By OLINE H. COGDILL
Foyle’s War: The Complete Saga. Acorn Media. Folye's War: The Complete Saga set includes all 8 seasons, over 5 hrs of bonus features, and a booklet. 28 mysteries, 46 hrs, 29 DVDs, $199.99. Series 1-6 also available as DVD 3- and 4-disc sets at $49.99 each. Series 7 with 3 episodes on 3 discs available at $49.99.
When it comes to showing the horror, the uncertainty and the anxiety of living in a country at war, few series come as close as Foyle’s War.
Through eight excellent seasons, this British program has given an in-depth look at a society under siege during World War II through what essentially is a police procedural.
Foyle’s War revolves around police detective Christopher Foyle, played to perfection by Michael Kitchen. WWII is raging across the Channel, but Foyle, at first reluctantly, is assigned to the quiet English coastal town of Hastings in the Sussex area of Great Britain.
Foyle has great moral convictions but he also is a compassionate man, knowing that people are flawed and often succumb to their foibles. War often exacerbates these failings, making people forget their own sense of morals and give in to their baser feelings.
Kitchen, a well-known British television and stage actor, gives an understated, insightful performance. Kitchen’s expressive face shows Foyle’s shrewd way of looking at a crime scene or talking to a suspect. Foyle only needs a simple glance and a keen ear for the way people speak to prove how a true detective works.
Many of the crimes that Foyle investigates are connected to the war, such as murder, espionage, black marketeering and treason. Many of these crimes occur in peace time, but the war gives them an extra urgency. Too often he comes up against high ranking military officials because the criminals and murderers have special skills needed for the “greater good,” he is told, of the war effort. He also often comes up against the wealthy upper class who believe themselves to be above the law. They are, of course, wrong.
Foyle’s War begins in 1940. While battles don’t occur near Hastings, the town’s residents know the war is too close. A father and son who have just had good news are walking across a field when bombs begin dropping. A young woman sleeping in her bed is awakened by sirens; as she struggles to get out of bed, her flat mate is killed mere inches away. .
Foyle’s War also realistically delves into the anti-Semitism and pro-Hitler sentiments that existed. Perhaps one of the most heart-breaking episodes is when an Italian-born restaurateur who is a long-time member of the community is besieged by a mob consisting of friends and neighbors.
Sexual harassment, racism and classism have, unfortunately, never gone away. Problems relevant during Foyle’s War are still relevant to 21st century audiences.
Because he doesn’t drive, Foyle relies on his driver Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks). At first, she annoys him but soon earns his respect because of her intelligence and commitment to her job. As the series progresses, he thinks of her as a daughter.
Foyle often is assisted by Detective Sergeant Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), who was a cop before the war. Milner lost a leg in the invasion of Norway and Foyle encouraged him to return to police work. Milner’s job and handicap strain his marriage.
A widower, Foyle has a close relationship with his son, Andrew (Julian Ovenden), a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force.
Creator and scriptwriter Anthony Horowitz has been lauded for the series’ historical accuracy, allowing the events of the war to move along the plots. Still, there are times when liberties are taken with history, but these are in the minority.
The eight seasons of Foyle’s War are perfect for those of us who like to binge watch. And I have been binging on this excellent series with multiple viewings. As bonuses, the package of the six seasons includes interviews with Horowitz, Howell and Weeks, "making of" documentaries, information on historical backgrounds, a look at a real-life Foyle, among other highlights.
The three-episode seventh season of Foyle’s War is set in 1946 and the war is over. Foyle has retired from the police force. But his investigative days are not over. He is recruited by MI5, the British Intelligence Agency, to investigate spies. Sam is still around, now married to a rising young Labour politician.
The change from the rural Hastings to urban London hasn’t diminished the enthralling storytelling of Foyle’s War. There is still a war to fight. And Christopher Foyle is still on the job.
PHOTOS: Top: Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell, Michael Kitchen; center, Foyle often comes up against the military; Kitchen. photos courtesy Acorn Media