Foyle's War

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"All illegal. All morally unacceptable. How would you like to justify it?"

"Necessities of war, Mr. Foyle - in which there is no morality."
—"The French Drop"

British crime drama, debuted in 2002, starring Michael Kitchen as DCS Christopher Foyle, a high-ranking detective in Hastings during the Second World War. When his requests for transfer into the war effort are denied, the modest, mild-tempered Foyle begrudgingly returns to his duties on the Home Front, only to find that his job is more in-demand than ever, as people all over are taking advantage of the panic, confusion and chaos caused by the outbreak of war to try and get away with murder - in many cases literally.

Foyle is assisted in his investigations by his driver, Samantha Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), a perky Mechanized Transport Corps (MTC) officer transferred to the police for the duration owing to Foyle's inability[1] to drive, not an uncommon thing then, and who eagerly involves herself -- at times to Foyle's exasperation -- in the investigations that arise, and his sergeant, Paul Milner, an ex-soldier who rejoined the police after his leg was shot off during the Battle of Norway. Another recurring character was Foyle's son Andrew, a dashing Spitfire pilot with the RAF.

The show often attempts to subvert the traditional myth of wartime Britain as a place where everyone pulled together for the common good, showing how scheming, cowardly, cynical and desperate people at the time could be, and the various ethical and moral dilemmas that fighting against the Nazis raised; a common theme raised in the series is the ethics of police work and crime during wartime, with many of the more cynical characters querying the validity of investigating seemingly trivial crimes (and even murder), during a war that killed thousands every day. As such, along with the murders and intrigues standard for the genre, early episodes in particular often focus on draft-dodgers, fascist sympathizers, black-marketeers, looters from bombed-out houses, the unfair treatment of conscientious objectors, homosexuals, enemy aliens and so forth. Episodes are often themed around a particular event or issue that occurred during the war (such as the Blitz, Dunkirk, the entry of the Russians and the Americans into the war and the secret weapons and tactics employed by the British during the time), with Foyle often coming into conflict with both higher-ups and Secret Service operatives when his investigations begin to touch upon matters which the War Office would prefer were kept secret.

When ITV decided to stop making the series and make two final episodes, one each for 1944 and 1945, there was rather a lot of complaints -- series creator Anthony Horowitz certainly wasn't happy. In the event it was not only given a final season, ending on V-E Day, but subsequently renewed for another season set in the aftermath of the war.


Provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Andrew and his friends.
  • Asshole Victim
  • Back for the Dead
  • Badass Grandpa: While never actually beating anyone up himself, whenever someone says something particularly immoral you know that Foyle is about to open a can of verbal whupass on that poor idiot.
    • Supported in the episode "Fifty Ships", when Foyle took out a looting firefighter with one well-placed haymaker.
    • Also supported by how protective he is of Sam - on one occasion he chewed out his successor for not showing due respect, for not teaching his subordinate to show due respect, and for upsetting Sam.
    • Plus, y'know, the fact that he's a veteran of the Great War, who was promoted through the ranks because there was no one else left alive to lead.
  • Badass Longcoat: Foyle has a cool looking brown jacket he wears throughout the series.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Foyle is often underestimated as a kindly-looking father figure type, but he never compromises his moral convictions.
  • Big Eater: Sam.
  • Black Market: Everything from food to lumber and metal to silk stockings.
  • Black Market Produce: In "Bleak Midwinter", set in rationing-bound World War II England, Foyle busts an operation that's been smuggling restricted food, leading to a subplot for the rest of the episode about who's going to end up with the food once it's done being held as evidence.
  • Blitz Evacuees
  • Bluffing the Murderer
  • Bomb Disposal: "War of Nerves"
  • British Brevity: The longest seasons are only four (movie-length) episodes each. The shortest is two.
  • Bury Your Gays: Andrew's friend Rex is forced to admit to Foyle that he's gay (and in love with Andrew) and dies on a mission shortly thereafter. It's implied this was suicide; Andrew describes watching his plane go down and being surprised not to see him bail out. The only other time homosexuality is mentioned, the guy in question is already dead.
  • Catch Phrase: Foyle will usually introduce himself to others with something along the lines of "My name's Foyle, I'm a policeman."
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Reginald Walker from War Games.
  • Cut Himself Shaving (with Lampshade Hanging)
  • Da Chief: Inverts the stereotype in that Foyle never loses his temper.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Foyle is the master of the well-timed cutting remark. For those criminals who earn his contempt rather than his sympathy he gives a pretty good Death Glare as well.
  • The Danza: Greville Woods is played by Simon Woods in Enemy Fire.
  • Did Not Do the Research: In this extensively researched series, there is only one major historical inaccuracy: the treatment used for anthrax in "Bad Blood," set in 1942, wasn't discovered until the following year, and wasn't used in medicine until after the war.
  • Does Not Like Men: Barbara in "They Fought in the Fields."
  • Draft Dodging: Featured several times. One episode featured a man with a heart condition who ran a racket where he would turn up at the medical exam of someone who had been called up, claiming to be that person, and fail due to his heart condition, thereby allowing them to avoid conscription.
  • Driven to Suicide: Loads of people. Foyle particularly gets a lot of crooks to commit suicide after he lays out their schemes shattered before them.
  • Dude, Not Funny: In-universe; Foyle does not like people making jokes about murder. For example, in the first episode, the victim's rather spoiled step-daughter makes a rather snide crack about her being dead, prompting Foyle to bluntly explain to her precisely how gruesome and agonising her death would have been. The step-daughter promptly looks rather ashamed. And ill.
  • Eagle Land: The ugly American stereotype is inverted with Major John Kiefer, a highly professional officer who goes to great lengths to break down the barriers between his men and the locals. When we encounter him again in "All Clear" being openly rude to his British allies, it's a clue that something is seriously wrong.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: A captured Nazi spy who has witnessed a murder is convinced to help Foyle, despite having every reason not to want to do with him or his case, because Foyle appeals to his sense of justice; what he saw was nothing to do with the war, but murder plain and simple.
  • Fake American
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: In backstory; when Foyle was a soldier during the First World War, he had a relationship with a woman who had nursed him after he was injured.
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Many of the murderers are somehow essential to the war effort and use this to wriggle out of a well-deserved punishment. Not surprisingly, there are frequent Karma Houdinis.
  • Heroic BSOD: Milner in the first episode and Andrew in "Enemy Fire".
  • The Home Front: Provides examples of everything listed on the trope page, from intelligence organizations to the removal of roadsigns on the South Coast.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Many a culprit will say something along these lines to justify what they did.
  • I Have No Son: Subverted: Foyle calls a man out on getting a magistrate to give his son undeserved conscientious-objector status, and the man tells him how he knew his son was just scared to fight, was disgusted, and in fact went to the magistrate to tell him not to believe him, but was unsuccessful and now considers himself to "have no son"; in the end it turns out this is all bullshit and it was just as Foyle thought.
  • The Ingenue: Sam Stewart.
  • Karma Houdini: Every second murderer or thereabouts.
    • A notable one is the American businessman who Foyle has to let go because he's important to the war effort; Foyle tells him that his fate has only been postponed, because one day the war will be over. The final episode of the series ends with Foyle embarking on a ship bound for post-war America.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Foyle's suspect in a murder case turns out to be innocent. The supposed victim, his girlfriend, had realised that he was gay and run off, calling him "sick"...right into a lethal fall down a stairwell.
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: "The White Feather."
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Mandy Dean (an Englishwoman) and Gabe Kelly (a black American soldier) in "Killing Time". Gabe gets beaten up after he and Mandy are seen dancing together.
  • Matchlight Danger Revelation: Foyle and his son take cover during a raid in what turns out to be a fuel dump.
  • Miss Conception: A naive young woman's lover tells her that she won't get pregnant if they have sex standing up. Unsurprisingly, she ends up pregnant, and then throws herself in front of a train, prompting her father to seek revenge by attempting to murder her lover.
  • Motor Mouth: It can be something of a challenge getting Sam to stop talking.
  • Nazi Gold
  • Nazi Nobleman: Several upper-class Nazi sympathizers appear; one family has a full-fledged shrine to the Third Reich in the basement of their Big Fancy House.
  • Never One Murder
  • Not So Different: Said word-for-word by two different characters, once as the complete, classic, German-accented "See, ve are not so different, you and I" (although the Nazi in question is not a villain and means it in the sense that he was an ordinary soldier who went where he was told).
  • One of Our Own: Milner is the chief suspect in the murder of his wife.
  • Parachute in a Tree: In one episode, a German WWII flier who is found hanging in a tree from his parachute after a plane crash is involved in a murder taking place at the same time. Played with: the soldier did not in fact land with the parachute. He was transported in by a submarine and then hung himself up in the tree to make it look like he had been in the plane.
  • Plucky Girl: Sam.
  • Put on a Bus: Happened to Andrew Foyle... kind of. He still did voiceovers in letters and such, and appeared for the intended final episode.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: one episode features a countryside hotel where people try to pretend the war isn't happening.
  • Shell Shocked Senior: Milner in early episodes, and occasionally Andrew. While he's naturally more stoic about things, Foyle was also a veteran of the First World War, and occasionally finds himself recalling things he'd probably sooner forget.
  • Shown Their Work: Almost every episode is based on a real person, incident, or wartime organization, most notably the episode about the "bouncing bomb." The scripts always incorporate numerous historically accurate details about life on the Home Front and the threat of invasion on the South Coast.
  • Start to Corpse: The average episode doesn't feature a murder until (roughly) halfway through.
  • Stiff Upper Lip
  • The Stoic: Foyle. Others too, but Milner for instance has a lapse in "Bleak Midwinter" to show that OOC Is Serious Business, whereas with Foyle there simply never is any OOC.
  • Invisible to Gaydar: Andrew's friend Rex is revealed to be one towards the end of Among The Few.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land/So What Do We Do Now?
  • The Summation
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Foyle is a master at these, notably in the episode "Fifty Ships", where he delivers one for the B-plot and one for the A-plot.
  • Running Gag: Some episodes have one, mostly involving Sam.
  • Taking the Heat
  • Taking You with Me: The murderer in "Bleak Midwinter" tries to do this.
  • Team Dad: Less so with Milner, but for all his gruffness Foyle clearly comes to view Sam as something of a daughter-he-never-had.
  • This Is the Part Where
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Played straight with some British-born Nazi sympathizers, subverted with a captured German spy of the My Country, Right or Wrong variety.
  • Tomboyish Name: Sam. (While a few characters are clearly expecting Foyle's driver to be a guy, the show never does take the opportunity to make her name the basis of the confusion.)
  • Torches and Pitchforks: "A Lesson in Murder" ends with a mob destroying an Italian restaurant and killing the owner in response to the news that Italy has declared war.
  • Torture First, Ask Questions Later: Don't force a prisoner to play Russian Roulette unless you know exactly where the bullet is.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: More than a few of Foyle's superiors travel this path.
  • Uncancelled
  • Warrior Poet: Andrew writes war poems.
  • Wham! Episode: "The Hide" takes a rather different approach to finishing the series than "All Clear" did. In "The Hide," the big reveal about Foyle is that as a young soldier recovering from a wound, he had an affair with a married nurse, and the man he's spent the episode saving from being executed for treason is actually their son. In "All Clear," it was that he can drive.
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue: "All Clear", intended to be the final episode, shows the closing of the Hastings police station on V-E Day, and all the main characters moving on. The theme of post-war uncertainty is central to all their stories, while leaving things open enough for a potential return to the series.
  • World War I: Frequently recalled.
  • World War II
  • You Just Told Me

Subverts or averts:

  • Always Murder: Averted in The French Drop.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Sam and Andrew agree to be friends and see where things go post-war.
  • Defective Detective: Foyle is often one of the most well-adjusted people around.
    • Milner is a bit closer to this trope, at least initially -- you don't get your leg shot off without coming away with some issues, and he and his wife have problems in their marriage beyond the difficulties that this generates -- but he still manages to come to terms with it all remarkably well.
  • False Roulette: A bad guy tries it, but it doesn't work out the way he expected.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be
  • Sorry, Billy, But You Just Don't Have Legs/Handicapped Badass: Notably subverts both tropes to an interesting and believable effect! Milner's handicap means he sometimes can't always give chase to a fleeing perp and he takes a beating more than once; but he's also a way-more-than-competent detective in other respects.

Notes

  1. Apparently