Copper, S1 Ep 1 – Surviving Death


Not knowing what to expect, I jumped into this first episode of Copper with limited information.  It’s set in New York City in 1864, specifically in Five Points.  Five Points is a place filled with crime, corruption, and terribly desperate people willing to do anything to get what they want.  The rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.  Black families are chased out of town by Irish mobs.  Honestly, if you’re looking to grow up in a safe environment, Five Points is not the place.  It should be the last piece of real estate on your list.

Detective Kevin Corcoran, portrayed skillfully by Tom Weston-Jones, is our main protagonist.  We begin with this serious gentleman, observant and quietly readying his pistol.  He’s a dark character with a sad past.  With his wife missing and his daughter dead, Corcoran is a troubled, but essentially good man.  Returning from fighting with his regiment in the Civil War to Five Points, he works for the Metropolitan Police of New York City, fighting crime wherever he sees it.  Unlike other officers, he can’t be bribed.  If he sees an injustice and he thinks it’s wrong, no matter who the culprit, he will try his absolute best to stop it, which is an admirable trait in a protagonist.  Corcoran is a character you can support, though you may not trust him completely.  I think it will take many more episodes to fully comprehend what makes him tick.

Detective Kevin Corcoran

“Surviving Death” begins with Corcoran on a stake-out in a barn and a young girl, Annie Reilly, sleeping in the hay.  She wakes up and he offers her a hard-boiled egg.  In gratitude, she offers to pleasure him.  I was so very thankful when he denied the child’s offer.  I don’t think I could have handled that.  I guess that’s how the cookie crumbles, though.  With that simple proposal, I knew Copper was not going to hold back.  It’s not a show about smiling people and happy faces.  Copper is a show about the grime and dirt of society, and the not-so-nice things in the world.  I think I grinned once, and the grin was taken from me just as quickly.  This is a crime drama.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Definitely not one for the kids.

Immediately after, a brilliant, fast-paced gun slinging showdown takes place.  Actually, it was less of a showdown and more of a massacre.  Corcoran’s stake-out goes according to plan and he witnesses a bank robbery.  Along with his pals and fellow coppers, Francis Maguire and Andrew O’Brien, they shoot all but one of the men dead and that lone survivor only makes it out alive through surrender.  I was grateful to see this scene after the awkward ‘pleasure’ altercation.  It reminded me that this show wouldn’t be all uncomfortable situations.  There would be action and it would be choreographed beautifully.

At this point, you realize even the good guys are corrupt.  Everyone-even some of the higher ranking officers-pockets a bit of the money before sending it back to the bank.  You find out that Corcoran has a romantic interest in a woman named Eva.  How genuine this love is, we have yet to see.  Then, there’s nudity.  I think it was a little unnecessary.  Francis and his lady friend, Molly, have sex.  He then yells at Molly for speaking of Corcoran’s missing wife.  I get this scene is connected to a part later on where Francis confesses to Andrew that he wishes to marry Molly.  It just seemed out of place and rushed for me.  Then again, I guess anything can happen in Five Points.

Corcoran is looking for a locket with a picture of a man and girl inside.  Doesn’t seem to be very important now, but I’m sure it will come back into play in the future.  Things progress until we meet Robert Morehouse and Winfred Haverford.  I instantly liked Morehouse.  You appreciate the levity Morehouse brings from the very beginning.  He fought with Corcoran in the war, where our protagonist was forced to hastily cut off his leg to save the man’s life.  He’s got a quick wit about him and a certain flare that isn’t seen from the other characters in the show.  Haverford, in the beginning, seems like your typical rich guy.  Not much to him except that he’s boring.  At least, that’s what we’re led to think.

When Corcoran’s pals notify him of a death down by the bay area, he leaves only to meet Annie there, murdered in the street.  Peculiar things have happened to the child since he met her that morning.  She’s been cleaned and dolled up.  The only visible imperfection?  A blow to the head with some sort of blunt instrument.  You know Corcoran is going to go way outside of his typical methods to solve this girl’s murder.  This hits close to home because of his daughter’s death.

Doctor Matthew FreemanAnd now, Doctor Matthew Freeman.  I have to say he was my favorite character of the debut.  He’s a black man in Five Points, so you know he doesn’t lead the safest existence.  You met him earlier on in the episode, but this is when you really begin to understand his role.  Basically, he’s an old-timey forensics guy.  He reveals to Corcoran that this girl was murdered, then raped.  I’m eager to learn more about Matthew.  One thing we do find out is his wife, Sara, is a woman not at all happy about their presence in Five Points.  She wants them to leave, but I hope they don’t–or, maybe I hope they do.  I just want to keep the couple alive.  Matthew is a bit of sanity in a place that seems pretty much insane everywhere else.  He’s a smart man and a friend, which is why Corcoran so readily turns to him.  And I think this show needs a character of good sense and integrity to keep everyone else grounded.

After Matthew’s examination of the victim, Corcoran leaves with her to bring her to the local funeral parlor.  We are then hit with a big, old sack of bricks.  Annie is spotted flirting with a much older man in an alleyway, probably trying to get more eggs or maybe some spare change.  He is shocked and looks to see who he’s got wrapped up in the blanket.  Annie and her stranger disappear and Corcoran runs after her madly.  When he finds her, he shows her the body and she runs off screaming.  Now, there’s a twin!  I have to admit, it’s a twist I wasn’t fully expecting and a rather clever one at that.

We eventually reach the scene with Francis wanting to marry Molly.  Andrew was actually the one to make me grin during the episode, just because he made clear how absurd he thought the idea was.  I hope there’s a bit more character development for Andrew in the future.  He seems like your Average Joe, but it’s that kind of character that so easily relates to the audience.  The conversation between the two takes place in a graveyard.  Corcoran arrives and stares down at the gravestone of his daughter, Maggie.  Maybe we’ll have some flashbacks in the future.  I’d like to see Corcoran as a family man with a wife and child.  I’m thinking it would humanize him a bit more.  Though I do like him, he’s a bit steely.  I’d just like to crack the surface and take a look inside.

Here comes the big reveal: who is the dead girl?  Kate, Annie’s twin sister!  Contessa Popadou (matron of the local whorehouse) was basically using Annie as a sex slave for an older man and they wanted Kate too.  She was living on the streets at the time.  One day, as the Contessa’s attention was being held by Kate, Annie made a run for it.  They took Kate in for this man’s sick desires and he killed her.  In truth, I hope there’s a focus on other types of crimes during the first season’s run.  We can watch shows about gruesome murders all day long, but bring child abuse/rape into it and things get a bit hairy.  It’s just terrible to think about, even if the instance in question is fictional.  Though it makes for a riveting story, it’s not something I’d like to hear about in the long term over the course of multiple seasons.

And ACTION SEQUENCE!  Corcoran suspects a bouncer at the whore house of the murder and he beats the living daylights out of him!  Simultaneously, we see Matthew slowly figuring out what caused Kate’s death.  She was struck with a walking stick, and we later discover that it belongs to Winfred Haverford, which was no shock to me.  Come to find out that it had to have been a 6-foot man who did the deed, no more and no less.  Sadly, that means Bill at the whore house is not guilty.  But guess who’s still going to suffer for it: Bill!  Poor guy doesn’t even care because he’s going to die in a year due to his liver problems.  He’s been given brandy and the finest food while he waits in jail, so he’s going to die a happy, well-fed man.

Haverford, on the other hand, pissed me off to no end.  Why?  He has the gall to ask Corcoran where Annie is in the hopes that he can strike again.  You have got to be kidding me!  Leave the girl alone, you disgusting, perverted murderer.  We don’t want you here.  Be gone.  Get off my show… I’m saying all of these things, but he’s a good villain.  Entitled, revolting, cowardly, and abusive.  He’s easy to hate.

Bill Longin brass knucklesAs for the show overall, it kept my attention for the most part.  The way they’ve filmed it is a bit dark, so if your eyes aren’t focused enough, you may find them wandering from time to time.  Try your best to keep them on the screen because the opening episode of Copper was quite good.  As long as you’re not looking for some comic character to break the tense, disturbing ice, you won’t be disappointed.  Haunting Irish music and dingy streets create the perfect setting for this crime drama.  Though I’ll need more episodes to get a better feel for the show, I’d say “Surviving Death” was a solid performance on all counts.  Well done, BBC America.