BBC America’s new series, Copper (Sundays, 10/9C), comes from the insanely talented duo of Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Homicide: Life on the Street) and Tom Fontana (Homicide: Life on the Street, Oz). It focuses on a young Irish immigrant cop, Detective Kevin Corcoran, in what is not just a procedural, but also a series that contrasts the lives of those who live in the lower lower class neighborhood of Five Points with those of the upper class on the right side of 5th Avenue. The opening two-parter, which concludes this evening, deals with Corky’s continuing search for his wife and the man who murdered his daughter while trying to protect a young girl from the pedophile who killed her twin sister.
Thanks to living in an old apartment building with a dying set of cable splitters, I was unable to post a review of the premiere episode of BBC America’s first homegrown scripted drama series – which is a shame because, despite it requiring a fairly ponderous set up (setting up the classes, the police who come in varying shades of corrupt, establishing a fairly large cast and making both the squalor and the poshness of New York in the 1860s real), Copper is a very entertaining show.
In the premiere, Surviving Death, we met Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) – as close to an honest copper as exists in New York City – a man suffering from the disappearance of his wife and the death of his daughter. He’s smarter than he looks and usually enlists the discreet aid of Matthew Freeman, a black doctor, and his fellow rough and tumble copper Detective Francis Maguire to chase down the bad(der) guys.
Freeman, it seems, saved the life of the rich young Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid, 6th Grade Alien, Blood Ties) by amputating his leg during the Civil War (which his father considers scandalous, but which saved his life). Now the three have formed a curious friendship.
In the premiere, we learned who killed Kate Reilly and was looking for her twin, Annie. Unfortunately, he was the rich Winfred Haverford, a man who hid his proclivities behind philanthropic endeavors and a beautiful young wife, Elizabeth (Anastasia Griffith).
In tonight’s conclusion of the two-parter, Husbands and Fathers, several different factions are looking for Annie: her father, bordello madam Eva Hessian (Franka Potente) and, of course Haverford (Rick Roberts) – who has hired a Pinkerton detective to beat on Corky until he reveals the girl’s whereabouts.
On another front, Morehouse’s father has decided to buy five Points and forces its inhabitants into Hoboken – a move opposed by Elizabeth Haverford. Morehouses’s disdain for his son (he thinks he drinks too much) leads to intriguing machinations.
Resolutions are, of course, reached in each case – though they might be the ones we expect, nor might they be achieved by means we might expect – and by episode’s end, we have a better understanding this rowdy young version of New York City and its inhabitants, whatever layer of societal stratum they might occupy.
Given the sheer amount of information, tone and people that the series needed to present – in relatively short order – the first two eps of Copper have managed to lay the foundation for a show that has the potential to rival the best work yet from its creators and producers. The writing is much better than average and the sets are truly amazing – just watching Corky and his fellow cops stride through the filthiness of Five Points makes me want to shower! The writing is matched by direction that tries to keep relevant things happening even through the blocky expositional beats so that we never quite lose our grip on what’s going on.
At one point, Morehouse tells Corky that they will need finesse to survive the growth of the city and the plans of his father who believes that corky may be too smart for his own good. In a sense, Copper could wind up being too good for its own good – in part because of its setting, and, in part because it has an upper class and a lower class, but no middle class to speak of. That opens it up to speculations of a hidden political message (of course, it’s entirely possible that could add to the show’s audience – who knows?).
Right at this moment, though, Copper is a show that has set itself to show a lot of potential, but not quite a forged identity. Given that Husbands and Fathers is a better ep than Surviving Death, though, I would have to say that it’s moving in the right direction and I am firmly onboard.
Final Grade: B+
Photos courtesy of BBC America/Cineflix (Copper) Inc.