BBC America’s original series Copper recently saw its second season released on Blu-ray and DVD. Set in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City in 1865, the show follows some police detectives, nicknamed “coppers,” as they try to keep the peace in the infancy of forensic science, where fists sometimes overrule a just trial, and the country uneasily tries to end and recover from the Civil War. Dealing with race relations, missing persons, and class conflict, it paints a picture of a specific time and place to viewers who likely know little of the period.
Season two starts with “Home, Sweet Home.” A new villain, Buzzie Burke (Noah Danby, Defiance), a psychopath, has been ignored by the community, but has stepped up his mischief, garnering him the attention of the police force. Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) would like to shut Buzzie down, but since he faced a penalty for going after the man before, he hesitates to make a movie. Then Buzzie hurts Eva (Franka Potente), and Kevin, who is fond of Eva, changes his mind.
That ought to tell you a lot about the tone of the series. Filled with sex, drugs, secrets, betrayal, murder, and maiming, there is action, danger, and adventure. Corcoran has a difficult duty, and it’s more about taking out the worst of the bad guys than actually enforcing the letter of the law.
Corcoran isn’t as equipped to deal with the problems as he has been in the first season. His comrade, Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan), is in jail, awaiting execution. Corcoran has turned his back on Maguire, though many viewers are likely to still root for the man. But his absence is markedly felt on the beat, especially by O’Brien (Dylan Taylor) who, unlike Corcoran, won’t turn his back on a friend. Though, it likely won’t surprise you to learn that Maguire is soon out of prison, albeit serving a different role than he did in season one.
Corcoran is also down his science expert, Dr. Freeman (Ato Essandoh), who has moved to the country for the health of his wife, Sara (Tessa Thompson). Add to that a rocky marriage to newly-found Ellen (Alex Paxton-Beesley), and season two starts out rough for the hero.
Luckily, Corcoran has some help in his new boss, General Donovan (Donal Logue, Terriers). Coming in with a mission to clean house at the precinct, Donovan quickly proves an unpredictable and tough leader, comfortable with the upper crust, but generous to the working man. A former copper himself, his moral code is shady, but he definitely is determined to get the Five Points on the right path, and may just have the ability to do so.
Some villains are less blatant than others. Elizabeth Haverford (Anastasia Griffith) seeks shelter with Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid), worried that her devious deeds will come to light. She doesn’t clue Morehouse into this, however, taking advantage of his kindness and manipulating him with sex.
Elizabeth isn’t the only one that defies typical gender roles, and that’s part of the reason to watch Copper. In some ways, it does mirror today, especially as TV audiences cling to the cop procedural, but the differing ethics and values of the 1860s, as well as much weaker technology, provides a nice counterpoint, setting Copper apart from its peers in the current age. And it’s pretty enjoyable on its own, the characters and arcs deepening in the second year as it grows into itself.
After a ten episode first season, which BBC America lauded as highly successful, season two consists of thirteen episodes, after which the show is canceled. The network calls it a natural end point, and while much of the story does seem concluded, there is certainly more that could have been done, had the shown gone on. Though, as someone who frequently complains about BBC America’s lack of British programming, I sincerely hope the budget that previously went to Copper brings us a number of fresh programs from across the ocean, rather than another new show.
Copper looks terrific in high definition. With its dark shadows and grimy streets, one may not want to look too closely at the setting. Yet, there is a sharpness and clarity to the picture that is aided by the Blu-ray release. The colors are often muted, but come across clearly, especially in scenes full of blacks and browns, a frequent occurrence for this show, bound to frustrate those watching in standard definition. The soundtrack is well mixed, with crisp dialogue and full background and score.
In terms of extras, Copper Season Two could do better. All we get are two very short, unnecessary characters profiles, a trio of brief set tours, which are kind of illuminating, but don’t go nearly deep enough, and three “Insiders.” This last bit is what I want more of, but instead are just quick behind-the-scenes focuses on a few elements of the season such as hats and facial hair, less than five minutes total running time.
Still, it’s a pretty good show, and it looks fantastic, so this three-disc set is worth checking out. Copper Season Two is available now.