Low Winter Sun
Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe
Low Winter Sun is a show about a good cop who is manipulated by a dirty cop to kill another dirty cop.
When Detroit declared bankruptcy a few weeks ago, it was an important occasion because it was the largest city bankruptcy in the history of the United States. It would be interesting to see how the bailout affects the public services, such as law enforcement, provided by the government. This won't be that show, at least in the first season, as it was primarily created before the bankruptcy, when the emergency city manager was trying to save the city. Low Winter Sun is a new cop drama that has a surprisingly complex hook. The idea is that there is a good cop who finds out that a dirty cop killed his girlfriend. The good cop seeks revenge by killing the dirty cop only to later find out that his victim was under investigation by internal affairs. The person who told him what happened to his girlfriend was another dirty cop, the partner to the dirty cop. It's a pretty complicated narrative that could be compelling under the right circumstances. I could see why people would be interested in Low Winter Sun once they understood what it was about. The pilot does a good job setting up the show but there was one thing that was painfully clear by the end: this isn't a show for me. There is nothing wrong with this but Low Winter Sun simply wasn't interesting enough for me individually. It's well-executed, it has good enough writing that it could develop into a great show, but it's also one that doesn't really fit into my taste buds. This is always interesting when I come across a good show but I'm not attracted to it. It's not really anybody's fault. I guess you could argue that if Low Winter Sun was really great then it shouldn't matter but I disagree with that assertion. Mad Men is considered one of the best shows on television but it bores the heck out of me. Friday Night Lights is an amazing show with great writing but I would never chose to watch it of my own free will. Sometimes quality doesn't matter because everyone is different and a writer can't appeal to everyone. So when I say that Low Winter Sun is a good show that I'm not interested in watching should in no ways mean to be taken that you shouldn't check it out. Don't get me wrong: it has its flaws but I have a feeling that this might be the next AMC classic. I just won't be going along for the ride.
The pilot begins with a beginning that is memorable as two characters argue over whether one is ready to kill the dirty cop. It basically helps set up the narrative while introducing us to the two main cops we're going to be following. The good cop who crosses the line when he seeks revenge for the loss of a loved life. The dirty cop who uses the good cop's grief in order to protect his own skin from internal affairs. The dirty cop's view point that there really is no good or evil or even gray but a pendulum. I'm guessing that's supposed to be deep but it doesn't make that much sense. I digress. It's a decision that threatens to hurt the series because it basically means that it's going to be more difficult to root for the protagonist. Of course, there are multiple shows that have dark protagonists that you might not necessarily approve of but you should still be willing to root for them. The pilot then complicates matters by adding an internal affairs investigation that threatens to bring down most of the characters. It's one thing to make the dead cop look like a suicide but when there's an internal affairs crawling all over the body? The implication that the good cop was manipulated into killing the dead cop is a strong one that helps to create a lot of potential conflict. For the most part, the actual narrative has the potential to be a very good one but I'm not entirely sure how it's going to sustain a long-running series. It seems to me like at some point it's just going to stop being an effective narrative engine and what will happen to the show then? It also runs into problems that the pilot is very slowly paced for a significant portion that might make it difficult to really get intrigued. The plot is competent enough in the pilot to get the job done but it's questionable on how long it can sustain itself without getting tiresome and it needs to pick up the pace at points.
Low Winter Sun is ultimately a show that's going to live and die by it's characters and here is where it runs into major problems. The good cop is Frank Agnew. He begins the episode by killing a fellow detective and then basically spends the rest of the episode freaking out about the internal affairs investigation. He's not a character that we really get to know. We have no idea who he really was before he killed that cop so he seems very undeveloped. The series will have time to give him an actual personality down the line but it's disappointing that a pilot that clearly has a vision didn't bother to establish one for him at first. Mark Strong does a good job in the role but it's just not enough to actually add humanity to the role. The living dirty cop, the one who manipulated him, is played by the excellent Lennie James. If anything, his presence really interested me because I've been a fan of his since he was on Jericho. It's great to see him on my television screen even if it's going to be for a show I'm not going to tune in. Joe Geddes is a cop who doesn't really have any morality. He's a more interesting character than the protagonist but he's still woefully undeveloped. Who is he? We don't really know beyond the hints that he's a dirty cop. There's not really a question that he is but it's not like we actually see him do anything that implicates him. The two main cops of the show are the most important figures but they need a lot more development considering how they have to carry the show. That's the problem when the pilot is all plot and surprisingly spends very little time at actually setting up who these characters are. I mean the only reason we know that Frank is a good cop isn't because we saw him refuse to take a bribe but because he calls himself one. We open with him killing someone. Low Winter Sun might have it's plot down but it needs to work on it's characters immediately.
The show does have multiple side characters but we really don't get to know them that well. Castle's Ruben-Santiago Hudson pops up as a police captain again whose not going to let this investigation bring him down. I'm a bit disappointed he seems to have been typecast considering how he turned out to be a corrupt cop in Castle. I sincerely doubt this captain character is clean. The show introduces the internal affairs detectives but that's as far as we're going to get with developing them as characters. The final detective is Dani but she seems to be in place because the show needed a female cop rather than because she actually has anything to add to the series. The series doesn't just follow the cops because it concentrates on a group of criminals that were in business with the dead cop. They don't really stand out and it's hard to recollect their names. There is the main guy who seems to want to take on the current mob boss but we don't know why and it's unclear as to his connection to the boss. His girlfriend or wife runs a bar who supports him. There's also a veteran who joined them because his only skill is to kill people. Which I guess is to establish him as a killer without actually showing him do it. Which is a problem with this show: it would rather tell you character attributes rather than to actually establish them. Low Winter Sun is currently a good show because the plot is good enough to currently sustain it but it's going to need stronger characters if it's going to last long or if it seeks to become the next great show.
Low Winter Sun is a show that many people should like. It might not be perfect now but I wouldn't be surprised if I hear a lot of good things about this show down the road. If the writers can keep the plot going in an intelligent manner then it should captivate the interest of the critics. He'll have to eventually reach original material but first the writing team has to solve the issue that the characters are all seriously undeveloped. Whatever the case, this might not be a show for me but I'm not going to dissuade people from checking it out.