The only Cold War Judge Jason Panella fights is with his aging refrigerator.
A new war, a new enemy.
Foyle may be fighting a different war now, but the show is as good as ever.
Facts of the Case
The last time we saw Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen, House of Cards), he resigned from the Hastings police department and was heading to America. Now, nearly a year after VJ Day, Foyle returns to England and is quickly (and begrudgingly) recruited by MI5 to help out in their Cold War operations.
Foyle's War: Set 7 includes three discs, each with one of the three feature-length episodes that make up the show's eighth season:
"The Eternity Ring"—Foyle investigates a Russian spy ring in London, only to learn that his former driver Sam (Honeysuckle Weeks, Midsomer Murders) and her husband may be involved.
"The Cage"—The disappearance of a Foreign Office employee leads Foyle to a clandestine military camp and a trail of bodies.
"Sunflower"—Against his wishes, Foyle is ordered to protect a Nazi defector who is now aiding MI5.
(If you're wondering why the set and series numbers are off by one, Acorn bundled the fourth and fifth seasons together.)
When the seventh season of Foyle's War ended in 2010, it seemed like a natural place to wrap the entire series up: Foyle retires from the police and leaves for America, Sam gets engaged, and Sgt. Paul Milner (Anthony Howell, Dirk Gently) got a family and a promotion before walking off into the sunset. Not to mention the fact that World War II—the thematic cornerstone for the whole series—was finally over.
So when I heard that Foyle's War had (again) been renewed after a seemingly logical end to the series, I had mixed emotions. It was one of the best British television programs of the past 15 years (maybe, I dare say, one of the best television programs of the past 15 years, period), so I welcomed the news that there would be more. But I also dreaded the idea of an eighth season, in a way—was this season going to be a dud? Thankfully, the answer is a huge "no." While it's different from the preceding seasons in many ways, Foyle's War: Set 7 is still Foyle's War. To translate: it's incredible television.
Now stationed in London, Foyle is a bit older and wearier than before. He doesn't entirely trust his MI5 superiors, including slippery Arthur Valentine (Tim McMullan, The Woman in Black) and Hilda Pierce (Ellie Haddington, Doctor Who), who reprises her role from the previous season. He also isn't too pleased about the sort of espionage work he's getting himself into. But he's still quiet and resourceful, and he is still able to follow his moral compass without compromise. Things are also different for Sam, who is no longer the feisty young woman she was in 1940. She and her husband Adam Wainwright (Daniel Weyman) are newly married and living in London as Adam seeks election as a Labour Party MP. A good deal of each episode focuses on Adam's adventures as he learns the ins and outs of local politics. These Sam and Adam subplots are quite good, especially since the show uses these stories as a way to dig into some of the historical happenings in 1946. The main storylines ease nicely into the Cold War setting, too; while the narrative nitty gritty of each episode hasn't changed much from the previous seasons, an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia seems to blanket the proceedings.
Show creator and writer Anthony Horowitz (Injustice), who wrote two of season eight's episodes, yet again pulls off an amazing balancing act. Like the best episodic TV, the three 90-minute installments work well as stand-alone mysteries. But like the best serialized stories, the episodes contribute to both season- and series-long story arcs. Not a lot of shows do all three well, but Foyle's War—like Justified and Buffy the Vampire Slayer—is one of the few that do. And while having enough elements of the traditional British mystery to please fans of Agatha Christie, Foyle's War tempers these hallmarks with enough bittersweet realism to keep fans of the more gritty crime shows interested too. That said, the writing here is, while great, a tiny step down from the last few seasons. Specifically, "The Eternity Ring" seems to falter a bit as all of the pieces click together. It's not a bad episode (it's still great, in fact), but pales next to "The Cage" and "Sunflower."
Acorn Media does a great job with Foyle's War: Set 7. The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks splendid, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track fills the speakers well (kudos for the easy-to-read English subtitles, something Acorn doesn't often include). The set also comes with a number of excellent features. Each disc includes an episode introduced by Anthony Horowitz (all excellent but surprisingly awkward, since Horowitz doesn't seem to know what to do with his hands when reading a cue card). The last disc includes a throw-away photo slideshow and a number of beefy featurettes: "Origins, On the Set, and More" (26:56), a great behind-the-scenes look at the show; "Old Friends and New Faces" (14:15), which goes into detail about some of the new characters; "The Stylings of Foyle's War" (26:55), a detail exploration of how much attention to detail goes into each episode; and "The Sunflower Massacre: Historical Facts, Visual Fictions" (17:44), which looks into some of the visual effects from the episode "Sunflower."
Foyle's War make look and feel a little different, but Set 7 proves that it's still one of the best shows on television.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
• Series Recap
Review content copyright © 2013 Jason Panella; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.