Sunday, September 18, 2016

Foyle's War 1.2 - The White Feather

Plot: We're still in May of 1940, the Allied forces are backed up against the Channel with the Germans closing in, and the story opens on young Edith Johnstone climbing a telephone pole somewhere in the English countryside to cut the wires. As it turns out, this is considered an act of treason, especially since there's a military base a half mile down the road. Foyle's asked to talk with her, and Edith expresses no contrition, because she's certain the Germans will be there any day now, and she'll be rewarded for helping, while Foyle will be in prison. Well then.

Elsewhere, Milner's gotten his prosthetic leg attached (six weeks early, and he's still using crutches), but is stuck walking home in the rain when a Guy Spencer offers him a ride, if Milner will just wait until Guy finishes his speech for the Friday Club about whose war this is. Spoiler: He says it isn't England's war, but the Bolshevik's and the Jews'. Always the mark of a person whose opinion you can trust.

The two threads intertwine because as Foyle investigates Edith, he finds she worked at a hotel called The White Feather, run by a Margaret Ellis, and to a lesser extent her husband Arthur and son Stanley (they work there, but she's the big dog). And Margaret is a staunch supporter of Mr. Spencer. So much so, he's having a get-together of like-minded upper-class types at the hotel, including a member of Parliament and a Ms. Harwood, who works at Whitehall, and has something of great importance to Spencer. Foyle by this time has (with some help from Sam) traced Edith's employment far enough to find someone who knew her boyfriend, and he's talked with the young fisherman David Lane about her. David's convinced that it's Margaret and Spencer who have done this to Edith. And so it's with little surprise that someone is murdered at the White Feather that evening. Not Guy Spencer, unfortunately, leaving Foyle to suss out who was the intended target and why. While also dealing with a lot of people who think they're hot stuff giving him a lot of guff about being kept at the hotel, some issues within his own department, and what to do about David Lane. There's also a thread about Milner's difficulties readjusting to his being a civilian again, and minus a leg, although the biggest issue seems to be with Jane Milner.

Quote of the Episode: Larson - 'To be honest the shooting of that woman is both annoying and irrelevant.' Foyle - 'To you, perhaps.'

Things Sam does well: Stand up to pushy members of Parliament. Ernest Bannerman tries to bully her into driving him, his wife, and Harwood to the train station, after Foyle gave orders they were to stay put, and Sam stood her ground. Big thumbs up for Sam.

Does Foyle go fishing this week? He certainly does! With one of his coworkers, the one who brought Edith to his attention.

Other: I think this section is going to be the more spoilery part, since there are things I'll want to discuss in each episode that might give away more important aspects of the story. Not necessarily every week, but it's worth mentioning as a strong possibility.

Something I can't recall is if the series ever really explains what the hell is going on with Jane Milner. She is just brutal to Paul throughout this episode. She tells him outright she doesn't want to her about his prosthetic limb, and what's more she doesn't want him to leave it in the bedroom when he isn't wearing it. She hopes that in a few months they can just pretend it isn't there. When they're on their way to church, she says they need to leave early because, 'It's not like you can drive.' It's as though she's deliberately trying to undercut Paul's sense of self-worth at every turn, and I don't get it. It seems like even just basic empathy would keep someone from doing that, but I guess somehow she just thinks she's being realistic so it's OK. But I don't know, they don't really go into it.

Which is a shame, because the episode does spend time exploring Milner's attempt trying to settle back in. He ends up susceptible to Guy Spencer, not because Paul agrees with Guy's anti-Semitism, but because Paul is understandably confused about what happened to him. He got sent on the invasion of Norway, it failed horribly and he lost a leg, because the British had no conception of the importance of air superiority, and what was the point? Considering there wasn't a second attempt to take Norway utilizing what was learned from the first try, it couldn't have been that critical, so what were he and all the other soldiers doing there? And while he's trying to convince himself he's the same as he was before (which is probably why he got the prosthetic fitted 6 weeks early), Jane is working against that at every turn. Even as I recognize that Guy Spencer is an odious, horrible human being, I can see why he's able to get Milner on his side and use him to his ends.

There's a point where Foyle and Milner are questioning David and he bolts, and Foyle tries to give chase but can't keep up, and Sam wasn't ready with a garbage can lid this time. Milner couldn't even attempt it. I don't think the camera lingers on it, but I need to go back and see what expression he makes at that moment.

Guy Spencer is played by Charles Dance, who has been in a lot of stuff. This is embarrassing, but the thing I always remember him from is The Last Action Hero, when he played the villain with the assortment of glass eyes. Look, I don't watch Game of Thrones, alright?

The idea of prosecuting someone who tries to commit suicide is still one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. Oh, you tried to kill yourself? Well I'm sure some time in the pokey will improve your outlook.

While Milner is listening to Spencer's speech, a man walks by outside and makes unfavorable comments about the Friday Club. So two of Guy's bodyguards follow him and beat him nearly to death in an alley. Of course, Spencer didn't know anything about it and doesn't condone it, but well, things happen. That seemed relevant given events within our current election, although Donald Trump doesn't even have enough sense, or simply doesn't give a shit, to pretend he doesn't want to incite violence among his supporters.

That Friday Club get together at the White Feather was difficult to watch. Difficult in the sense I wanted someone to burn the hotel down with them all in it. Everyone complaining about refuges in London while standing around in various finery. The way the camera often zooms in our their mouths as the talk and laugh, it reminded me of the opening of Duck, You Sucker, where Leone focuses the camera intensely on the mouths of the upper class people in the carriage as they gorge themselves while calling the lower class a bunch of filthy animals.

I'm not sure about the resolution of Edith's plot. It feels almost tacked on, like they remembered, "Oh yeah, we had a character that might get hanged for treason in the first five minutes of this episode, might want to touch base with that." And given that Foyle reveals Edith acted because she was frightened and intimidated into it by Margaret Ellis, not sure how I feel about Foyle using David to guilt her. Maybe not what was intended, but his, "You aren't going to forget David, are you?" felt a lot like guilt-tripping a scared, confused kid.

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