Thursday, November 8, 2012

Copper arrests a Blu-ray release

BBC America's first original series, Copper, recently finished airing, and already there is a DVD and Blu-ray release of the freshman season. The two disc set contains all ten episodes of the 1964 New York City-set crime drama, as well as audio commentary, a handful of featurettes, including a "making of," deleted scenes, and video profiles.

Copper is the story of Irish-American Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones, World Without End), a tormented man who returns home from the Civil War to find his family gone, daughter dead, wife missing. He becomes obsessed with finding out what happened, but while he does so, he becomes a cop in the Five Points neighborhood. His quest for justice extends to those he serves, and unlike many policemen of the day, he digs deep, rather than just believing whatever story seems obvious.

Kevin is not alone in this. He is aided by two detectives that he can trust, Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan, Laredo) and Andrew O'Brien (Dylan Taylor, Defying Gravity). Not every copper on the force is nearly as noble as these three. While their methods may be brutal, and they are not above beating or killing those who deserve it, they also won't punish an innocent party, at least not once they realize the person isn't guilty.

Kevin is further helped along by a man at the cutting edge of forensic science, Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh, Blood Diamond). Interestingly, Matthew is a black man, which leads to all sorts of racial subplots. Matthew lives pretty well, being educated, though he has to deal with a mentally unstable wife, Sara (Tessa Thompson, Veronica Mars). But he will never be fully accepted into Kevin's world, and so most of his assistance is under the table.

While Kevin's crew slums through the lower-class people, dark and dirty and grimy, his investigations bring him into contact with high society, which may look pretty, but is just as seedy on the underbelly. His first encounter is with a child prostitute, Annie (Kiara Glasco), whom Kevin takes an interest in because she reminds him of his daughter. It becomes a pet project of his to keep tabs on Annie, and make sure she gets her life on track.

When venturing into the upper crust world, Kevin has a friend there, too, in Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid, Being Human). Robert serves with Kevin in the war. Although his pursuits are often of the aristocratic variety, Robert does have a moral compass, to some extent, and is more of a help than a hindrance to Kevin. This relationship extends to Kevin's cohorts, as well, including Matthew, with whom Robert has a shared history.

What is most interesting to me about Copper is the dichotomy set up between the two worlds. No one with sense in their head ever said that being wealthy makes you a better person. But rather than engaging in class warfare, Copper draws parallels between the two worlds, taking a page from British hits such as Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton Abbey, illustrating that people are very much the same no matter what their economic status. Showing prostitutes on both side of the coin, as well as criminals and righteous men, these neighborhoods are separated only by surface characteristics, not by any measure that matters.

Speaking of prostitutes, amid the cases of the week crimes and the ongoing plots of Kevin, Annie, Matthew, Robert, and the others, there is also time for romance. Kevin is drawn to two women, Eva (Franka Potente, The Bourne Identity), who sells her flesh for money, and Elizabeth (Anastasia Griffith, Once Upon a Time, Royal Pains), who nearly loses her soul to a wicked husband. Again, we have the two worlds clashing, as the series rounds itself out.

Copper is more than a genre show, and it's more than a period piece. It's extremely well made, terrifically acted, and a fully developed, visually pleasing universe. The characters and the setting feel completely whole, and the stories will suck you in, expertly mixing the adventure, romance, intrigue, and drama. I am still disappointed that BBC America is spending money on original fare instead of beefing up it's slim offerings from across the pond. But if they had to go down this path, at least it's something as fitting and wonderfully made as Copper.

Copper Season One is available now.

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