An afterthought in all the hype about the return of Breaking Bad on Sunday is the new cop drama that AMC is debuting after Breaking Bad. Low Winter Sun has one of the best time slots on cable this year, and it’s good to see that AMC is not completely wasting it on a show like Small Town Security, the miserable reality show that followed Breaking Bad last year, which was a bit like having steak, throwing it up, and re-eating it for desert.
Low Winter Sun, which is based on a British miniseries, stars Mark Strong (reprising his role from the British series) and Lennie James, playing two detectives their co-worker. David Costabile (Breaking Bad, Suits) plays the Internal Affairs investigator who conducts the investigation into the shooting. The series comes from Chris Mundy, who — like The Killing’s Veena Sud — comes from Cold Case (as well as Criminal Minds).
It doesn’t appear that a ton of critics were given screeners for Low Winter Sun, and the ones who did were only given the first two episodes. Based on those reviews, however, it looks like Low Winter Sun is definitely a show that doesn’t win over its audience right out of the gate.
Alan Sepinwall at Hitfix suggests that Low Winter Sun, at least in the early-going, feels like the rash of crime-serial dramas of late: Terrific actors, and the right formula, but ultimately, empty feeling:
There’s lots of snarling, lots of talk about what men are willing to do to protect or hurt one another, and yet in the early going it feels empty, like a joke being retold by someone who can’t remember exactly how the guy he heard it from delivered it … Through these two episodes, “Low Winter Sun” left me with the nagging feeling that despite the cast and the aesthetics, there’s ultimately no there there.
Matthew Gilbert at the Boston Globe agrees. It wants to be the next Breaking Bad, Mad Men, or Rectify, but it comes up woefully short.
AMC’s “Low Winter Sun” really, really, really wants to be one of those shows. It dabbles in the quiet spaces, plot leaps, and complicated antiheroes that are all signals of TV greatness. It features actors from prestigious series, including David Costabile, who was Gale Boetticher on “Breaking Bad,” and James Ransone from “The Wire.” And it airs on AMC, the respected channel that has lifted basic cable to the top of the Emmys. But the 10-episode show, which is based on a two-part 2006 British miniseries, just doesn’t reach its ambitions. It comes off as a straining, overly serious wannabe.
The best Newsday offers is that “it’s worth a shot.”
This isn’t for all tastes, and the trope of “tortured cop protagonist” has been worked over so often that viewers may not be able to decide what’s so different (or engaging) this time around. But at least they can witness two actors of uncommon skill and power, with excellent support … Terrifically hard to love, but some superb performances indicate that at least it’s worth the effort to try.
Variety is likewise high on the performances, but less so on the show itself:
It’s hard to think of a more compelling combination than the British duo of Mark Strong and Lennie James, and their pairing alone is enough to recommend checking out Low Winter Sun. … Their appeal is tested, however, by a too-familiar tale of police corruption, a relentlessly grim tone and an abundance of terse, jargon-riddled dialogue. Riding piggyback on Breaking Bad’s last stand, the series merits a look, certainly, but the first two episodes mostly live down to the title — throwing off limited heat, and even less light.
The Hollywood Reporter echoes the complaints of the above reviews, but unlike Matthew Gilbert at the Globe, who says it’s not even worth waiting around for the potential, THR preaches patience in their review:
Low Winter Sun could end up having a lot to say, even if it’s not saying much in the early episodes (though we are certainly led to believe that deception and corruption will be broad themes above and beyond the initial murder and cover-up). And we get to see some hints of Greek and African-American mob life (and thus, one would assume, racial issues) boiling underneath … Low Winter Sun makes you want to watch for the potential, but a little more sun (or dark humor) to offset the This Is Serious tone would go a long way in encouraging that potential to be realized.
The typically more lenient USA Today had the harshest review yet:
If knowing we only have eight episodes of Breaking Bad left is painful, the pain is magnified by the over-stylized tedium AMC hopes to insert in its place, the cop drama Low Winter Sun. Based on a British series, Sun is yet another entrant in what appears to be some cable death match to see which service can offer the dreariest hour. It’s too early to declare a winner, but this drama certainly keeps AMC in the race.