This review contains spoilers.
2.2 Aileen Aroon
This week’s spotlight on relationship issues features opium abuse, female empowerment, and the most depressing sex you’ve ever seen. Matthew Freeman and Sara’s marriage flounders when Freeman insists on returning to Five Points to become the resident doctor. Robert Morehouse and Elizabeth prepare for their wedding, but Elizabeth is shaken my Morehouse’s proclamation of disgust for Kennedy, whom she secretly supported. Corcoran and Ellen each grapple with despair, distrust, and blame as they try to rebuild their life together in the wake of tragedy.
This is the Freemans at their most compelling, and it was long overdue. Their story has always been a point of interest in Copper, but it was somewhat removed from the conflicts faced by the other characters and often sidelined. Now, Sara must face up to her past or risk losing her husband. In the end, the strength we always knew was there shines through. Kudos to Tessa Thompson for bringing such depth of emotion – all without a single word – to Sara when she watched Frederick Douglass speak. Douglass, by the way, is a neat historical addition and looks fabulous. The hair really steals the show.
Elizabeth’s issues over her support for Kennedy and the Confederates take a serious turn when she visits Kennedy in prison. We learn that her involvement was in fact designed to help her keep a grip on her upper-class status (because wouldn’t it be awful if she had to spend less time preening on couches wearing dresses you couldn’t fit in Corky’s entire Five Points house). Her question of whether Kennedy will expose her is answered with a tantalizing “That depends.” The farther Elizabeth descends into sin, the more interesting she becomes for the viewer, and watching her ruse fall to pieces promises to be quality entertainment. Plus, watching her and Morehouse lounging about in their foppish clothes getting hopped up on opium is unintentionally kind of hilarious.
When Corcoran shoots up though, it’s nothing short of heartbreaking. Poor Corky is trying to repair his life and relationship in the face of unimaginable loss and betrayal. One has to wonder whether Ellen deserves the second chance he’s giving her, but it’s hard to be too angry with a woman who is obviously suffering so much. All you can do is watch and shake your head at the unfairness of the world. The story of Corcoran’s attempted desertion from the military might have helped their relationship, but in the grim world of Copper it only makes things more complicated.
The show does something a little different when it juxtaposes the two marital discussions and subsequent sex scenes, one between the Freemans and the other between the Corcorans, set to edgy modern-sounding music. The issues here, too, feel modern. Maybe I’m alone in this, but when I think of the nineteenth century my vision never includes sex, drug abuse, and marital issues. It stands to reason that these things existed, but Copper makes them real, and it poses the question of how much society has really changed in 150 years. The Freemans’ healthy relationship makes the Corcorans’ dysfunctional one that much more striking as Corky gives up and walks out of the bedroom.
On the crime-fighting side of the story, Corcoran and co. are still hunting the man killing and kidnapping teenage boys. Their attempts to train Phinbar in acting fail (to humorous results), but by luck they still track down a suspect and then lose him in the midst of a bar brawl. Donovan keeps a pesky reporter from covering the case by threatening to reveal the reporter’s fondness for African-American courtesans in a competitor’s paper. That guy knows how to blackmail in style!
Meanwhile, Francis Maguire cleans up his appearance and gets a nice respectable job in the counterfeiting business. When a deal to exchange counterfeit bills for real money doesn’t go his way, he sticks a cigar up the guy’s nose. Ouch. At the end of season one, Francis was a man who’d made mistakes. In season two, he’s quickly become an evil one. What spurred the personality change? I hope we see some more of the emotion behind Francis’ actions, because right it just seems like a convenient way for the writers to introduce a new villain.
Well that was depressing. But hey, you know what will help? Watch this video on The Hats of Copper Because I know you’ve been thinking about them.
Read Kylie’s review of the previous episode, Home Sweet Home, here.
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