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WWII is over, and so is Foyle's War. The writing and Michael Kitchen made this one of the best of Britain's mystery series
on 18 August 2008
After six years, 19 episodes and all of WWII, Foyle's War -- one of the best of British mysteries -- comes to a close. The three episodes in this set take place in 1944 and May of 1945. Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, played by Michael Kitchen, has reluctantly returned to duty. He had resigned his job and gone into retirement, tired to the bone when criminal activities were swept under the rug in the name of the expediency it was said was needed for the war effort. One too many times he had been told to ignore the secret actions of the government or to ignore the activities of a highly placed person.
Foyle is a taciturn man, even sad. He has lost his wife and his son is a fighter pilot. In 1939 Foyle desperately wanted to join up, but was told by his superiors that his talents would be far better utilized where he was. Foyle is a dedicated, no-nonsense cop. He's respectful to authority and the rich, but he isn't intimidated. If a person has committed a crime, especially one that could damage Britain's war effort, Foyle will never let up until the crime is solved and justice -- by the book -- is done. His return from retirement is because, whatever his misgivings, an appeal to his sense of duty has been made. He is returning to his old job because the man who took his place has been murdered. Assisting him will be members of his old team. Samantha Stewart, played by Honeysuckle Weeks (a great name), had been Foyle's driver. Stewart is an energetic, curious young woman, brave when she needs to be, who has earned Foyle's respect. She has emerged from the war years as a capable, confident woman. As the war winds down, however, she needs to discover what her own plans will be. Detective sergeant Paul Milner is played by Anthony Howell. Milner lost a leg in the Norway campaign and was assigned to Foyle as his sergeant. He had to build back his confidence. By now Milner is a full member of Foyle's team, thoughtful and as dedicated a cop as Foyle. He plans to make policing his career.
In the three complex cases in this last set, we'll encounter the murder of a cartographer in a highly classified Air Ministry project concerned with strategic bombing (Plan of Attack); multiple murders which involve an ambitious young doctor at a psychiatric hospital where the patients are servicemen, as well as a 15-year-old run-away (Broken Souls); and a murder and suicide just days before victory over Germany implicating a smooth politician and a doctor from Austria (All Clear).
This series is one of the best mysteries from Britain in part because the writing is of a high order. Anthony Horowitz conceived the idea, wrote many of the scripts and closely supervised the rest and remained the power behind the program. The production values have been consistently high. A great deal of effort has been made to establish the look and style of England during WWII. The cast that backs up Kitchen is first rate.
Most of all, the series works so well because of Michael Kitchen. He is an excellent, subtle, versatile actor whose long career includes the amusing and reprehensibly egoistic doctor in Reckless, the well-intentioned but naive king utterly outmaneuvered by Francis Urquhart in House of Cards Trilogy, Vol. 2 - To Play the King, and the unprincipled charlatan who finds himself facing Inspector Morse. Inspector Foyle is a serious, thoughtful man of high principles, who keeps most of his feelings to himself. He is not without a sense of wry humor, but dour is as good a description of Foyle as any other. He is utterly without sympathy toward career criminals or those who try to impede or make money from the war effort. Kitchen has made Christopher Foyle his own.
And now, at the conclusion of All Clear, the unconditional surrender of Germany has been signed and the church bells are pealing. Foyle has made unmistakably clear that he will retire for good now. As dour and at times as uncommunicative as he can be, we know that he has had a quiet hand in Paul Milner's advancement and that his association with Samantha Stewart might possibly continue, this time because of his son. Christopher Foyle gave us a good run for our money. We'll miss him.