The truth about Jack’s past holds all the answers to who killed his son on “Tin Star.”
All the violence that’s been set in motion from the moment we first meet Jim Worth and his family has roots back in London and Jack’s past. How has something he did while working as an undercover cop so long ago, followed him all the way to Canada to seek vengeance? Who did he screw over when he was posing as Jack Devlin? Whatever it is has touched the life of Whitey and Frank personally, and isn’t something they can let go of easily. Petey is dead, the unintended victim of Whitey’s bullet meant for Jim, and two of the assassins are dead as well. One died by Whitey’s hand, and another by Jim’s. It’s only a matter of time before Jim tracks down the other two men involved in his son’s death, and when he does there will be hell to pay.
I really want to like Tin Star, but at every turn the show makes the wrong decisions. What could have been a satisfying take on a Death Wish type thriller, quickly loses itself in outlandish, clichéd, and completely convoluted scenarios. I understand this all takes place in a remote town in Canada where Jim and two other officers are the only police presence, but when the Feds come to town in the aftermath of Petey’s murder, I doubt they’d leave town without investigating thoroughly. Once Jim starts drinking again, and turns into his violet alter ego, either a Federal or a Provincial leader would step in and relieve Jim of duty. After several more attempts on his life, Jim would have to report to a higher authority these things took place. He wouldn’t just be left to his own devices to sort it all out himself, especially with a big player like North Stream Oil in the mix. I can only buy the crooked police chief out for vengeance scenario for so long.
Gagnon could be a great bad guy, but he’s squandered, and in the end wasted as a nemesis for Jim. Once Elizabeth finds the murder witness and attempts to bring her to Calgary, with a quick stop off in Little Big Bear for drugs, things go sideways. Gagnon threatens Elizabeth’s family if she doesn’t deliver the witness, and so she gives in and tells him where to find them, only she has a change of heart and goes to Jim’s house in the woods seeking protection. Angela is the only person there, and the three women hole up in the house, as Gagnon comes to kill them all. When he shoots an electrical transformer to kill the security cameras, the episode gets a real Straw Dogs feel to it (the original, not the crappy remake) only to fizzle out in a clichéd confrontation between Gagnon and the women that ends with Angela killing Gagnon in her own home.
Angela steps up as strong character towards the end of the season, especially when it comes to the confrontation with Gagnon. Not only does she kill the maniac, but also sets her house on fire to cover up any evidence of what took place there. There’s a strange push and pull between her being drawn to Jim in her time of mourning and anger, but also sickened by Jim’s drinking, his past, and what he gets up to when drunk. He’s cheated on her when he was undercover as Jack Devlin, and also while he’s drinking in Little Big Bear. At times she uses his drunkenness, since when he turns into Jack, “He gets things done,” but why does she seem helpless not to love him, even while he’s torturing people to find out who shot their boy? Angela and Jim have a toxic relationship.
The worst sin of all in Tin Star is the misuse of Christina Hendricks as Elizabeth. She’s given the worst dialogue and character actions of anyone in the show, which is a shame because she can absolutely shine with the proper material. At times she seems to want to do only the ethical and proper thing, but why would you continue to work at a company when Gagnon is sexist and threatening to you? Wouldn’t there be someone you could call to report it? Not only does she help cover up Gagnon’s murder, but once she confronts her superiors with the murder witness, she threatens them with exposing it all if they don’t give her a powerful new position in the company. Instead of helping the woman and all of the people’s lives on the reservation North Stream Oil has screwed up, she does it for personal gain. When the witness calls her out on this and tells Elizabeth she might talk, Elizabeth does exactly like Gagnon and threaten the woman’s life. It’s probably the stupidest moment in the entire season of Tin Star, and that’s saying a lot, because things get really dumb as the back three episodes close things out.
The reason Whitey wants to kill Jim so badly is because Jim was playing surrogate father to Whitey (whose real name is Simon. The dog Jack gave him was named Whitey) and his mother Helen while undercover as Jack Devlin. Once he was discovered to be a police officer, he left them and never came back even though he promised to. Helen was pregnant with his child and had a miscarriage. She drank herself into a vegetative state afterward. Frank is Helen’s crime boss brother who Jim was trying to get close to. Helen’s husband found out what was going on, and came to kill Jim, who told him he was a cop to save his own life. Once Helen drank herself vegetative, Whitey lived in a group home and vowed to track Jim down and have revenge on leaving them and breaking his promise. Frank helps Whitey organize the Canada trip in the hopes Jim’s death will give Whitey closure, but everything goes sideways after they arrive.
Anna should be upset when she finds out the truth about Whitey and her father, especially once she learns Whitey killed her brother. She isn’t though, and instead runs away with him to an isolated cabin, decidedly sticking with him despite what he’s done. It doesn’t take long for Angela and Jim to find out Whitey is responsible for their child’s death, and track him down to the cabin. Angela tries to get Whitey to leave before Jim shows up, but Whitey refuses to leave without Anna. Angela shoots him in the leg, but Anna takes her gun and tries to flee with a wounded Whitey. She’s decided to choose him over her father, and attempts to keep Jim at bay with a shotgun, but Jim gets the drop on Whitey and kills him in front of Anna. The cycle of revenge seems complete now, but it’s not over. The season finale ends with Anna grabbing a gun from Whitey’s pocket and presumably shooting her own father.
It’s too bad Tin Star ended up going down the path it did narratively, because the premise is interesting. The execution of the premise is so completely flawed, that though there are moments of entertainment within the ten episodes, you’d be best served not wasting your time on Tin Star. With so much high quality television out there, I sadly cannot recommend this show. Somewhere there’s a better version of a revenge series, it’s just not here.
Season 1, Episode 8-10 (S01E08-10)
Tin Star streams on Amazon Prime
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
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Jeff Iblings | Contributor