AMC Sunday 2fer: Low Winter Sun 1.03 "No Rounds"

A tv review article by: Paul Brian McCoy

It's another week of Low Winter Sun and another week of Mark Strong and Lennie James operating on all cylinders. Oh yeah, and another week of the criminal side story moving slowly toward what is becoming a Macbeth homage. I'm a little split on that development actually, as I love me some Macbeth, but it's not exactly the most original direction to take that story. However, since I'm trying to ignore both the Miley Cyrus outrage and the possibility of military strikes on Syria, I'll let that go and hope for the best on all fronts.

The original UK series Low Winter Sun wrapped up its story in three episodes, but it looks like on this side of the pond things will have to play out a little slower with twists and turns to help build and then relieve suspense. (Note to self: Try to watch the original series this weekend to compare and contrast)

This weekend's twist arrived in the form of Raymond Lefevre (Richard Goteri), a possible witness to Frank and Joe's crime. After a lot of sweating and tension, we get a fairly disturbing example of how unreliable eyewitnesses can be. I know that it's a narrative trick used to the favor of our "heroes," but I can't help but think that's how these sorts of interrogations go on a regular basis in the real world. Agendas and biases of both the witnesses and the authorities end up informing and altering what is (supposedly) remembered.

Anyway, that was a small part of the episode despite its potential importance. The real gold this week was again in watching Strong and James act the hell out of the mediocre script. The characters don't – maybe can't – trust each other, especially after the violent confrontation of last week's episode and this week we follow them on their separate paths outside of the police station.

The opening sequence of Joe in the church, reliving the night he got Katia (Mickey Sumner) out of the country – and witnessed McCann (Michael McGrady) cutting up the body that ended up in his trunk – is powerful, grotesque, and provides a lot of insight into the internal workings of the character. This scene, alongside the scenes both this week and last with his mother Violet (L. Scott Caldwell), highlights the split between how he presents himself and what is happening internally.

There's a moment where there may be some redemption possible – he did actually save Katia from being murdered, after all – but what his silent meditation before the candles of his church results in instead is the realization that he should have killed her like McCann ordered. Things would be much neater and safer if he had.

Joe's internal processing is countered by Frank's externalized expressions of guilt in the boxing ring. Strong plays the character as an intimidating physical and a vocal moral presence that other characters find themselves drawn toward - even Boyd (David Costabile) finds him the least untrustworthy of the officers in the precinct - and it’s a effective way of clearly expressing the split in his persona without monologuing or awkwardness.

It's easily the best part of a script that swings back and forth in quality, matched only by the scene between Joe and his mother. The less said about the criminal element setting up their whorehouse and the stereotypical "pressure from the mayor's office to find the culprit," the better.

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.

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