AMC is hoping for a hit series to replace Breaking Bad, which began its final run of eight episodes on Sunday night. The network has some of its hope pinned on Low Winter Sun, which debuted right after Breaking Bad last night. It was a no-brainer of a scheduling decision; with millions tuning in to Walter White et. al., many would stick around to check out the newbie on the block.
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So, how did it measure up? It’s too early to make a serious assessment, but I wasn’t blown away.
The 10-part series is based on the 2006 British miniseries of the same name. Lead actor Mark Strong — the baddie in the first Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes feature — reprises his role from that project here, playing Detroit cop Frank Agnew. When we first meet Frank, he and fellow cop Joe Geddes (Lenny James, The Walking Dead), are plotting to kill Joe’s partner, Det. Brendan McCann (Michael McGrady), who they believe killed Frank’s girlfriend.
The pair make good on the plot, drowning the inebriated man in a restaurant sink, shackling him into his car and pushing it into the Detroit river. Frank is savvy enough to use the handcuffs, reasoning that McCann — despondent and suicidal — would shackle himself in to ensure he couldn’t renege on his suicide plan. It works. At first.
No one scrambles to find McCann right away — he has a history of getting drunk, and no one (not even Joe) really likes the guy. It’s when Internal Affairs investigator Simon Boyd (David Costabile, Breaking Bad‘s Gale), shows up looking for him that things get more frenzied. See, it turns out McCann was under investigation by IA, which seemed to cement the suicide angle. And it does. Again, at first.
The man’s bloated body is found in his car, and the handcuffs do suggest suicide. Simon, however, isn’t so sure. Neither is Joe and Frank’s boss, who pulls aside Frank and tells him to investigate Joe, suspicious he had a hand in his partner’s death. How can a man who was directly involved in killing a cop investigate the man he helped do it? And did Joe manipulate Frank into helping kill McCann?
Created by Chris Mundy — who has executive-produced Hell on Wheels, Criminal Minds and Cold Case — Low Winter Sun has been called The Wire Lite. I get that comparison. Like The Wire did for Baltimore, Low Winter Sun puts the spotlight on Detroit, where the series was shot on location. Burned-out, abandoned houses bookend the home Frank lives in. Derelict cars sit in weedy streets. Dogs wander around, scrounging for foot and barking at anything that moves. Drug dealers shack up in shattered homes, stashing their goods in the remains of plaster walls. Heck, two guys — James Ransone and Costabile — both starred on The Wire.
But what sets Low Winter Sun apart from The Wire — one episode in, anyway — is that it focuses in on the cops working Detroit’s streets rather than HBO’s drama sharing equal time between the police and the criminals. Strong and James are both decent in their lead roles, too, as is Costabile, though I couldn’t help but think of his dearly departed Gale Boetticher whenever he appeared. I’m always up for a good character study series, and Low Winter Sun is certainly that. Like fellow AMC series Bad, Hell on Wheels, and even The Killing, this one spotlights tortured souls struggling to eke out a living in desolate environs.
But getting back to AMC’s hopes that Low Winter Sun is the next Breaking Bad. Low Winter Sun‘s scripts pale in comparison to what Vince Gilligan has penned on Breaking Bad. Frank’s glowering around the precinct isn’t backed up with dialogue the way Walter White’s is. Where Walter is a fully-realized character, Frank is paper-thin. Like I said, it’s still early days, and comparing the debut of Low Winter Sun against the five-season veteran isn’t fair.
I’ll give it a couple more weeks before I let the sun set on this one.
Low Winter Sun airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.
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Source: The Loop