How can small, seemingly unimportant actions create complex results? That’s just one of the questions you’ll ask yourself while watching Counterpart. Another is, why the hell is Baldwin (Sara Serraiocco) trying to kill ALL THE PEOPLE?
Worlds literally collide when mild-mannered company man Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons) learns the company he’s been working for, Interchange, lies at the heart of a gateway to a world identical to his own. Accidentally discovered (created?) through German Cold War experiments, the existence of this parallel world (and the traveling to and from it) has been on a need-to-know basis; way above Howard’s pay grade until his other world doppelgänger (clearly, also played by Simmons) breaks protocol to warn Howard’s bosses an assassin from his world has crossed over, and she has a hit list that includes Howard’s wife.
It should come as no surprise that the standout in this premiere is Simmons’ portrayal of two men who are identical physically, but whose personalities couldn’t be more different. Howard Prime from the other side is intimidating, foul-mouthed, and a damn good shot. Howard has a hard time standing up for himself when denied a promotion after decades of faithful service to his company. But don’t feel too sorry for Howard. In a fantastic scene with the two men in his home, we learn that Howard has had a fairytale marriage to the love of his life; until a car accident put her in a coma six weeks prior. Howard Prime’s wife, also Emily (Olivia Willams), died of cancer on the other side. As they exchange backstories, it’s clear the subtle differences in their lives led to the major changes between them now.
Simmons’ acting isn’t the only thing to love here. The premiere doesn’t get bogged down trying to over explain the science behind the parallel worlds. And it includes a decent amount of action: from Baldwin’s violent double-cross that opens the episode to the botched attempt to take her down before she can get to Emily in the hospital. Serraiocco plays Baldwin as ruthless and smart, and the fact that we don’t yet know her motives or who else is on her kill list makes the series even more intriguing.
More mysteries will entice you to tune in next week, including:
- Howard Prime mentions that this side’s Interchange intelligence has been shitty. He has no idea who he can trust so he insists the only ones privy to his visits and mission to stop Baldwin are Howard, Howard’s smarmy boss, Quayle (Harry Lloyd), and Aldrich (Ulrich Thomsen) from “housekeeping.”
- But Howard Prime isn’t trustworthy either: his Emily is alive and well and wonders what he’s been up to on the other side.
- Was Howard’s wife’s car accident truly that or the first attempt on her life?
- Howard’s job in the interface department consists of meeting a stranger in a small room, the two separated by glass, and reading back and forth code phrases from sealed envelopes. It seems highly likely the person Howard meets is from the other side and they’re trading top-secret information, but what and why?
- No, really: Who hurt you, Baldwin?
Of note, the structure to this series is compared to the game Go, a board game with relatively simple rules, but it can be quite complex. It is said that you can play the game many times and never repeat the same experience and exact moves.
Counterpart S1E1 Review Score
Counterpart – S1E1 – “The Crossing” | Starring: J.K. Simmons, Harry Lloyd, Olivia Williams, Sara Serraiocco, Ulrich Thomsen, Nicholas Pinnock