Paul Milner: The Everyday Sleuth

Although Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle is most the center of this drama (with his name in the title, seems only fair, haha), and comes up with the final piece needed to solve every case, for this article I wanted to focus on another member of the main detective trio as he appeared through Seasons 1-5, Detective Sergeant Paul Milner.

A soldier in the early months of WWII, we first meet him convalescing in a hospital bed after being wounded in battle, an event which resulted in the loss of a leg. Having previously worked with Foyle, Christopher extends the offer to join the police force again. As the only other ranked detective in their station, Milner spends the rest of the war solving cases alongside Foyle and their trusty driver Samantha.

The cases these three encounter with are unique thanks to the tenuous environment caused by being a country at war. What makes this series so distinctive is it gives audiences an idea what the British home front was like by having its main characters solve and put a stop to criminal activities influenced by war-time circumstances.

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Tangling with war profiteers, black marketeers, sleeper Nazi agents, fascists, communists, and all kinds of other people who use the war as an excuse or opportunity to break the law, in the second episode Milner’s bitterness over his war-time injury and the resulting rejection of his wife threatens to interfere with his required objectivity. Throughout his time working with and learning from Foyle however, you see him return to the man you imagine he must have been before the war; a competent, compassionate, dedicated detective.

Like any classic British drama, each episode lasts for an hour and a half, enabling a deep dive investigation of the central mystery and the players wrapped up in it to take place. They also provide commentaries on different aspects of the war and its cost. Many historical elements such as Dunkirk, the relationship between Britain and America and the invention of radar to name a few, wind up personally affecting the detectives on different levels. Since the series focuses on our trio puzzling things out, it gives less time to their lives outside of the job.

What we can glean through watching Detective Sergeant Paul Milner assist in the solving of each case (sometimes cases) of the week is that he is an able, soft-spoken, intelligent, and diligent sleuth. His position on the police force allows him to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, a woman who loves him unconditionally. And while he is not perfect, making his fair share of mistakes over the course of the series, his character presents audiences with the image of an average man dealing with a physical injury putting his head down and doing his job, while also trying his hardest to maintain justice in a time of insanity.

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Milner has an opportunity to shine in one of my favorite episodes in Season 3, ‘Enemy Fire.’ Not only do we get to meet the doctor that operated on Milner, but we see a fantastic scene between Paul and the intended of a recently shot-down pilot. She is struggling with her fiancée’s new challenges. Our frank but kind Sergeant shares with her how her desertion may affect her pilot’s recovery, drawing from his own experience. ‘The Funk Hole’ is also a great episode that showcases his loyal, clever, and intuitive nature, all excellent traits in any good sleuth. He decides to talk over factors that are bothering him about a murder case with a suspended Foyle and solves one of the side mysteries that cropped up along the way.

Fitting under the heading of crime-solving sleuth in his own right, I have long appreciated Police Sergeant Paul Milner’s calm, steady character and quiet, understated presence. While he does not feature across the entire series, being absent for the last two seasons, the time he was on it only made every scene that much more enjoyable, and every case closer to being cracked.

Key Milner Episodes: The White Feather (S1E2), Eagle Day (S1E4), The Funk Hole (S2E4), Enemy Fire (S3E2), Bleak Midwinter (S4E3), Plan of Attack (S5E1)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hopeless romantic, fervent bibliophile, and aspiring word-smith, Kirsty Pearce also has a deep love for fantasy, fairy tales, & history. With a wide range of TV obsessions from Outlander, Bitten, & Grimm, to Dancing With The Stars, Nikita, & Horrible Histories, she enjoys watching as many Hallmark films as possible, knitting, baking, and sharing all her fan-girl thoughts on her blog.

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