This review contains spoilers.
2.6 To One Shortly To Die
Thanks to Laura Akers for filling in as reviewer for last week’s episode! Also, congrats to the astute folks in the comment sections who predicted that Francis Maguire was undercover. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.
This week, Corky and Francis are back together on a case. The stage is set for sparks to fly… and they don’t. Aside from a few plot developments (which could have been covered in a total of ten minutes), To One Shortly to Die is mostly filler. Even the episode’s criminal investigation makes so little progress that it has not been solved by the end of the episode. It’s the day of Lincoln’s second Inauguration, and everybody is too busy getting drunk and blowing off fireworks to do anything interesting.
Corcoran and Francis have a strange chemistry this week. There are a few dirty looks and unpleasant comments, but nothing worthy of the hatred Corcoran has repeatedly expressed for Francis. At one point they even share a grin. For the most part, though, it’s all business, and that doesn’t mesh well with the emotional Corky of the last several episodes. Shouldn’t there be some brass-knuckled swinging right about now?
If Corcoran is beginning to forgive Francis, he shouldn’t, because Francis is after Ellen again. The episode certainly has its boring parts, but the scene of Ellen and Francis’ confrontation is stellar. There are so many problems packed into it: the fact that Ellen goes to Francis in her distress, Francis’ claim that Corcoran despises her, Francis’ guilt over the abortion of their child, and beneath it all, the undeniability of the fact that Francis still wants her. Both actors portray the emotional complexity of the situation beautifully, including Alex Paxton-Beesley (Ellen), whose acting has been spotty in the past.
Ellen has made yet another bad choice, but again it’s hard to blame her, this time because she has just received the alarming news that she is pregnant. Eva is also pregnant, something we learned a while ago but that has not gotten much attention until now. It appears her baby is Corcoran’s, as she tries to get him alone so they can talk about something important (he brushes her off). It’ll be fun to see how Corcoran reacts to his sudden influx of progeny. Meanwhile, his surrogate daughter Annie is nowhere to be found, and the coppers think he is better off for it.
Sara’s mother Hattie finally appears this week after Elizabeth buys her from a plantation in Virginia. The two have a happy reunion, but then Sara has to tell her about the death of her brothers, Hattie’s sons. Sara tells her they died as heroes while rescuing people in a ferry collision. Lying about their death probably was not a good idea, but it was a relief not to have to see Hattie’s reaction to the real story, that they were hanged from a lamppost by rioting Irishmen. The lie reveals a real change in Sara. The old, angry Sara would have gladly laid the blame on the Irish so that she and her mother could rage at them together. By telling a different story, Sara has taken a step to end the cycle of violence. I am loving this woman more every week.
Kennedy’s long-awaited trial begins, and Robert Morehouse agrees not to testify in order to protect Elizabeth from Kennedy, who threatened to reveal her involvement in the Greek fire scheme if he did. Kennedy is about to go free when Robert’s father, Norbert Morehouse, makes a surprise reappearance. He admits to his involvement in the plot and implicates Kennedy. Kennedy is sentenced to hang. Morehouse Sr.’s arrival reignites the father-son tension of the latter half of season one, and holds potential to provide plenty more juicy family dysfunction.
Corky and Francis’ investigation involves a dead alderman and his pianist son Benjamin, who was allegedly sleeping with his stepmother. Benjamin is eventually found dead on his piano with a suicide note. The coppers accept the note’s claim that Benjamin killed his father and then himself, but Corky, versed in the convoluted machinations of Copper writers, thinks that’s too easy a solution.
And that’s about it. It’s not a bad episode, but it falls short of the level of sturm und drang viewers have come to expect of Copper. Maybe the show has set too high standards for itself – now we expect epic drama and action at every turn, but can it be expected to deliver every single week? With the way this season was going, I was beginning to think maybe it could. It’s hard to fault the show if it has a few low-key episodes, though.
Next week, it’s the two things no good TV show can do without: cholera, and guys shooting guns at pigs’ heads. Don’t miss it.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, A Morning Song, here.
Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.