‘Low Winter Sun’ Review: Detroit Comes Alive in Best Episode Yet

By  · Published on August 26th, 2013

When Frank yells “No rounds!” at his boxing ref, he just wants to keep moving, even if all he can do is stumble and take punches. Last night’s episode of Low Winter Sun, named after Frank’s demand, takes its cue from its title – and moves much more than the last two atmospheric-heavy installments.

So, okay, Frank’s plan to wait out the clock until Brendan’s case goes cold – yet another black eye for the DPD, as well as another feather in Lt. Dawson’s cap of shame – isn’t the most dynamic plot development to happen to a TV character. But with the unwitting help of an eyewitness, who comes forward about seing a black man and a white man – or was he Mexican? Or Arabic? – Frank gains one more crucial step ahead of IA detective Boyd.

We also had some more character moments with Joe: his mercy toward Katia, his tender scenes with his mom (which are both darling and creepy), his angry statement “I should’ve killed her” while praying in church. Other than verbally sparring with Frank, it’s not really clear what Joe can do while Boyd investigates him and Frank fails at finding Brendan’s killer. Wasn’t Joe supposed to help Dani with her eaten-by-dogs victim?

On the (unbadged) criminal side of things, though, something finally happened. Despite warnings from Skelos to lay low, Damon and Maya open their “blind pig” – a pretty good-looking joint as far as illegal brothels in crumbling houses powered by stolen generators go. “His father was obedient like a dog but Damon is rebellious,” Skelos tuts to Maya. Apparently those are her trigger words, because soon after, she transforms into Lady Macbeth and encourages Damon to take over Skelos’ throne.

Another detail emerges about Maya’s past: she used to be with a guy named Sean, and Joe, at least, considers her to have downgraded to be with Damon. That’s an interesting suggestion, but the show’s parsimonious attitude with developing two of their three female characters, Maya and Katia, continues to grate, rather than lure, especially when we have to watch so many repetitive scenes of, say, Frank crying about Katia because they had sex once under some white sheets in a canopy bed.

Thankfully, that was to a minimum this week. “No Rounds” was also Low Winter Sun’s best episode thus far because of the small moments that make the series finally feel lived in. The fact that writer Dave Erickson finally gave Frank and Joe a sense of humor goes a long way. After a phone call with the deputy mayor, Dawson asks, “Have you seen my ass? I just got it chewed clean off.” Frank gamely replies, “You had ass to spare, Lieutenant.” Later, when the eyewitness complaints that his coffee’s cold, Joe explains: “Cutbacks.”

The characters also seem to now have settled in Detroit, instead of just happening to be there. While gently urging her son to quit the force, Joe’s mother counsels, “This city don’t give nothing back. It just takes.” At Brendan’s funeral, another cop says, “I don’t have to live in this city to protect it,” a statement that sparks debate among the police officers. Even these fleeting acknowledgements of Detroit’s difficult circumstances helped the show grow its roots deeper into the Motor City, where the show is filmed. The ongoing American vs. Lafayette hot dog wars, another local phenomenon, was the perfect mood-lightener. (No one seemed particularly interested in talking about Brendan at his wake, which makes sense since he was pretty much the cartoon villain of cops.)

But Frank and Dani’s conversation at the diner, when they’re comparing their homicide cases, was the highlight of the episode, as well as a nice contrast to their previously tense relationship. When Dani congratulates Frank on the eyewitness’s police sketches, Frank shrugs, “That’s PR. That’s not police work” – a line that feels like something a real cop would say. Frank then gruffly reassures Dani that she’ll solve her case by saying, “Insomnia is your friend,” for which she gives him a tired smile. They may not be friends, but they understand each other perfectly. That’s small character moment is as promising for the future of the series as anything we’ve seen so far.