Sunday night BBC America premiered Copper, a new crime drama with the unlikely setting of 1864 New York City. Copper follows police detective Kevin Corcoran’s pursuit of justice through the corrupt streets of the notorious Five Points neighborhood, and his attempts to remain a (relatively) clean cop in a dirty city. The show’s depiction of nineteenth century New York’s grit and violence is an apt reminder that, though the old west may have been wild, the east was hardly staid and civilized.[more]
Copper, in many ways, resembles the HBO’s series Deadwood, with its struggle for community in a lawless mining camp, but in New York the struggles are broader and more deeply rooted. The city is an interlocking web of conflicts: immigrants versus native born, black versus white, rich versus poor, all mediated by crooked police and corrupt politicians. Like Deadwood, Copper’s New York is a dangerous place where moral certainty is a luxury that no one can afford.
More like a cowboy than a policeman, Corcoran moves through this atmosphere of vice and corruption, seeking justice for the weak. In the first episode he hunts for the man who raped and murdered a young girl, and Corcoran has personal mysteries to solve—finding those responsible for the death of his daughter and the disappearance of his wife. Assisting in this work is an African American physician, Matthew Freeman, who met Corcoran on a Civil War battlefield. Other wartime connections provide Corcoran with access to the city’s upper class and he moves with ease between uptown mansions and Five Points brothels without becoming corrupted by either.
Future episodes will determine whether Copper can effectively bring the cowboy ethos to an east coast urban setting, but the potential is there for kinds of rich character development and engaging plots that make for great storytelling. Copper promises to be a wild ride, with a new twist on historical crime fighting.
The premier episode will be airing all week on BBC America, with new episodes every Sunday night.