Sky Atlantic’s Tin Star
Season 1, Episode 1: “Fun and (S)Laughter”
Directed by Rowan Joffe
Written by Rowan Joffe
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Kid” – click here
We open on Jim Worth (Tim Roth), wife Angela (Genevieve O’Reilly), their teenage daughter Anna (Abigail Lawrie) and young boy Peter (Rupert Turnbull) are floating down a wooded road. They pass a gas station. Heading for Calgary. Soon, Jim realises he needs gas. They turn back. Peter needs to wee, so Angela insists they take a second. But father insists, they have to go. He’s tense. We see his gun, his police badge. When he hops back in the car, a masked gunman points a pistol through the windshield and blasts a hole in him, splashing the daughter with blood.
Flashback. This is Chief Jim Worth, former Metro Police in the UK, now the head of the Little Big Bear Police Service up in the Canadian Rockies. Their family’s come to Canada, though not all of them are thrilled. The Chief has a regular sort of life, it seems. Nothing too far out of the ordinary. He’s a nice English family man. Loves his kids and his Irish wife. Takes his duty to the law and the citizens in that small town seriously. Angela tries ingratiating herself to the community, meeting another newcomer, Elizabeth Bradshaw (Christina Hendricks).
We do discover he’s “two years sober.” He still keeps going to the AA meetings at the church. He’s very honest, speaking of how he “grew up frightened.” Drinking helped him cope, obviously leading into a spiral of alcoholism. There’s also a sense that he’s almost an entirely different person, wholly other to himself when he was drinking.
Other things are happening around Little Big Bear. North Stream Oil are looking to use the small town to push tar sands oil into America. However, townsfolk worry about “migrant oil workers” and crime coming with all that money. Bradshaw is there to ease the transition. Trying to sucker the people in, to make big dollars off the back of their land, their community. She’s ushered around by a sort of uneasy fella, Louis Gagnon (Christopher Heyerdahl), a head of security for the company, looking after their interests.
Already we can see the conflict, as is the case nowadays in many small places that don’t necessarily want the outside world corrupting their quaint lives. Understandable, to a degree. Modernity is inevitable. Far as Chief Worth’s concerned, he’s merely there to protect, to serve, concerned only with whether the crime rate will go up.
On the street, Jim finds an eighteen-wheeler blocking traffic. He heads into the diner to find Mrs. Bradshaw meeting with a guy named Daniel Lyle (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos), who’s clearly got addiction issues, hoping he’ll sign papers. Of course when the Chief injects himself into the situation, the other Lyle, Wallace (Nicholas Campbell), shows up. This cowboy hat wearing jerk already doesn’t like the British cop. Doesn’t help things when Danny gets wild, punching Jim in the nose. Instead of using guns, the cop takes him down quick with a kick in the balls.
Later, Chief Worth gets a visit from Gagnon, who seems to plant a device under the desk. All the while warning: cooperate fully with North Stream, or else. Likewise we see Jim is close with Dr. Susan Bouchard (Rachael Crawford), perhaps a bit too close seeing as how he’s married. She has her own troubles, discredited by fellow colleagues for complaining about environmental concerns with the oil companies. She tells him she’s being followed.
Things are already rough. The Lyles have filed an “undue force” complaint against the Chief, so he’s a local celebrity. The tribal elders of the local Native community don’t like him, either. They need the refinery to help fund their casino. Shit. Not to mention, Worth is called out to a crime scene just off a dirt road. A car, inside is Dr. Bouchard with blood everywhere, a hole in her head. Supposedly suicide. He doubts that, as should we. Too many suspicious circumstances. All of this prompts the Chief to start digging into North Stream. But it’s not helpful having Gagnon listening in behind the scenes.
Already there are people lurking near the Worth house. Anna sees a man across the lake staring. That night, a briefcase shows up on their doorstep. Young Peter goes down to see what’s inside, where he finds a snake coiled. He tells his dad about the “monster.” And there are noises outside, as well. Jim prepares his family, calls Constable Denise Minahik (Sarah Podemski), right before a shot flies through the window, a molotov cocktail comes in the bathroom window lighting a fire.
The family get away, out onto the road.
This is exactly where the episode begins. Jim gets a call from Denise, as officers clear the scene. But then the gas light comes calling, they turn back. We relive those moments leading up to Jim being shot brutally in the front seat of his car, Anna covered in blood.
Only it isn’t him who’s shot. It’s his wife, Angela, and his son, Peter. The bullet caught them both as she was taking out of the car. Leaving father and daughter alive, and likely broken.
Expect that other side of Jim to emerge. He’ll most certainly fall back in the bottle. As evidenced by him seeing that other Jim in the mirror, bloody face, juxtaposed with a snake tattoo from his past still taking up the whole of his back.
What an amazing opener to this series. I didn’t even realise this was coming out, heard nothing of it. All of a sudden, BAM! What a wild beginning, love how they tricked us from the opener to the finale.
I’m Canadian, so it’s also fun to see a series set in Canada that involves the oil industry, hopefully some First Nations issues (with actual Indigenous people in roles), plus more. Dark, exciting, wild. Give me more.
“The Kid” is next.