Transatlantic follows the efforts of two Americans and their allies during World War II as they rescue the refugees and help them get out of France. The series is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
In 1940, the British forces withdraw from the rest of Europe. The English Channel, the Atlantic coast, and the north of France come under the control of the Germans, causing citizens to move to the unoccupied south of France.
In Marseilles, the American Emergency Rescue Committee, led by Varian Fry, helps artists, writers, and other renowned personalities to get out of the occupied zone. The committee is funded by an American heiress named Mary Jayne Gold, whose family wants her to return to her home in Chicago.
Two Jewish siblings, Ursula and Albert, who left Berlin in 1933, have been moving from one place to another to escape the Germans. Mary Jayne meets Ursula by chance and pays for their passage to the US.
Since they do not have visas or travel documents, the two siblings are arrested by the police. In police custody, Ursula meets Lisa Fittko, a woman who has found a pass over the mountains into Spain.
Mary Jayne bails them out, and while Ursula follows Lisa and a few others to Spain, Mary Jayne misses her flight to Chicago to help Albert catch up to the group, which results in her father cutting her off.
Albert does not join his sister and decides to go back to Marseilles with Lisa to help other refugees like himself. Soon, French authorities close down the ports, which the refugees were using to escape, for passengers.
Additionally, they start enforcing Article 19 of the Franco-German Armistice, according to which all refugees on French soil must be surrendered on demand to the German Reich.
The American consul, Patterson, informs Commissaire Frot, the chief of police who is working with the Germans, that the committee is hiding Walter Benjamin and others like him who are on the Nazi blacklist at Hotel Splendide, where the committee’s office is located.
Mary Jayne no longer has the money to fund the committee’s operations, but she cannot let Fry down, so she sleeps with Patterson to get him to talk to her father. However, she is not aware that Patterson told the police about refugees in the hotel.
The police raid the hotel, but Albert, who introduced Lisa to the committee, and the hotel’s concierge, Paul, who has been helping the committee, manage to get them out.
Fry meets an old lover, Thomas, in Marseilles; Fry has not seen him in five years and thought he had died. Thomas is living in Villa Air-Bel all by himself, and even though Fry is married, they start seeing each other again.
With their office compromised, Thomas allows the refugees and the committee to stay there for as long as they need. Meanwhile, American vice-consul, Hiram Bingham, tells Fry that Patterson is not sympathetic to their cause and that Bingham is the only one they can trust.
A woman from the British intelligence, Margaux, approaches Fry and asks him to work with them to help the British POWs, but Fry refuses, as the US had declared neutrality in the war, and as an American, helping the British POWs would be considered treason.
When Thomas finds out that Mary Jayne needs money, he introduces her to Margaux; Thomas has been working with Margaux. She promises to pay Mary Jayne if she helps them free British soldiers captured at Dunkirk.
Mary Jayne successfully helps the POWs and tells them about Lisa’s route to get them to Spain. However, the POWs are arrested, and the committee loses the route to Spain, which was their only way to get refugees out of France.
Another option becomes available to them when the police arrest everyone at the villa because of a parade. The residents of the villa are held on a ship called SS Sinai. Fortunately, Fry knows the captain of the ship, Captain DuBois.
Fry convinces DuBois to help them, and DuBois offers to take refugees as stowaways on his ship whenever the port reopens. At the same time, Patterson, who had seen Fry kissing Thomas, gets him fired, but Fry refuses to leave just like that.
Since the POWs were recaptured, Margaux tells Mary Jayne that she must help them break out of the prison known as the Camp des Milles, as they will give her name to the authorities if they are investigated. Furthermore, she makes it clear that Mary Jayne is on her own in this.
Mary Jayne seeks Albert and Paul’s help, as the two have been aiding refugees all this while. Paul convinces other African men to lend them their support. Some of these men are guards at the prison. They give Paul and Albert a list of the prisoners.
Paul wants to lead an armed resistance. He believes that they will be able to cement the collaboration with the British if they help their POWs. Once Europe is freed, African colonies will also get freedom from colonization.
Paul and Albert find out that Hans Fittko, Lisa’s husband, is also being held at Camp des Milles. Lisa assumed her husband was dead and had started a relationship with Paul. Despite that, Paul, Alfred, and Mary Jayne help him escape along with the POWs.
As Thomas and Fry have been together since they reunited, Thomas comforts Fry and helps him understand that old rules do not apply to their changing reality. Similarly, Alfred and Mary Jayne also begin a romantic relationship.
Fry then asks Bingham to do his best and get visas for refugees like Hannah Arendt, as Patterson has not been helping and has been doing exactly what the French authorities want him to do for his personal benefit.
When the port reopens, Bingham risks everything to forge visas for hundreds of refugees, so that these people would be able to board DuBois’ ship. Although Bingham gets fired for this, Fry is able to help 257 refugees escape.
Paul starts working with British intelligence to disrupt German operations in France. At the same time, the residents at the villa discover a microphone, which means that someone has been spying on them and knows that they helped the British POWs.
Transatlantic ending explained in detail:
Do Thomas and Fry end up together?
An artist, Marc Chagall, and his wife had earlier refused to leave France, even though Fry had been trying to convince them that they are in danger. They finally get ready to leave when the French authorities take away their identity papers.
As Chagall would not leave without his paintings, Fry and Thomas go to bring them to him. There, Thomas asks Fry to leave his wife and run away with him. He tries to convince Fry to be true to himself, as even Thomas does not want to hide anymore.
Fry does not give him an answer and focuses on helping the Chagalls. As they do not have identity papers, it will be hard for them to leave France. Bingham advises Fry to steal Patterson’s car because a diplomat’s car does not get stopped at the border.
Fry steals the car and decides to drive the Chagalls himself and then sail to New York with them because he does not think that his relationship with Thomas would work in real life. He bids a tearful goodbye to Mary Jayne and then to Thomas.
Thomas warns him that he could be expatriated if he goes ahead with this, but Fry just apologizes to an upset Thomas and leaves with the Chagalls with a heavy heart. He crosses the border without any hurdles and makes it out of France safely.
What happens to Paul?
After the prison break, Patterson spies on Paul and Hans. He then tells Commissaire Frot that they were behind the prison break and are now running a resistance operation, which leads to Paul’s arrest.
Paul’s younger brother, who is known as Petit, meets Margaux with Thomas, but Margaux refuses to help him even though Paul was aiding British intelligence.
Paul speaks to the other inmates and manages to send a message to Petit. Paul is a prisoner at Fort Saint-Nicolas and is slated for deportation; he informs Petit about the same.
Since Margaux is not helping, Petit, Hans, Lisa, Albert, and the other members of the resistance decide to save him on their own. Mary Jayne does not like the plan, but she still tells them about the place where the British weapons are hidden.
With these weapons, they manage to stop the truck that is carrying Paul and the other prisoners. The prisoners are freed, but Petit, along with an old prisoner, gets shot in the process and dies.
Paul mourns his brother’s death and buries him. Lisa comforts him but chooses to be with her husband. Paul then continues carrying out the resistance operations after Petit’s death.
Do Mary Jayne and Albert leave for the US?
Mary Jayne knows that it is no longer safe to stay in France. She asks Albert to go to the US with her. She is even ready to marry him for that, but Albert tells her that his visa has already been arranged.
Ursula has gotten a visa for herself and Albert, but Albert never picked it up. When Mary Jayne goes to pick it up on his behalf, Patterson threatens her to leave Marseilles, as she has been making things difficult for him.
Albert is ready to go with her, as he believes that they can help the cause from outside France as well. Mary Jayne had sold her plane to a bureaucrat, who now owes her. She asks him to let them fly in it to Lisbon, and it will be easy to get to the US from there.
Albert promises her that he will go with her once he rescues Paul. When Albert goes back to the villa after burying Petit with Paul, he finds out that he was late and that Mary Jayne has already left. He chases after her and catches her right before she flies.
However, he does not leave with her. He decides to stay back and be a part of the resistance with Paul. The couple says their goodbyes, and Mary Jayne returns home.
What happens to Patterson?
Patterson discovers that his secretary, Madame Letoret, was working as an informer for the Germans. She was the one who had planted the microphone in the villa when she attended a party there.
Before Fry leaves, Patterson confronts him about letting Mary Jayne and her companions organize the prison break, something that even the French authorities know now. He even gives the authorities the names of Paul and Hans.
As he has been loyal to Commissaire Frot all this while, he informs him that Fry stole his car and left Marseilles. However, Commissaire Frot refuses to take action against them, as they are out of Marseilles and no longer their problem, which makes Patterson, who stays back in Marseilles, think about his actions.