In the opening episode of Atlantic Crossing, we saw the invasion of Norway in a new world order where official neutrality counts for nothing. Crown Princess Märtha and her children have escaped over the border to Sweden, where Ambassador Florence Harriman advises her to leave; Sweden is full of spies and their hotel may be bombed. The family packs up once more and travels to the Royal Summer Castle where Märtha reunites with her parents, Princess Ingeborg of Denmark (Marianne Høgsbro) and Prince Carl (Jan Tiselius). As you’ll learn in this episode, the royal heads of Europe are all related to each other in one big, dysfunctional family.
We last saw Crown Prince Olav, his father King Hakon VII, and their followers were under gunfire in a forest, separated and panicking. Olav finds his father’s black armband and then his father, and everyone regroups. The King’s plan, such as it is, is to move north, and wait until promised British help arrives. The obvious problem is that British troops can’t fight in this environment—they can’t even ski!—we saw some Norwegian camouflaged soldiers on skis in the first episode.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt watches the news with his advisors and it's painfully obvious that the attack was planned for months, and Norway was unprepared. The U.S. government doesn’t even know where Märtha is and FDR issues orders to find her. The country cannot sit by and watch Europe’s destruction.
Märtha arrives at the Swedish court in Stockholm to discover that her position is unsatisfactory, to say the least. Eccentric King Gustav V (Carl-Magnus Dellow) seeks distraction with his hobbies of tennis and embroidery and is on very good terms with the German ambassador. Now Berlin knows where Märtha and her children are.
At one of the court’s elaborate dinners, Märtha speaks up:
Isn’t it more important for a country to keep its soul than to keep the peace?
The King responds that neutrality is keeping Sweden safe and proposes a toast to Norway. Knowing that her host will betray her at the drop of a hat, and comforting her children who are clearly missing their father, gives Märtha a lot to deal with.
Olav is also having a difficult time, to put it mildly. His father is sick—apparently not eating or drinking, but he rallies when his son appears. Olav wants to take charge of Norway’s military and prove himself as a soldier in wartime and as a future ruler. He’s proposed a new position for himself, Chief of Defence, although his father favors another candidate. Olav argues eloquently to the military leaders that as Crown Prince he’ll have symbolic clout. They vote as the building they’re in shakes from bomb blasts and Olav loses. The Crown Prince comments bitterly that although his father was voted in as King, as per Norwegian tradition, his son is perceived as an accessory.
More bad news arrives—the Allies are pulling out of Norway and surrender is the only option. The Cabinet plans to go to England, accompanied by the heartbroken and ashamed King. Olav is advised to make peace with Germany, but he wants to stay and fight, proposing the King fights from England, as allowed in the country’s constitution. The King realizes, rather late in the game, that Olav is a potent symbol of resistance and the future. Father and son agree to go to England by plane and ship and arrange for Märtha and the children to join them. But Olav finds himself waiting on the coast and discovers the RAF considers it too dangerous to fly the entire family. He boards the ship that will take them on the first stage of the journey.
Märtha receives the news after she and her daughters have prepared to leave. On the HMS Devonshire, Olav looks at a photograph of his family and realizes he’s missing his daughter Ragnhild's tenth birthday party. The seriousness of the situation is brought home to us and to the Norwegians aboard when a distress call comes in from a carrier ship with 1,500 crew members forty miles away. HMS Devonshire with its royal passengers is not allowed to respond.
Received at Buckingham Palace by their cousin King George VI (Michael Pitthan) and Queen Elizabeth (Abigail Rice), Olav and the King of Norway ask if the rest of the family can be brought over. It’s all very polite, over nice cups of tea, but the answer is no—it’s too dangerous.
Märtha is trying to find a way to join her husband but her worst fears are realized when the King of Sweden suggests she return to Norway. He’s openly negotiating with his good friend Hitler now. The battles are over, everyday life has been resumed, and he implies that her husband and the King of Norway have deserted her. If she isn’t in the country to represent the Crown, then Germany will impose its own government. Even in England, the Norwegian Prime Minister is saying that she should have stayed and surrendered, and assumed the role of Regent.
Olav is furious and keeps trying to place a phone call to Sweden so he can talk to his wife, but for unknown reasons, he can never be connected. He is afraid that if Märtha returns to Norway she and their children will be used as hostages, forcing the Norwegian royal family to abdicate. With no other option, he suggests America as a possible destination and contacts President Roosevelt.
FDR loves the suggestion. He’s very enthusiastic and, since the world is pretending that neutrality is something that is still respected, plans to ask Germany for a pledge of protection as the ship travels through German-held waters, carrying “American citizens.” As he tells his assistant Harry Hopkins (Daniel Betts), they won’t be sharing the passenger list with Hitler. Also, significantly, he orders a huge Star and Stripes to be painted on the side of the ship.
Märtha learns the news during May Day celebrations and faints, overcome with shock and stress. As she recovers, Florence Harriman visits with some unwelcome news. The King of Sweden has agreed to offer Germany access to Norway through his country, and now she and the children are in real danger.
Her family accepts that America is her only option. Her brother Mulle (Oscar Töringe) gives her a pillbox containing cyanide pills, reminding her of the fate of the Romanovs, yet another set of cousins. Her mother gives her a tiara, to sell if necessary. They pray together and set off for northern Finland, where the ship awaits. On the drive, they pass a field scarred by war, with dead livestock and a downed plane.
Ambassador Harriman is there to meet her and advises her to keep her head down on the ship, but Märtha is overwhelmed, realizing that she’s returning to the U.S. as a refugee. To reach the ship (with a huge American flag painted onto its side) in the deeper waters of the fjord, the family boards a small boat that takes them past local fishing ships. Touchingly, the fishermen recognize her and sing the national anthem; Märtha holds up her young prince to wave to them. It's a moving moment.
I suspect we may be getting a rather different dynamic in future episodes now that the family is separated and Märtha and Olav begin different chapters of their lives. But what do you think so far? And is this series is making you cry like a baby? I’m averaging two weeps per episode so far. Let’s talk!