"Low Winter Sun," which begins Sunday on
Adapted by Chris Mundy ("Criminal Minds," "Cold Case"), it's a story of cops and criminals now set in the city-on-the-way-up-on-the-way-down that is Detroit. Strong plays Det. Frank Agnew, whose clean-shaven head, shot close-up and at length, occupies the very first shot of the series. Tears are streaming down his face. He is about to help another police detective — Joe Geddes, played by
Detective three is Geddes' corrupt partner, whom Geddes has blamed for the death of Agnew's' girlfriend, a Russian prostitute — that's why Agnew wants him dead. (There is no body.) And so begins an imperfect crime.
One condition of basic cable in the age of
"Low Winter Sun" has clearly got that memo. Directed by Ernest Dickerson — who shot several Spike Lee movies and has directed multiple episodes of
"Folks talk like morality is black and white," Geddes tells Agnew in the opening scene, to let you know right away that some deep thinking has been done about this, that we are about to sample the premium whiskey and not just the well brand. "But you know what it really is? It's a damn strobe, flashing back and forth, back and forth all the time."
The very title betokens something serious, in a northern way, consistent with the dark and dreary period of crime drama, often imported and remade, we're living through. But when you run so consistently, seriously serious, you run the risk of your invented world seeming less rather than more real — so that when Geddes' mother offers to make him a patty melt, that simple line sounds jarring and false. Not every crime drama has to be "Hamlet," let alone "Breaking Bad," both of which know how to make a joke.
At the same time there is nothing in the first two episodes — all I've seen — that strikes me as unlikely as much does in, say, "The Bridge," another recent basic-cable crime drama with Big Themes, begging to be taken seriously. That all is not what it seems is made explicit pretty quickly, which, given that there are eight episodes left to go, would indicate that this condition will be ongoing.
But there is a fairly big cast of characters to fill that time, as the connections (there are always connections) are eventually revealed, notably a gang of young Greeks looking to make their way, in a small way, in the world of crime. (The relationship of its married leaders, played by Damon Callis and
Its sometimes distracting and oppressive aspirations aside, "Low Winter Sun" does nevertheless strike me as promising, solid at its core, powered by plausible cross-purposes. Strong and James are excellent. It's nice to see
'Low Winter Sun'
When: 10 p.m. Sunday
Rating: TV-14-LV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for coarse language and violence)