Donal Logue Comes to Tammany Hall in Season 2 of 'Copper'

Abraham Lincoln's assassination is just months away and there's increasing corruption in New York's Tammany Hall, embodied here by General Brendan Donovan (Donal Logue), new to the series this season.


Airtime: Sundays, 10pm ET
Cast: Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid, Franka Potente, Ato Essandoh, Donal Logue
Subtitle: Season Two Premiere
Network: BBC America
Creator: Tom Fontana, Will Rokos
Air Date: 2013-06-23

Near the start of the new season of Copper, an angry Irishman named Buzzie Burke (Noah Danby) bursts into the frame. He's come after Eva (Franka Potente) in the Five Points, Manhattan brothel where she conducts her business. Seconds later, another man arrives, equally violently. It's 1865, and Eva's ex-lover, Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), isn't bound by laws protecting anyone's Constitutional rights.

Inserting himself so violently between the thug and the madame, the Civil War veteran Corcoran faces a darkness that permeates much of this premiere episode of Copper's second season, a darkness that obscures distinctions between lawful and illicit activities, the city's Irish and African American communities, just and unjust intentions. In part this darkness is a function of a broader political context -- Abraham Lincoln's assassination is just months away -- but it is also premised on the increasing influence and corruption of New York's Tammany Hall, embodied here by General Brendan Donovan (Donal Logue), new to the series this season.

Darkness seems to follow Donovan from frame to frame. Back in New York after a stint in the Union Army, he's arrogant and tough. As he puts it, "I'm the kind of man who likes to think everything suffers in my absence." When Donovan first strides into the Sixth Precinct, his face is obscured by heavy shadow as he berates the young officers and beats one of them for no apparent reason.

As it becomes clear that Donovan means to reshape the city's fledgling police force, Corcoran's place in this developing political landscape is yet to be determined. On the street, at work, he seems at ease with shadows, but at home with his wife Ellen (Alex Paxton-Beesley), where the rooms are brightly lit, he remains distrustful, keenly aware, as we are, that she's still recovering from last season's ordeal, that is, the affair withorcoran's best friend, Maguire (Kevin Ryan), the accidental killing of her own child, the forcible confinement and drugging in a mental institution.

The irresolution of this miserable past is underlined when the camera takes us deep into the maze-like city jail, where Maguire sits in a particularly dim corner. His glass eye catches a ray of light, reminding us that the man who killed two women and tried to destroy Ellen might yet create havoc in the coming season.

One sign of this havoc is Corcoran's own conflicting feelings about Maguire. It may be that his confusion results in his violence against criminal suspects, including Buzzie Burke, or that it is a result of his loyalty to his fellow Irishman. This struggle between light and dark works as a metaphor for Corcoran as an individual and the Sixth Precinct as a whole, and vividly emerges in the era's virulent racism.

This season, as before, Copper focuses this theme through the experiences of African American doctor and war veteran Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh) and his wife Sara (Tessa Thompson). Here, when they move outside the city for their own safety, their sense of dislocation is represented in the shadow of the urban skyline that's visible from their new home.

Corcoran's friendship with Freeman, based on their shared experience during the war, appears to influence his attitude on the job, which is to say, he doesn't discriminate when it comes to using his authority to mete out his own brutal version of justice. In this, Copper reveals not only the grim living conditions of 19th century New York, but also the implications of unchecked police power.

Though he turns a blind eye to some crime, especially at Eva's brothel, Corcoran appears the Sixth Precinct's most admirable representative. He keeps his distance from high society events and political schemes. Amid such dishonesty and manipulation, Corcoran is a romanticized figure, much like the cops who populate so many TV shows set in the 21st century. Because he tolerates petty crimes, it seems that he's defying Tammany Hall's plan to clean up the streets, which constitutes another, more enduring sort of brutality. Whether that defiance can last remains a question.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.