Is it possible to commit a crime for the right reasons even when you don't have all of the facts? That's part of the premise behind the new AMC drama "Low Winter Sun," which followed one cop's journey into a darkness that he didn't fully understand. The show had some potential, but it was mostly squandered by an uneven plot that failed to explain very much of the story.
"Low Winter Sun" followed Detective Frank Agnew (Mark Strong) who enjoyed his job being a Detroit cop, but he was pushed to the brink by a fellow Detective who may have killed a woman that he was seeing. Frank murdered his colleague for revenge with the help of the Detective's partner Joe Geddes (Lennie James) who may have a hidden agenda of his own. Joe and Frank took great lengths to cover up the crime by making it look like a suicide, but they were unaware of everything that their deceased colleague was involved in. Simon Boyd (David Costabile) arrived in Frank's precinct with some of his Internal Affairs officers with the intention of putting the department under the microscope. Frank and Joe were forced to work very hard to cover their tracks at work, but one of them went a little too far cleaning up the deceased cop's work station. Their boss Charles Dawson (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) appeared to be unaware of the chaos going on around him, but he could likely be pretending to be clueless to it all. Frank and Joe also had to keep a close eye on Detective Dani Khalil (Athena Karkanis) who was getting suspicious of their connection. On the criminal side, the dead cop had associates in Damon (James Ransone) and Maya Callis (Sprague Grayden) who were trying to stay ahead of a crime boss capable of killing both of them without blinking an eye. Is it possible for everyone to keep their secrets hidden or will they lose everything in the process?
In terms of questions, the show asked quite a few but none of them were answered yet. It also didn't help that the premiere didn't set things up properly for viewers to explain why Frank was pushed to commit murder. The premiere episode threw viewers right in the middle of the chaos without giving them a clue as to why the detective deserved to die. The episode should've spent some of the time setting up the crime before going right into it, because the opening scenes were somewhat brutal and should've been a way to end the premiere instead of starting it. The rest of the episode proceeded with the fallout of the crime, which should've only been touched upon as a way to lure viewers in instead of pull them away. Another plot weakness was the sorely lacking criminal element that was only loosely connected to the cop side of the show. Grayden had a strong presence as a overly supportive wife who might be encouraging her husband into doing the wrong thing. Hopefully, her character will surpass Ransome's impulsive Damon and become the leader of their crew. She gave Maya the right amount of grit and vulnerability to make her someone worth watching as the season progressed.
As for breakout performances, Strong and James led the pack as very complex detectives who had very different motives for doing their job. On the big screen, Strong usually played dark and dangerous villains with grand plans of violence. It was a nice change of pace seeing with playing an anti-hero in his own leading role because he gave Frank a sense of strength and unpredictability that made viewers wonder what he was going to do next. Strong's most memorable scene came when he had time to reflect on his actions and he was slowly coming undone by everything. He reflected on everything he lost and everything else he could lose, which forced him to destroy the only remaining evidence of the woman he loved and lost. Hopefully, the show will fix its weaknesses in future episodes to give Strong more of an opportunity to shine. James, on the other hand, appeared to be playing the role of a supportive friend when the character had so much at stake. He played Joe as a man who had much more at stake than he was willing to admit, which won't be revealed just yet. James gave Joe a sense of fear and swagger that made him worth watching, even though his time could be short on the show. Only time will tell if that's the case.
"Low Winter Sun" premiered on August 11th and airs Sundays at 10:00 PM on AMC.
Verdict: Strong delivered a powerful performance that got lost in the shuffle of an uneven premiere that failed to set up the rest of the season properly.
TV Score: 2 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)