Copper episode 3 review: In The Hands Of An Angry God

Copper tones down the shock and gore for a week to focus on a key theme: racism. Here's Kylie's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.3 In The Hands Of An Angry God

Things seem to be calming down a little in the world of Copper. Or maybe I’m just finally getting used to it.  Whatever the reason, episode three was a (relatively) more relaxing experience than its predecessors. That isn’t to say that it eased up on the horrific injustices. But this time around, in the absence of sleazebag paedophilic men and gory revenge carried out by a little girl, we were able to take a longer and more thoughtful look at our injustice-of-the-week: racism.

I see this week’s tempered approach as a good move, a chance to give the issues the serious attention they deserve rather than relying too much on shock value. At the same time, this episode was heavy on reflection and light on fight scenes. I don’t mind missing out on the fights for a week, but some viewers might, depending on what you watch the show for.

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Copper takes an interesting position by focusing on relations between the Irish American and African American communities, both of which face serious discrimination from outside. The Irish are like the bullied kid who in turn picks on the only weaker kid than himself. This makes the senselessness of racism all the more apparent, because from the outside we can see so clearly how much the two downtrodden groups have in common.

This week’s murder is of the Irishman O’Connor, whom Dr. Freeman discovers was killed by a needle inserted in his skull. O’Connor had been threatening African-American Reverend Garland and his orphanage, so Garland has a motive for the murder and is arrested. If it weren’t for Corcoran’s insistence that they find evidence, Garland would have been hanged just because to the whites one black neck is as good as another.

While investigating, Corky and Freeman get in a tiff regarding a riot in which Corcoran claims to have fought his own people to protect Freeman’s people, while Freeman says that Corcoran was only protecting himself. This is only the most dramatic of the racially-charged feelings underlying their interactions in this episode. Though they are both open-minded men, neither is immune to the racial tensions in their community, and this adds a complexity and realism to their relationship. Weston-Jones gives a particularly well-done subtly insulted reaction when Freeman refers to Corcoran as his “assistant.”

Corcoran and Freeman are in some ways twentieth-century men living in the nineteenth century. It makes them appealing, but it also makes me wonder whether they are written as grounding points for the audience or as accurate examples of the forward-thinking folks who would help America progress toward modern views on race and justice. I like to think that it’s the latter, and neither man is by any means perfect when it comes to tolerance, so they do ring true.

Eventually Freeman and Corky discover that the murderer was African-American seamstress Bessie Longfield.  Bessie has already run for it, but her mentally disabled brother Jasper could be punished for the crime, so Corcoran says O’Connor committed suicide and sets up O’Connor’s daughter and best friend Jerry with a house and business, ensuring that Jerry keeps his mouth shut. “It’s not about justice, it’s about resolution,” says one of the Irish cops, and resolution is all they get in this case. 

The Irish will not be happy unless an African-American hangs for O’Connor’s murder, and the sacrificial victim will be Jasper. Once again, Corcoran must apply his own brand of justice to protect Jasper, and it requires him to let Bessie get away with the crime. It’s an unsatisfying conclusion, but fittingly so. The resolution to this episode was not the sort of thing you see in crime shows set in the modern day, so it made for a good plot twist as well as a commentary on justice. 

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The juiciest of this episode’s subplots involves Molly’s discovery of Corcoran’s wife’s locket in a pawn shop.  Molly buys it and plans to give it to him, but Eva takes it and orders her not to tell him about it – presumably because she wants Corcoran to herself, without any pesky wives around. Eva discovers that the locket was pawned by Madame Something (it sounded like they were saying “Madame Grendel,” but who names their kid that?). Anyway, Eva goes to talk to Grendel and finds her dead. It seems that events are still in motion concerning whatever caused the death of Corcoran’s daughter and disappearance of his wife.

In other news, Elizabeth and Annie have both started flirting with Corky, and in both cases it’s a little awkward.  Okay, for Annie it’s a lot awkward. Then again, Elizabeth put that naked picture of someone who looks a lot like herself on her wall, so it’s a close race. Also, Morehouse is continuing to buy up parts of Five Points and gives Francis a wad of cash to help him out without telling Corcoran. It was the first time Francis did anything notable.  

Usually I have at least three major gripes stacked up by episode three of any show I watch. Right now Copper has one and a half. 1) Elizabeth is annoying, and ½) The show is humourless (this is only a half because I’m not sure humour would be at all appropriate in this show). That’s not bad at all.  Keep it up, Corky!

Read Kylie’s review of last week’s episode, Husbands And Fathers, here.