G-S-T TV: Low Winter Sun (S1, Ep 3: No Rounds)

Low Winter Sun__Strong JamesIn the third episode of AMC’s Low Winter Sun, Frank (Mark Strong) and Joe (Lennie James) continue their attempts to cover up the evidence in McCann’s murder. Elsewhere in the city Damon and his crew do everything they can to prepare for the opening of The Blind Pig – a seedy strip club and cover for gang related under-the-table dealings. This episode put a little more focus on Joe to show more of who he is.

Over the course of the show, while at work mostly, Joe appears to be above having a conscience. Yet in scenes with his mother and especially the great opening segment, we find he’s not as callous and cold as he lets on. While one act of good isn’t enough to redeem a lifetime of being of questionable moral fiber, it certainly doesn’t help when Joe starts regretting his altruistic choice to save Frank’s girlfriend by getting her safely into Canada and away from McCann. The Joe/Frank chemistry is continually good while they argue a lot, it doesn’t really get old. When Frank has a plan to get IA off Joe’s back – by seemingly serving Joe up on a silver platter – he really puts their entire cover up on the line.

Keeping them on their toes is Simon Boyd, played by David Costabile (who does a pretty good Spock impersonation) and with his role as IA investigator increasing he and Frank bait each other trying to see just what the other knows about Joe in this inter-departmental poker game. When Frank asks “why do you trust me?” Simon’s stone-faced reply is simply “I distrust you the least“. With that little bit of leeway  he’s awarded Frank’s new game plan is to throw up enough interference to cool the case. Frank’s main intent is to pin McCann’s death on parolees not anyone on the force. Not soon after do things again heat up when a witness says he saw two figures put McCann in the car before it went into the river. But Joe and Frank won’t let anyone link them to that night and have no hesitation about stepping on anyone – not even this supposedly good Samaritan.

Low Winter Sun - Costabile

Low Winter Sun has star power in the form of its capable leads, but they’re nothing without decent material. On that note it’s worth stating that the writing is getting sharper. For instance, take the spat Joe and Frank have at the bar following McCann’s funeral. To everyone else it sounds like Frank and Joe having an inebriated disagreement but really, in a ballsy move, they are publicly justifying why it is and also why it isn’t better that McCann wound up in the river.

This series is starting to get into a rhythm, well the Damon subplot isn’t anything to write home about, and opening sequences really help get the show out of first gear. The first few minutes are so dense and effective that the show seems to thrive on these pre-credit stunners. Granted that’s to be expected in nearly all AMC shows (and pretty much everything else on TV) but Low Winter Sun continues to thrive in the AMC stable.

Watching a good show is a lot like exploring a cave; just when you think you’ve navigated it enough to know your confines, you go just a little deeper and find there’s so much more to this cavern than you ever imagined. Not saying that happens three episodes into any new show but still, things continually look good for this gritty crime drama that is getting closer to finding its edge.