I’m guessing the pitch session for LOW WINTER SUN went something like this: It’s like THE SHIELD, only in this version Vic Mackey is a good guy with a conscience who broods about the bad stuff he does. Also, it has Lennie James, and everyone loves Lennie James in their pilot.”
Then the producers would have outlined the opening scene, in which Joe (James) and Frank (Mark Strong) drown drunken Brendan (Michael McGrady) in a sink and make it look like he committed suicide by driving his car into a river. Oh, did we mention that Joe and Frank are cops? And Brendan was Joe’s (dirty) partner?
Yeah, well, the problem is, while all that may have sounded intense in the room and looked good on paper, in practice it’s a lot less compelling. Frank helped Joe because Joe told him that Brendan killed Frank’s girlfriend, Katia. But when Internal Affairs shows up the next morning to investigate Brendan, Joe smells a rat — and he doesn’t mean the rat squad.
LWS conjures THE SHIELD by focusing on dirty cop Joe Geddes, but it also looks at breaking-bad cop Frank Agnew, who may have been tricked into doing something very, very bad, but finds there’s no turning back. In fact, he’s in way over his head less than 24 hours after deciding to murder a fellow police officer.
If you’re like me, you spent a lot of time trying to place the actor who plays Frank, and couldn’t settle into the show until you finally remembered that he played Sinestro in that putrid Green Lantern movie a few years back. Or maybe you remembered him as the bad guy in the first Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie. Anyway, casting a dude who usually plays bad guys to play a morally ambiguous cop was probably the best decision this series made. However, Strong plays Frank as kind of slow on the uptake, so the character feels more like a patsy than a cop who was outfoxed. And while Joe seems to be a good planner, he’s not so great on the execution — as his constant mouthing off is bound to draw the spotlight of suspicion from Internal Affairs. That is, if Frank’s sighing and guilty stares don’t get them both the chair first.
The larger problem with LOW WINTER SUN is, it feels like a miniseries, with a small story. In fact, it is based on a two-part British miniseries from 2006. If AMC is looking for a new ongoing, what would, say, the seventh episode of a third season look like? No idea. I can’t even imagine this series going seven episodes without introducing a lot more elements. There was some stuff with some street thugs who appear to have been in bed with Brendan, and some other stuff with a female bartender and an old gangster, but that was kind of muddled. Still, it appears they are all connected to whatever made Brendan dirty, and it remains to be seen just how dirty Joe is; but we know he’s a bad guy.
I’m not sure I’ll be sticking around to watch, because while some of LWS was entertaining, all of it was kinda depressing — right down to its Detroit setting. That’s right, this tale of police corruption and the drug trade takes place in the decrepit Motor City. Which is a downer all on its own.