Copper Review: The Needle And The Damage Done

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"In the Hands of an Angry God" was just another in an impressive string episodes to kick off Copper.

The subject matter of race relations after the Civil War, handled by a lesser drama, could have been so different. It has been, on many other shows, not portrayed so closely to the actual time in which our nation fought to, among other things, put an end to slavery. In New York City, in Five Points, the melting pot was about as full as you could get. 

Corcoran on the Case

When an Irishman was found hanged by a negro child, all Hell broke loose. The Irish were calling for the "niggers" to be found and hung for his murder... before they were even sure how he died. That wasn't uncommon. What was uncommon was the way in which Copper handled the tragedy. Kevin Corcoran, as always, turned to his black friend, Doctor Matthew Freeman, to determine the Irishman's cause of death.

What I love about Copper is the character doing this isn't questioned. Nobody screams about unfairness based upon skin color as to who is assisting in the solving of the crime. Everything is matter of fact and in the face of riots in the streets, the cops and the system continues to work as it should, blind to the public eye. 

At one point, Freeman came very close to accusing Corcoran of falling under the spell of those rioters, wanting to lynch someone just to close the case. He dangerously pointed to their past in the war as evidence of Corcoran's hatred. But Corcoran's keen detective eye knew fully well what was going on with Freeman's wife, Sarah, under their own roof and said the following, thereby putting the argument to rest:

Oh I hate all right, but not in general. My hate is as specific as my affections. And you, Matthew, need only look at the woman in your bed to know the Irish hold no patent on a burning heart. | permalink

Further blending the cause and proving there was no malicious intent in the detective work surrounding the death of the Irishman, it was Dr. Freeman who discovered the most likely culprit.

Corcoran: Wait, so you're saying a negro did kill O'Connor.
Freeman: Yes, but as usual, you people just grab any negro. | permalink

There is something so utterly refreshing about the relationships between Corcoran, Freeman, Moorehouse and Maguire. They come from completely different backgrounds, share different skin colors, wealth and status, but having been through the war are so tightly bound they seem impossible to break. Even in their anger and exasperation toward one another, they find their way back to the trust that was won on the battlefield. It provides for a unique and fascinating viewing experience.

There were other things happening during the case of the week, and I believe the fallout will have lasting implications. Let's take a look.

  • Elizabeth and Kevin (it's difficult to call him Corcoran in such distinguished company) seem to be discovering more intimate feelings for one another. While they're certainly happening faster for Elizabeth, I don't think there's any doubt Kevin is feeling the pull, as well. Given his status with Eva, and what we'll talk about next, that worries me.
  • Molly found Ellen's locket. Like a schoolgirl with a crush, she was so excited to show "Corky." Eva, however, had other plans. I'm not sure why she is keeping the knowledge away from Corcoran. Is it because she worries what he will do with the information, or because she's concerned about her own position and losing him for herself? If it's the latter, the closer he becomes with Elizabeth, the more volatile Eva will become.
  • Sarah Freeman was still having serious misgivings in her life as a free woman. She was so wary of white people, and seemingly all people in general. Matthew asked her to have a child, but that didn't seem like the best idea. When the murderer's dull-witted ward was left unattended and Matthew took him home, Sarah seemed quite taken with him. I hope he brings her some peace, and that we learn more about her back story and what (other than the general casualties of war) have left her so unable to move on.
  • Annie's transition to the good life wasn't as easy as it looked. When she showed up at Corcoran's house, making a pass at him like a grown woman, it really shook me up. To imagine a ten year old girl feeling the need to do that, and to think that was the norm at the time is unsettling at best. Thank goodness Copper has in it the heroic Kevin Corcoran. A lesser man may not have made the same decision he did.

In the Hands of an Angry God Review

Editor Rating: 4.9 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (14 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Copper Season 1 Episode 3 Quotes

Oh I hate all right, but not in general. My hate is as specific as my affections. And you, Matthew, need only look at the woman in your bed to know the Irish hold no patent on a burning heart.


Corcoran: I'm no critic.
Elizabeth: You're no gentleman, either. When you arrived earlier, you didn't take my hand, and kiss it.