Now that the most recent season of ‘The Killing’ is off the air, the AMC network is attempting to fill that programming hole with another new show based on a foreign TV series. In this case, the corrupt cop drama ‘Low Winter Sun’ was adapted from a 2006 British miniseries of the same title, which (if the American version is at all faithful) was apparently adapted from the writers watching lots of episodes of ‘The Shield’ and ‘The Wire’.
Hey, I liked ‘The Shield’ and ‘The Wire’ as much as anyone, and I suppose those shows were so influential that it’s hard for any new cop drama that treads the same territory to not look like an imitator. Maybe once this one finds its legs it can establish its own identity and grow into something interesting. It’s not there yet, unfortunately.
The ‘Pilot’ episode opens with two antihero cops, Frank Agnew and Joe Geddes (Mark Strong and Lennie James) killing a third corrupt cop named Brendan McCann. Frank wants revenge because Brendan murdered his girlfriend (or so Joe has told him). Joe was Brendan’s partner and is tired of being dragged down into his shit. One night, while Brendan is piss drunk (as seems to be a common occurrence), the other two feign trying to sober him up to take him home, then drown him in a sink. Using their own knowledge of what police detectives would look for, they put his body behind the wheel of his car and drive it into a lake, staging the scene to look like a suicide.
McCann, of course, was tied up with organized crime and drug dealers, and when other cops fish his car out of the drink, they find another chopped-up dead body in the trunk. Frank assumes that it’s his girlfriend, but the body turns out to be male. Did Brendan murder and dismember somebody else in addition to Frank’s girlfriend, or did Joe lie to Frank in order to trick him into killing Brendan for other reasons? As a nosy Internal Affairs investigator (David Costabile from ‘Suits’ and ‘Flight of the Conchords’) starts poking around into the case, Frank isn’t sure whom he can trust.
The show is set in Detroit, and makes every possible effort to wallow in the dirt and filth and decay of the worst parts of that city. Every street we see is covered in trash, and every house or building (including and especially the police station) is a crumbling ruin. The show really wants us to know that Detroit is the single biggest shithole on the entire face of the planet. How offensive residents of the actual area will find this, I’ll leave our readers to tell me.
The series has a good cast, and the pilot episode isn’t bad, per se. It just feels derivative of other, better shows. A lot of the scripting suffers from really on-the-nose dialogue about the obvious themes of the piece: morality, loyalty and betrayal. As a consequence (and I won’t fault any particular player for this), most of the performances feel very actorly. The dialogue doesn’t always flow naturally, and the plot points feel schematic.
I didn’t dislike the episode, and I’d feel bad if I wrote the show off early only to find out later that it flourished into something really compelling. But based on this one sample, it doesn’t do much for me so far.