Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Past Isn't Even Past: Foyle's Next War

Inspector Foyle (Michael Kitchen)

As far as I know, Emily Nussbaum has not yet reviewed "Foyle's War"  but now, with a new season available on Netflix, I feel compelled  to note the return, at least until Emily can get around to doing it justice as I cannot.

The fact is, such notice cannot wait, as Foyle is one of the best things on TV, especially now that House of Cards and Game of Thrones have run their course. 

Foyle's War began with the unpromising premise of following a dour detective on the English home front during World War II, when all the action was happening at the front, and Foyle was left behind, a country inspector detective chasing down killers and thieves when wholesale killing and thievery which dwarfed anything Foyle could uncover, was happening just across the Channel.  But Foyle turned out to be irresistible and when the war ended, he took off to America to pursue an American politician and murderer who happened to murder someone on Foyle's beat and Foyle was not about to forget.

Back in England now, with the war just over, the cars and politics are all very much 1945, but the issues are America, 2016, with the second episode centering on a secret British government unit which tortures people in pursuit of the cold war with Stalin.  The enemy now is the Soviet Union. Recruited by Mi-5, the British CIA, as soon as he steps off the boat from America, Foyle points out to the woman who is determined to recruit him that Mi-5 spurned his application during the war, but gradually he is drawn in and cannot resist the cases presented as puzzles for him to solve.  And he is reunited with Samantha Wainright, (Honeysuckle Weeks)  his former driver during the war, who eventually winds up working in Mi-5 and, of course, becomes the Watson to his Holmes, although, she is much more useful and important to the solutions of his cases than Watson ever was. 

As always, there are several plot lines with intersect and weave in and out, among them in this second episode, the post war election which threw Churchill out of office and swept in Members of Parliament like Samantha's husband, who wants to establish a universal health service, and his arguments sound very much like Bernie Sanders. If only people could realize how much a National Health could change their lives...

The discussion which closes the episode is so typically Foyle, as he quietly presses his boss about the wisdom, morality and practicality of trying to obtain information by torture in a free country.
Honeysuckle Weeks: What a Great Name

By the end of every episode, I am determined to be more like Foyle: taciturn, capable of sympathetic listening, non committal. It's against my nature:  I recognized the type.  In "Hamilton" Burr tells Hamilton to "smile more, talk less."  Hamilton is voluble, opinionated, wears his beliefs and emotions on his sleeve, where Burr says as little as possible.  Hamilton asks Burr what he stands for, how he cannot take a stand when so many important issues are pressing in. And I recognize, I'm not like Burr. I'm like Hamilton, undisciplined, too quick to expostulate.  Burr, Foyle, are not spontaneous. They are calculating.  But in Burr's case there's a moral vacuity; in Foyle, he is just holding his fire until he can get off his best shot.

But, unlike Burr, who infuriates Hamilton for remaining silent when he ought to take a stand--qui tacit consentit--(Silence implies consent), Foyle's silences and minimal responses speak volumes and you know, by the end of every episode, he will confront the villain and use his quiet observations to unravel and reveal.

It's also nice that a sixty something, balding guy who is agile and active enough to get around, but certainly not capable of chasing down a bad guy or a space invader can hold your attention over the course of an hour. 

This is a masterful piece of work, this Foyle, a historical piece only in form--but what they are really talking about is today. 

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