Foyle’s War: 10 Lessons Learned from Watching Every Episode of Foyle’s War in a Week

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Last week I came down with a lovely seasonal cold (which kindly coincided with my Birthday). I was confined to exile in bed and had plenty of time on my hands so I decided to watch every episode of Foyle’s War from start to finish. I’d never seen the show but had always wanted to watch it. I had been provided the new complete DVD box set coming soon from Acorn Media (comes out in March). It took me the better part of 5 days (each episode is feature-length at almost two hours each) but in the end, Christopher Foyle proved a good companion while I was sick.

I’m now in love. Foyle’s War is a fantastic show that takes in all my interests: good British drama, World War II history and British TV. Couldn’t ask for more. Here’s a list of a few things I learned from watching every episode of Foyle’s War in a week.

1. Michael Kitchen is a God

The role of Christopher Foyle was made for Michael Kitchen. I cannot imagine a better person to play the role. His quiet demeanor, friendly questioning and brilliant mind makes Foyle the perfect detective and Michael Kitchen hits a perfect note every time.

2. The war had a million fascinating threads, not all good

I’m continually fascinated by the World War II era and it’s effects on Britain. What Foyle’s War brings in to focus are some of the thousands of possible stories that took place. It’s not all spies, soldiers and glory. War is a dirty business, especially on the home front. World War II provides a massive canvas for the show’s creator, Anthony Horowitz, to paint beautiful pictures of this most fascinating period in British history.

3. Americans come off as rather villainous

Americans don’t come off in a very positive light throughout the series. The first time we show up, the American is a murdering thief but because he’s so important to the war, he gets away with it (well, for the time being). The second time we show up is when we’re finally in the war and we basically invade Britain and the episode in question concerns building an airbase that will essentially destroy a beautiful bit of English Countryside. The last time we show up, we get a shame inducing story about how the American military treated its own citizens by segregating black soldiers from white soldiers and then trying to impose this on a country that was horrified by the very idea. Not all good at all but interesting none the less.

4. Hastings looks like a fascinating place

As a history buff, I’m familiar with why Hastings is famous (a certain battle in 1066) but I’d never really had it at the top of my lists of things I’d really like to do in Britain. That’s no longer the case, I can’t wait to explore Foyle’s Hastings! It sure looks like a beautiful and interesting place.

5. Just because there was a war on doesn’t mean there was no crime

The general assumption is that in a country united by the common purpose of war, there would be a drop in crime. No, the nature of crime just changes as draft dodgers, opportunists and profiteers try to make the most of their wartime years.

6. Later series suffered from production problems and gaps in time

I was a little disappointed with the later seasons of Foyle’s War. At the beginning the gaps in time between episodes were only a month or two and then all of a sudden we skip years and before you know it, the war is over. This had to do with the show having a strange relationship with its network in the UK, ITV; which kept canceling the show and then bringing it back after the howls of viewers forced them to do so. The show runner, Anthony Horowitz, had to throw out scripts that filled in a lot of those gaps. It’s a shame we’ll never get to see them. While a new series of Foyle’s War is in production, it will take place well after the war. I wonder what stories we missed? They should release the scripts in book form.

7. A nation coming to terms with having to change. The certainties of war led to a clean slate.

I didn’t think the show would still be as interesting once the war ended but I was very wrong. I think the show captures very well the massive changes that took place during the war and then the further changes that took place after. It’s so interesting to watch characters you know and love so well, navigate this brave new world.

8. Like Hogan’s Heroes you wished the war would go on forever

I’m a fan of the classic absurd comedy Hogan’s Heroes and that show characteristically when on for longer than the actual wear did. I had the same feeling about Foyle’s War, I never wanted the war to end but it was very moving when it finally did.

9. What happens to the criminals doesn’t really matter.

What separates this show from other shows like Law & Order is that you almost never see the courtroom. We only see I think 3 trials the entire series – and in most cases they weren’t necessary to the plot (except for the one in the final episode). Really, once Foyle’s figured it out, why show the trial? In Britain during this period, murder had pretty much one punishment – hanging so we’re left to our own imaginations to figure it out.

10. I want more!!!

After watching 22 episodes of Foyle’s War straight through, one thing is clear: I want more Foyle’s War. Now.

The good news is that thanks to our friends at Acorn Media, Foyle’s War has been revived for a new series, which is currently in production. It is currently being filmed in London and Ireland. It will continue Christopher Foyle’s journey after WWII into 1946-47. Hopefully we’ll find out how his adventure in America went. They should air in the USA and the UK this summer – the DVD release is already scheduled for this fall.

What are your favorite observations from Foyle’s War? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

  1. avatarBillie B. Boyd says

    Foyle’s War is one of my favorite programs. In the last one I saw, Foyle resigned his position. Is that the final one that is available in the US? I am really looking forward to a new season. I am slightly obsessed with everything British and I have a very personal interest in the history of WWII.

  2. avatarChris says

    It’s a lovely, oddly soothing show–more about the relationships among its characters than about the mysteries, I think.

    Dunno if Horowitz will ever let us know what stories we missed, but if you want stories incorporating the characters, there’s some great fanfic out there!

  3. avatarMatthew says

    In Australia, Foyle’s War has been released in Australia through Icon (Mel Gibson’s company and also distributes films in the UK). Its complete set was packaged like a file draw with individual discs in the files.

  4. avatarBarry McDuffie says

    Jonathan: I also love FW as well as Ins Morse, Lewis, and Sherlock! Would it have been a good episode to have a short romantic moment between Foyle and Sam, perhaps when they lived together or when she was his secretary after he retired?

    • avatarElizabeth says

      My opinion, gosh no! That would’ve been a bad idea. I think that would have been jarringly inappropriate ~ a fling between Sam and Foyle! They excelled together just the way they were ~ he as a father-figure to Sam, she as a daughter to him, all unspoken of course. Perfect just the way it was. I was hoping they weren’t going to go down that road with Sam and Milner and thankfully they didn’t. The writers and director showed good taste throughout the whole series, in so many ways. I’m a big fan and was so sorry it ended.

    • avatarSue says

      That would be creepy. Imagine being a 25 year old man, and then imagine being with a 65 year old woman – that doesn’t feel right either, does it?

  5. avatarDavid Liddle says

    We love the show. Have seen every episode at least twice. Can’t wait for the new episodes.

  6. avatar says

    I love this series too and am so glad a new one is being made. My dream is to see our hero find a nice woman and fall in love. He’s such a wonderful man and I hate to see him living alone. I was disappointed when Honeysuckle and Foyle’s son broke up. Thanks for great drama…am waiting for more.

    • avatarElizabeth says

      I’m not sure what you mean by “glamorized”. Yes, millions died. And thanks to all those who fought and those who died, we’re not all living under the Third Reich. The Brits suffered in a way Americans can’t fathom, at least firsthand. We didn’t have our cities bombed, for example. The Brits’ part in the winning of the war, and the leadership of Churchill, I find very interesting. World War II has always interested me for some reason. Of course war is tragic. Real tragedy would have been if Germany won.

  7. avatarCathy Moore says

    I loved the way Foyle always seemed to be chewing the inside of his lip or cheek whenever he was questioning someone and knew they were lying.

    • avatarElizabeth says

      I agree, I loved his facial expressions (or lack thereof) while listening to someone lie to him. This show made me a fan of Michael Kitchen as I’d not really noticed him in anything before. I’ve watched the whole series a couple of times now.

  8. avatar says

    Foyle’s War are beautifully crafted stories that are good ‘who dunits’ and a testament to a nation adjusting to war. The production looks expensive with Spitfires, a lot of WW2 memorabilia, and large explosions. In the early episode you see a lot of actors who are now quite famous, like Emily Blunt , Laurence Fox and an old comedian favorite Hugh Lloyd who was in Hancock’s Half Hour. Michael Kitchen’s acting is sublime and very understated.

  9. avatarLinda says

    I was born in 1946 so I grew up in the years immediately following WWII. My father fought in Belgium and Germany but didn’t talk much about the war, which made me SO curious about it! I love Foyle’s War because it portrays the people as tenacious in some respects while very accepting in others with an underlying resentment of the Americans being a necessary evil occupying their country. Foyle’s War made me realize just how I might feel if the situation was reversed and another country’s military came full force into my country, especialy if that country’s citizens had the reputation of thinking they were better than everyone else in the world. Foyle, his driver and his assistant portrayed a steely determination to make the best of a sad situation and I admire that. My parents and grandparents described the effect WWII had on their lives here in the U.S. Rationing seems to have had the most major affect although if Foyle’s War is any indication, rationing in Britain was most severe. Foyle’s War is a great history lesson.

  10. avatarBostonKaren says

    Most British TV shows these days show Americans in a terrible light. There’s a LOT of hostility across the pond …

  11. avatarJoanna says

    Jonathan, I did the Foyle’s self-inflicted marathon last fall! Wasn’t sick, just curious to see the entire series from start to finish. Took a little longer than a week, though, because I had to get them from the local library system. The branch in our little town doesn’t have them, so they had to sent from a larger branch 30 miles away, and they didn’t arrive in the order I ordered them. One DVD didn’t arrive at all, but went AWOL somewhere. But I digress. I hope you watched the “Special Features” (and made notes) that give background on turning back the clock to 1940s in Hastings and the production nightmares that ensued. Also hope you noticed that each episode is based on at least one real event. Horowitz did use poetic license (but not very often) to weave several events into one story to fit the 2-hour timeframe. Thanks to those special features, I now have a rather extensive library about the events Horowitz included in Foyle’s. Fascinating stuff! Many villages in the south of England were home to top secret WWII support services. Developing radar and such. And of course, “Churchill’s Toy Shop” developed super secret spy gear. The actual spy school was at Beaulieu (castle? hall? abbey?). But much as I adore Michael Kitchen, he was looking a bit old and worn out by the end of the series. Hope a few years rest revived him before the new episodes were filmed. Foyle chasing the evil guy that got away is one episode I can’t wait to see!

  12. avatarCath says

    Ditto on everything, especially #1. He is. Can’t get enough of him. Fun to see him in different films where he plays completely different characters, even humorous characters. He is a consummate actor, always believable, never over the top, never “phones it in.”
    As for #3, we always look bad. Always. Either criminal, or loud, obnoxious, unrefined louts. Cora in Downton is a rare reprieve. I guess she was absorbed into the culture (as well as her money). Doesn’t mean that the dowager likes her, though.
    Wouldn’t mind getting a cold if I could watch all the Foyle’s episodes. Hope you’re better.

    • avatar says

      True the Americans did have a bad time in ‘Foyle’ but actually we (Brits) notice that we are so often portrayed as the baddie in American films.

  13. avatarSusan says

    So glad there will be another Foyle. Watched them all. Kitchen is the epitome of that famous British saying: keep calm and carry on!

  14. avatardeborah cunningham says

    Agree about making sure you check all the Special Features-a real history lesson. Now I know what a ‘funk hole’ was (both versions). Love, love, love this series and Michael Kitchen. Have read so much about WWII, the SOE, Winston and Franklin…There is a book about the women who went to France as part of the SOE and were lost. So sad-you realize how unglamorous it all was.
    A lovely lady in Hastings sent me one of the remaining copies of the booklet their tourist office did up about Foyle when it was being filmed there. See also http://www.victoriaseymour.com Wrote a book about Hastings during the war and consulted on Foyle’s. Glad it’s back, but I too, like it during the tension of the War, not after. Would love if Mr. Horowitz did something like Foyle’s War-The Missing Years, or 1942-1944 or whatever the gap period was. Use those awesome scripts!

  15. avatarLaura says

    I am also a big Foyle’s War fan. If you haven’t seen it yet, you will also like Island at War (TV Mini-Series 2004).

  16. avatarmllp says

    I’m watching it through for the second time now. I don’t recall ever noticing Michael Kitchen before this show, but now I want to find more to watch. This list could really stop at #1. It took me two reads to get past that part ;)
    I love this show and the British aspect of it, so much of what we see in North America is the American side. Being Canadian, and knowing the war for Canadians as well as the British, started in ’39, it’s nice to see the early war years.
    Yes indeed, Michael Kitchen is a god. And Dell…me too.