This Counterpart review contains spoilers.
Counterpart Season 1 Episode 4
With the focus on the Howards in this week’s episode of Counterpart, aptly named “Both Sides Now,” the possibilities for growth on both sides of the Crossing increase, and the audience is totally along for the ride. It’s no longer just a question of what could have been but also what could be, especially with the nicer but meeker Howard gaining confidence. And although the conspiracy plot is still tantalizingly vague, small details are added to the mix that really make us start to wonder what the Prime contingent is really up to.
The increasing animosity and disdain between the two Howards as they prepare to switch places is palpable, and it was nice to finally hear our Howard ask his jerk counterpart why he’s determined to be so mean to his own self. It would be easy to blame Howard’s bland life, especially considering Howard Prime likely has no intention of playing Go with Andre or even reading to Emily in the hospital, but there also seems to be an undercurrent of resentment towards Howard for his less complicated life. He chastises Howard for folding in poker saying, “Play one hand like you actually know how to win,” but it’s not always possible rise to the top with the hand one is dealt. Brilliant symbolism as always!
And it’s somewhat unfair of Emily Prime to criticize, albeit kindly, Howard’s sense of tradecraft. Sure, his affectionate nature tipped her off because she knows about the double world, but their daughter Anna just considers it another of her Dad’s ploys. Plus Howard was stone cold when Ian stepped in and asked about the candle at St. Christopher’s, not to mention when he meets a daughter he never had and an Emily that’s not dead like he was led to believe. J.K. Simmons’ subtlety in portraying silent bewilderment in Howard that’s distinct from Howard Prime’s quiet arrogance is really something to behold.
How ironic, too, that it took Emily Prime’s supposed overdose and a visit from Anna to get Howard out of his imprisonment in Howard Prime’s apartment. What was Raash to do? He could only follow closely and observe. Although it was fun to see how he received the message through clandestine channels to scrub the apartment before its new resident arrived, Howard showed admirable chutzpah in telling Raash he was going to get some tea and do whatever the hell he wanted after that. Raash is perhaps used to following any Howard’s orders, but is it also possible we’re seeing some growing confidence in the heretofore meek and mild version of Howard Silk?
Back in our world, Howard Prime appears to be as affected by the box with baby Anna’s sonogram as his counterpart is by sleeping in the room that his other’s daughter grew up in. There were also some humorous moments for the harder-edged Howard, such as his departure within minutes of arriving at his new payroll job in Strategy and his incredulity at Quayle’s lecherous look at a passing woman. This new vulnerability makes Howard Prime more sympathetic and easier to root for as the conspiracy plot unfolds.
This is especially true once he finds out from his defector friend, Heinrich, that Pope is indeed at the heart of the plot to assassinate certain people on our side. Howard Prime even acknowledges to Quayle when confirming that Howard never knew his wife was in Housekeeping, “Loyalty is his biggest flaw. Mine, too.” Perhaps you really can’t escape who you are! The additional detail that comes from Lambert and is later confirmed by Heinrich is that the Prime world “wants to bring over our guests earlier than expected.” Who? And why? This new wrinkle takes the story intriguingly beyond the assassination list.
Assassination is still on the table, though, if Baldwin has anything to say about it, although she might change her mission now that her employers tried to kill her one they saw her as either compromised or incompetent. Clare, her handler and someone Lambert considers as culpable as Baldwin, is quite manipulative, and between her and Lambert, the conspirators are becoming more villainous even as their victims (including both the morally questionable Howard Prime and Baldwin) grow more sympathetic.
Each week, Counterpart feels more and more like the methodical assembling of a puzzle, and as each piece falls into place; whether it’s a character detail, a conspiracy clue, or a background element; the imagined snapping sound and the widening picture that is taking shape is extremely satisfying. The writers and actors have all created compelling characters that we continue to want to know more about in world that screams out for more exploration. Sign us up for another six-hour visa!