Copper episode 5 review: La Tempete

US period crime drama Copper delivers an uncharacteristically bland episode in La Tempete. Here's Kylie's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.5 La Tempete

If episodes of Copper were food, then last week would be that hot salsa with the delayed sucker punch – and this week would be lettuce. Moderate, mostly flavourless, and not generally inspiring comment. No one hates lettuce the way they hate anchovies or blue cheese, but you don’t hear many reports of lettuce cravings, either. That is La Tempete. Not much to love or hate, and thus not much to say.

Maybe I’m just spoiled after so many intense episodes. The fact that the show has taken this long to come out with a middling episode is impressive, and maybe its lack of dazzle wouldn’t have been so glaring if it hadn’t created for itself a hard act to follow. The root of the problem was probably that this episode did not choose a “big issue” to attack as per past episodes. Some of the recurring conflicts of honour, racism, and haves vs. have-nots made brief appearances, but none brought a whole lot of oomph with them. 

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Unlike the two previous episodes, La Tempete did feature a lot of fighting, along with some watery “violence is bad” commentary from Sarah. Not that I disagree with her on that, but it has yet to develop into an engaging issue, and all she seems to do is moralise about violence and pull guns on people (an intentional irony, I’m sure).  There is a lot of potential in Sarah’s story, but she’s stuck on a loop. Maybe that’s the point, but it doesn’t make for very interesting watching.

That being said, Uncle Marcus’ sexual advance on Sarah was one of the stand-out moments of the episode. It was nice how she stood up for herself, Jasper’s defense of her was sweet, and the fight between Jasper and Marcus was a brief but intense confrontation. Unfortunately, the tension fizzled out from there. 

Sarah has led a life of unrelenting adversity, and this time it happens at the hands of an African-American and family member. It’s easy to see how she might never trust anyone again. Dear Copper writers, you have piled enough tragedy on the poor lady, isn’t it time to do some of your delicious moral-philosophical magic on her story now? Pleeeease?

While we wait for that, Jasper’s boxing career is moving forward and Morehouse’s planned match between Jasper and Irish Jake McGinnis is sure to turn into a riot if Jasper wins. The race dynamics here are fascinating: what would seem to the modern viewer to be a man-on-man match is, for the people of New York in 1864, a much larger questions of racial superiority and pride. It’s no wonder racism is so hard to kill when people think like that.

On Corcoran’s end of the plot, he is tasked with guarding Elizabeth Haverford’s charity gala from a planned raid by the Roderick gang. The gang never does attack the party, probably because it looks totally boring. They go after the carriage on the way to the bank afterward, but the money box they take from Corky is a fake, so mainly the party ends up being an excuse to put Corky in a bow tie and set every female character with a name on him.  The scene where rival gang leader O’Connell kills Roderick may turn into something, but for the time being the baddies are majorly off their game.

The ladies, on the other hand, are really giving it their all. Elizabeth flirts with Corky more openly than ever before and Eva is her usual seductive self (no murders from her today). But as usual, Annie outshines them both as the most fun to watch. Her advances are becoming less shocking and more humorous with time (“Who’s prettier on the inside?” is a great question, and a brilliant tap-in to Annie’s child-like side). The inclination to laugh at Annie is a somewhat disturbing development considering there is nothing funny about the situation that turned her into what she is. I mean disturbing in the best of ways.

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Annie continues to prove herself an evil, conniving little bundle of cuteness when she accuses Elizabeth of conspiring with Confederates and Morehouse of visiting her at Contessa Popadau’s brothel once when he was drunk. The swipe at Elizabeth wasn’t surprising, but I’m not sure about her motives for going after Morehouse (though it did create the opportunity for that hilarious line about whether Morehouse’s “thing” is “at attention”).

Meanwhile, Francis all of a sudden gets engaged to Madame Grindle’s sister Mary Lockwood, and Corcoran suggests that he’s moving too fast. (His last fiancé died just one episode ago! Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to wait at least three?) Francis accuses Corky of dwelling too much on his lost wife. The episode also ends on this note, in a lovely, grim post-party chat about the futility of human endeavours in the face of death. Their conversation drops some tantalizing hints about how Corcoran on the battlefield was not the honourable man he is now. There’s the heavy-hitting Copper we know! Too bad it took so long to get there.

The moral of the story is, fake legs are surprisingly handy. Also, pretty dresses. See, we learned something today. Lettuce is good for you!

Read Kylie’s review of last week’s episode, The Empty Locket, here.