This Counterpart review contains spoilers.
Counterpart Season 1 Episode 3
The conspiracy that is no doubt at the core of Counterpart’s opening season really starts to take shape in “The Lost Art of Diplomacy,” and the differences between the two worlds come into sharper focus, even if the impetus of those changes is still unknown. Baldwin and Howard are able to explore some of the larger themes of human nature in their interactions, and characters like Emily Prime and Quayle get fleshed out a bit more to the show’s benefit.
Even the unconscious Emily is able to become a more intriguing figure through the flashback that seems to indicate that the supposed car accident that left her comatose may have been a deliberate attempt to take her out. As Emily Prime tries to trace the origins of her false rendition order against her ex-husband, we discover that her counterpart was Howard Prime’s source for intel on the internal dispute in Management. Viewers would still love to know more about why this version of the happy couple is estranged from one another, but that’s part of the fun moving forward.
Another nice interplay of opposing forces arises from the introduction of the Diplomacy department, which has very different goals than those of the Strategy and Housekeeping teams. The fact that Fancher (played with unsurprising aplomb by Richard Schiff) is Quayle’s father-in-law adds a whole new dimension to the young director’s lack of success in uncovering the conspiracy so far. The attempt to keep Baldwin for questioning, for example, clearly wasn’t in the cards, and the assassin was extracted easily from the bulletproof car.
Aldrich and Howard didn’t really get any information, but Howard’s involvement probably saved their lives. Baldwin’s curiosity about why Howard tried to save Nadia led to her realization that killing them once her people came for her would be wrong, just as Howard protested Nadia’s innocence. Baldwin does provide some insight about their counterparts when she tells Howard, “You think you’re better than him, but someday you’ll find out where you meet. We cannot escape who we are.” However, she chose to show Howard mercy because of his influence, so it works for both good and bad qualities.
So Baldwin is in the wind, and both Diplomacy and Strategy leave empty-handed. No medical knowledge, no oil reserve locations, and no census reports for Fancher and no intel on who hired Baldwin for Quayle, but just knowing how the negotiations between the two worlds work was valuable knowledge for the audience. Meanwhile, the story is able to move forward through Howard Prime’s suspicion after his visa is revoked that Ambassador Lambert is in on the conspiracy.
It certainly does create a convenient narrative situation, forcing Howard to take Prime’s place in a world that includes a non-hospitalized Emily and some sort of germ phobia based on a pandemic that they may or may not blame on our world. Perhaps we’ll see more through Howard’s eyes how much these two worlds differ. Do they even have iPhones in Prime world? Are the computers in the Crossing “dumbed down” to their level of technology? These details are totally enjoyable to spot, and it will be interesting to see what Howard makes note of when he heads across next week.
Although maybe Emily Prime will be hospitalized or worse when he gets there given the wonderfully suspenseful ending in this episode. Counterpart has done a great job of showing how even minor moves, such as looking into the source of the rendition order or being asked to light a candle at St. Christopher’s, can be extremely dangerous. We may have no idea what the conspirators’ goals are, but as important figures like Pope and Lambert are placed under suspicion, the stakes become much more real and draw us in.
Counterpart has its hooks in deep with a rapt audience, especially in this latest installment. With subtle exposition continuing to broaden the picture of how this world works, the plot unfolds at an enticingly steady pace just as the characters become more and more compelling. Not everyone is likable — Quayle is particularly smarmy, and Howard Prime’s smug confidence wears thin quickly — but all are worthy of our attention. We’ve certainly taken notice.