Copper episode 4 review: The Empty Locket

BBC America's Copper continues to weave together an arresting narrative. Here's Kylie's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.4 The Empty Locket

What a way to end an episode! Just when Copper seems to be slowing down, it pulls a knockout punch out of nowhere.

But first, the earlier fifty-five minutes of the episode. Interestingly, Copper has chosen to tackle the issue of Corcoran’s wife’s disappearance early in the game. The trend in crime dramas is to give the hero one very personal unsolved case and then shove it to the backburner, but only four weeks in, Copper has already devoted an entire episode to its primary mystery, and it’s refreshing not to have to wait so long for progress (although it’s debatable whether progress was actually made in the end).

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This episode pulled some religious conflict into Copper’s touchy-subject mix. Corcoran is intent on catching abortionist Madame Grindle’s killer—or rather, on locating her ledger to see if his wife Ellen used her locket to pay for an abortion. His excuse of finding justice for Grindle rings false here, and it adds an interesting facet to Corky’s concept of justice. It seems that he does not, in fact, care much for seeing justice served to the murderer of a sinner. Irish-Catholic Corcoran’s subtle anguish over the idea that his wife might have gone for an abortion is really well-done. 

Meanwhile, suspicions are raised against the Episcopalian bishop of the Morehouse family’s church. Corcoran establishes some Irish camaraderie and waxes religious on the bishop’s Catholic maid to dig up some dirt on her employer. Their instant connection only serves to emphasize the differences that fuel the conflict between the Irish and other Americans. 

Apparently it’s okay for Catholics to beat Episcopalian bishops inside churches, because Corky does so but learns nothing, then exposes the bishop to the press. This is good news for Morehouse Senior, who can now continue to buy up Five Points undeterred by the bishop’s threats. Score one for manipulative rich people.

The episode reaches an interesting sort of “resolution” when Francis pays off the pawnshop owner to tell Corky that the locket was not used to pay for an abortion. Weston-Jones has a talent for wordless acting; the relief on his face when he hears this is brilliant.  Francis’ desire to help his friend move on is understandable, but frustrating. Corcoran obviously isn’t going to give up until the mystery is solved, so why do something that will slow that down?

This episode has more subplots that usual, so many that it’s a little difficult to keep track of everything.  Freeman’s Uncle Marcus’ plan to train Jasper as a boxer takes a serious turn when Morehouse gets involved and plans an Irish-versus-African fight whose result will use racial issues to influence election results.

Also, Francis goes through with his plan to ask the whore Molly to marry him, and he is over the moon when she accepts. It’s a cute if slightly dysfunctional love story from his end, but she is not as interested in him and this bodes ill for their relationship. No matter, though, because brothel mistress Eva abruptly slits Molly’s throat over jealousy for Corcoran, and that puts an end to that.

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This was a brilliant move by the writers. After lulling the viewer with a relatively quiet episode, they get the full effect out of this sudden murder of one major character by another. (And was that a nail file she used? Blegh!)  The old murder-over-infidelity story is shaken up by the fact that both women involved are prostitutes. Bad career choice, maybe?

I’m going to miss Molly. A textbook whore-with-a-heart-of-gold trope she may have been, but she was sweet and likable for it. That final scene of Francis learning of his fiancé’s demise was absolutely heartbreaking. Francis is really coming into his own as a character, just in time for us to share in his pain.

Meanwhile, Eva’s grittier take on life has exploded into real brutality, and it was shocking but not so out-of-character as to be unbelievable. This opens up some fascinating possibilities for the future. Eva’s feelings for Corcoran seem to be driving her psycho, but Corcoran is only interested in her for her lady parts. Now that she knows Corky has feelings for Elizabeth Haverford, it isn’t hard to guess who’s next on the hit list. What will happen if Corcoran finds out she’s a murderer? I don’t know if he’s going to cut her any slack because she’s his favourite sex buddy.

On a side note, why does Annie seem so interested in reporting Corcoran’s romantic inclinations to Eva? She does it first with Molly, then with Elizabeth. That little girl may be cute, but she’s got a twisted mind. Take that (hilarious) dirty rendition of Mary Had a Little Lamb, for instance.

In other news: Grindle’s murder is not solved, Grindle’s sister is using the ledger to blackmail past abortion customers, and Corky is still using a cane, which is pretty sexy.

Next week, look forward to fabulous party dresses and more outrageously age-inappropriate behaviour from Annie.

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