Above the Influence: After Corcoran kills her sister's murderers and sends away her pedophile husband, Annie goes to his home with every intent on "thanking him." He proceeds to tell her to get dressed and go back to Elizabeth's place.
Answer Cut: Corcoran asked Robert where Kennedy was when they nabbed the second shipment of Greek Fire. Cut to Kennedy in a lab in New York filled with Greek Fire they produced there doing a monologue about how the second shipment was a decoy.
Anyone Can Die: Molly, Winnie Heverford, Mary Lockwood, and Sgt Byrnes as of the end of the first season.
Arranged Marriage: Annie's guardian decided to marry her when she was ten. He told her that it was the law in America that girls have to marry that young.
Artistic License - History: Mostly avoided but although there was a Confederate arson plot against New York it did not involve Greek Fire for the simple reason that we still don't know how it was made.
The official police reports tend not to match what actually happened or even what the police officers suspect happened. The police brass feel that a simple cover story is better than digging too much into events that might come back to bite them.
"It's not about the truth; it's about resolution."
When Corcoran says that Rev. Garland needs an alibi, Morehouse does not even blink before responding that he was with the gentleman at the time of the crime.
Elizabeth lies to Corcoran about what she did to Annie, claiming she sent her to the west coast to live on a farm, away from the city's temptations. In truth, she sent her to be with her "father" who is really her pedophile husband.
The Jewish pawnbroker tells Corcoran that his wife had to sell the locket because the money Corcoran send them had not arrived yet and she needed money to buy food. The pawnbroker has no idea what really happened and Francis paid him to tell Corcoran the story.
Bluff The Imposter: Robert Morehouse becomes suspicious of a visitor from Canada so he engages him in a conversation about brothels. He mentions a popular Montreal brothel and the visitor says that he visited it a few times. Robert than reveals that no such brothel exists and the 'Canadian' admits that he is actually a Confederate agent.
Calling the Old Man Out: Robert Morehouse is extremely angry when he finds out the extent of his father's illegal business dealings and that his father was willing to commit treason and help kill hundreds of people so the truth would not come out.
Chekhov's Gun: Andrew's brother-in-law 'found' a Confederate revolver in a Union general's hotel room and he later bets it in a card game. Francis wins the gun and decides to keep it for himself. It's a rather unique gun and Corcoran uses the fact to connect Francis to Mary Lockwood's murder.
Chick Magnet: By the third episode Corcoran already had Eva, Molly, Elizabeth and Annie all either in his bed or trying to get there.
Christianity Is Catholic: Strongly averted. Corcoran and his Irish friends are all Catholic but the Morehouses are Episcopalian and everyone is keenly aware of the differences.
A Pinkerton Detective starts his interrogation by breaking Corcoran's leg and plans to break other bones if he does not get what he is looking for.
When the coppers feel that a standard beating will not get them the information they want, they can use the Suite. It is a cell located under the precinct privy and the prisoner is chained up in a way that he cannot avoid being urinated and defecated on all day.
A beat cop had two of his toes cut off, both to make him talk and to send a message.
Combat Pragmatist: Corcoran uses brass knuckles and kicks to the groin to bring down a trio of bouncers. When the coppers ambush some bank robbers, they open fire first without announcing themselves as police officers or asking the criminals to surrender.
An Episcopalian bishop threatens to derail Morehouses' plans for Five Points. As it happens Corcoran starts interdependently investigating the same clergyman in connection with an abortionist's murder. When Morehouse Sr. finds out about this coincidence he can't believe his luck and promptly backs up Corcoran against any possible backlash.
It just happens that Andrew and Phinbar Byrnes are in Central Park looking for sheep when Byrnes literally stumbles over Mary Lockwood's body.
The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The police are quite experienced in making sure that the official record of an murder investigation shows that justice was done and that nobody important is implicated. If they can't convict the actual culprit, they will find a Fall Guy or record the death as an accident or suicide. Anybody who might protest is either paid off or threatened into keeping silent. Notably both the bad guys and the good guys engage in this.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Norbert Morehouse, Robert's father, is selling arms to the Confederates. His reason? Profit is profit, no matter how it was made.
Robert Morehouse requests to Lincoln his father not be hung as a traitor, but rather sent to help Altanta as a small business man looking to restart Atlanta's economy after Sherman's burning of Atlanta.
Corcoran finds Francis trapped in a fire and saves him. He considers Francis suffering as he recovered in the poor medical care of the doctors to be this.
When Corcoran finds out that a man is kidnapping young men (children by today's standards) and selling them as 'volunteers' to Union army recruiters, he is inclined to just shoot the man. He is persuaded to spare the man's life and instead he 'volunteers' the man for the army and the meat grinder of the Civil War.
Da Chief: Captain Sullivan tries to be this. However, it soon becomes apparent that Corcoran and Sgt. Byrnes are really running the precinct and Sullivan is only relevant because Corcoran and Byrnes despise each other. By the end of season 1 Corcoran stops pretending and informs Sullivan of the fact that all the coppers only obey Corcoran now and there is nothing Sullivan can do about it. Afterwards Corcoran does not even bother keeping Sullivan in the loop. But when he is in the theatre and word of fire reaches him, he does leave to investigate.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: The show rarely misses an opportunity to remind the viewer that it takes place in an era where our modern values and morals simply did not apply. In the very first scene of the series premiere, a homeless girl offers to 'pleasure' Corcoran in return for a hard boiled egg. Corcoran then spends a large part of the episode walking around while carrying a dead girl wrapped in a blanket, and no one even blinks an eye. (See Acceptable Targets, above, for more.)
In fact, the reason Corcoran is The Hero is because he doesn't believe in the same values as everyone else: he doesn't like the corruption and bribery that skew justice, while everyone else just sees it as the cost of doing business.
Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Haverford got away with killing and raping Kathy and there is nothing a copper like Corcoran can do about it. However, instead of just lying low and finding a new victim he decides that he needs to get his hands on Annie. He is quite unsubtle about it and even hires a Pinkerton and a bunch of street toughs to do his dirty work. If he just let the matter go, Corcoran would not have to kill him and the Contessa.
Dirty Cop: The police department is extremely corrupt and for the most part acts as just another street gang. The main characters collect protection money from neighborhood businesses, and when they kill some bank robbers, they don't hesitate to stuff their own pockets with some of the bank's money. If you have money you can buy your way out of even the most heinous crime. Corcoran differs from his fellow coppers because he believes that there are some crimes that need to be fully investigated and prosecuted.
Even Evil Has Standards: Elizabeth Haverford was helping Kennedy and the Confederates, provided they attack non-populated areas, like the docks when no one is around. Kennedy breaking this word makes her refuse to offer him help escaping New York.
Everyone Knows Morse: Averted. Generally only those who man the telegraph stations know. Cue Oh Crap from Adam, who works for the Morehouses, when Corcoran tells him he knows Morse from his time in the Union Army. And he knows Adam just lied about what the message he just received said.
Fake American: Invoked by Corcoran when he reminds Captain Sullivan that Sullivan was born in Ireland just as Corcoran and the captain can't pretend otherwise just because Sullivan's father dropped the "O'" from O'Sullivan when they arrived in America.
This is a particularly complex issue because the concept of who is "American" is in flux not only because of the presence of a great deal of immigrants but also because it is set against the backdrop of the Civil War. The South didn't believe in the idea of a unified American nation, and many white characters debate blacks' existence as legitimate citizens.
It's the reason Corcoran joined the Union Army. The scorn he and his family experienced for being Irish—and therefore not legitimately American in some eyes—made him want to ensure his daughter a more secure place in the world. He wanted to make the country his country, and in order to do that he had to make its war his war.
Several of the actors also don't come from the same places their characters do.
At first it looks like Molly betrayed Corcoran and sold Annie to the Contessa but it was actually all part of Corcoran's plan.
Robert Morehouse plays this by getting close to some Confederate spies.
False Confession: A dying man confesses to a murder committed by a wealthy industrialist. In exchange for being the Fall Guy, he gets to live out the last days of his life in opulent comfort and his family will receive a large sum of money when he is hanged.
Fanservice: Oddly enough for a show with at least two prostitutes as main characters, much more of the male variety. So far, we've seen several men stripped to the waist, and Francis Maguire's butt, but very little female nudity. On the other hand, BBC America isn't a pay channel like HBO, so they're a little more restricted in what they can show.
Season two opens with an opium fueled sex scene between Elizabeth and Morehouse (arguably two of the more attractive members of the cast) with just enough Godiva Hair / Scenery Censor to keep it this side of legal. However, this was right after Eva had her back carved open and graphically stitched closed, so no one was really in the mood.
Keating speech to the members of The Druids seems to present him as a anarchistic revolutionary who organized the counterfeiting ring as a way to 'stick it to the Man' and address some of the injustice of life in Five Points. Then he has a man start singing just so he can see what happens when he cuts the man's throat mid-song.
Brendan Donovan is initially presented as a Corrupt Politician ally of Corcoran and maybe even a mentor figure for the detective. Subsequent episodes reveal more and more of how he really conducts his business and we realize that he is a Villain with Good Publicity who does not care who gets hurt due to his schemes.
Fille Fatale: Annie, but with a major league Freudian Excuse: first being forced to marry at the age of ten a man who abused her so badly that life in a brothel seemed preferable, then being similarly abused by Haverford, plus life on the streets in general.
Fingore: Corcoran uses his brass knuckles to smash the hand of Adam, the telegraph operator, when he tries to lie about what Morehouse Sr. was up to. Corcoran would have continued to break more of the hand but Robert stopped him.
Fire-Forged Friends: Robert Morehouse considers Kevin Corcoran, Matthew Freeman, and himself to be this due to their shared experiences during the war and despite their widely different social status. For this reason, he is willing to lie and help out either man if it's in his power.
Frying Pan of Doom: Annie uses one to take down Buzzy when he's holding Ellen hostage and Corcoran at gunpoint.
Genre Savvy: A thief breaks into a house and finds a dead child inside. He realizes that the crime will be blamed on him so he goes straight to the docks and signs up on the next ship to leave town. When he returns more than a year later, he is caught by Corcoran and is smart enough not to try and lie about what happened. Corcoran believes his story and lets him go.
Good Is Not Nice: Corcoran is a very decent person, but he is definitely not 'nice'. This also applies to Robert and even Matthew who will go after those who harm them or their loved ones.
Gossipy Hens: A pair of them enjoyed tea with Elizabeth before they delved into Malicious Slander about the black reverend suspected of murder and how Elizabeth's mere acquaintance with him, as Elizabeth is supporting his orphanage, is dirtying her. Elizabeth smiles, hopes they enjoyed themselves and when they were done with tea never come calling again.
Happily Married: Matthew and Sarah have a very sweet, supportive relationship. Time will tell if it stays this way.
Made of Iron: Corcoran travels across town, climbs up the outside of a two-story building, puts a beatdown on Haverford and jumps into a cart from a two story window — with a broken leg! Admittedly he was on morphine and the cart had bags of something or other to cushion his fall, but still.
Mutual Kill: The official version of events is that Winfred Haverford and the Contessa killed each other.
My God, What Have I Done?: Elizabeth could be the page image for this trope after she allows Annie's husband (posing as her father) to take her away kicking and screaming. Even the butler gets in on the action.
Never Suicide: The police find a man hanging in a stable and none of them even suggests suicide. They have seen enough lynchings to know right away that the victim did not hang himself. Subverted later on when they officially declare the death to be a suicide since they do not want to pursue the actual killer.
New Meat: Corcoran and Andrew mentor a rookie copper who just joined the police force and happened to be the nephew of Sgt. Byrnes, who really doesn't like Corcoran. Andrew uses the guy to do grunt work like catching a sheep for dinner. It takes the poor guy many weeks before he has the courage to ask that they call him by his real name of Phinbar rather than just 'Little Byrnes'.
The Nicknamer: Robert Morehouse likes to give people nicknames. He calls Corcoran "Corky" as a sign of endearment and calls Winfred Haverford "Winnie" as a sign of his contempt for the man.
Nitro Express: Robert Morehouse helps Kennedy transport a wagon full of Greek Fire that will explode if one of the barrels has a leak and any of the liquid is exposed to air. Of course, his actual plan is to sabotage the wagon before it reaches New York so the Greek Fire is destroyed in the explosion.
No Nonsense Nemesis: If you make an enemy out of Corcoran, he will not play games. If legal means are not enough, he will simply kill you.
Non-Idle Rich: Robert Morehouse and his father have plans with their money and generally are seen using it for their own advantages and plots.
Obfuscating Disability: Corcoran uses his badly broken leg as a great alibi. No matter what his superiors might suspect, people are not going to believe that someone in his condition could travel across town, climb up to a second story window, kill two people and then get back to Five Points without anyone noticing him.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Robert Morehouse might come off as a dandy and a drunkard, but he has a sharp mind and big plans for the future. By contrast, Corcoran is often described as too smart for his own good.
Place Worse Than Death: For his role in helping the Confederate spies, Norbert Morehouse was not hung but sent to Atlanta, after Sherman's burning of it, to work as a small business entrepreneur for the rest of his life. It was his son's idea to get him to avoid being hung.
Power Fist: Brass knuckles are Corcoran's weapon of choice, along with his revolver.
Pretty Little Headshots: Averted due to the caliber and type of bullets used. When a bank robber gets shot in the head, a large chunk of his face gets blown off.
Properly Paranoid: As election day approaches rumors start to circulate that New York is going to be the target of an attack by Confederate agents. The more panicky and paranoid citizens, including Andrew's wife, want the coppers to investigate and apprehend the spies. The rumors are correct and there really is a plot to set large portions of New York on fire if Lincoln is reelected.
Reality Ensues: One episode involves Corcoran and O'Brien trying to match a handwriting sample, so they try to obtain signatures from all the people they interviewed. Surprise! This is 1864, and they're interviewing dirt-poor Irish immigrants; virtually everyone they interview is illiterate.
Corcoran and Matthew Freeman were rewarded by the Morehouse family for keeping silent about the fact that it was the black Matthew who cut off Robert Morehouse's leg.
Adam, the telegraph operator, is present during most of the business meetings Morehouse Sr. has in his office. The Morehouse family must trust him explicitly when it comes to their financial activities. Significantly, Robert asks him to leave the room when Corcoran comes to discuss the Greek Fire.
Sergeant Rock: Corcoran was a sergeant in the Union Army. Morehouse credits him with making their unit an effective fighting force.
Corcoran got his job as a police detective because the Morehouse family owed him for saving Robert during the war.
Matthew Freeman gets his house and medical practice for being the one to actually save Robert and not making a fuss about not getting credit for it.
Eve Heissen is able to travel from New York to New Orleans in the middle of the Civil War because she has the right connections to get travel documents signed by Abraham Lincoln and another set signed by Jefferson Davis.
Corcoran is able to disobey his superiors and pursue his own investigations because he is a friend of the Morehouses.
Averted with Norbert Morehouse, Robert's father, who committed treason against the United States by helping with the plot to burn New York City. He suffers for his treason by being sent to Atlanta to work as a small business man.
Buris "Buzzie" Burke used to be under the protection of the political establishment and thus could run his criminal enterprises without interference from the police. When Corcoran became a police officer, Burke was the first criminal he arrested. The desk sergeant at the police station promptly released Burke and explained the system to Corcoran. However, by the time the second season starts Burke has become too Ax-Crazy and unreliable and has lost the protection of his patrons. Corcoran is now free to hunt him down and arrest or kill as he desires.
Silk Hiding Steel: Elizabeth Haverford proves to be both smarter and tougher than her husband. To the point when she learns her husband is a child raping murderer, she asks Corcoran to ensure justice is done for that girl, knowing it would likely mean his death. She was also supplying funds to the people planning on burning New York.
Slipping a Mickey: The Union army is contracting civilians to act as recruiters. A particularly unscrupulous group of them like to approach young men in taverns, drug their drinks, kidnap them and then hold them prisoner until they can be delivered as 'volunteers' to the army.
Speak Ill of the Dead: After Sgt. Byrnes's death, the detectives use the story of his death as a warning for new coppers. The stupid way he died makes for a perfect object lesson as to what happens when a copper does his job sloppily.
Stop or I Will Shoot!: Corcoran prefers to shoot the bank robbers first and then identify himself as a police officer.
Stupid Evil: Haverford who, through bribery of the corrupt police force plus manipulation of his social status had gotten away with murdering Kate, Annie's twin sister. But he couldn't let go of going after Annie as well which let Corcoran and Annie lure him to his death
Tap on the Head: Lampshaded by Andrew when he warns a rookie copper not to use his truncheon to hit people on the head. The asylum is full of people who suffered brain damage due to a skull fracture.
Tempting Fate: Robert Morehouse sponsors a boxing match between 'Irish' Jake McGinnis and Jasper Longfield. Corcoran is appalled by the idea. If 'Irish' Jake loses to a black man, at best only Jasper will be lynched and at worst there will be another riot that causes hundreds of deaths. In Robert's defense he was assured that Jasper would take a dive and he had a contingency plan in place just in case. Said contingency plan is having the ref knock Jasper out with a vicious elbow that breaks his jaw, when it looks like 'Irish' Jake might not be able to recover from a terrible beating. No one in attendance even blinks at the extremely obvious cheating: they all had money riding on Jake.
Throwing the Fight: Jasper Longfield is supposed to throw his boxing match against 'Irish' Jake McGinnis but Jasper is in no mood to lose and does not fully comprehend the dire consequences of him winning the fight. Fortunately, Robert Morehouse has a backup plan ready if it looks like Jasper is about to win. The ref knocks Jasper out and simply declares Jake the winner.
Too Dumb to Live: If Sgt. Byrnes paid more attention to actual police work he probably would have realized that a murder victim was likely poisoned and eating the dead man's food is a very bad idea.
Villain with Good Publicity: "Winnie" Haverford is publicly known to be a philanthropist and is even honored for saving an orphanage. In his free time he likes to rape little girls. This was later used under the Mutual Kill by saying he died protecting Annie from the Contessa.
Vote Early, Vote Often: At election time Andrew is in charge of giving out alcohol, wigs and fake names to all the 'frequent voters' to help 'Irish' Jake McGinnis win.
Wham Episode: Corcoran's wife has had some kind of mental breakdown and is in an asylum ... and it appears Maguire is the one responsible.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Corcoran lampshades this when he points out to the Pinkerton Detective that they both know that a Pinkerton will not shoot a copper because of the enormous trouble that would cause. The Pinkerton agrees and instead starts breaking Corcoran's bones.
Would Hit a Girl: While Corcoran will go to any lengths to protect a child, he has no problem with killing a woman if she deserves it.
"World of Cardboard" Speech: Freeman gets a fantastic one when he confronts the man who to beat the hell out of him for breaking his shop windownote The man in question was an Anglo-Saxon who'd been belittling and insulting Sarah and her mother.
"You're right. I am an animal. As are you. We all are. Like most animals, we are filled with base desires: hunger, lust, aggression, violence, dominance. I've wrestled with the primal nature inside of me, not wanting to validate others' fears! [...] You are [afraid of me]. And you should be. Because I've suffered the ire of men like you every DAY OF MY LIFE! And I've accepted insult and injury, all with the hope that one day I would be seen as equal. But I've realized that I'm not your equal. I'm smarter than you, and I'm stronger than you, and I'm through concerning myself with the growls of simple-minded mangy little dogs. *holds up a can of ointment* Golden Seal Salve. Put it on your wound to prevent infection. Or don't, and let it rot. I honestly couldn't give a shit."