I rarely watch TV. In fact, our family hasn’t had television service in our house in over three years, and we haven’t missed it. Ever so often, though, a series catches our fancy, and my wife and I enjoy watching it online.
A few months ago, we stumbled across a British series called Foyle’s War. It’s a detective show set in southern England at the outset of World War II. The stories are interesting by themselves in the classic “whodunit” sense, but there is also a depth to the series that is rare in the genre. Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle and his staff are often faced with situations that provoke tough questions about the nature and ethics of war.
One of the biggest recurring questions is: Why bother investigating crimes when we could be invaded at any moment? When an entire nation is singularly focused on defense, does the objective of the “greater good” justify unlawful acts? Does the answer to the previous question change if it is the government breaking the law?
Christopher Foyle’s integrity and consistency in adhering to the law and upholding what is right is a refreshing change to the situational ethics so common in many TV shows today (He’s sort of an anti-Jack Bauer). Yet he’s no mindless stickler for the law; he wrestles with the hard questions, and is a thoroughly complex and fascinating man. The supporting characters are similarly well-developed, matched only by the sense of history and realism in the show’s portrayal of England (almost a character itself). In fact, many of the show’s episodes are based on true stories (detailed in this book), and the entire series gives a unique perspective on a war that’s been shown from countless angles already.
Here is how the show’s creator described the initial idea behind the show:
Having written for a great many murder mystery series over the years, I had come to realize that to spend three months of my life — and to invite audiences to spend two hours of theirs — in a drama which simply boiled down to “the doctor did it” or “the butler did it” was — not exactly a waste of time — but a missed opportunity. And I began to think of ways of using the genre to tell different sorts of stories. As it happens, I’ve always had a strong and keen interest in the war, particularly the early years of it, and it suddenly occurred to me that if one started looking at murder at a time when murder was at its lowest currency, when it was at its least important, then that would be something quite interesting. How can you investigate one dead body in a library in Hastings, when on the same day five thousand people are being killed fifty miles away? That’s what interested me, to take the genre and to use it to tell different sorts of stories and to look at a world that was so unique — the home front.
My wife and I have enjoyed the costuming and (especially) the music as much as anything else. It’s just a delightful show to watch! Best of all, if you have Amazon Prime, the first three seasons can be seen for free here. We’re hoping the other three will be made Prime-eligible soon, as we have already watched all the available freebies!
Here’s a trailer for the series:
If you do decide to check out this series, be advised that each “episode” is actually a 2-hr feature-length production, so you’ll need to set aside some time for it. It’s worth it, though!