Mon
Sep 30 2013 9:30am

Foyle’s War: “Sunflower”

In this series of Foyle’s War we’ve been exploring the idea of trust in the postwar world. Who are friends? Who are enemies? Who do you rely on to keep you safe and secure?

The answers are neither easy nor obvious. “Sunflower,” the final episode of Foyle’s War, makes that painfully clear.  For if you subscribe to the idea that the proverbial “enemy of my enemy” really is your friend, you will find yourself with some uneasy friendships.

Once again, Foyle’s War reminds us that all lines are blurry and the definitions of “right” and “good” are always relative to the situation at hand. How else could one explain the British government enlisting the help of Nazis mere months after the end of World War II?

We start with an art history professor delivering a lecture on Rembrandt. Nothing sinister there, and yet…

The professor claims to be Dutch, but then he would, wouldn’t he? He sure sounds German though. And after the lecture, when the professor is spotted by a man on the street who has an immediate visceral reaction to him we know this is no ordinary Dutchman.

He is, in fact, a German called Karl Strasser, “a valuable intelligence asset” with “an almost unrivaled knowledge of Soviet spy networks,” Foyle is informed by his MI5 superiors.

Strasser also happens to be a former Nazi SS officer who believes someone is trying to kill him. It’s up to Foyle to make sure that doesn’t happen. “Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way,” Sir Alec Meyerson (Rupert Vansittart) adds. “He was a senior German officer…you may not like him…unfortunately, we need him.”

The enemy of my enemy…

Turns out, the Americans want Strasser, too. Only they want to arrest him for war crimes. They even threaten Hilda Pierce (Ellie Haddington) in an attempt to convince her to let Strasser go. They have no inkling of who they’re dealing with. Strike that. Actually, they do. They know Hilda’s tough as nails but they threaten her anyway.  Hilda swats them away like gnats.

Foyle is facing another classic Foyle situation in which the justice that he dispenses is the justice he defines. But then, everyone is playing by their own rules. Hilda and Sir Alec are able to rationalize their employing an unapologetic Nazi for top secret espionage work. Adam’s new colleague, Charles Roper (Richard Dillane), has a perfectly good politician’s explanation for doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. And Sam is still having trouble discerning the boundaries between “in the line of duty” and “invasion of privacy.” (“Sam…you can’t just eavesdrop on someone because you think they’re up to no good,” Adam tells her. But will history bear him out?)

This episode begins with a warning that it might not be suitable for all viewers. It is a bit grisly in places, but I also think it’s the best of this series. It marks a turning point in the lives of the characters as this period of history marked a turning point in the lives of real people in Europe and around the world.

It’s not a spoiler to say that the ending leaves us with a sense of uncertainty; all three episodes in this series have had a sense of uncertainty underlying them, not least because it’s unclear whether there will be any new ones to follow.  If this does turn out to be the end of Foyle’s War, Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, and Anthony Horowitz have left us with something superior and original to remember them by.


Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.

Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.

 

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3 comments
Leslie Gilbert Elman
1. Leslie Gilbert Elman
Anthony Horowitz talks about the real-life incidents that inspired this episode. Click here to see the video on pbs.org but you might want to watch the episode first to avoid any possible spoilers.
Pat Murphy
2. murphyp2011
I have enjoyed the entire series but these 3 were very well done. Foyle doesn't let his sense of right and wrong get buried in the tumoil that is MI5. The last line where Sam asks Foyle " Where to" is perfect. It leaves you wondering what Foyle's next step will be and leaves it open to continue the series. I hope they do continue it if only because there is so little quality on American TV
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