“Foyle’s War” is a British TV series. It is a murder mystery and like all good murder mysteries it has a good narrative hook. “Foyle’s” hook is Britain’s experience during World War II. Christopher Foyle, played by Michael Kitchen, is the title taciturn, police detective of the series. He works in the English Channel coastal town of Hastings. Hastings has not seen war since the year 1066, when the Normans came a calling and a kingdom was lost for lack of a horse. 1066 was the last time that England was successfully invaded, but the curtain of this TV series opens in 1940 and the Germans are only 30 miles away, just across the channel, in France.
The initial episode frames the title and introduces the principal characters. In this episode’s beginning we find Detective Foyle petitioning his superiors to be relieved of his law enforcement duties and then allowed to go off to war. The murder of a wealthy woman of German origin makes him realize that even in war and often because of the confusion generated by it, someone must uphold the law. He resigns himself to fight this war for law and order, the so-called “Foyle’s War”, for the duration.
The show features several other principal characters. Foyle’s son, Andrew (Julian Ovenden) is an RAF pilot. Aiding Foyle catch criminals that are taking advantage of the confusion of the war is his assistant, Sargent Paul Milner (Anthony Howell) and driver Samantha “Sam” Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks). The character of Sam who is a WAF or Women in the Air Force was derived from the real life nanny of the show’s creator, Anthony Horowitz.
The show’s attention to period detail and the seamier side of the British war effort that each episode uncovers are the hooks that draw the viewer in. Individual plots hinge on the pilfering of bomb victim’s valuables and the black market selling of draft deferments and petrol. In every episode Detective Foyle is confronted with his fellow countrymen subjugating the war effort for their own person gain. The disgust Foyle feels at these affronts to King and Country, when facing criminals is clearly felt, but it is deftly played with only the most subtle of flaring nostrils on Kitchen’s face. The plot of these mysteries sits backseat to their stories settings. The mysteries are formulaic and predictable. Featured in every episode is a murder. It is not the story that holds the audience’s attention, but the telling.
The first six seasons are available on Amazon and are free to Prime members. Each season contains four episodes. The series was canceled, but fan involvement has cajoled ITV to restart the series. It is scheduled to continue with new episodes into 2013.
I’ve enjoyed many episodes of Foyle’s War on PBS. Also good is the Inspector Lewis series.