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AMC’s Low Winter Sun is a story of cops and crooks in the vein of HBO’s The Wire. Based on the 2006 British mini-series of the same name, it’s set against a broken, nearly empty Detroit, where cops Frank Agnew (played by Mark Strong, who also portrayed Agnew in the British version) and Joe Geddes (played by Lennie James) try to get away with murder. In last night’s “Pilot” episode, we learned that this show has true grit and guts.

The Players:

  • Director: Ernest R. Dickerson
  • Writer: Chris Mundy
  • Cast: Mark Strong, Lennie James, James Ransone, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Sprague Grayden

Episode Title: “Pilot”

When Detectives Frank Agnew (Strong) and Joe Geddes (James) murder a fellow cop, the Detroit Police Department launches an investigation that filters through more than just the homicide department. Rising crime lord Damon Callis (James Ransone) learns how far he will go to make a name for himself in the streets.

The Good:

  • The Grit: Low Winter Sun begins with a shot of tears streaming down Agnew’s face, followed by a morally conflicted grey area where two cops try to convince each other killing a bad cop doesn’t make them bad men. These are characters with real people problems, living in a lifelike setting, not to mention they’re being played by great actors. So yeah, Low Winter Sun is full of grit, there’s no doubt about that. 
  • Casting/Acting: One of the most important things that this show has going for it is its cast, which is led by  Strong (Zero Dark Thirty, Kick-Ass) and James (Jericho, The Walking Dead). Both are spectacular to watch, and their delicate performances add more depth to their flawed and corrupt characters. 

The So-So:

  • The Setting: There’s a giant spotlight on Detroit right now, and it’s hard to say whether this will be good or bad for the show. On the plus side, the city might actually need this publicity to help boost its economy (the show’s filmed on-location), but how will the current state of Detroit play out? The series already depicts it as a broken down place, but will the writers begin incorporating real-life events to add more authenticity, or will they just ignore the real reality?
  • Trying Too Hard: Though Low Winter Sun is submerged in realism (as noted above), there’s a part of it that might be trying too hard. We can’t put our finger on it yet, but it’s somewhere between the cheesy flashbacks and awkward dialogue.

Overall:

Low Winter Sun is definitely worth checking out. If you’re looking to replace Breaking Bad (once it’s over of course) with this AMC newbie, you might end up disappointed. There’s gritty characters and a great cast, but also an odd feeling that comes across as forced.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Low Winter Sun airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.

What did you think of last night’s premiere?