Like the two reviews above, I equally found this a highly fulfilling drama series which looked at life in occupied France in a different way to most series of its type, focusing on the first months of occupation rather than on the later years of open resistance.
For me the strength of the series lay not in the exciting nature of the story being told (which was nonetheless interesting) but more so in the way the story was told. For example, as the writer above correctly recognizes, there were good Germans as well as bad ones and evil French characters as well as heroic ones which made the story all the more real. It was fascinating to see that the deterioration of the relationship between the French and Germans in the small town come about not so much (just) because the Germans were oppressing the French but much more so because the nature of occupation itself made maintaining good relations between the occupied and occupier impossible, regardless of intentions (a fact all too clear in modern day Iraq). This fact is driven home in the climatic final scenes where the, on the whole fairly reasonable considering his position, German colonel in charge of the town garrison is forced to take a decision that he himself knows is wrong because that is what his superior orders him to do. The reaction of a very "human" German private further emphasizes this point.
Another part of the series that I found fascinating was the fact it looked at the first months of occupation and not the later years as most French resistance movies tend to do. This was a time when most French still didn't know how to react to the German invaders and didn't know whether armed resistance was the justified or the right reaction to have. This part of the story is very effectively driven home by the character of Monsignor Reinard (John Thaw) who has an ongoing fight with himself to keep his reaction to the German invaders(and more so his influence over his congregation) resistant yet still peaceful. Again the fact that the German occupiers themselves are not just painted in one evil way (as is often portrayed in resistance movies and also as may actually have been more the case in later years of the war) reinforces this point because the msg is too clear that just because a wrong is done to you, does not necessarily justify a violent reaction. You sense that violence will be, as was the case, the inevitable outcome of the occupation but at the same time you get a feeling unlike most Second World War movies that the battle was not for all characters a simple battle of good against evil. However saying this, the movie makes enough references to the horrible things to come (the ½ Jewish mother who flees occupied France to Vichy for example) to make you not forget the horrendous ideology that Nazi Germany had but equally there are enough characters like the drunken German bishop banished to France for speaking out against Nazi idealogy to make one realize that not every German was a believer in such horrendous ideologies, most were rather caught up in the events.
The only criticism I have is that the series left you with a bit of an unfinished feeling, as many of the sub-plots were left unconcluded. However, with hindsight, this does in a way add to the strength of the story as in a way to understand the msg of the movie (if there is one) it is necessary for some stories to be unfinished as part of the charm and interest of this movie is that it focuses on the origins of French resistance rather than on the actual armed resistance itself. Focusing on the origins, allows one to realise that no matter how evil some actions can be, it is never good to over simplify a reaction, as one recent president has done, as doing that can often avoid tackling the routes of the problem itself.
Anyway definitely an insightful and recommended series for anyone interested in what happened in France during the first months of German occupation.