Foyle's War Set 5
Recurring character(s): DCI Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen), Sgt. Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), Samantha Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks)
Original air date(s): 01/06/2008, 04/13/2008, and 04/20/2008
DVD Date: 08/05/2008
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 300 minutes
Note(s): Only the first episode included on this set, "Plan of Attack", is reviewed here.
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Review: I freely admit I've been in denial about Foyle's War coming to an end this year. I intentionally avoided watching the final three episodes on PBS this past summer, opting to wait until the episodes were released on DVD in August so I could watch them on my terms. I pre-ordered the DVD set, waiting anxiously for its arrival, and then when it arrived, I did nothing. It was shelved among my extensive collection of mystery movie and television shows, not only unwatched but still in its shrink-wrapped state. I guess I thought that by not watching the end of the series I was somehow allowing it to go on just a bit longer. Yesterday, I finally decided my action (or more accurately, my inaction) was insanity personified and watched the first episode of the final set of three.
A quick introduction for anyone who might not have seen this series to date. Michael Kitchen stars as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, the senior police official of the village of Hastings which is situated along the southern coast of England. The series opens during the early days of World War II with Hastings being on the potential front line of any invasion of England by Germany. Through Foyle repeatedly tries to join the war effort, his superiors insist he remain in Hastings where he can be more productive. Each episode of the series has Foyle investigating a local crime that more often than not is connected in some way to the war. There are two other recurring characters, Foyle's assistant Sergeant Paul Milner (played by Anthony Howell) and Foyle's driver Samantha Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), and one semi-recurring character, Foyle's son, RAF pilot Andrew Foyle (Julian Ovenden). The series first aired in the UK in 2002 and concluded with its 19th and final episode this year. All episodes are dated and chronologically follow the course of the war.
"Plan of Attack" opens in April 1944, approximately one year following the conclusion of the previous episode. Foyle has resigned from the police force and is home writing a book. Sam has also resigned, taking a position with the Air Ministry. Milner remains a sergeant, now working under Foyle's replacement, DCS John Meredith. Milner has just arrested a suspect in a major fraud case, who obliquely threatens him if he pursues his investigation. Sam's uncle, a parish priest, arrives to attend an ecumenical conference being held in Hastings that is also attended by a radical opponent of the war and the local Catholic priest, himself a German refugee. When a cartographer from the Air Ministry is found hanged just outside where the conference is being held, it is assumed he simply committed suicide. But Milner thinks otherwise. Leaving the station one evening with DCS Meredith, a shot is fired and Meredith is killed, though it seems clear Milner was the intended target. Foyle reluctantly rejoins the force and discovers that the purported suicide and the attempted murder of Milner are connected.
The episodes of this series tend to start slowly as foundations of the multiple plot threads are set, and this episode is no different. In fact, without Foyle as the central character, the first 45 minutes or so seem to proceed at a particularly leisurely pace. But as with every previous episode, the first rate period production values, the terrific performances from each and every actor, and the intricately crafted plot effortlessly draw me in. The haunting choral music also makes for an atmospheric setting.
It should be said, however, that while all the episodes in this series are stand-alone and don't depend on the viewer knowing anything that may have taken place previously, this is probably not the best episode to serve as an introduction to the series. For example, newcomers are undoubtedly asking, why has Foyle resigned and why is he so reticent about returning? If you're interested in this series, and it is quite possibly one of the best, if not the best, of its kind, start at the beginning. You'll get much more enjoyment out of it if you know the complete backstory.
And finally, a word or two about Michael Kitchen's portrayal of Foyle. His confident, measured, and frequently minimalist approach is perfectly suited to the character. The dialog written for him is at times an example of supreme understatement. Consider the following exchange late in the episode between Foyle and a suspect:
Foyle: I'm arresting you for the murders of DCS Meredith, and Henry Scott, and for the attempted murder of DS Milner. Do you have anything to say?
Suspect: What are you talking about?
Foyle: Do you have anything else to say?
Suspect: You must forgive me if I take a moment. As ridiculous as this is, it's still something of a shock.
Foyle: Is that it?
It's clearly no secret I'm a fan of the series and I'll be forever disappointed that the producers brought it to an end. But I'm glad I broke down and started to watch this final set of episodes and I look forward to two more incredible stories before this magnificent journey ends. That is, until I start it all over again from the beginning. And I will.
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