Something strange has happened to me over the last couple months. It was totally unexpected and I was blindsided … I fell in love again! (Please don’t tell my Beloved, though I think he’s beginning to suspect!) I’m having trouble understanding myself of course, because this is a love affair that completely goes against all my preferences. The man is short and balding! Anyone who knows me will recognize immediately I’ve gone off the rails.
It began innocently enough when my brother-in-law recommended a British television series he thought I’d enjoy. That was more than a year ago. I added the series to my Netflix queue but that’s where it ended. Then recently, my brother also recommended the series … and instead of just letting the series continue to gather dust in my queue, I sat down one night and watched the first episode … and the second … and the third!
Immediately, I was in love! (I blame my brother-in-law and my brother.)
Foyle’s War is a fascinating journey into history, specifically, history surrounding World War II. But Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (pictured above) isn’t on the front lines. He’s a police officer in the seaside borough of Hastings, nestled on the southeastern coastline of Great Britain. At a time when many of the able-bodied men have enlisted in the military, Foyle maintains that local police officers still perform a valuable service … because crime doesn’t simply pause when the country has gone to war.
I’ve been thoroughly absorbed by the series and am anxious to see the most recent releases (Series 8) that debuted earlier this month (in the UK, unfortunately for me). Series 8 isn’t on Netflix yet so I’m forced to wait.
The Reality of War
From all appearances, producers took painstaking effort to complete a period piece that does credit to the time frame it depicts. Whether in Hastings or London, properties reflect a crying need for maintenance, bombed-out buildings are scattered in background shots. Manor houses and their surroundings manifest a lack of care with few groomed lawns. At least for me, I was convinced these people were living at the margins … hungrier than they wished, willing to scavenge materials that might be useful, grasping small snatches of normalcy wherever they could be found.
The series also carries the memorable flavor of a staid 1940s UK. Certainly, the clothes and vehicles, the sets (both inside and out) have an authentic feel. Because the episodes are mysteries, there’s at least one individual (usually more than one) who winds up dead early in the first act. But the actual crimes (when referred to or partially re-enacted) are presented without gore and extreme effect.
Ration Cards and Resignation
For someone who knew about rationing but had never experienced it for myself, Foyle’s War provided a framework to understand what that time was like. Scarcity of certain food items (like sugar) seems hard to imagine, but the characters kept reminding me.
While the episodes are generally upbeat, there’s an undercurrent related to how debilitating it must have been for these people to endure war on their doorsteps as long as they did. Nightly bombings in London. Foreigners from various countries often raised suspicions … friend or enemy? And even when rebuilding was supposed to be days away, all too often it was delayed and delayed and delayed again.
Rank and Racism
As an American, it’s difficult for me to get a sense of the British way of thinking. First, of course, is the idea of position or rank. Many of the upper-class people portrayed in the series look down their noses at Foyle who is just a lowly (though terribly effective) policeman. Since his father was also a policeman, Foyle’s position is considered an acceptable achievement and part of the natural order.
The recurring theme of racism is there but doesn’t always take center stage. It’s an interesting juxtaposition when American troops stationed in Great Britain keep their troops segregated … and request the Brits open a “colored” bar. The authorities are anxious to accommodate such an arrangement, even as Foyle reminds them segregation is an American concept, not a British one. Foyle suggests a “colored” bar would be a step back to less enlightened times. This clash of cultures is enlightening.
When a man speaks to me with a British accent, he is always going to earn my immediate attention. A man who speaks with a British accent and wears a stylish fedora? I might be willing (as Samantha Stewart is) to drive him almost anywhere! Foyle’s quiet grace and apt handling of every case makes him a winning character for this American woman. And, on the few occasions where DCS Foyle responds to a dimwit’s question by tossing out a well-aimed zinger (usually with sarcasm), he earns an unladylike hoot-and-holler from me!
I can’t let this post go, however, without asking one question: Do Brits EVER let go and just hug each other? Maybe once a decade or something? It seems as though they are constitutionally incapable of connecting emotionally.
You lost your baby in the London bombing? Stiff upper lip, sweetie!
Your son died at Dunkirk? Ah, those things happen.
In the last episodes I viewed (Series 7), I sat on the edge of my seat thinking there might be one slender, unguarded moment where Foyle would hazard the briefest fatherly hug with Samantha … alas, the moment vanished without that personal touch.
But I will continue to hold out hope! There are three episodes yet to be viewed.