First Impressions – Copper: Surviving Death


Copper is about Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish immigrant cop in New York City’s historical Five Points neighborhood in the 1860’s.  He returns home after the Civil War to discover that his wife has disappeared and his daughter is dead.

This show is a brand new chapter for BBC America.  The channel is known for importing BBC shows in for American audiences but this is the first time they have fully produced an original scripted program.

I do know a lot about New York City history but I was unfamiliar with the term Five Points.  Five Points makes up what is now known as New York City’s City Hall area and Chinatown.  In fact, many of the tenement buildings dating from the late 19th Century still exists today but a lot of the street names from this era have been changed.

The show depicts the social strife following the aftermath of the Civil War.  A lot of soldiers returned home to find that they didn’t have jobs or families.  There was also a dichotomy between the life of the wealthy 5th Avenue aristocrats, the working class poor, the Irish mob and the African-Americans.

Kevin Corcoran along with his partners, Maguire (Kevin Ryan) and O’Brien (Dylan Taylor), work to keep the streets of Five Points as safe as it could be during this lawless time.  However, the police force was rife with corruption and the three don’t hesitate to take the opportunity to line their pockets after taking down some bank robbers.

The drama also illuminates the difficult subject of child prostitution and forced labor as Corcoran saves and protects Young Annie Reilly (Kiara Glasco) from the streets.  One reason for this is because she reminds him of his dead daughter.

Corcoran also has an interesting relationship with Dr. Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), an African-American physician.  Even if New York was the North, African-Americans were still considered 2nd class citizens.  Corcoran’s trust in Freeman extends from the fact that they both served in the army together during the war.  He’s intelligent and acts as Corcoran’s medical examiner of sorts.

Then there are the folks over on 5th Avenue.  Elizabeth Haverford (Anastasia Griffith) is wife to a wealthy 5th Avenue elite and begins to realize that although she left the caste system of England, she still must deal with it in New York.  Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid) is also another 5th Avenue elite who has radical ideas about politics as far as the wealthy is concerned.  He’s Corcoran’s friend from the war and will probably help Corcoran on his cases in future episodes.

The first episode premiered last Sunday and I’ll admit that it was a slow start.  There are so many characters they needed to set up and they even felt the need to set up the time period and setting.  It took several tries before I could finish the first episode and even still, it was hard to completely pay attention.

That doesn’t mean I would pan on this show just yet.  It also took me a couple of episodes to get into Deadwood.  Plus, the minds behind this series have a great resume, which include but aren’t limited to Homicide: Life on the Street, Oz and Monster’s Ball.  It feels like the show is going to take the path of your usual crime procedural but I hope it expands beyond that because there’s so much to explore here.  For now, I’m sticking with it because the time period and the clash of cultures and politics seem fascinating but the show could go either way for me.



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