10 is a nice round number – it seems substantive, concise and to the point, right? How fitting it is that AMC’s Low Winter Sun also has 10 episodes? The answer is not at all. As season 1 comes to a close it was clear, even before its collective midway mark, there was nothing substantive or concise about this mini-series. You can’t say things have been easy for the gritty series. Full of drama that can hardly be described as melodramatic it took a stab at being a hard-edge police show (original we know) but one about conflicted individuals dealing with the consequences of their actions as they furiously and consistently tried to cover up their dirty little deeds. On paper that sounded pretty good, especially when you consider this is an AMC show and one that attracted the talents the likes of Mark Strong, Lennie James and David Costabile.
But from the get-go things felt a little under-cooked and hollow. It certainly didn’t help following on the heels of what was possibly AMC’s best show (which was similarly inching towards its finale). From around the middle of Episode 2, the sun seemed to be setting quickly on the cops of the Motor City but viewers (us included) hoped things might just stick. Yet week after week it unfolded, minimally, to reveal a drab show that didn’t have writing to match the talent it had attracted. Really nothing, not even the great Mark Strong was able to help the show hit the mark as anyone and everyone just sleepwalked through scenes like carbon copies of better shows and characters. After 10 episodes that rarely moved the mercury there are maybe enough high points and impressive scenes to cram into the runtime of a music video.
AMC is not without their missteps though and they have to have known this wasn’t a hit. In fact it will barely be considered a win and it was just an unnecessary remake of another previous show/property (this was a remake of a 2-part British miniseries starring Mark Strong and The Killing is a remake of a Danish show). So if you missed the finale, a two-parter that AMC might have put back-to-back in order to allow some breathing room before The Walking Dead kicks back up (really it feels like a mercy killing of sorts that sped along the lack-lustre finish), this swift recap is a only a breakdown of what happened because we don’t have the time or energy to do a postmortem to figure out ways to Low Winter Sun could have gotten things right.
Following the Tarantino school of storytelling we find Frank in the back of a squad car as Episode 9 plays out as a flashback (sound like another AMC show we just watched?). Switching focus to Joe he seems to have no problem dealing with having thrown Katia out a window. In fact he probably couldn’t have done it if he hadn’t cut his teeth helping McCann carry out hits for Skelos. But as she was the only link between Frank/Joe and McCanns’s death he had no choice. His crooked ways and current complacency for killing are the reasons IA has been investigating him (even without damning evidence) since Episode 1.
The only friend Frank has is in the department is Captain Dawson, oddly enough. He knows that Frank killed McCann even if he doesn’t want to believe it, but he’ll do whatever it takes to keep the department running. The last thing he wants to be known as a whistle blower and voices the lunacy of the situation Frank and Joe put everyone with this great line, “Homicide detectives to investigate their own killing? We don’t come back from that!“. The grim realization of the severity of his actions leave Frank struggling to cope with reality. He’s really messed up. Frank knows he’s going down and before the boom hits he calls everyone associated with the families of Joe’s killings to let them know the deaths weren’t suicides…he even tells Billy’s mother about Damon (which sets up the finale). In a mad dash to skip town he makes one final visit to his ex-wife in Ann Arbor but her contempt (telling him some really pent up and hateful stuff) can’t compare with the haymaker he gets when he gets back to the station.
Everyone is quite happy as the Department has a confession in the McCann death. Frank’s idea to bring Sean in has backfired as he uses all the info/details from the case files to make his fake confession legit. Dawson prefers putting an ex-cop junkie in prison instead of Frank only for the good of the department. With the clock winding down on the episode and the series, Costabile has his day in court to try and pin the McCann murder on Frank and Joe. Yet as airtight as it sounds it can’t compete with the living breathing confession in the interrogation room and so Joe and Frank walk away clean. Yes that’s right, kids, bad guys can win. Good moral lesson there, AMC.
Elsewhere Skelos meets his end at the dangerous side of Damon’s and Nick’s gun which puts Damon at the top of the Detroit crime pyramid. But Damon, proving no one stays at the top forever (though it would be nice to get to spend more than one day on the throne) is shot in one of the show’s final shocks. Still that’s not as stunning as David Costabile losing, nearly going full Luther, following his court loss. If nothing else this show goes a long way to prove Hugh Laurie was right when he, as House, M.D., countless times, famously touted that “everybody lies“. Further life is just about trying to come out covered in the least amount of dirt possible.
If one broad criticism might be made at this point it is to say that Low Winter Sun, expanded and extrapolated from the miniseries of the same name (starring Mark Strong in the same role), was stretched way too thin with nothing to seam things together. Beyond that one of many missteps was that it took itself too seriously and was so deadest on being gritty (and near morbid) it became a boring, one-note sloth. Again, were this show on some other network it might have been received better but any show would find it tough to get out of the shadow of Breaking Bad or AMCs other great programs. That’s why The Killing was cancelled, twice.
It’s tough to care about a show when there are next to no characters worth caring about, and truthfully it was kind of depressing to watch. Can’t say it’s been a total waste of time but it was, at best, a distraction until The Walking Dead returns next week. On that note, let’s hope season 4 of The Rick Grimes show picks up the slack otherwise its number may too be up further proving this guy had it right all along.
We’re huge fans of Mark Strong and he, aside from this being an AMC show, was the only reason we decided to watch Low Winter Sun (and stick it out to the bitter end). It was disappointing in many ways but we’ll put it to you…what did you think of the show?