Low Winter Sun Pilot Review

Rating: 6.5

Tonight marked the premiere of AMC’s Low Winter Sun. This crime drama isn’t your typical “whodunit” murder mystery. The audience isn’t stuck watching an attractive male-female duo exchange witty banter and sexual tension while trying to bring a criminal to justice. Instead, the central conflict is the method in which the cops will get away with the perfect murder.

Mark Strong, reprising his role from the two-part miniseries of the same name, stars as Frank Agnew. He’s your typical “plays by his own rules” Detroit cop: gruff voice, furrowed brow, shaved head, and more emotional baggage than most people would ever know what to do with.

He teams up with fellow cop Joe Geddes (Lennie James) to carry out the murder of Brendan McCann, Geddes’ partner. Between the two men, they are able to successfully drown the heavily inebriated McCann (in a lobster tank, so bonus points for using their resources/creativity) and dispose of the man’s corpse and car in the lake.

Geddes and Agnew believe that they’ve committed a clean, effortless murder of a man who no one would miss. In typical dramatic fashion, Internal Affairs shows up at the precinct the very next day looking for McCann. Right when you think that you can just drown a guy and be done with it…

It turns out that McCann is heavily involved in drug dealing, working with crime lord Damon Callis. He’s perfect for the business: he plays the dutiful cop and busts the drug deals, then delivers the products to Callis to be sold for big money. The pilot never specifies whether this was the central motive behind his murder, but it certainly didn’t earn him any extra brownie points with his fellow officers.

I’m definitely curious about Agnew’s love life. Who is this woman we keep seeing in his flashbacks? She’s obviously a motivating factor for him, but what is their back-story? Geddes also vaguely alludes to Frank’s grief over this mysterious woman, at one point saying, “It’s been three years.”

The themes in the series are also interesting and blended very smoothly into the writing. We have emotion vs. logic: Agnew is impulsive and emotionally driven, having to be pulled back by a logical and calculating Geddes. There’s also the concept of morality, explained very well by Geddes as a strobe. Instead of being black and white, or even grey, it flickers back and forth. This definition is very appropriate for the series.

If you’re like me and you completely dork out over camera angles and lighting, this show is definitely for you. Low Winter Sun is your archetypal gritty cop drama. We’re talking heavy use of unsaturated colors, dark lighting, reliance on shadows, and a set mainly consisting of run down buildings. The camera tends to stay close up on the actors, giving the audience a feeling of the characters’ psychological tension and internal conflict.

That being said, I do find it a bit hard to connect as a female viewer with the male dominated cast. After the first half hour, I got a strong feeling that this series was written by men FOR men. When you look up the cast list on IMDb, you’ll see what I mean.

Although crime drama isn’t my preferred genre, this pilot piqued my interest. The atmosphere of the show is very appropriate for the content, the acting is equally intense and subdued, and the writing is fantastic. This premiere showed great promise for a series that I hope stays strong for the next nine episodes.

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