This review contains spoilers.
1.2 Husbands And Fathers
After starting strong with 1.8 million viewers, Copper returns for its second episode, bringing us more class conflict, more shocking sexual exploitation of children and, even more shocking, a couple of jokes. That’s right, I cracked a smile. It’s a relief to know that New York City 1864 wasn’t all rapes and lynchings.
On the whole this episode was a lot less overwhelming than the last, probably partially because I knew what to expect. But in place of the previous episode’s thick, even layer of jadedness, Husbands and Fathers has tame stretches punctuated by some real punch-in-the-gut moments which make it momentarily even more appalling than last week. While episode 1 oozed an all-consuming desperation, episode 2 strikes fast and hard, biding its time until the most opportune moments.
It’s a different approach, and one that I think we can expect to see from the majority of Copper’s episodes. Episode 2 was in fact the second half of the Annie Reilly story, but her plotline tended to get lost last week among all the other heavy issues jostling for attention. Now that the series premiere has set the tone (namely, that it’s a jacked-up world and lots of jacked-up things are going to happen on this show), Copper seems to be stepping back and giving itself a little more breathing room.
The result was that I came to care about Annie’s predicament in a way I didn’t last week. Haverford, the slimy rich rapist and murderer, is intent on finding her. He sends some men after Corky who beat him and break his leg. It looks excruciating, and almost as painful is the treatment provided by Dr. Freeman the next day (it makes me very glad for modern medicine).
On a side note, we see that Freeman and his wife Sara have moved out of Five Points, but she is extremely fearful of white people and nearly shoots Corcoran’s partner Francis when he comes seeking treatment for Corcoran (though to be fair, Francis did pick the lock and let himself in). Sara’s fear can be taken as a sort of racism, but one that’s wholly sympathetic, but at the same time has already shown its potential to turn disastrous. It’s an unusual angle on racial tension, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
Anyway, while Corky is sitting around on the couch, since that’s all he can do now with his broken leg, a sleazy-looking man comes claiming to be Annie’s father. But it turns out it is actually her husband – he forced her to marry him when she was ten (punch-in-the-gut moment number 2). Corcoran’s buddies send the guy skedaddling, but he doesn’t seem like the giving-up sort so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back later on.
The conclusion of the episode is an intriguing emotion-tugging fake-out. At first it seems that the prostitute Molly has betrayed Corcoran and Annie, and with mounting horror we see the Contessa preparing her to meet Haverford and then Haverford preparing to take advantage of Annie. It’s a relief when Corcoran appears, revealing that this was all a plot to catch Haverford, but the resolution is unsettling. Corcoran tells Annie to stab Haverford and she does, avenging her sister in a way that is simultaneously satisfying and disturbing. The Contessa also gets her just desserts, if just they really are.The way I see it, Corcoran’s brand of justice is an inferior sort forced by the fact that the authorities have thrown real justice out to rot. I get the sense that Corcoran would prefer not to go around stabbing criminals, but he sees killing as the only means available to protect people from them.
Morehouse gets his own subplot this episode, and he comes across as an ambivalent character, in some ways more tolerant than his peers but also somewhat self-interested and naïve to the struggles of the lower classes. There’s something going on between him and his father, though it isn’t entirely clear whether he’s seeking the elder Morehouse’s approval or is out to ruin him. Elizabeth Haverford, who teams up with him to thwart Daddy Morehouse and Winnie Haverford’s plan to buy up Five Points, seems poised to become a major player in the future.
Finally, Corcoran is still on the hunt for info on his wife and daughter, and he is visited twice by hallucinations (I assume that’s what they are?) of his daughter Maggie. The end shot of him holding her and smiling even though he seems to know he shouldn’t be seeing her there is both tragic and sweet. Morehouse claimed that Corcoran is “obsessed” with solving the mystery of his wife and daughter, and that paired with the vision of Maggie makes me wonder if he hasn’t got a few nineteenth-century style screws loose.
Next week looks like it will focus on the Freemans, meaning we’ll again be zeroing in on one of the many issues glimpsed in the premiere episode and hopefully get more of the interesting racial angle touched on this episode.
By the way, if you haven’t tried that mug shot game on the BBC America website that they keep advertising, you should check it out. Mine all came out looking a little funny, but nevertheless I heartily enjoyed pasting my face on a bearded 1800s criminal.
Read Kylie’s review of last week’s episode, Surviving Death, here.
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