentioning that he probably will, and is only ever mentioned again a few times.
  • The Quisling: The Lifeline crew pretend to be quislings as a cover for their resistance activities.
  • Shown Their Work: Many of the more fantastic escape plots were based on real attempts used by Allied airmen.
  • Snark Knight: Reinhardt is this towards Kessler, making him one of the most interesting characters in the series.
  • Stock Footage: The same footage of a Mosquito fighter plane is reused over the course of the final series.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: For all his fanaticism, Standartenführer Kessler knows that putting a last stand in the face of the Allied advance would be futile. He and Reinhardt decide to simply plan an orderly evacuation before the British reach Brussels.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: The Occupation forces of Belgium never really amount to more than about fifteen members of a bizarre SS/Wehrmacht unit. Major Brandt is supposed to be in charge of a Luftwaffe police unit, yet never seems to have any Luftwaffe personnel.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Subverted considering that most of the Nazi characters are well-rounded, even Kessler.
  • Train Escape: Of a sort. In an episode in series two, a British airman steals a locomotive from a railway yard to escape German search parties.
  • Underground Railroad: Helping Allied airmen escape capture and return to friendly territory.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Monique starts off as Albert's mistress hoping he will abandon his wife and leave with her. However the war ends with Albert free to marry Monique, who had grown tired of waiting and leaves with Captain Durnford.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Yvette/Curtis in the first series, and Natalie/Bradley in the third.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside
  • Villainous Cheekbones: Everyone in this show has great cheekbones, villain or not. In particular, Yvette, Curtis, Natalie, and Brandt.
  • War Is Hell: Many reminders of this throughout the series, The protagonists often fail.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: During the evacuation of Brussels, Kessler's military assistant Wullner is seen leaving with him. In the next episode he has disappeared.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A tactic played by undercover Germans pretending to be Allied Aircrew. Kessler takes this to the extreme and breaks the arm of one such agent so his cover will look more convincing.