If you know Tim Roth, and can appreciate watching one of the world’s finest actors no matter what he’s in, Tin Star doesn’t need to sell you. If you need more, things get a little complicated, especially if you have trouble suspending disbelief when it comes to somewhat laughably evil people.
Something like a mix of Longmire, Fargo, and tragedy porn, Tin Star stars Tim Roth as Jim Worth, a London cop who has moved his family to a small town in Canada to take over as the chief of police. What seems like a standard move out of the big city for a more idyllic life in a rural community quickly runs into the machinations of an oil company and its plans for a nearby refinery. Events almost immediately turn tragic and Jim finds himself struggling anew with his alcohol and drug addiction.
An ex-addict is naturally going to have a somewhat tricky relationship with his spouse and kids, and Jim soon finds that every decision only leads to more problems, which just becomes all the more reason to give in and drink. It would likely be enough to have a dastardly oil company and its sociopathic enforcers after Jim, but the landscape itself is a lot more complicated than it first appears. Some of the townsfolk want to capitalize on the influx of money the oil company will bring to the area, and the nearby First Nation Reserve needs the population the refinery will bring if it wants to get the most out of its casino.
Just when we feel like we know where we are there, we learn that Jim has a fair number of secrets buried in his effort at sobriety, mainly that “Jack”, his alcoholic alter-ego, isn’t someone you want to mess with. Now that a big company with a lot of money and hired goons thinks it can target the Worth family… Jack’s back.
The show makes a valiant effort at keeping pace with Roth, surrounding him with a capable cast, but since none of their characters are written with the same attention, they all become part of a strange background to his one-man show. Christina Hendricks is the face of the oil company, attending town halls and selling the glories that are signing on for raping the land and turning the town into Sodom, and that’s about all you need to know about her to get through the series. Well, she may or may not sort of have a conscious. Christopher Heyerdahl is the oil company’s head of security and the show basically stuffs him into the mustache-twirling pigeonhole that’s hounded his entire career. Genevieve O’Reilly, as Jim’s wife, Anna, gets a little more room to work with, but is mostly the outline of the circumstances she finds herself in. At least, that’s true for quite a while.With the exception of Sarah Podemski, who plays a constable who believes in Jim and just happens to be the daughter of the local First Nation Chief, the cast is only given a stereotype to work with whether they can pull off “angsty, eye-rolling teen scared out of her mind,” or, “hmmm… I dunno… lunatic,” or not.
With the exception of Sarah Podemski, who plays a constable who believes in Jim and just happens to be the daughter of the local First Nation Chief, the cast is only given a stereotype to work with whether they can pull off “angsty, eye-rolling teen scared out of her mind,” or, “hmmm… I dunno… lunatic?” or not.
While that may not sound like a show with a lot going for it, Tin Star is ultimately a lot more complex than its own effort at oversimplifying the setup. It’s a show that’s building through its first act into something that hopes to show you that you aren’t watching exactly what you thought you were at all. Thus, it’s also a series that should really be considered something much closer to a seriously long movie. It takes some shortcuts in developing its characters, which isn’t exactly forgivable, but it seems worse for being a series, until you realize just how much the story is attempting to chew. Those orbiting Jim Worth are too evil, too simple, and too obvious, but at least they serve a purpose.
Meanwhile, Roth is giving a performance that not only sucks you in, but is going to prove all the more impressive if you restart the series after finishing it. Where everyone else seems to have too little behind their own story, Roth offers up a guy that embodies his entire life in every nuance, which is as thrilling in itself as the entire series is meant to be. If his career to this point has proven anything, it’s that there’s little as intense as letting him loose on a character he wants to see dissected.
The world we’re in could have a better build to it, which would open doors for Jim/Jack to have even more powerful responses/reactions, but the adventure wins out if you can play along with the shortcut, corporate nogoodniks. But, once you’re in there’s a thrill ride ahead and watching Roth dive into the madness is better than just about anything on television.