Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007

Inspector Foyle

By David Luhrssen
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Inspector Foyle The War at Home December 01, 2007 | 08:07 AM War can be a proving ground for character, a theater where bravery and cowardice play out and values are tested in the heat of conflict. Inevitably, war is hell. In one of the greatest British TV series to be aired recently in the U.S., "Foyle's War," the global conflagration of World War II also provides new opportunities for crime on the home front, even as the passions of peacetime continue. Season three of "Foyle's War" was a bit disappointing, as if the writers were reaching too hard for new ideas. Season four, out now on DVD, was a return to form. Starring Michael Kitchen as Inspector Christopher Foyle, season four sets a series of intriguing who-dun-its against the backdrop of bootlegging and profiteering, the not wholeheartedly welcome presence of American troops, the uncertain role of women in the workforce and even the unintended consequences of biological weapons testing. Posted to the historic coastal town of Hastings, which would have become the frontline had the anticipated Nazi invasion of England occurred, Foyle casts an occasional glance toward the horizon of German-occupied France. Mostly, he keeps his eyes on his fellow citizens. Foyle is polite but insistent. Observant and patient as death, his method is to gradually accumulate the stray clues inevitably scattered by perpetrators. There are no perfect crimes in wartime Hastings. Foyle's specialty is to trace connections between seemingly disparate events, such as the house fire in town that leads to the murder of an English girl on an American base. Foyle is not one to go on about his deductive powers, but is content to watch with calm eyes and listen carefully. Unexpected glimmers of dry humor and insubordination flash occasionally through the gray mask he wears through life. It's unclear whether Foyle possesses any grand theory of meaning, but his ideas on justice are firmly held. If he can be faulted for anything, it's a certain tendency toward playing by the book even as circumstances thrust him into a different game. He's conscientious almost to a fault. Foyle would send God a check to pay for the rain if he could locate the mailing address of heaven. As is the genius of the best British television, even the supporting characters appear to have full lives. No walking allegories tread their way through "Foyle's War." Cardboard facsimiles have no place. Inspector Foyle is seldom heroic but his character remains solid under pressure. His everyday integrity is a better role model than the charge-through-the-doors antics of many Hollywood cops.
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