The Hide, the final episode of series VI of Foyle’s War aired on Masterpiece Mystery last Sunday. It was by far the best of the season.
It’s August 1945 and the Allied Forces are celebrating the end of the war in Europe and the Pacific. However, Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) has his own celebration. His replacement has arrived at the Hasting Police Station and he is now officially retired. First on his agenda; book a passage to the US to take care of the mysterious unfinished business alluded to previously. It takes only a newspaper headline to distract him away from his plans and straight into investigating another mystery.
A young solider from a prominent Hastings family has been accused of treason for participating in the British Free Corps, a group of British POWs who were recruited at the end of the war by the Nazi’s to fight for Germany against the Russians. Foyle questions the dejected James Deveraux (Andrew Scott) in prison, but he offers no explanation why he will not give evidence for himself in his court martial. Everyone around him is also resolved to let him hang including his defense attorney and his father Sir Charles Devereaux (David Yelland). Only Foyle believes that he has an ulterior motive for self-destruction and is determined to discover it. After interviewing James’ family, friends and fellow soldiers, Foyle finds an interesting connection to the murder being investigated by DI Paul Milner (Anthony Howell) in Brighton of Agnes Littleton, Sir Charles’ former secretary. Why did the killer remove the photo of her boyfriend Jack from her room and who is he?
Meanwhile, Adam Wainwright’s (Max Brown) Hill House, a crumbling residential hotel that he is running with Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) is riddled with plumbing problems and sinking in debt. It all seems a hopeless business until a local developer offers to buy him out. Sam sees it as a gift; Adam sees it as mercenary progress and goes to war with the city planners launching a local campaign to save his house and the Hastings village green from destruction. Their personal relationship is still undefined even though Sam is offering more than her share of subtle encouragement and Adam does not seem to know how to make his feeling known.
In the first scene we are given a direct shot of the murderer’s tacky shoes. My mother always told me that you can tell everything you need to know about a man by his shoes. ;-) Given that excellent bit of sleuthing advice, I admit to suspecting the killer of Agnes the moment he appeared in his first scene. Any man who would wear those shoes seriously lacked class and was clueless. With a bit of deduction of the male cast, this actor fit the bill. Why do writers and directors always cast weaselly types who appear unable of killing a fly in the role of the murderer? Geesh. Do they think these suspects are red herrings or something? After years of watching murder mysteries, I must be getting too good at detecting whodunit to be fooled.
I enjoyed Sam’s romance, or more appropriately lack of one. It seemed suiting to her straight forward personality. She’s not a romantic and did not bring that out in Adam. Foyle’s instant interest in James Deveraux and dogged pursuit of the investigation immediately raised my suspicions. We know that he was wrangled into being a DCS and faithfully fulfilled his tenure during the war, so only some important connection to the accused could possibly distracted him from his long awaited retirement and trip abroad. Personal connections are the ties that bind in this story and skillfully they are not all revealed until the very last. As ever, Michael Kitchen as Christopher Foyle was brilliant. Never has so much been said with so few words. Let’s hope that the series continues next year. If not, one of the best detective series ever has had its last hurrah.
Image courtesy © 2010 MASTERPIECE
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
Resurrected 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.
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