Foyle’s War: The Russian House on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review

Image from Foyel's War: The Russian House: Michael Kitchen as Inspector Foyle © 2010 MASTERPIECEResurrected from the dead, Foyle’s War returned to Masterpiece Mystery on Sunday with The Russian House, the first episode in its sixth season in what may very well be its last hurrah. Since 2003 we have been entertained by the stoic Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) and his young entourage as they solve crime and uncover murder in the small seaside village of Hastings in East Sussex during WWII. As the plotline progressed and the war ended its British producer ITV thought it was finished as well and canceled the show. The public did not agree and a groundswell of support convinced them to attempt one more season. So, here we are two years later with three new episodes to savor while they last. For any who have not seen the first five seasons, you have a treat in store. Foyle’s War is the thinking man/woman’s mystery series with a superb cast, great production values and a parade of venerable British actors as guest stars. If this first episode is any indication of its continued quality then we can settle in again for some first rate crime drama.

The story begins three months after the surrender of Germany in April 1945. Britain is ready to move on and so is DCS Foyle who would like to retire and move to the US but must stay another month because of staff shortages. Samantha “Sam” Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) his driver during the war is working as a housekeeper of a famous artist, and DS Paul Milner (Anthony Howell) his former partner has been promoted to Detective Inspector for the nearby Brighton police force. When Sam’s employer Sir Leonard Spencer-Jones (Christopher Good) is found dead in his home DI Milner has several suspects, namely the deceased’s disinherited son Maurice (Tom Goodman-Hill), his disgruntled former gardener Tom Bradley (Tom Brooke) and Niko Vladchenko (Dimitry Drannikov), a young White Russian P.O.W. working at his estate. Meanwhile, Foyle has been asked by Brigadier Timothy Wilson (Tim Pigott-Smith) of the British War Office to locate Ivan Spiakov (Marek Oravec) a fellow Russian prisoner of Niko’s who escaped rather than face repatriation to mother Russia per the Yalta agreement between Churchill, Stalin and FDR. Why someone so high up in government should be concerned with one escapee pique’s Foyle’s suspicions. After Niko also runs off, Sam convinces Foyle to let her join him on Ivan and Niko’s trial to the Russian House in London, a safe house for anti-Stalinists. While there Sam meets Adam Wainright (Max Brown) an interesting and handsome young gentleman also staying at her hotel. Foyle becomes even more suspicious of Brigadier Wilson’s reasons for locating Ivan Spiakov as darks secrets surface about British and Russian post war prisoner exchanges. As always, Foyle’s perceptive instincts uncover Sir Leonard’s murderer back in Hastings and DI Milner is taken down a notch.

Image from Foyel's War: The Russian House: Anthony Howel, Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks © 2010 MASTERPIECE

Actor Michael Kitchen’s underplayed acting can say more with one knowing glance or silent pause than most actors can relay with a whole speech. Few actors command this kind of attention on screen. Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood also come to mind. On the other hand, his sidekick Sam Stewart is the complete opposite. She is exuberant, unguarded and open, ready to express her opinion without reservation. This Holmes & Watson combination is what makes this series so successful. That, and the undercurrent of unscrupulous morality that permeates through out the plots. War is hell and things are done. Now in post Foyle’s war Briton we see deceit, deception and murder continue and flourish in new ways. The plot of The Russian House reveals the dark underbelly in history that always follows in the wake of war; governments scrambling to hide crimes, smooth over past indiscretions and get in bed with former allies even though they disagree with their morals. It can be as ugly as the battlefield and great fodder for a crime series. This clever story filled with dubious characters and intrigue did not disappoint. Where the plot will take us is in the next two episodes can only get better. Sam has a possible love interest brewing, Foyle is closer to moving to the US to take care of that mysterious unfinished business and DI Milner might just realize how much he learned in the shadow of the master. Miracles, and murder, can continue to happen as Foyle’s Cold War of the 1950’s approaches.

Images courtesy © 2010 MASTERPIECE

16 thoughts on “Foyle’s War: The Russian House on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review

  1. I absolutely love Foyle’s War. If memory serves, isn’t this the 2nd time the series has been “resurrected” from the dead? I seem to recall reading something about series 5 almost not happening due to budget or something like that…anyway, in the end I suppose that’s neither here nor there. I will ALWAYS be happy to see Michael Kitchen on my TV screen as DCS Foyle. Each and every episode is truly an experience to savor – the thinking person’s mystery series, as you say so well.

    I thought “The Russian House” was supberb, and I loved witnessing the continuing evolving dynamic between Foyle, Milner, and Sam. I do wish Foyle’s son hadn’t just been written off so to speak with the merest mention that he’s now in London – I would love to know WHY…but I like this Adam fellow, so all is well in the end. :)

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  2. I have heard of this series and managed to catch a few clips of it, but I have not yet watched it. Thanks for the thoughtful review and for giving us a little background on the story. I had to look up Michael Kitchen on Wikipedia to figure out what I’d seen and liked him in before (Enchanted April, and Out of Africa, too!) — a wonderful actor.

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  3. I am so happy to see Foyle’s War back, even if it is just three episodes.

    Michael Kitchen, as Foyle, plays a man who we only know the bare-bones history of, a flawed man, yet his integrity as a human being comes through radiantly in every facial expression and action.

    Honeysuckle Weeks, as Sam, is indeed both a perfect foil for him, but also in some cases she is the exuberant voice of Foyle-if he spoke what he felt.
    I don’t know if I missed something, but the disappearance without explanation, of Foyle’s son as her love interest, especially when in the presumed finale of the series, they was still implications of their future together, was irritating, and I do wish they would explain what happened.

    I can’t remember what Foyle’s “unfinished business” might be. I will be sad to see the possible real end to this series.

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      • Oh yes, thank you! That was the episode where the women worked the land? I forgot what happened to her.

        I was thinking maybe it had something to do with one of the Americans who went to the US because he had some kind of military immunity..can’t remember much but Foyle promised to bring him to justice when he left. But it would be so satisfying to see him with someone he loved at the end of this series..or the implication that he would be.

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        • I think he’s headed to the US to go after the American he promised he’d catch up with one day – I believe the episode involved the American stealing an invention from another man. I sure hope they do continue with a few more episodes – FW is about the only thing that will bring me to the TV anymore!

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  4. Thanks for the review! Can’t wait to watch it. Yes, Michael Kitchen is a great actor! Have loved all previous Foyle’s War episodes.

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    • This series is very thought provoking. Last night’s episode Killing Time on racial discrimination was disturbing and unsettling. Next one is one Nazi’s so it may get even grimer! Michael Kitchen is what makes this series special.

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  6. I love Michael Kitchens in everything I’ve ever seen him in. I have watched all of the Foyle’s War episodes. I’ve very curious as to why Andrew and Sam didn’t get together. Any insights?

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  7. I loved this episode, the verbal smackdown to Milner, as only Foyle could deliver, made the whole episode a triumph.

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  10. This is one of my favourite shows EVER. And I don’t even like detective shows much. I really hope that, like the war years, they can squeese a few more drops out of the orange ! I say, forget about chronology and jump back to the start – making more shows about the during-war years if necessary. Or find some things to say about the period after the war. Or EVEN before the war! Anything to keep DCS Foyle and his friends on our screens !

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