From The Sopranos to Sons of Anarchy to Mad Men, America is not only enjoying an unprecedented Golden Age of Television, but also the rise of the anti-hero; the flawed and even evil protagonist who we find ourselves rooting for. Our friends in Britain, though, are proving with Foyle's War that a scrupulous protagonist can still make for compelling drama.
Just released on a splendid Bluray transfer is the WWII drama's eighth season (or "series," as the Brits call them), which like many British series, means three feature-length, top-shelf television movies.
Our hero is Christopher Foyle (wonderfully portrayed by Michael Kitchen), a modest but brilliant police detective (now retired), widower, WWI veteran, and fly fisherman. Foyle is also a man of unfailing character: loyal, honest, and composed -- an actual hero, not an anti-hero.
When series eight opens, the war is over and Foyle has just returned from America. Immediately MI5 pulls him into the new war -- the Cold War. He is asked to spy on Sam, his loyal driver from his days as a detective (who has finally married Adam, her longtime boyfriend). Sam and her new boss, a brilliant scientist, are suspected of being part of a ring dedicated to betraying Britain's atomic secrets to the Soviets.
This is the kind of impossible choice the show's writers love to drop their hero into -- an honest man forced to choose between country and friend. Of course, everything is wrapped in an intelligent mystery and a meticulous production design that captures the era perfectly.
The good news for those of you concerned that the creators might lose a step after the end of World War II and the beginning of Foyle's retirement, need not be. If anything, these changes help to breathe life into the 10 year-old series (not that it was getting stale), which means there should be much more to come.For those of you interested in the series for the first time, starting off with season eight is a perfectly fine gateway drug that will only whet your appetite to go back and start from the beginning (the first six season are all streaming on Netflix).
Here is an exclusive clip with the director as he explains the overall thinking that goes into setting a historically accurate drama around a fictional hero: