‘Low Winter Sun’ Season 1 Finale Review

Published 11 months ago by

Mark Strong Low Winter Sun Ann Arbor Low Winter Sun Season 1 Finale Review

Like many series operating under the pretense of prestige, Low Winter Sun works hard to ensure the viewer is aware just how distinctive the story of a cop and a “good man” committing and then attempting to get away with murder is. And the show works even harder to deliver that narrative in the most blatant and overt manner possible, repeatedly inserting phrases like “good man” or “good cop,” and throwing a healthy serving of scripture and moral pontification on top, just to give it that extra-prestigious feeling.

But over the course of its first season, the series spent more time lingering over the question of how Frank Agnew and Joe Geddes would get away with their crime than the question of whether or not they should. For a series that, on the surface, is seemingly concerned with morality and notions of right and wrong and the threat of unbearable guilt, the overall impression that the show conveyed week in and week out wasn’t one that was generally concerned with the same kind of things its characters were prone to talk about.

We could have a week where Joe Geddes would quote scripture with his mother and pay for his semi-estranged daughter’s Catholic school education with money he received from being a dirty cop, but aside from the irony of a crooked man seemingly obsessed with words conveying general notions of morality, sin and judgment, there wasn’t any real connection between the character and the series’ central narrative.

That was just a portion of the series’ overall drab execution and syrupy acting that squandered talents like Mark Strong, Lennie James and David Costabile by giving them either too little to do or asking (in the case of James) that they earn their cut by chewing the scenery. Ultimately, though, season 1 demonstrated how a program with what could have been a substantial and appealing plot came too late in the anti-hero swing of television, and rather than offering the audience a new or unique perspective, seemed content to ride the coattails of the movement’s forefathers; those by the name of Soprano, Draper, McNulty and, especially in 2013, White.

Trevor Long in Low Winter Sun Ann Arbor Low Winter Sun Season 1 Finale Review

For the most part, the delivery of Low Winter Sun‘s story was so scant that by the time it’d reached it’s penultimate episode, ‘Ann Arbor,’ the question posed by a uniformed police officer (about whether or not there was enough gas in his patrol car to shuttle Frank Agnew back to Detroit) seemed oddly suggestive of the season’s storyline as a whole. In essence, there never seemed to have been enough gas in the tank to take it where it wanted to go, and part of that was due to the fact that the series was driving in circles ever since Frank and Joe drowned Brendan McCann in a the sink of an Italian restaurant.

Early on there appeared to have been a potentially interesting challenge between Frank and Costabile’s Simon Boyd with regard to who could stay one step ahead of the other. The idea being Frank’s account of McCann’s death would be aided by the fact that he was the lead investigator on the case, while Boyd would work tirelessly to uncover the truth about the death of a crooked cop he rightly believed was murdered by one or more of his own. Of course, that idea lasted until the end of episode 2, when the series began to divert more and more of its attention toward James Ransone’s wannabe kingpin Damon Callis and his mostly disinterested (and utterly uninteresting) crew of street toughs.

Subsequently, each episode after that attempted to pile more on the show’s plate, adding to the problem of too little story for too many characters by introducing additional plot points and characters with little or no relation to the main narrative. While this managed to stall for time and give the series the 10 episodes that’d been ordered by the network, the effect was a further dilution of what little depth the characters already had.

Mark Strong in Low Winter Sun Surrender Low Winter Sun Season 1 Finale Review

Most troublesome was the indistinct depiction of Frank. What started out as a conflicted man compelled to commit murder out of grief quickly gave way to a sad, deluded middle-aged cop who fixated on a woman he hardly knew and allowed himself to continually be played by. By the time ‘Ann Arbor’ culminated with Frank in his ex-wife’s house pointing a gun at himself, there was simply nothing left of the character to like, let alone be interested in. He was feckless and dishonest, and completely out of touch with the person he actually was. That’s actually a familiar trope in the anti-hero rulebook, but it’s unclear whether this was just the result of indistinct and vague writing, or if that was the intent of the series from the get-go.

However, when you take into consideration the impetus for Frank killing McCann is later actually committed by Joe Geddes – and leads to absolutely zero ramifications – the answer to the previous question suddenly becomes clear.

And when things segue into the final chapter, ‘Surrender,’ with some guy patting Frank on the back like he’s congratulating Jerry Maguire on his memo/mission statement, something else becomes entirely obvious: If the episodes between the series premiere and the season finale felt largely inconsequential, it’s because by all accounts they were. The frantic throat clearing of ‘Ann Arbor’ was one thing, but when it all boils down to ex-cop Sean Foster (Trevor Long) inexplicably taking the wrap for Frank and Joe’s crime – and exhibiting an incredible amount of concentration and memorization for a man with a severe drug addiction and who just had his rotting tooth pulled with a pair of pliers – the entire season was not much more than one extended and forced cough.

In the end, Low Winter Sun succeeded in demonstrating how having a premise rife with moral conflict and darkness is great, but having a storyline and characters capable of making that premise pay off is even better.

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Screen Rant will keep you posted as to the future of Low Winter Sun as information is made available.

Photos: Mark Preston/AMC

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  1. “…those by the name of Soprano, Draper, Mackey* and, especially in 2013, White.”

    *Fixed.

  2. The whole premise and idea of Low Winter Sun would have worked out better in a 2 hour movie than an extended TV series. It’s just sad to see an excellent talent like Mark Strong get wasted in television on an under selling show. I started watching it and I am trying to enjoy it but I can’t. The tired cliches and overall morals stand out ahead from the writing too much.

    • +1

    • I think remaking LWS was a mistake on Strong’s part, although I can see why he wanted to do it. I never saw the first version, but it won awards and stuff, so I assume it was better. He really is wasted on this version. I hope they don’t do a 2nd season, and I hope he moves on to something better. He’s interesting to watch, but even he couldn’t make Frank Agnew likeable.

  3. Off Topic: the format of the comment section is broken. It’s much wider than it used to be, resulting in adds covering the comments.

    • I use AdBlock, but there’s still a rectangle over the right side of the screen so I have to hit “reply” really quickly before the rectangle appears. Which is how I did this. In case you were wondering.

      Great review, Kevin. Said everything I was thinking very eloquently. I really wish they had made better use of Mark Strong. I just did not, could not, like Frank Agnew. I hope Strong does something decent next, because I’d be happy to have him appear regularly on my TV.

      • I don’t like using AdBlock on sites that I want to stay in business. ;)

        But the Powers The Be must have heard, because it’s back to normal again. Thank you.

  4. The UK tv show which this is based off is very good. Especially since its a mini series 2 episodes long.

  5. It was a bit of a grind getting through the series but the two hour season finale was awesome.
    It was great television.

  6. I feel bad for Strong. This show when it started out had potential but as the episodes went on it just went downhill. The episodes became too predictable, soo much so that we actually made a drinking game out of it. The series has soo many cliches the it makes Agents of Shields look like Breaking Bad. The only reason why I watched this series was because of Mark Strong and Lennie James but I just get over the cliches and predictable plots.

  7. This show is a complete mess. I hope AMC puts it out of it’s misery.

  8. frank agnew to me was just as much a s**t bag as joe geddes. this might not have been the producers intent, but I didn’t find any reason to root for agnew. damon and his crew’s side story just wore it out, man. like, why would I root for them and oppose skelos? they were one and the same.

  9. I love this show.

    Haven’t seen last week’s episode yet (it records on Wednesday night for me on the repeat viewing) but I have this Friday’s 2 hour finale set to record and will honestly miss the show when it ends.

    I’d never heard of any books or shows or whatever that this is based on until reading the comments just a minute ago but even so, it’s an entertaining show and I really feel sorry for those who couldn’t get into it or claim it was bad. It really isn’t.

    I love how the two main characters are played by two talented British actors. I honestly wondered where I’d seen Lennie Bruce before until Comedy Central aired Snatch and I recognised him as Sol.

    Hope this gets picked up for season 2 because this has been the only reason to tune into FOX (until AHS returns at least because I haven’t seen The Walking Dead, Burn Notice or Falling Skies despite all of those shows airing on that channel and the rest is just crap made in Britain like Meet The Russians or endless Family Guy and American Dad repeats).

  10. I am not so down on the series as Kevin Yeoman is, but I am very disappointed in the last three episodes, and have heard that the ratings have fallen a great deal as well. The last two episodes, especially, were very disappointing, and ultimately seem to serve as a way to set things up so that the main characters can continue with the status quo, w hich is to say allowing the series to continue. But this undermines the Frank Agnew character and thus, undermines the series in my opinion. One important contradiction is Agnew’s concern for Katya, then his sudden about face in the end, which allows Agnew and Geddes to maintain the status quo; but it simply doesn’t jibe with what’s already gone down.

  11. Look.

    This show was #1 on my TVWATCHING RADAR for one reason..I grew up in the REAL lead character of LWS…Detroit!

    It’s heaven on earth to have lived through the 60′s & 70′s there & realizing how rotten the city, police & legal system were..booked for California. But oh the rotting corpse called The Motor City on AMC in 2013!

    Good or bad TV doesn’t matter…just serve the Faygo & Coneys & watch the mayhem in Michigan!

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