Television shows are like people. Some impress from the very first word and you want to know them for the rest of your days on Earth, while others you despise right away. With a little time and patience, others still might grow to be your best friends ever. You’re thankful you stuck it out past an awkward first encounter, ignorant remarks, and several punches to the face and eyes. So which category does AMC’s latest anti-hero brooder Low Winter Sun fall into? Four episodes in, did this sometimes overly serious Detroit-based crime show find some fun in its premise, exceed the confines of the genre to say something about life, or at least be itself very, very well?
After tonight’s episode, the answer is "yes - the last one." Low Winter Sun doubles down on the simplicity of its inciting conflict–essentially cops investigating the very crime they committed, and finds ways to jeopardize their cover-up, involve a love story, and flesh out each player, painting a picture of an economically depressed American dream in one of the worst financially hit U.S. cities today. As the heart of this central mystery was also the very first scene of the series, enjoyment comes not from the suspense of discovering that one of these characters is a killer, but rather whether or not Detectives Frank Agnew and Joe Geddes can stay one step ahead of an unexpected Internal Affairs investigation. The result is a meta-look at your average cop procedural, where the two main characters act as viewer surrogates to the normal goings on of a precinct. What should have been your average, run-of-the-mill staged police suicide expands into an office-wide murder investigation that the culprits must constantly hoop-jump in order to keep the long arm of the law at arms length. The astute persistence of Simon Boyd and creeping insinuation of Dani Khalil, who both seem to trust Frank ensures a real manipulative shit-fest, which always make for good watching.
Despite Agnew and Geddes having to juggle respectively ignorant personas, the overall plot's pretty straightforward in execution, taking its time here and there to build out the lives of each character, such as Joe Geddes, who lives with his mother and has a tumultuous relationship with his teenage daughter, or criminal wife Maya Callis who shares some suburban ties while helping to build a local drug-and-whore empire. Steadily barreling towards the precinct’s investigation, this separate storyline set in the Detroit underworld is interesting in its own right depicting the building of small cartel and alliance between two otherwise separate factions.
Most stories need some kind of heart to avoid settling into Drearysville, USA, and Frank Agnew’s psychologically taxing pursuit of the woman he killed for provides both sympathy and a twisted, one-sided romance worthy of exploration. At times it’s easy to forget that Agnew drowned a man with his bare hands on false pretenses, but his desperate hunt for the prostitute who would bring him peace in a peaceless land where ex-cops get drunk on Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and play trash-hockey while dogs chew off corpse faces in trap-houses seems noble by comparison.
Still, Agnew’s journey of the heart through a dystopian Motor City and the skeezy beyond ("Catacombs" much?) doesn’t guarantee happiness. Frank’s intense search for Katia reveals a man increasingly weakened alongside a frustrating inability to produce results. For someone willing to take another’s life out of pure revenge and no guarantee of absolution, the chance for a positive emotional reward such as love might justify his deadly vengeance (he probably hopes). Who knows though, we haven’t really seen any certainty that Katia will still reciprocate his affection if the two are reunited. The murder of her almost-killer might be appreciated, but then again what if she wants zero murders in her life? Such is the strength setting a story in a constantly depressing environment–even if one gets what they want, the loss-ridden scenery tells another tale.
Nearly halfway into the season Low Winter Sun has used its time efficiently to make a case for its own space on AMC, touting an at times neo-noir story of doomed romance and moral transgression. It's a shame the ratings are so low, because with enough support this could be a story that highlights the rich world of Detroit and the symbiotic relationship between what we deem "good" or "bad." Like most people, there's some of both qualities here, but at the end of the day this show is worth knowing.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
AIRED ON 10/6/2013
Season 1 : Episode 10