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Postwar Intrigue Continues to Please in 'Foyle's War'

In a disarming leitmotif for this series, characters are forever turning to one another following some revelation or disappointment and wondering, “But isn’t that what we were supposed to have been fighting to end?”

Foyle's War

Distributor: Acorn Media
Cast: Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell
Network: ITV/PBS
UK Release Date: 2010-04-26
US Release Date: 2010-06-01

Returning for a victory lap, this beloved British detective series emerges from cancellation with three worthy episodes set in the immediate postwar months. Featuring the same old charming characters, the same lovely seaside locales, at least two ingenious and intricate plots, and the trademark meticulous historical reconstruction, ITV’s Foyle’s War continues to be among the best ways to spend an hour and a half on a Sunday evening.

In the postwar era – this series is set in the four months following V-E day – as Labour rises to power and soldiers return from POW camps, Britain finds itself in a state of flux and reconstruction. Yet the atmosphere is rarely positive or even optimistic. As was its great strength in previous seasons, Foyle’s War refuses to allow the idea of “winning” to carry much weight. Though the allies are the ostensible victors, few people appear to have the sense that much has changed for the better.

In a disarming and powerful leitmotif for this series, characters are forever turning to one another following some revelation or disappointment and wondering, “But isn’t that what we were supposed to have been fighting to end?” This creeping disillusionment animates every storyline, providing a tangle of emotional complexity that is quite refreshing for the average viewer of schlocky network CSI clones. This show is, plainly put, smart.

This set collects all three episodes from the sixth season (or seventh series for those of you not in North America). In the first episode – each episode is really a 90-minute made-for-TV film – Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (a pitch-perfect Michael Kitchen) finds that, despite his repeated attempts to resign from his post, he has yet to be replaced. Frustrated, without the services of his former right hand man, Milner (Anthony Howell), who has been promoted to a post in another town, and missing his plucky driver, Samantha (Honeysuckle Weeks), Foyle appears somewhat adrift. Yet, since this is a British murder mystery, coincidence will bring the three back together soon enough. One must suspend the heck out of one’s disbelief on that score, for sure. Though it’s a bit contrived, all three of them are drawn into a plot involving Russian POW's who are terrified of returning home to a murderous Stalin.

Secrets abound, of course, and these Russians may not be who they have been claimed to be. It’s great fun.

The second episode is a bit of a step back. A fairly unsubtle exploration of racial politics – and one which points fingers at the United States and its racist history without really getting into the equally racist British colonial context, which is both unfair and a cop out – this episode deals with the tragic consequences of interracial love affairs between black GI's and white Britons. The narrative arc is all Mississippi Burning, what with the flawless blacks and the completely flawed whites playing at a yin/yang of good/bad. Skip it.

The third, and at this point, final episode of the program finds Foyle set to embark on a journey to America (an open door to a new series, it would seem). Of course, before he leaves he will have to do one more thing – and this time it is personal.

Again, all characters are uncomfortably shoehorned into the complex plot, but if you let that slide, you are left with a fantastic little mystery, and among the most rewarding the show has ever presented. An alleged Nazi sympathizer on trial for his life refuses to defend himself (though everyone seems to know that he is innocent); he may just be connected to a network of spies; his family is among the oldest and most respected in all of England, and stands to lose a great deal with this embarrassment; and Foyle, for some reason, now no longer a police detective, works feverishly to prove the young man’s innocence. It’s a good one, folks. Here’s to hoping we can follow this fantastic character to the US of A.

Note: There are no extras provided with this DVD.


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