TV review: “Low Winter Sun” has many highs, too many lows

By Columbus Alive
From the August 8, 2013 edition

AMC is anticipating “Low Winter Sun” will satiate crime drama fans once “Breaking Bad” wraps up. It’s a dark tale about police corruption, drug dealers and America’s most exhausted city (Detroit). And it all centers around one very conflicted bald man — OK, the hairlessness is just coincidence — in Detective Frank Agnew (Mark Strong).

Adapted from the award-winning British series, which also starred Strong, “Low Winter Sun” has potential, especially given the Detroit setting. Tere are certainly great moments, but after two episodes “Low Winter Sun” hasn’t grabbed me … yet.

That’s a shame because the opening riveting. A pilot’s goal is to introduce characters and the world. A good pilot does this and gets the audience invested. A great pilot does all three and sets up insurmountable stakes. For about 10 minutes, “Low Winter Sun” is a great pilot.

It opens with Frank and fellow Detroit detective Joe Geddes (Lennie James) getting drunk enough to murder a corrupt cop, while arguing over the action’s merits. It’s a tragic, well-acted scene that explodes when Frank and Joe beat down and drown the bent detective. Frank and Joe then orchestrat what they believe is the perfect cover-up. Obviously, it’s not.

“Low Winter Sun” will be embraced by many crime genre fans— echoing elements of “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “The Wire.” source materialwas lauded and the acting is strong, especially from James and David Costabile as the Internal Affairs dick looming over the investigation.

However the overall quality is inconsistent with a flawed narrativeon both a macro and micro level. It extends to include police politics and the Detroit drug trade, led by James Ransone (Ziggy from “The Wire”), but it’s not wholly organic. On a character level, it’s hard to invest in the leads because the motivations aremuddled and intentionally vague.

“Low Winter Sun” has the pieces to become a captivating examination of a city in decay and a perceptive character study of corrupting nature of power. It’s not, but I hope it gets there.