Kevin and Ellen laugh about the days before they were married.


How it’s New York: COPPER takes place in New York, in the infamous Five Points that were depicted in Gangs of New York
How it’s Irish: The protagonist of the show is an Irish cop, and this season, more than before, the series takes on the plight of Irish immigrants in 1860s New York.

Here’s a recap of last week’s episode, so you’ll be all caught up for tonight’s! If you haven’t been watching this terrific BBC America series about Irish cops (OK, and some others) in Five Points during the Civil War Era, you’re missing out: it’s like Law & Order meets Masterpiece Theatre 

Kevin and O’Brien arrest a bad recruiter, in the hunt to find the person who kidnapped the missing McGrath boys. They throw him into the “suite,” a hole in a jail, and pee on him. Maybe the pee is made of acid because he sure does scream. Eventually he confesses how he recruited people for the Union army and later began to drug them, as Kevin and the others throw buckets of water on him. He tells the story of how his partner, John Smith,  tipped him off to the brothers, and then hired some big Bavarian goon to take his spot. When the brothers began struggling, the goon beat him up, and he ran off. But the boss, O’Sullivan, declines to go after the guy’s partner.

On Elizabeth’s wedding day she’s delivering a message to Kennedy in jail, because you know, she was in on the whole “let’s burn NY thing” that he’s been jailed for. He  advises her not to keep secrets from her intended. Does she think

Annie is still trying to act wifely to Kevin, chopping vegetables. He’s ‘s friendlier to his wife, Ellen,  after they had sex last week. He tells her there

Kevin and Ellen laugh about the days before they were married.

Kevin and Ellen laugh about the days before they were married.

will be a Ceili at the wedding Callahans after the wedding and he asks her to go with him, and  gives her a kiss on the cheek after they reminisce about their first date. Annie grumpily chops away. That girl is like Claudia in Interview with the Vampire; her knowingness is just unsettling.

And another couple is all happy after the sex last week: Matthew and Sara Freeman. She says she wants to make new memories as she helps move into the new place, but she flashes back to the site of her brother being lynched. Later he smiles to hear her singing as she washes the dishes. Boy that pep talk from Frederick Douglas did her a world of good, because when there’s a knock on the door she even makes a point of answering it herself. Madame Eva, the whore, arrives with a welcome basket. Despite her murder of Molly last season, she’s grown on me. Sara dresses up for the wedding but needs convincing from Matthew to go to it. He talks about how perfect the gown she created is (Lincoln’s dressmaker, anyone?), there will be dancing, it will be wonderful– but what really convinces her is when he tells her that Major Morehouse has agreed to help in the search for her mother. She’s sold, but Matthew can’t find out where, and the major’s efforts are the last and best resort.

Maguire is doing good at strongarming business owners for The Druids. He’s all tidy and shaved now that he’s out of jail, but I liked him with better with longer hair. The sideburns make his pretty face look too wide. He insists on seeing O’Rourke, who is biting a piece of rope before he mutters, in a Northern Irish accent, “You enter at your own risk.” He dismisses Seamus, and asks Maguire what he wants. What he wants is to be more than a delivery boy, he says. But O’Rourke is all “once a cop, always a cop,” which is a lot smarter than the folks beyond the wall in Game of Thrones, after all, and tells Maguire he’ll only be convinced if he takes out one of his own. Maguire says he has just the fella in mind (Wait, O’Rourke! Jon Snow did that too! It’s not foolproof!).


Robert teases Elizabeth that he thought she’d run off, then kisses her. I still don’t know what she’s doing with him.

Kevin of course goes rogue and with his partner and the guy they peed on try to find out more their own selves. He even tries playing good cop, a little, talking about how he never killed a man until the war. Or maybe that’s bad cop, because he’s saying that after the first dozen, killing came easy, implying that he’s about to do it again.

“The first one was the hardest,”

Kevin says.

“Of course, it was harder on him.”

works because he directs Kevin to the armoire with papers in it, one of which has the name of U.S. Army recruiting officer Atticus Reed. Kevin tells his partner to

 Detective Corcoran is given the location of the missing boys.

Detective Corcoran is given the location of the missing boys.

stay and goes to see him. The recruiting officer says some mean things about how the Irish started the draft riot, and have a talent for fighting and dying. The “you Irish” thing doesn’t go over too well with Kevin. The officer says he doesn’t care where the kids came from, and they are even taking black folks now, and they need cannon fodder (he uses the N-word). Then there’s a little reveal as he wheels himself to get a paper and we see both of his legs have been amputated. They both have jobs to do, he says.

“Perfumed generals don’t win wars, Corporal. Cannon fodder does.”

Kevin replies that he stopped being a corporal seven months ago. He’s on his way out when a soldier/clerk tells him he dropped something, and hands him a folded note. Risky, but it worked, as the clerk says by Sunday they’ll be gone.

Ellen tells Annie to go upstairs and change because she won’t attend a society wedding by herself. Because Kevin, the best man, is late in the service of his duty. Robert’s standing at the altar looking chagrined, as Kevin hurries along to ominous music. Bet he doesn’t get there on time. Robert drafts James the butler into being his best man. “Here Comes the Bride” plays on the harp as the bride enters. Nobody stands. Is that a modern custom? because it seems just weird to me.

And yep, as the camera pulls back we see that Kevin is being followed. We hear Maguire telling  O’Rourke that if it weren’t for this fella, he’d still

They will!

They will!

have his old job and his old life. Will Maguire shoot him? I mean, we know he won’t kill him because it’s only episode 3, but will he do it? Nope. Maguire stabs instead a different cop just smoking in the tunnel. Harsh for him. I don’t recognize him. Was it a random thing?So, Jon Snow is still a Black Crow, then.

And it turns out Kevin wasn’t even hurrying to the wedding. He takes out his brass knuckles and knocks on the door of an underground hole. Sure enough, there are scared-looking boys there. He’s stunned to see McGrath senior there. You know, the skinny guy who was lying about being in the army last week. He tries to spin it that he tracked his boy there, but Kevin’s onto him. “John Smith,” he says.

“Your boys would recognize you, that’s why you hired the Bavarian.”

He holds a gun on McGrath while giving Michael a knife to free the others. McGrath says some awful self-justifying things about how he spent years on the road providing for them and their worthless drunk of a mother, only to come home and be treated like scum. “They were her sons!” he says. Kevin is close to shooting him when Michael McGrath stops him. Even knowing his brother’s dead because of what his dad did, he’s not sure Johnny would

Finding the missing boys.

Finding the missing boys.

have wanted that. Still, he deserves to suffer, he says: “Let him live out his days in chains.” The boys rush to get chains when Kevin smacks him. Chains don’t seem enough justice, he says.

Donovan congratulates the newlyweds, and says they might soon be neighbors as he is putting in a bid for a place near theirs. Robert and Donovan talk about Kennedy‘s trial while Elizabeth stands by, listening and looking worried.

Annie flirts with Robert on her way to get her coach. As she walks away we see she’s stolen a chain. Little minx. Then He goes to carry his tired wife

Robert finds Annie

Robert finds Annie

to bed. Even with one leg he’s so macho. Elizabeth is talking about being a terrible person. She actually is, although he tells her she’s exhausted. She says she’s a deceiver. Even though she says if he knew, he would despise her, he makes comforting “you’re so great” sounds. Really, show? He’s not curious? So she pushes it and tells him she conspired in the plot to burn New York City. He tells her she needs a rest from the opium, so she tells him how Kennedy came to her, and it was meant to be just a protest. Then he stands up and is all shocked. “Forgive you!” he shouts. Well, that “you could be the devil yourself and I’d still find you irresistible” thing didn’t last long. He wonders if she meant her vows or loves him. She pleads with him as he walks away, begging him not to testify.

And McGrath signs on the dotted line, and the officer tells him, “Welcome to the Union Army.” Nice! Mrs. McGrath will get the bonus, and the officer says,

“You find any nice fresh fish, you send ’em my way, Irish.”

Satisfying all around. He then goes home to Ellen. She’s mad at him but pretending she isn’t, telling him he should apologize to Mr. Morehouse. She tells him she loves his nobility but feels sometimes that he chooses to save other’s lives at the expense of their own. And it’s always been like that, even when he was a boxer, when he would be away for days going from match to match. Her American kinda-Irish accent is weird, but maybe historical, if she was brought up with Irish from Irish people. He says he enlisted and all to do what was best for them, and their daughter. Ellen replies that Maggie was 18 months old when he left. He reminds her of how when Maggie w had a fever and a hospital refused to treat her because they were Irish, he vowed she would never be treated that way. Fighting the war was a way of being fully American and Maggie would grow up to be seen as an American.

“And yet the house is empty,” she replies, which is pretty bold, considering that’s her fault. Kevin takes his hat and coat and leaves. Well, that was predictable.

Ellen pretends she's not mad that Kevin skipped the wedding.

Ellen pretends she’s not mad that Kevin skipped the wedding.

I guess they had to have this talk, but seriously, “You were the best man and you didn’t show up, and I had to go with Annie,” was what really prompted her anger. Talking about the house being empty when your daughter’s dead because you had an affair with his best friend– you just kinda lost the moral high ground there.

Kevin goes to the saloon, and sees Donovan. Is Donovan from Cork? He kind of sounds like he is. Donovan tells him,

“Fellas like you and me, where we come from,  can’t be passing up opportunities, can’t be breaking a commitment to important people”

which is the

“you were his best man and you didn’t show”

speech that Ellen needed to say. Eva is smiling because the house is full, and she tells him even his friend Morehouse is there. She tells him he’s not looking so well himself. “Trouble at home?” “Never been better,” he lies, to which she smirks, “bullshit.” I mean seriously, why lie to her? what would possibly make you think she can’t tell? Why do Irish men DO that anyway, can someone explain why “never been better” is a stock answer, please?

Cut to Robert drunk in bed with a prostitute. Kevin comes in, and Robert’s pleased to see him, a little less happy when he orders the blonde away. “Kevin, you’ve managed to ruin my day twice,” Robert says. Kevin wants to take him home, but Robert says it’s not an option. Robert says that his

Love this... not the wedding night Robert had in mind!

Love this… not the wedding night Robert had in mind!

absence was the least of his disappointments.

Without getting specific, they talk about forgiving loved ones, and Kevin lies down next to him.

But Matthew and Sara are happy at least, dancing around in their home, still happy from the wedding. The mood is broken a little when he catches her looking out the window at that lamppost. He wonders how he can help her face it. She says he can’t, grabs an axe and goes after the lamppost. It’s iron, though, and resists. She tries to pull the lamp down but can’t, but then a bunch of black men standing around join in to help (it must not be a gas lamp, since there isn’t a series of explosions and multiple deaths).

Very heartwarming as music comes up, and the men stand. They all know what it was, what it meant, and the healing that just took place. Matthew puts his coat on her shoulders and they go back inside. Another man puts his jacket around a woman who was watching. Yay!


But the murdered cop has been found. The boss wants names, he says. “Don’t disappoint me, O’Brien,” he says. “I’m in a ferorious mood.” I like that word. He tells a squad nearby, “crack skulls! Do whatever you must. Find the no good son of a bitch who stabbed tha boy.”

While he talks, Maguire and O’Rourke clink glasses.


Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.