Why “Copper” is Addictive and Instructive

Why “Copper” is Addictive and Instructive

If you like Deadwood, Law & Order, Gangs of New York, and Homicide: Life on the Street, then you need to watch Copper. It begins its second season on BBC America on June 23.

Find out where you can watch Season 1. Here’s a preview.

People, I streamed all ten episodes in two days.

Here’s a preview of Season 2.

Now, one of my most popular posts here at The Big Thing is “Why Downton Abbey is Addictive and Instructive,” in which I analyze the first 15 minutes of the first episode of that wonderful program.

But I’d like to do something a little different here, which is to analyze the last 15 seconds of season one of Copper.

This is one of the darkest, non-cable TV shows I’ve ever seen, and I mean that as a compliment. The action takes place in 1864 in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City (the same period as Gangs of New York). Kevin “Corky” Corcoran is an Irish immigrant, a Civil War hero, and a police detective living in a debauched world. Within the first five minutes of the show, he offers a hard-boiled egg to a homeless waif named Annie–and she promptly offers to blow him.

There are men in Five Points who will sleep with a ten-year old–but not Corky. He’s aghast. He had a daughter once who looked a lot like Annie, and thus, for the rest of the season, Corky tries to save Annie from the men who want to have her, and to thank him for this, she throws herself at him with abandon.

Mind you, Corky sleeps with every other female character on the show. Fiercely. He’s not exactly Mr. Straight Arrow. He’s searching for his missing wife Ellen, but still shacks up with a local madam named Eva.

Sleeps with her.
Sleeps with her.

He also sleeps with Molly, one of Eva’s girls and the love interest of his best friend.

Molly
Her, too.

Oh, and he also bags Winifred, the sexy rich lady.

This one, too.
This one, too.

Corky gets around is what I’m saying.

Is it bad to admit that one of the dramatic questions that kept me coming back to every episode was this: Will Corky kiss/touch/sleep-with the 10 year old girl?

But what about this one?
But what about this one?

I didn’t want him to do this, mind you, but it’s a testament to the wavy, immoral compass of Copper that I wasn’t sure if it would happen or not.

A whole lot of nastiness goes down in this show–I’m not going to give everything away, but remember, I said dark–and by the last episode, Corky is hooked on morphine and he’s feeling very low.

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 11.21.18 PM

And a young girl’s head appears just over his shoulder, slightly out of focus. See, Annie is living with him now. He’s just given her a bath, tucked her into bed.

And the writers of the show know that I’m still watching this show wondering if he will sleep with a 10 year old.

The moment is ripe. He’s vulnerable. She’s the predator (and yes, I know it is very creepy to say that about a 10 year old girl).

What happens next? I’m not going to tell you because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s a perfectly executed, old-fashioned reversal. And it works because the writers make you think you’re going to get one dramatic question answered, but they answer another one instead.

Teaching Writing

8 comments

  1. fifi says:

    i see that this is an older post, but i’m replying anyway ’cause i don’t know anyone else who watches “cooper”… i googled “copper” and “addictive” to see what was out there, because i, too watched 10 episodes in 2 days (via netflix streaming)… it’s ridiculous – the last scene of every episode is so intriguing, you just can’t stop – you HAVE to see the next one, and you have to see it now! the last show that had this effect on me was also one i streamed on netflix: House of Cards – but the BBC version…

    so now i’ve added bbc to my cable lineup – who knows what else i’ve been missing…

  2. fifi says:

    i see that this is an older post, but i’m replying anyway ’cause i don’t know anyone else who watches “cooper”… i googled “copper” and “addictive” to see what was out there, because i, too watched 10 episodes in 2 days (via netflix streaming)… it’s ridiculous – the last scene of every episode is so intriguing, you just can’t stop – you HAVE to see the next one, and you have to see it now! the last show that had this effect on me was also one i streamed on netflix: House of Cards – but the BBC version…

    so now i’ve added bbc to my cable lineup – who knows what else i’ve been missing…

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