Mon
Sep 16 2013 10:30am

Foyle’s War: “The Eternity Ring”

The basic premise of Foyle’s War—a police inspector left to enforce the law on the homefront during World War II—came to the end of its natural life when the series timeline reached the end of World War II. But Foyle, and his creator Anthony Horowitz, weren’t quite ready to give up.

So, happily, Foyle’s War is back because, as characters explain in an early scene in this episode, “We have a new war, a new enemy… the Soviets.”

Welcome to Foyle’s Cold War.

It’s 1946 and things in Foyle’s world ook much as they did when we last saw them. People are still displaced from homes destroyed during the war, food is still being rationed, and jobs are scarce.

Foyle had left England for the United States to take care of some unfinished business. From a few cryptic comments we know it involved a politician and the FBI. We’ll have to wait to hear specifics, but, anyway, his ship’s just docked in Liverpool and he’s preparing to return to Hastings where he expects to spend his days fishing.

Of course, we know better…

He makes it about three steps from his returning ship before he’s met by Arthur Valentine (Tim McMullan), an intelligence officer who informs him that his presence is requested at a confidential meeting. Foyle balks, as we know he will, but we also know that his rendezvous with the trout—or whatever they fish for in Hastings—is about to be postponed indefinitely.

At this meeting, who does Foyle encounter but his old pal/nemesis Hilda Pierce (Ellie Haddington). Formerly employed by Special Operations Executive, she’s now with MI5. Spy stuff is what she was born for. We’ve seen Hilda in previous episodes. She’ll be a regular character in the current series. 

The problem she wishes to discuss with Foyle is the possible theft of atomic weapons-related secrets by Russian spies. The wrinkle, if you could call it one, is that Samantha Wainwright (née Stewart) might be the one passing info to the Soviets.

At this point, fans of Foyle might decide the setup is a bit contrived. Trying to convince us (let alone to convince Foyle) that Sam has turned traitor is like trying to convince Superman that Lois Lane is secretly in love with Lex Luthor. We’re not buying it, and neither is Foyle. The argument that MI5 can’t do without Foyle’s special police investigative skills is a little flimsy, too. (Although – LINK CONTAINS SPOILERS – Anthony Horowitz says such things did happen.) I believe him, natch, and, regardless, I’m willing to let it all slide because, for me, Foyle’s War isn’t about the plots or the mysteries; it’s about the characters.

Foyle’s War has aired on and off since 2002. I’ll admit I needed more than one series to decide whether I liked the show. I think that’s because Foyle, himself, doesn’t especially care whether you like him. He’s happy to join you for dinner, happy to eat alone; happy to be working on a new case, happy to retire… Well, maybe happy is the wrong word. Foyle’s never really happy. Yet he’s different from the other unhappy middle-aged detectives we meet on Masterpiece Mystery—Morse or Jericho (if you remember him), for example. You know Morse at his core is a wounded child who needs a good cuddle and Jericho is a man trying to escape his past, but Foyle is a sphinx. That is what makes him interesting to me.

Michael Kitchen plays Foyle as the stern teacher you half admire, half fear; whose approval you can never quite win no matter how hard you try. I don’t always agree with or even understand his choices. Yet, he’s persuasive because it never appears that he’s trying to persuade. He’s a good guy who’s not especially good, or kind, or heroic—although he has shown himself to be all of these on various occasions. And if his shoulders seem to sag, it’s because they’re fatigued from carrying around a gigantic chip.

To appreciate Foyle’s War is to accept life in the gray area. Even Sam (Honeysuckle Weeks), usually the living, breathing definition of “chirpy,” has her moments on the dark side. She’s married to Adam now (Daniel Weyman replaces Max Brown in the role) and she’s more mature than the smartly uniformed girl who worked as Foyle’s driver during the war. Is she cut out to be the wife of a Labour MP, though? We’ll have to wait and see.

Hilda Pierce certainly operates in the gray shadows; you really never know what she’s up to. I do like that about her, and I’m looking forward to seeing how her character develops as she and Foyle join forces—or at least appear to join forces—in the spy game.

New world. New war. New episodes of Foyle. Sounds good to me.


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
James Gysin
1. jimgysin
I love this series and I'm glad to see it back. Foyle's ability to be both comforting and intimidating at the same time is as impressive as ever!
3. Jazzlet
It is good, even more ambiguous than previous series.

Maybe it's a British perspective, but I certainly think you can tell when Foyle approves of something that someone has done. There are several times when after an explanation from Sam or from Paul Milner Foyle says something like 'Alright' and whoever he says it to goes away with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
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