G-S-T TV: Low Winter Sun (S1, Ep 5: Cake On the Way)

LowWinterSun HeaderIn the previous episodes of AMC’s Low Winter Sun, things have been quasi-interesting. Frank (Mark Strong) and Joe (Lennie James) have been trying to cover up the fact that they killed a corrupt cop who allegedly killed Frank’s hooker girlfriend Katia. On the other, darker side of the Motor City, Damon shot Billy, a low-level dealer, took his plentiful supply of narcotics and gave his up-and-coming crew an anonymous spring board into the local drug game. But the drugs in question are somewhat linked to the late corrupt cop Brendan McCann and Frank and Joe are using that key detail to its fullest potential. They think they can take this back to the start and make it seem like McCann was drowned in a sink at the very same crack house therefore pinning it on whoever stole the drugs. Confused? Don’t worry, it’s not too important.

But that low level drug dealer is connected all the way to the Skelos, the Greek mafia baron heading the crime/drug ring. Damon has taken to selling Skelos’ supply at his club The Blind Pig which in a way keeps it off the street and doesn’t attract Skelos’ attention. Internal Affairs officer (played by David Costabile) is still lurking about and now the Mayor’s office is breathing down Joe’s neck to know whether or not this town has a cop killer on its hands.

Frank’s upcoming meeting with him, and his pushy assistant, is enough of a reason to push IA for everything they have on Joe’s case which, when spun, will show that Anton (the link between Billy and Skelos) was an informant. But, almost to spite Frank, IA won’t budge. So with no help Frank and Joe create a paper trail that puts McCann’s death at the crack house. During an exhaustive all night session Frank and Joe concoct the scenario and present it to the Mayor. If they’re right it will solve all three homicides, totally alleviate them and keep the Mayor happy.

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Meanwhile Damon is on edge since Skelos’ last visit to The Blind Pig. He sets to bump up security at the club which is currently prepping for the upcoming televised fight. But it’s not Skelos that Damon should be worried about, rather someone he doesn’t suspect. It almost plays out like a Western – lost souls in a decrepit city clinging on to what they can just to survive. Now the thing about this show is that it all seems so petty and small scale. We deal with so few characters in this big city yet it never fells like more than stage acting. On the whole Episode 5 has its merits but is, in the words of Dom DeLuise, “Nice, nice. Not thrilling but nice“. This AMC show doesn’t need nice; it needs edge. Jury may be out til the season ends but for now anyone watching the show probably isn’t opposed to the mercy rule.

Low Winter Sun needs to prove it is not just another crime drama also-ran. After four lukewarm episodes starting the 5th episode with everyone’s least favorite low rent wannnabe criminal (James Ransone) is not a good sign as his none-too-bright bunch of local yokels are about as uninteresting as you could get. But they are younger and more numerous than Skelos and may just possibly out-muscle this Greek old timer. We’ve already seen Damon’s teeth, perhaps he’s got some fireworks under his dirty leather jacket too.

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Near the end of the episode there’s a boxing match that can be seen as a metaphor for the uphill battle Frank and Joe have on their hands (and the show?). You could say that bout of pugilism bodes well for their chances of getting away with putting McCann away…but these aren’t the kind of bad guys we like rooting for. While things look better for Joe and Frank things don’t go so well for Damon who is unexpectedly double-crossed by his “business partners”. It’s a surprise and Ep 5 ends with a rather cold-blooded and shockingly simple sequence. The events the show is now setting up (that plus the positive looking preview at the end) could lead to some big surprises ahead. With cautious optimism we head into episode six and let’s hope that that dull whir we’ve heard and felt these past 5 weeks were the wheels trying to get a grip on the rails.