Monday, January 5, 2015

Foyle's War - High Castle - Episode Review

My review of the season 7/series 8 finale

Foyle's War isn't quite sure of its own purpose anymore. In the beginning, it was clearly a Golden Age whodunit. While Foyle was far too averse to melodrama to gather the suspects in the library, there was an inevitable confrontation. He would listen to the monologue of a self-satisfied killer, and then slice through their moral superiority with the blade of truth. Or something.

Now, Foyle is lucky if he even gets to meet the killer, much less drop a thundering rebuke to their faulty ethics. The stories have become howcatchems rather than whodunits. Season 7's final episode had Foyle guarding a former Nazi who, from stiff bearing to icy glare, obviously wasn't so former. Lo and behold, he's a very bad guy.

In the first episode of season 8, the villain is obvious from the moment Foyle says he's "an extremely wealthy man who runs an oil company." The plot thickened - and by that, I mean, thinned - when we found out he was not only American, but - horror of horrors - Texan.

This American is called Clayton Del Mar, and he's a respectable addition to the list of worst American accents on British TV (it's a very long list). He's a blustery, utterly villainous fat-cat - there's little attempt to understand his motives. True, he makes some good points about the economic sanctions the Versailles treaty put on Germany being unfair (they were), but he's such a boor that one can't take it seriously. Del Mar's invalid father - a cantankerous admirer of Hitler - is a bit more complex, though the character seems to only exist so that John Maloney (of Frasier fame), can play him. He correctly sees that Hitler was a strong man, and that now, the strong man on the world stage is Stalin. Who will stop him? Obviously, the solution here is more of whatever Churchill had. But no one points this out.

When Del Mar the Younger's address is found in the pocket of a murdered man, along comes Foyle and, subsequently, Sam Wainwright, to investigate. Sam, whose red dress is the only spark of color in this dystopian landscape, is expecting a child. She's also decided that, despite her insecurities last season, she really wants to work, not stay at home and be a mother. Tensions are rising between her and Adam. He's broadminded about everything except Sam's desire to work - we're not sure why this bothers him. The most obvious answer would be the baby - but no one really mentions that by going into danger herself, Sam is also taking this child into danger. And into danger she does go, despite Mr. Foyle's objections, becoming Del Mar Sr.'s paid companion.

Adam is off saving the world, helping another woman who has lost her job to a returning male veteran. As it turns out, despite Feminism and all that, it seems she really did deserve to lose her job, although I'm not sure the narrative knows that, because her job made her feel all worthy and everything. So she says. Are we really supposed to feel sorry for someone so self-centered?

Anyway, Foyle gets the chance to do a little travel, going to both Germany and Poland, eventually ending up in Monowitz, a camp established by an unconscionable German chemical company. This truly horrific chapter of history, accompanied by stately, stark cinematography, adds gravitas to the latter half of the episode. However, it wasn't really in need of more gravitas, since the whole thing is deathly earnest. Hilda hangs around the corners of the story, and Sir Alec is nearly as blustery as Del Mar. Valentine provides a little eccentricity, but even Sam is more grim than usual.

That said, Michael Kitchen is still, as always, the reason to watch the show. He slips back into the character effortlessly. There could be a book written on the many ways he delivers his trademark line: "Yeah." He's the driving force in every scene he's given - and there should be more of those, by the way, because nobody cares about Adam and his terribly serious battle for political Utopia. In other news, however, one Elizabeth Addis was spotted accompanying Foyle off the screen - and she's credited for the next two episodes too. I'm off to do a background check on this ominous stranger threatening Mr. Foyle's bachelorhood.

My review of next week's episode: Trespass

3 stars.



Hannah Long

4 comments:

  1. Michael Kitchen is still, as always, the reason to watch the show.

    No truer words were ever spoken. The show filled a void in my life--funny how that happens. I didn't even know there was a void until I was reacquainted with my old friends. Horowitz does an excellent job bringing us immediately into the comfort zone. The second Kitchen begins questioning witnesses in his unique style we are back where we left off--and we only have to wait a few minutes for that. I usually anticipate dialogue and I never guess Kitchen's phrasing. He always amazes me. Honeysuckle--I took her a long time ago for better or worse--still brings a smile to my lips. I pretend not to notice that Labour Party chap that hangs around her. John Maloney--born in Blackpool--proves he can do an American accent (as if we didn't know). All in all, this was the best episode of FW since the regular series ended. What a blessing it would be to have ten episodes per year to look forward to, rather than three. Consider that a prayer.

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    1. There is something incredibly comforting about Kitchen. He never changes but he's always surprising. Also, of course, he deals out all sort of cathartic justice. Him letting the little lady with the diamonds go was a little bit worrying.

      I'm not sure I'd call it the best episode. What with no Foyle showdown-with-villain (always my favorite part of the show), and the political heavy-handedness (is that a word?), I didn't like it as much as Eternity Ring, the first episode of the last season.

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    2. His showdown moment came in the scene with Sir Alec Myerson (watched by the rest of the MI5 gang) where he lays out the litany of crimes and perpetrators. Justice can't be meted out because the killing of the IG Farben exec was probably ordered by Sir Alec himself. The war and maturity has caused Foyle to keep his absolute sword of justice sheathed, most times now. I saw letting the wife with kidney failure go as his method of dispensing some justice in this imperfect world he chooses to work in. He also knows those diamonds will never find the hands of the rightful owners again--if they were war spoils.

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    3. Maybe. Still, "what would you have done" is a little weak for someone as principled as Foyle. I'd have liked to have seen further into his reasoning - because strictly speaking, since those diamonds were not his, it was not his decision to make. If it had been Poirot, he'd have spent at least the whole episode praying and yelling about upholding the law and then walking away crying in the snow. Though, it's true, I can't see Foyle doing that either.

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