Our rating: 5 out of 5
reviewed by: Charity Bishop
England lies in mortal terror of a Nazi invasion as Hitler gathers his forces and marches through Europe on what was to become the most memorable, gruesome, and horrific world war of all time. Believing that his humble contribution to law enforcement is not patriotic or useful enough, Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) has called in the favor of his brother-in-law in an attempt to find a position with the navel war department.
His possible decision to leave the police force has severely distressed his driver and friend Sam (Honeysuckle Weeks), who craves a murder simply to keep the men in her life from following suit the armies and abandoning the quiet little town where they work. Sgt. Milner (Anthony Howell) too has aspirations to leave and get a fresh start after being left by his wife, who is unable to deal with the loss of his leg in combat. Just when it seems bleak, an explosion tears through a local book shop, leaving pages scattered along the street and one unidentifiable body inside, holding the remnants of a grenade. Almost everyone is eager to sweep it under the rug as a suicide, but Foyle is not so certain, and dislikes the notion of writing off a military man so easily.
The body is believed to belong to a local resident and the son of one of the most respected men in the war department, who has publicly spoken out against his son's commanding officer and the newly formed secret branch of military intelligence. Working beneath the radar and operating out of a training facility a few miles up the coast, Lt Col James Wintringham (Samuel West) is hardly distressed by the investigation, nor the fact that Foyle is now snooping around his agents. Despite the advice of his second-in-command, a high ranking female official, he allows Foyle to interrogate and question unhampered. In the meantime, Milner is attempting to discern what happened to a local racketeer, and Sam becomes convinced a man in her uncle's parish is up to something diabolical.
I am an enormous fan of this mystery series. It both gives us a glimpse into what it was like in England during the war (the paranoia, the rationing, the bombs going off in London, the general apprehension that any day there would be a successful invasion, and desperate attempts to interest America in assistance) and are cleverly written, excessively likable mystery stories. Foyle is one of the finest detectives ever penned, made even more remarkable because he didn't leap from the page onto the screen. They are written purposefully for Michael Kitchen to play, which he does with quiet enthusiasm that makes Christopher seem like someone you would love to spend a Sunday afternoon fly fishing with. Sometimes the plots falter a bit but for the most part they are solid, and this season is no exception to the rule. "French Drop" is arguably the weakest since it is a little lacking in suspense, but the other three are fantastic. One of my favorite aspects in this series is the episode in which Foyle remembers his beloved wife; the scenes of him visiting her grave and sitting up late on the anniversary of her death are particularly poignant, as are his occasional moments with Sam and her attempts to cheer him up.
Another fantastic moment comes in "They Fought in the Fields," in which Foyle is pitted against a feminist who is decidedly hostile toward him in the beginning, until he wears down her defenses and learns the reasons for her dislike of men. There is a particularly emotional scene in the woods between them, when he discovers her crying over the death of someone close to her, and says nothing, only puts his arms around her and allows her to mourn. Her kind of radical feminism is not without its striking moments, but by the conclusion she reveals a chink in her armor that allows us to have hope that she may yet change her dramatic opinions of men. The content this season is nothing more dramatic than the last time around. There are occasional moments of brutality, the most horrific being an instance when a man punches his wife in the face, then removes his belt and hits her repeatedly with it (implied, but not shown). A man is hit over the head with a rock, then held underwater in a trough until he drowns.
There's one possible muffled abuse of Jesus' name, and mild British expletives. Badly burned/scarred RAF's are seen in the hospital. There is a moment of gore when Foyle lifts a sheet to examine the body, and we see from a distance and angle, the bloody stump where the man's head once was. A suspect is revealed to have a past history for managing prostitutes. We see a man shot in the head, and then hear another gun go off, intimating he was fired at a second time. Blood is spattered all over the crime scene walls. A man is strangled into unconsciousness. The most disgusting scene is that of a dead rabbit having its head cut off. The police dig up a butchered pig in the woods. Implications are that a young woman was having an affair with a much older man. Foyle finds a piece of women's lingerie in the dead man's room and Sam asks around to find the owner.
Most of the installments do not not immediately start off with a murder,
but build up to it through careful character development, and there's
enough heart and emotional tension behind the series to make it
memorable. There were glowing moments, such as Sam and Milner sharing a
drink, or purchasing a raffle ticket in order to win a much-coveted
onion, or even a nail-biting moment that has a suspect discreetly aiming
a sniper rifle at the back of Foyle's head. There are also some fine
guest appearances by various recognizable actors. One would be hard
pressed not to like the series. As Foyle says, "The Foyle men have
always been hard to resist."