by J.D. Balthazar
Copper is a British show that takes place in 1860's New York. The action centers around the Five-Points area of Manhattan, which was a notorious slum riddled with crime and disease. It is the first original scripted show produced by BBC America, and it stars Tom Weston-Jones. He's an actor that was born in England and grew up in Dubai, who is playing an Irish-American detective. That feels like a lot of simple production obstacles that could easily strangle any show. In fact, my first impression was that it was trying to hard. Which was an impression that lasted for about the first ten minutes.
I can't quite place when it drew me in, but by the end of the first hour I was hooked. It probably had to do with lead, and his heroic efforts to solve the murder of a twelve year old girl. The nature of her murder I won't go into, but it was the kind of subject matter that would normally be hard to watch. But thankfully, they didn't spend too much time on the gruesome aspects of the crime. Instead, we were led around by Weston's character (Detective Kevin Corcoran). He was captivating in his somewhat brutal, but emotionally invested struggle to solve the crime.
Several details about his character were filled in. We found out that the good detective's wife is missing and his daughter died when she was only 6 years old. His partner, Detective Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan) seems fiercely loyal and protective. And his lover, Eva Heissen, is the madam at the local whore house (played by Franka Potente of Run Lola Run and Bourne Identity). He is also friends with a black doctor named Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh) who mentioned training in France.
The rest of the cast were all excellent, but they were introduced so fast that it was a little hard to track who was important until later on in the episode. What I did gather was that most were all typical archetypes for the time period. We got classics such as corrupt police, wealthy bastards, and good-natured whores. I'm hoping the generic nature of these characters might become a non-issue later on when their personalities are fleshed out. Thankfully, they all fulfilled their purpose rather well for the pilot.
I was impressed that the resolution to the story wasn't a neatly wrapped-up-in-a-bow reset button. It was incomplete, and involved messy ethical choices. Also, there were enough unanswered questions to keep me interested. This isn't quite Shakespeare in the mud (my favorite description of Deadwood), but it has some potential.
It airs Sunday nights on BBC America.