Spoilers for Season One and first three episodes
The ending of Tin Star’s first season was as brazen and bold as they come. It was written into a corner, on a snowy mountain where main characters were left for dead and the plotlines were sorted. We got the big series-long revelations of a usual show, over the course of a single season. A ballsy British-Canadian character drama with serpentine twists and precise plot weaving; the show continues in the same compact tradition with a weighty second season.
Some shows end with a cliffhanger, Tin Star’s first season ended with Jim Worth (Tim Roth) clinging to life on a snow-capped cliff, having just lost one son and killed another, shot by his own daughter’s hand. That is how you close a show. How you open one after that is you walk it back a bit. Make that finality a bit less final. If the first season was about retracing how our protagonist would lose his son, the second season seems to detail how he’ll lose his daughter. We get an uncomfortable close-up of her hanging herself early on. Borrowing liberally from this popular technique in the Golden Age of Television, it’s going to show us an extreme of just how bad it can get, knowing we’re locked in to see how it got there.
The absence of a few major characters that met their demise has allowed the show to breathe more deeply, to center on its most significant characters, whom the plot always moved around in season one. Notably, we’re getting a lot more time with Elizabeth Bradshaw (Christina Hendricks), a pivotal character underutilized in previous episodes. Within the first three, Anna Worth (Abigail Lawrie) emerges as the show’s true star. She’s a scene stealer with the highest stakes. We know that Jim’s a questionable cop prone to relapse. All his angles have been explored. All except the wild storyline of how his daughter had a romance with her unknown brother, and her father killed him for ruining his ideal like Albertan family. The past follows our characters. Just like they couldn’t leave England for Canada and let the past be a wash, they’re only going to escalate this stellar crime drama on the second go-around.
The first three episodes indicate some forward-moving growth. The first and third are movers, while the second is exposition-heavy. The set up is that Anna’s been taken in by a religious cult, that stands as a front for something entirely more sinister. When it sets its hooks in – at the end of the third episode – we’re fully recommitted as Jim takes a truck through the walls of the cult. Once again, there’s a toxic measure of deceit within the family, informed by lies and manipulation, while each character strains just to find the piece of themselves that’s been lost in the hills of those Rocky Mountains. The soundtrack is choice, with perfect drops like Tricky’s “Blood of my Blood” cutting deep at just the right time. The soundtrack often feels like True Detective, like a bit of dirt in your eye. The mountains of Alberta remain majestic as ever and continue to provide the show a unique sensory experience and sense of place that sticks with us.
The good news is the second season is more of the first. The first three episodes are on-pace to continue the rock solid suspense building culmination of the original run. Here, we have a talented group of actors giving their all totally under the radar. Without much reservation, Tin Star remains one of my personal favorite shows on television, an overlooked gem about the alcoholic cop suffering for his family. The initial episodes are a big check that’s about to get cashed.
Review based on Episodes 1-3 of Season Two. Review may be updated to reflect the remainder of the run.