josephine_marrs: Colin Morgan, dressed in a dark gray shirt against a light gray background (pic#6408568)
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Summary/preview: A photoessay on Matthew Freeman, some of the drugs that he employs and/or encounters during his practice of medicine, and his progression as a person during the course of Copper.
Content notes: Contains several images of a child in a nonsexual context. One image of a surgical procedure is gory. No other standard notes apply.





When we first meet Dr. Freeman, he has been called upon by his former brother-in-arms Kevin Corcoran to do some forensic work. At first, it looks as if he will fall neatly into the coroner slot that exists in most police procedurals, but fortunately the show, and his role, gets a lot more broad and varied than that.

Matthew is definitely THE guy that the crew calls when they are in dire medical need. One of the first crises he responds to is at Kevin's house, where the copper lies injured, his leg broken by the lackies of a wealthy child molester.

It was this scene that first introduced me to the wonders that are Freeman's hands. Imagine the balance of strength and dexterity that has to be exerted to wrest the broken bones together into just the proper place.





Once Kevin's leg is secured, Matthew gives him a shot of morphine.



Its effects are, apparently, pretty instantaneous.



"No pain!" Kevin crows, in a morphine-infused haze. "No shit," Matthew replies.



Over the course of the next few weeks, Matthew is called upon often for more morphine to help dull Kevin's pain as his leg heals. He delivers it dutifully, for various reasons: Kevin is his friend, he's been asked to do it, he needs Kevin's help to acquit a friend of his of a murder charge...and he's a doctor. That's his job.



Matthew also gives vaccinations, for diseases such as smallpox. Here, he is giving a vaccination to one of the children at the orphanage. First, he pricks the boy's skin with the tip of a knife.



Then, he gathers some vaccine on the tip of what looks like a wooden dowel, or perhaps some kind of pin.



He introduces the tiny dab of vaccine into the boy's cut.



Matthew uses many remedies that we would now consider to be homeopathic or 'home' remedies. In one instance, he prescribes tea made from thyme leaves to alleviate a sore throat.



When his wife Sarah is feeling ill and anxious during her pregnancy, he offers her blackberry tea.



I think there are several reasons why he does this. His own training, of course, would influence much of this; he can only prescribe what he knows. Also, the relatively low cost of the ingredients means that not only are they affordable for him to procure, but they are also affordable for his clients, who are very poor. Lastly, it was not uncommon for doctors to gather their own ingredients and prepare their own medicines -- which may account for the efficiency (or lack thereof) of individual practices.

This last reason may be one of the most important. Not only is preparing his own medications cheaper, but he also knows exactly what is going into his concoctions. The same could not be said of the various tonics that passed for 'medicine' that were sold by *ahem* entrepreneurs.



In her desperation for relief from her anxiety attacks, Sarah buys a bottle from the huckster. She ends up drinking a great quantity of it, and falling unconscious.



Enraged at the harm that the tonic could have done to his wife and unborn child, Matthew hunts the huckster down and roughs him up.





He makes the man drink his own poison, and then destroys his stock so that it cannot harm anyone else.



Fortunately, Sarah survives. The baby does not. It is not made clear whether the tonic had anything to do with her miscarriage, but one can imagine that the possibility will always haunt both of them.

So, that was Season One. Season Two begins with Matthew journeying back to Five Points to take over an aging doctor's practice.

The doctor expresses great faith in Matthew, saying that the only other doctor in the area will not treat anyone who is not white, and that his treatments cause more harm than good.

It is never made clear where Matthew got his training from, though his former master was a doctor. We can assume that Matthew's astute observation of practices there, and later practices in the Union army, comprise much of his knowledge. He can also read and write, so it is not unlikely that he would attempt further research from other doctors' papers and journals. The warm relationship between Matthew and this doctor seems to imply that he was able to learn from him, as well.



A behind-the-scenes documentary gave viewers of the series a glimpse into Matthew's facilities.



Ato Essandoh showed off a cabinet filled with glass vials and jars, containing all sorts of medicines. As usual, many of these look as if they are based off of natural herbs and plants.



His favorite medicine that Matthew has at his disposal is clematis, which, the vial promises, promotes a relaxed state and dreams.



Matthew is not all work and no play. When Sarah's mother is liberated and brought to New York to live with them, the Freemans celebrate with some alcohol.



Matthew states that he does not imbibe often, but for a special occasion like this, he will definitely make an exception.





Though he enthusiastically toasts Lincoln's re-election, Matthew is confronted with many causes for disillusionment in the following weeks. His attempts to stop a water-borne infectious outbreak are stymied at every turn, and not even Robert Morehouse can help him. "I am who I heal. Today, I am nothing," he says at one point, heartbroken by his failures.

He is even confronted with bigotry from a black family that he tries to help during the outbreak, being told that he is 'no better than a cracker'. These incidents, combined with the bigotry that he encounters from white people -- including a beating at the hands of a mob -- shake Matthew's hopes. In season one, he had bravely volunteered to go to Virginia to bring Sarah her mother, assured in his own safety by the freedom afforded to him by his home in the North. By the end of season two, he has come to bleakly realize that, while he is legally free, many dangers await him in both the North and the South because of the color of his skin. In spite of this realization, he reluctantly agrees to accompany Kevin and Robert south, to hunt down Lincoln's assassins.



During the journey, Robert's leg develops a sore from being rubbed against the saddle as he rides. Matthew stops to apply some honey to the wound in an attempt to keep it from becoming infected.

Let's stop to appreciate just how beautiful this shot is.



All Robert wants, however, is more morphine.



Unfortunately, in spite of Matthew's best efforts, the wound begins to turn septic. In desperation, they return to the plantation that Matthew had fled from. His former master mocks them as Matthew prepares to operate.



Matthew disinfects the knife that he will use.



Meanwhile, Robert tries to steel himself for what's to come, with some alcohol.



Matthew cuts away the gangrenous tissue.



Robert's screams are barely contained by the leather strap of his belt, clenched between his jaws. Okay, a belt is not technically a drug, but it's pretty hot.



The three return to New York, haunted by their latest experiences, and by the memories of what occurred there during the War, yet with their own relationship with one another oddly strengthened.

Sarah, who had to overcome her own demons regarding trust and anxiety about her status in the world, counsels Matthew to confront the man who had led the mob during his beating.

He does.



And he offers the man some goldenseal salve.



Why? Not for the same reasons that he delivered morphine to Kevin last year; and that is not because Kevin is his friend and this man is his enemy. One gets the impression that now, he would not even give morphine to Kevin for the same reasons. He does not dispense this or any other medicine because he is obligated to do so. At his core, Matthew is a doctor. He will give all treatment equally, without attempting moral judgement as to whether they are deserving of such. In so doing, he treats his patients the way that he desires -- and therefore demands -- to be treated by society.

He's a doctor. That's his calling.

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