Copper: Darker Than Expected

I swear I haven’t meant to be all fangirl over BBCAmerica lately; it’s all coincidence!  It’s no secret I’m a fan of what BBCA has done with Doctor Who (is it perfect? No, but it’s better than it’s ever been), and I suppose I’m a bit of an Anglophile, much as the term makes me cringe.  Despite that, I’ve actually not watched much BBCA in recent years with the exception of new Who.  My interest was piqued a few weeks ago, however, when BBCA started advertising their brand-new show, Copper

Notice I say their brand-new show – because it is, indeed, a BBCAmerica original, the first of its kind.  A period drama, Copper focuses on an 1860s Irish immigrant detective in the infamous Five Points neighborhood of New York City.  Aside from the everyday crime in Five Points, which is pretty colorful, he’s also trying to solve his daughter’s murder and the disappearance of his wife.  Hmm – an international cast, a period setting, the occasional mystery – it’s like they peered into my soul and conjured up this show.  I had to watch.

Only one episode has aired thus far, and this was my immediate thought: “Wow, this show is dark.”  In every sense of the word.  First, it’s literally dark – I was squinting through the first five minutes, trying to make out faces, let alone memorize them.  Maybe it was just my TV, or maybe I just had to get used to the dim lighting, as it didn’t bother me by the end.  Still, the overall visual impression that still lingers with me?  Dark.

The content is also much more grim than I realized.  It’s rated MA, and to be honest I didn’t realize BBCA could go there (I guess I forgot about Torchwood).  Right in the first scene of the first episode, we have a twelveish-year-old girl propositioning a grown man, and it sets the tone for the rest of the episode.  However, even though life in Five Points is pretty brutal, it’s not enough to put me off the show.

So far, I’m a fan of the casting.  Tom Weston-Jones plays Kevin “Corky” Corcoran, our protagonist detective. He manages to have a kind, sympathetic face, but he’s always believable as a haunted former soldier, hardened, bereaved father, and badass cop.  The “good guys” in this show are instantly likeable, and the “bad guys” can be absolutely chilling.  When you’re watching a show laden with actions that can seem… ethically questionable, it’s important to be able to root for (or at least enjoy) the main characters, particularly in the first episode.  Later we can peel back layers a la Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, but that first episode has to grab the viewer – something I had trouble with in, say, Hell on Wheels.

Is the show perfect?  No.  There were a few line deliveries that distracted me; it also seemed a little too CG at times, though I have no idea if it actually was – maybe it was just the lighting that threw me off.  I can go along with it if they’re going for something stylized, which might be the case; I’m thinking of a specific scene where the sidewalk seemed bright and new, and it got me musing about how that landscape was new back then, so filming “on location” somewhere wouldn’t have the same effect.  Perhaps it was meant to be in stark contrast with the slums we’d just seen earlier.  I’m just not sure yet if it’s actually intentional.

Still, any quibbles were pretty much drowned out as I was drawn in to the story.  It was intriguing, allowed characters to be introduced in a natural way, and the history-lesson info-dumps were kept to a minimum, which is especially difficult in a pilot.

Apparently numbers from the first episode of Copper have made it the channel’s highest-rated series premiere ever.  I do wonder how many will be back next week – but I know I’ll be one of them.

What about you?  Did you watch the premiere of Copper? What do you think of the idea of BBCA shows, instead of all-imported content?  Share your thoughts with us below!

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