Low Winter Sun: Complete Series
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Low Winter Sun: Complete Series

Not only does the law enforcement agencies maintain the general peace, the order in the streets and are home safe, but they are also a principal source of material television. It’s been that way since the 1940s and TV initially became established as the main source of family entertainment. I sincerely doubt that in the last 60 years of television programming, there has not been a single season devoid of some sort of police procedural. I’ll go even further that I would be extremely surprised if a new did not debut at least once a season. Just as the public opinion regarding the police has changed over the years, so has the way they appear in television dramas. Once they were the epitome of safety and security; the perennial good guys. I sent around the early 70s movies began exploring the antihero, which quickly spreads of the police force with such popular films as ‘Serpico’ a more realistic view of police officers began to emerge. While most police are dedicated and honest, there are a few who use the position of authority for their own selfish ends. Since then, members of this minority have found their way across the line as the antagonist of the story. With cable television centering shows on people would normally be considered criminals the lines have been blurred opening the way for lots of serious drama for mature audience. The AMC network made a foray into this genre with the series ‘Low Winter Sun’. Although it was canceled after the first season, it did display a considerable amount of promise. Unfortunately, even in the cable portion of the listings rating still trump the potential for quality.

One thing is for certain, the very first scene of the series was well-crafted to grab your attention. The series, transplanted from Britain, is that stateside in the city of Detroit. As the first episode opens we watch as the Detroit police officer Brendan McCann (Michael McGrady), is murdered by two detectives, Frank Agnew (Mark Strong) and Joe Geddes (Lennie James). A thin thread of justification is offered to the audience to help them except the main characters are not entirely evil. The murder detective was one of the most corrupt on the force. He blatantly took bribes and did favors for the known criminal organizations. He is a man that can no longer function as a suitable detective. The one thing that this does rather succinctly is to set the overall foundation for the series. This is a story that is deeply entrenched in dealing with ambiguity. In some ways it is very reminiscent of the classic film movies were no one was what they seemed on the surface and many regarded as little more than a suggestion. Knowing enough to cover their tracks Geddes and Agnew stage the murder as a suicide depending on the general knowledge that the victim was an alcoholic who was spiraled out of control, there was a reasonable chance that they would get away with it.

The moral ambiguity is infused into the very fabric of the series using methods that display a modicum of ingenuity. Detective Geddes was McCain’s partner and knew firsthand the depths of his corruption and his potential to do harm. His conscience is tested arguably more than most since before joining the police force. He had been training in a Catholic seminary to become a priest. This in itself is a subtle way of bolstering the central theme of fall from grace and the fluidity of a person moral status. Misdirection and bad information is woven deeply into the fabric of this story. Agnew did not initially think he was going to murder Geddes partner, he came to the scene of the imminent crime, prepares to murder his Russian prostitute girlfriend. Then this seedy, ethically gray world getting rid of your prostitute girlfriend is one thing. Another cop, even one who would corrupt to the core, is an entirely different matter. The one thing, the management of the force will be more inclined to investigate a detective’s murder over that of a looker. As the story progresses, Frank Agnew emerges as the point of view character. He is as close to a straightforward character as can be found in this series. The range is described by AMC is "Good Man, Cop Killer".

Initial episode does drag to some extent. This is understandable since there was a lot of ground work that must be laid and in the character centric story such as this, it is crucial to begin introducing the audience to some of the nuances of the principles as quickly as possible. With that done rather efficiently the subsequent episodes pick up their pace delving into the situations that would inexorably exert their effect on the characters. Detective Dani Khalil (Athena Karkanis) is good at her job due to perchance with detailed observation. It quickly comes to her attention that Agnew is behaving differently than usual appearing to be very nervous and distracted. To the credit of the network young woman playing this role is a Middle Eastern dissent, a refreshing change in casting from the stereotype of terrorist. In a very real sense this office one touchstone, it is not ambiguous. The murder involves an active detective. It is only natural that internal affairs would be notified an open investigation. Assigned to the case is Simon Boyd (David Costabile). The way he portrays this character is in line with how an AI investigator is usually depicted; self-centered with the distinct air of superiority. He realizes his position makes him an outsider to the rest of the force and he embraces it, holding his power over others. The senior officer of the precinct is Lt. Charles Dawson (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), who finds himself in the lamentable presiding over this mess.

The focus of the series is diluted to a noticeable degree, once the criminal characters are introduced. Naturally, this is a necessary evil since it is impossible to explore police corruption without including the criminal element. Damon Callis (James Ransone) is the dominant crime boss in Detroit. His wife, Maya (Sprague Grayden), is not your typical pampered mob wife. She is as hard edged as any man you might encounter in this world. Instead of sitting at home, she works as a bartender in a local gin mill. Beside plot, including a veteran turned barfly, Nick Paflas (Billy Lush), emerges as critical to some plot that Callis and Maya have in mind. Mick is the closest thing in this series that can serve as an object of sympathy; return from serving in the military, only to become a working class thug.

This series is a moody and atmospheric one that serves as a generally entertaining addition to the corrupt cop genre. It does do well in the way it depends on the psychological damage that living such a double life inescapably leads to. As the main character, Frank Agnew, is an excellent choice. In most series of this type, the former seminary student might have seemed a more natural selection, permitting an internal conflict between these heinous actions and he once held strong belief. Instead, this character comes to typify a man who has fallen from grace and in that fashion becomes a warning to Frank as to what could happen to him. Frank is definitely balanced on the fence and why he can justify, at least to some extent, his actions, they still leave him riddled with angst and overcome with doubt. The psychological component is nicely included in an emotional drama. The series like this, it is very difficult to hit the ground running and capture an audience immediately. This definitely falls on the canceled before it’s time list and deserved a sophomore year to try to work things out. Unfortunately AMC, devoted a sizable amount of their resources their current flagship series, ‘Walking Dead’ and now find themselves scrambling to fill the void left by the conclusion of a show that transcended mere popularity into a cultural phenomenon, ‘Breaking Bad’’. This series most likely was intended to be their new crime offering but it was never afforded the opportunity to properly establish it’s narrative.

Posted 08/10/2014

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