“The ‘Five Points!’ What does that name import? It is the synonym for ignorance the most entire, for misery the most abject, for crime of the darkest dye, for degradation so deep that human nature cannot sink below it.” ~ The Old Brewery (1854)
Set in 1864, ‘Copper’ introduces young, Irish cop, Kevin “Corky” Corcoran, as he seeks justice for the poor and powerless immigrants of Five Points, NY. With the assistance of his friends and fellow investigators, he delves deeper into the elegance and corruption of Fifth Avenue and the emerging African-American community in Northern Manhattan.
In the slums of Five Points, NY a young girl’s body is discovered in Cow Bay and Detective Kevin “Corky” Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) is sent to investigate the murder. When he sees the young girl, he immediately recognizes her as Annie (Kiara Glasco), a beggar he had spoken to earlier while on a stakeout of a bank robbery. He takes Annie’s body to his friend, Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), an African-American physician who saved his life during the Civil War and now secretly helps Corcoran with murder investigations.
After checking the body, Freeman determines that Annie was cleaned up and Jasmine combed through her hair before being killed and “deflowered.” She was murdered with a blow to the head caused by something that left a distinct mark in the wound. Corky asks Freeman to identify the weapon with the sketch of the mark, but Freeman says he can’t since he is moving out of Five Points due to the Irish mob and the dangers of living there as a black man.
Corcoran takes the girl’s body, but leaves the sketch behind and heads to the coroner. On his way, however, he spots Annie soliciting an older man on the street. Confused, he goes after her, finds her and asks whose body he’s carrying since it looks exactly like Annie. She freaks out and runs, but the man whom she was with attacks Corky as he attempts to follow her, so loses Annie in the crowd.
Corky decides to send his friends and fellow investigators, Andrew O’Brien (Dylan Taylor) and Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan), to look for Annie, but after finding them burying the now unidentified girl, they tell him they will look for her after they collect the Captain’s “tax.” Unwilling to wait, Corky decides to look for Annie himself; pausing momentarily to pay respect to his daughter who had also met an untimely death when she was murdered while Corcoran was fighting in the war.
Corky finds Annie where he had first met her and takes her to the brothel, Eva’s Paradise. While there he asks Annie about the dead girl and Annie admits that the girl was her twin sister, Kate. She tells Corky that when her father died she started begging and found herself in front of Contessa Pompadou’s brothel. The Contessa took her in and was nice to her, but only did so because she knew “certain kind of gentlemen” that would “pay a high price for girls her age.” Annie was held prisoner at the Contessa’s for ten days until one day her sister showed up looking for her. When the Contessa said Kate could live with them, Annie denied it at first. Then, under the threat of being sent to Blackwell’s Island, an insane asylum with a foreboding reputation, she called her sister to Contessa Pompadou’s when she spotted her again two days later. As the Contessa was distracted with Kate, she finally managed to escape. When Annie finishes telling her story, Corcoran asks her if there was “one particular man with a taste for a little girls,” but she breaks down and is unable to say anything more. Corky decides to leave her under the care of the brothel’s Madame, Eva Heissen (Franka Potente) and one of the courtesans, Molly Stuart (Tanya Fischer) and heads to the Contessa’s to find out who had killed Kate.
When Corky arrives, he is unable to get pass the guard, Bill Longin so he asks him what he knows about the girl’s death, but receives nothing more than a snide remark in return. This prompts him to attack the guard to take him for questioning. He takes Bill, strips him and shackles him before proceeding to “question” him. After beating him for a bit, he determines that Bill’s silence is because he is the murderer so Corky continues to beat him in an attempt to get the confession out of him. When he finds Bill unresponsive to his “questioning,” he eventually leaves him there for the rats and the cold to get him and goes home.
Freeman joins him there and tells him that a man about six feet tall killed Kate with a fancy silver or ivory walking stick. At this point, Corky realizes he was wrong about Bill because he is well over six feet tall so goes to release him. After removing Bill’s shackles, he asks him about what happened, but Bill still won’t betray the trust of the Contessa for fear of what she would do if she found out.
Corky then heads to a cane maker with the sketch of the mark from the wound, but when the old man refuses to say who he made the walking stick for, Corky resorts to threatening to shoot the old man. He immediately tells Corky it was Winfred Haverford, so Corky heads over to Haverford’s to question him about the murder. When he arrives, he spots the walking stick in a stand in the foyer, but overhears Haverford telling the butler to send him away. He sees Elizabeth Haverford (Anastasia Griffith) step into the hallway, so he grabs the walking stick and leaves before being kicked out.
He immediately takes the walking stick to Captain Ciaran Joseph Sullivan (Ron White) with all of the evidence and proof that Winfred Haverford killed Kate, but more concerned about his reputation than justice, Sullivan tells Corky that he and corrupt Sergeant Padraic Byrnes (David Keeley) intend to take charge of the investigation and sends him away with nothing more than a patronizing commendation.
The next day his friend, Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid), an aristocrat who fought in the war with him and Freeman and views them as equals, sends for Corky. When he arrives at Morehouse’s, he sees the murder weapon – Haverford’s walking stick – in the cane stand before being ushered into the sitting room. The Captain, Morehouse and Haverford tell Corky that Bill Longin confessed to the murder, stating that while Haverford was being entertained Kate caught him going through his clothes, so he killed her. With that confession, Bill will hang and due to Corky’s competent and discreet work, he should be commended. Though accusing such a man as Haverford should have gotten him dismissed.
Corky turns to leave, but Haverford inquires about the girl’s twin sister before he does. Corky merely tells him that the sister was placed with the nuns and worries that someone will come after Annie, who could point him out as the man who preferred little girls. He quickly proceeds to Eva’s Paradise to tell Molly to let him know if anyone asks about Annie.
After warning Molly to watch out for Annie, Corky goes to visit Bill Longin and apologize for how things turned out, but Bill tells him he couldn’t be happier since his liver is shot and he is going to die anyway. This way he get’s to live “like the King of Siam” while his wife gets money for his death and the public gets the satisfaction of seeing someone hang for such a heinous crime. Corky tells him the public should see the right person hang for it, but Bill points out that in Five Points things are different for people like Haverford than they are for people like Bill and Corky and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Dejected, Corky goes home and finds a woman standing in the shadows and thinks it’s his missing wife, Ellen, but when she turns around he sees it’s Mrs. Haverford. She asks Corky if her husband killed the girl and had “his way with her.” Corky tells her he did, and before leaving Mrs. Haverford asks Corky to avenge Kate Reilly’s murder.
‘Surviving Death’ jumps right in to Kevin Corcoran’s life as he investigates murders and crimes committed in Five Points, NY. It was an interesting episode that introduced just enough about his life to be intriguing, but not overwhelming. He’s a character that gains some empathy not only because he seeks justice for the poor and powerless despite being thwarted at every turn by corrupt officials but also because of his history: a war hero with a battlefield secret that connects him to an aristocrat and an African-American physician, and also a man searching for the truth about his wife’s disappearance and their daughter’s murder. What exactly happened on the battlefield that connects him to an aristocrat and a black man? And what happened to his wife and daughter? What adds to that intrigue is Freeman’s wife’s comment about him being an evil man. She said it with such conviction; it makes you wonder what exactly he did to be accused of being evil considering how evil so many others have already proven to be. Then again, what copper wasn’t a bit evil and corrupt in Five Points? He is a copper, after all.
Needless to say, a lot happened. There was corruption, murder, sex, deception, some more sex and a bit more corruption, just like you’d expect from a show that’s set in Five Points, NY in the 1860s and it was well worth watching. Kevin Corcoran is a likable lead character and with the support of his friends, Freeman, Morehouse and Maguire, it’ll be interesting to see how the stories unfold. How much more corruption will be uncovered? Will Corcoran find any justice for the powerless? Will Haverford eventually be arrested for his crimes? Okay so Haverford probably won’t get arrested, but considering how Corcoran, Maguire and O’Brien took care of those bank robbers, one can only hope Haverford meets a similar, but far more painful and demeaning death to pay for his crimes.
‘Copper’ airs Sunday nights at 10/9C on BBC America.