The 2013 television season has been the year of new gritty, intense crime dramas — The Following, Hannibal, The Bridge, Broadchurch and now AMC’s Low Winter Sun.
All of the shows have similar characteristics — terrific casts anchored by seasoned film actors, thick, intricate whodunnit narratives and an unflinching sense of raw brutality.
For Low Winter Sun, the biggest struggle this series will face is making people care. Trust us, the acting is terrific, the storyline is intriguing, but as a viewer, a bit of fatigue is beginning to settle in with all these types of shows being released in rapid succession. We’ve seen the antihero alpha male detective, the “who can you trust” plot devices, the city of industry backdrops and the out in the open gore. We’ve been there, we’ve done that. And let’s not forget we’re just coming off the third season of The Killing, the return of Breaking Bad, plus we’re in the heart of seasons for Dexter, Ray Donovan and Copper. That is a lot of intensity in a short period of time.
Can Low Winter Sun stand out amongst the crowded house of crime dramas? Can it prove itself as another exciting addition to AMC’s catalog of original television? (The network is definitely hoping so, with Breaking Bad and Mad Men bowing out in 2013 and 2014 respectively.)
The answer is a definite maybe. Yes, not the most concrete answer in the world, but we’ve only seen the pilot — where this show takes us could be thrilling or could have us tuning out in a few episodes.
What gives this Detroit-based thriller a chance is its two leading men. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last decade, you know just how good Mark Strong is. He’s a true chameleon, portraying spies (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), U.S. government officials (Zero Dark Thirty), Arab diplomats (Body of Lies), diabolic British villains (Sherlock Holmes) and countless other roles. Here, he’s Frank Agnew, a cue-balled Detroit detective who, with the help of brother cop Joe Geddes (Lennie James), has killed a corrupt and supposedly murderous detective named Brendan McGann (McGann killed Agnew’s girlfriend…we think). While Agnew isn’t the most loquacious of cats, all his emotions, are conveyed through the heavy, dark eyes and pulsating jaw muscles of Strong. His fear and anxiety are etched into his face like the name on a tombstone. A tombstone that could be his if he makes the wrong move.
Fellow Brit Lennie James, who is most famous in the U.S. for his role on The Walking Dead, is awesome as the smooth operator Joe Geddes. From Jump Street you have an uneasy feeling about this guy, but his velveteen touch to everything and his flare for the self-righteous dramatic really do assuage a lot of these initial fears, which of course make him even more dangerous. Only James, who dazzled audiences as the distraught survivor Morgan in TWD, can pull this off. His actions keep you on your toes — is he a man who helped take out a dirty cop or is a snake in the grass who’s got more dirtier than them all.
When you get these two onscreen together — it’s diabolical magic. The distrust the two have for each other, the mysterious history that binds them together — it’s all so intriguing. Based on their performances alone you want to push your chips to the center of the table and go all in on Low Winter Sun.
Yet, we have to be realistic. Can the performances of just two men carry an entire series? Can their chemistry pique the interest of audiences who are just burnt out on crime dramas?
As stated before, it’s a definite maybe. Low Winter Sun is worth a chance — whether it be on an hour on a Sunday or at a later date on your DVR. The next two weeks are really a make it or break it for this series, we’ll be tuned in, at least for now, to see how this story unfolds.