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September 13, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Salute to Brit TV: ‘Foyle’s War’

The telly is uniting Anglophiles like never before — so many good shows, so little time, so thankful for the DVR. You’ve got your drawing-room/costume drama with “Downton Abbey.” You’ve got your suspense (and accents a-plenty) in “Broadchurch.” And you have the total package in the mystery series “Foyle’s War,” which returns for a new season Sunday night.

Here, Misha Berson, Seattle Times theater critic, waxes for a bit:

Just when mystery lovers thought that the beloved, taciturn British detective had faded into the sunset, Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle is back — after several, glad for us, fruitless attempts to retire. When the

Honeysuckle Weeks and Michael Kitchen/Acorn

Honeysuckle Weeks and Michael Kitchen/Acorn

military wouldn’t take him, the middle-aged Foyle  spent World War II  at his post in the coastal town of Hastings,  brilliantly sniffing out and rounding up bad guys.  Then the war ended, and the series was canceled — until Foyle fans raised such a ruckus, he was called back into service.

Now, in a new seventh season of “Foyle’s War,” which airs on the PBS television series “Masterpiece Mystery” on Sunday, the rigorously analytical, incorruptible and often slyly bemused sleuth  (played to perfection, as usual, by Michael Kitchen) returns from an American sojourn to  wade into the murky depths of Cold War espionage — when he’d really much rather be  fly fishing back in Hastings. In the first of the season’s three episodes, Foyle is pressed into service by the new British intelligence network, MI5, and assigned to untangle Communist Russian spy plots.

Yet  it isn’t just the Russians whom Foyle can’t trust. His British spymasters are a pretty sneaky bunch too,  including his main  MI5 handler, a stern-faced woman with a striking resemblance to the late author Lillian Hellman. (She is possibly the only person who could beat Foyle in a staring contest.) The show is unthinkable without  Honeysuckle Weeks, who returns as Foyle’s eager-beaver young driver Samantha. (If Nancy Drew were English, broke, wore sensible shoes and sometimes got carried away  to the point of almost blowing a case of international importance, she’d be Sam’s twin.)

The first episode of the new season, “The Eternity Ring,” follows Foyle’s  introduction to Stalin-era sleuthing as he investigates a case that connects to the development of the atom bomb and (thanks to a very big coincidence) re-unites him with Sam. Even better are the second and third episodes.  In “The Cage,” Foyle is assigned to get to the bottom of the suspicious deaths and disappearances of several Russian defectors. And in the haunting “Sunflower,” he is dispatched to protect a former Nazi officer, an arrogant war criminal both the Americans and the Brits want kept alive, for different reasons.

Is the last we’ll see of Foyle?  The series ends on an ambiguous note with Foyle contemplating his future but not deciding it. After all these years of service, the weary detective certainly deserves a break and a spot of trout fishing. But his persistent fans may call him back yet again.

 

Comments | More in Weekend preview | Topics: Foyle's War, Masterpiece Mystery

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