It doesn’t take a sleuth to discover why British mystery series Foyle’s War has made it to an eighth season on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater. For a decade now, creator Anthony Horowitz has combined a novel slant on World War II with likeable characters, clean story lines, and minimal on-screen violence. Set in the British town of Hastings, Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchens) is a World War I veteran too old to join the ranks fighting Hitler. Instead, Foyle joins his driver, Sam (Honeysuckle Weeks), in the war at home—tracking down old-fashioned thieves, murderers, and the occasional spy.
In Season Eight beginning this month, however, a new war is on the horizon. In the wake of Hiroshima, a new threat to peace and security looms: Soviet Russia. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, Foyle finds himself drawn into the services of MI-5. When Sam—now married and hoping to start a family despite her work as a secretary for a renowned physicist—is implicated in a spy ring, Foyle agrees to investigate. Before long, the duo is back in pursuit of law and justice, and they must navigate a new world of spies and political intrigue to, among other things, rescue missing persons and bring Nazi war criminals to justice.
Like many British productions, the series dwells on Guantanamo-like prisons as a unique failure of the West, toeing the politically correct line on homosexuality, and uncritically presenting the seeds of nationalized healthcare. And in this season particularly, our heroes too often resort to lying and duplicity to see right triumph.
But the most enjoyable elements of the show remain intact. Simple plots provide storylines and drama that feel as gripping as or more so than previous incarnations. Nefarious characters are fully developed, without denying their villainy. And a subplot between Sam and her husband offers a window on the genesis of the baby-boomer generation. All of which may make the Cold War Mr. Foyle’s best war thus far.