Prejudice and bigotry permeate Killing Time, episode two of season VI of Foyle’s War on Masterpiece Mystery PBS. Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) is faced with the unpleasant reality of American vs. British solutions to racial tension in post war England. While attending a local civic meeting, segregation between the black GI’s stationed at a Bristol military base and the locals of Hasting is proposed by the commanding officer Major Wesker (Adam James) in reaction to recent altercations. In his usual cool and stoic manner he reminds them that segregation is not practiced in England, but is voted down by the committee. Meanwhile, Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) is experiencing her own challenges with racial prejudice when Mandy Dean (Charlotte Riley) a young mother residing in the boarding house that she and Adam Wainwright (Max Brown) are running together causes other residents to depart because of her mixed race baby. When Mandy’s ex-boyfriend Tommy Duggan (Sam Spruell) a conscientious objector during the war returns home to find her disowned from her family and a mother of black GI Gabe Kelly’s (Obi Abili) baby, he throws her off and hits the bottle in despair. The local police are also investigating a spree of highway robberies under way on the local Bristol and Hastings roads. When Mandy’s dead body is found on the US military base, Major Wesker locks up the black boyfriend and conveniently overlooks the possibility of the white ex-boyfriend. Foyle is unconvinced of Gabe Kelly’s motives and suspicious of his confession. Are the local robberies and the murder connected, and why is the US Army using all its power to stymie his investigation?
I found this episode very disturbing, stirring up the ugly and painful issues of racial prejudice and greed, two of the worst and in this instance deadliest of human failings. I squirmed when Foyle reminded us that racial segregation was not practiced in England, however they did use it in their colonies in India, Africa and the West Indies so it is a wash; not that anyone should be keeping score. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Charlotte Riley as the young mother caught between two worlds. She gave a much more convincing portrayal as a distraught mother then her passive interpretation of Cathy Earnshaw in Wuthering Weights on Masterpiece Classic last year. That may be due to director David Richards’ succinct and un-melodramatic rendering of David Kane’s smart script. This is a serious subject that could have all gone south if they had not played it straight.
The friendship/romance between Sam and Adam is developing in an interesting way with a few roadblocks thrown in for good measure. He is obviously attracted to her, reticent to make the move or to shy to be open about his feelings. She on the other hand is bound by the strictures of the time to act like his employee until they have reached some kind of mutual understanding. If memory serves, isn’t the “who can make the move” thing reversed in Britain during this time, so maybe that is why he is holding back? US service men were warned of this so they would be prepared when they were stationed in England. The robbery story had a nice twist in the end. Honestly, I was suspicious of the murderer from the get-go. Weren’t you? In next week’s episode The Hide we meet Nazi’s. As Indiana Jones says in Raiders of the Lost Ark, “Nazi’s. I hate these guys.” DCS Foyle is too much of a gentleman to ever admit to hating anyone, but we can for him.
Image courtesy © 2010 MASTERPIECE