By Peter Hummers on May 25, 2023
This is the beginning of an occasional series about shows that may have been cancelled too soon—Low Winter Sun (2013) is debatable, as it’s the remake of a 2006 British miniseries, which story was told in two 90-minute episodes. In the age of streaming, the question of endings has become an increasingly relevant existential one. So perhaps my series heading should include a question mark.
“Folks talk about morality like it’s black and white. Or maybe they think they’re smarter or they’re at a cocktail party, acting all pretentious, and then they say it’s gray. But do you know what it really is? It’s a damn strobe.” (Detective Joe Geddes)
All I can find of the original 2006 British miniseries is a Region 2 DVD (which won’t play on most American players) at Amazon, and a trailer on YouTube, so I can’t say how different the American series is. Mark Strong (John Carter) plays the same role in both versions, that of Police Detective Frank Agnew.
“Are you drunk enough?”
When Detectives Frank Agnew (Strong) and Joe Geddes (Lennie James, The Walking Dead) murder a fellow cop, Brendan McCann (Michael McGrady, Southland, American Crime Story), the Detroit Police Department launches an investigation that filters through more than just the homicide department.
For ten tense episodes Agnew and Geddes navigate a minefield—and complications multiply, not the least of which is an internal affairs investigation that they walk into the next morning at the station house. Agnew shows the investigator, Det. Boyd (Breaking Bad, The Wire) McCann’s desk and introduces him to McCann’s partner, Geddes. Agnew exchanges hot looks with Geddes that would be tantamount to Agnew raising his hand and saying “I killed McCann,” if anyone actually noticed him, while Geddes allows his eyes to glaze over, looking unconcerned.
They don’t know what Boyd is investigating, McCann or his murder—but it couldn’t be his murder; he’s only failed to show up at the station this morning—or is it? Agnew is spiraling as he watches Boyd go through McCann’s desk. Later he asks Geddes, “Did you play me?”
Geddes had enlisted Agnew originally by telling him that McCann had murdered a suspect with whom Agnew was having an affair. Now Agnew remembers that McCann had said he was expecting a visit from Internal Affairs the next day.
Geddes tells him, “You need to get your mind right, Frank. This isn’t a game. This is grown-up s___. We need to have each other’s backs.”
I’m beginning to feel paranoid myself!
Meanwhile the employees of a drug kingpin who are planning on robbing their boss are worried that McCann hasn’t shown up—he had a deal with the kingpin to deliver drugs that he had confiscated in a bust. Which appears to be why McCann is under investigation. It becomes a tangled web, to be sure!
Low Winter Sun debuted after Breaking Bad on August 11, 2013, which had eight episodes left. Very little remains online of the original 2006 British miniseries save this entry on IMDb.com and this trailer on YouTube. It starred Mark Strong in the same role, was set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was 150 minutes long, total. It won two BAFTA awards and three nominations, and earned a 7.5/10 rating from IMDb’s users.
So I can’t directly compare the original version with the 2013 American series, which earned a slightly lower 7/10 rating on IMDb.com but mixed notices from the pros, led by an unhelpful review from Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times, which she leads off with “Film noir doesn’t mean that every scene has to be shot in the dark.” (It’s a neat hook, but doesn’t actually apply.)
It is bleak, but cheerier than, say, Chernobyl, and full of hot suspense. Still, the show’s final episode drew only 600,000 viewers, a fraction of the 2.5 million that tuned into the premiere.
But, again, was the story finished? In these streaming days, people often assume that if a series lasts but one season, that it was prematurely cancelled. If you watch the entire season, you can judge for yourself—and that’s my recommendation. (When David Milch’s Deadwood was, indeed, terminated prematurely, he recorded these thoughts on the meaning of endings.) I found Low Winter Sun quite entertaining, and a little Dostoevskian, with human psychology (which can be pretty wonky) as its fascinating focus.
(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)
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