New drama 'Low Winter Sun' a dark, powerful portrait of a city

NEW YORK — You don’t need a TV drama to tell you these are dark days for Detroit.


But a once-great city’s headline status facing bankruptcy serves as poignant timing for the debut of Low Winter Sun, a gritty cop show whose Motor City setting gives this unforgiving saga even greater urgency.

Low Winter Sun premieres on AMC Sunday at 10 p.m. Of course, piling on Detroit is not the point of the series, nor is this locale even essential to its story (the series is adapted from a British miniseries that was set in Edinburgh, Scotland). But Detroit at this moment proves an all-too-apt backdrop.

For starters, the police and all they survey in their bleak precinct are in desperate straits, even down to the paint flecking off the station house’s walls.

And then: The show’s presumed hero, homicide Detective Frank Agnew, participates in a terrible act – he executes a fellow cop – that promises to keep him in a desperate state for the season to come.

On some level, it’s a justifiable act: Detective Brendan McCann is corrupt, depraved and a menace to his fellow officers and citizens alike.

So McCann’s fed-up partner, Joe Geddes, conspires with Agnew (who nurses a particularly personal urge for payback) to drown him in a kitchen sink, then fake his suicide at the wheel of his car plunged into the Detroit River.

Despite their best efforts, this won’t be the perfect crime they meant to engineer. Suspicions of foul play are immediately raised. An investigation is launched.

Haunted by his deed and his possible exposure, Agnew is powerfully played by Mark Strong, the British actor who originated this role for the British series and whose credits also include such films as Body of Lies, Syriana, Sherlock Holmes and Green Lantern.

Bald and wiry and taciturn, he is first glimpsed with tears rolling down his cheeks.

“I’m not a bad person,” he tells Geddes as the moment nears for them to carry out their plan.

“No,” says Geddes, “but (McCann) is. The man’s a disease.”

There seems little doubt of that. But Geddes (played by Lennie James, whose TV credits include The Walking Dead, Hung and Jericho) just might be as compromised as the cop he helps kill, and might have set up Agnew as his partner in crime.

On their tail is Detective Simon Boyd, a chillingly composed and dogged member of Internal Affairs.

He is played by the excellent David Costabile, whose diverse TV roles have included a murderous detective on Damages, a beleaguered newspaper editor on The Wire, and a prissy crystal-meth chemist on Breaking Bad.