Thursday, September 12, 2013

Foyle's War - The Eternity Ring - Episode Review

TV shows, after a few years, often slip into a well-worn groove. All the actors know their place, their character, and things move along with an enjoyable professionalism, albeit a slightly predictable one. Foyle’s War was axed in 2008, but in 2010 the show was, to use a hackneyed phrase, back by popular demand. In the previous finale, the detective had retired (again), and there is no war to be Foyle’s. There was no groove to be well-worn. In 2010, without the war, Foyle had lost his bearings. Sure, the reboot was unpredictable, but had lost its sense of place and was moving into dangerous territory with Foyle's background.

However, series 7 has returned Christopher Foyle to familiar ground: wartime corruption and intrigue. At the same time, the world is radically different. Episode 1 opens in the New Mexico desert with the test of an atomic bomb. This ain’t The Body in the Library. It’s the Cold War, and the stakes have been raised—the Soviets are the new enemy. Foyle is trapped into working for MI5 in a dilemma worthy of an Alex Rider novel (which would make sense, Mr. Horowitz.) Foyle is called upon to investigate a Russian defector and a possible band of spies: the Eternity Ring. Thus ensues a twisty espionage caper, probably a bit too complex, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Meanwhile, Sam Stewart, Foyle’s old driver, is back in fine form. She’s now Sam Wainwright, the wife of a young Labour candidate, and their relationship forms the subplot. Adam Wainwright is the weakest point in the episode (not counting a superfluous storyline). I don’t agree with Adam’s politics, but that’s no reason to dislike the character - and it’s not my reason. What I do I dislike is the fact that he’s not a politician. He’s spineless, non-charismatic, and one-dimensional. While I could believe, and appreciate, the presence of a truly sincere politician (it’s not strictly anathema), liberal or otherwise, I cannot believe in one who doesn’t have the requisite skills to do the job. Adam never once delivers a real speech, but gives the occasional predictable party line. Alongside the ebullient, fully-rounded Sam, he fades into the background. Just a little originality, please. And some charisma. Leader of Men.

(Aside: This is similar to military characters in earlier episodes. They didn’t act like soldiers. Half their spunk in front of an officer would’ve gotten a real soldier dishonorably discharged. That goes for officers too, far too little discipline.)

But now I’ve gotten that off my chest, I think The Eternity Ring might be one of the finest episodes of the show so far. And that's saying a lot because there are some darn good ones.

Besides the indispensable Sam, Foyle has a new pair of co-stars. Ellie Haddington reprises her role as the marvelously mysterious Mrs. Pierce, and Tim McMullan is Valentine, Foyle’s shifty colleague. The cast is stellar all-round.

Corruption, secrets, and treason abound on both sides. Even the lighting has taken a darker tone, with the brightness of Hastings replaced with gray post-war London. The shift is perfect. Foyle’s m├ętier has always been tense confrontations with bureaucrats and self-justifying lawbreakers, and this new setting is practically tailor-made for such show-downs. While this could easily spin into melodrama, Michael Kitchen’s cool-headed, eloquent, upright Foyle keeps us grounded. Let's hope he always will.

My review of next week's episode: The Cage

4.5/5 stars



Longish

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Hannah, it's Caroline from over at NaNoWriMo! I just checked my messages and found the link to your blog...oddly, my mother showed me your blog this week since my dad and your dad are actually acquaintences or something? I don't really keep up with his contacts so I had no idea! But anyway, I'm delighted you gave me this link. I haven't read the post yet, although I intend to. :) My blogger username should direct you to my blog, which I've been updating quite a lot recently since it's the only real writing I can get in due to school.

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