This Counterpart review contains spoilers.
Counterpart Season 1 Episode 8
Although we don’t learn a whole lot of new information in the latest Counterpart episode, everyone is playing their part in the counterintelligence game and planning their next move in a way that entices the audience. Perhaps not surprisingly, the sparks that fly as the two Howards meet to exchange information — and tirades of criticism — provide the most entertainment in “Love the Lie.” With two episodes remaining, appropriately named “No Man’s Land” parts one and two, it seems the stage (or the Go board, more accurately) is set for a final confrontation.
It’s still baffling that Quayle has burned any advantage he may have had to learn more about the program Clare has been a part of. He can be forgiven for giving in to his emotional response to the massive betrayal, but wow, he’s almost as bad at being an agent as he is at feeding his baby! It’s good that Clare is able to convince him that exposing her would be bad for both of them, but it’s a shame he has decided to place the blame on Howard. That can’t possible end well.
And is Aldrich buying the story? He started out believing the mole was Quayle, and he did a masterful job of calmly relaying the fact that he was aware of his indiscretions. The Russian soup and the story about playing chess with his other self across the wire had just the right mix of comforting friendship and menacing accusation. The fact that Aldrich would kill a woman who tempted his counterpart to defect because others might see it as a weakness in him they could exploit really brings home the ruthlessness of his advice to Quayle: “At one point or another, we all make that choice: the cost versus ourselves.” It appears Quayle made his choice.
Emily Prime and Ian have some choices to make, too, based on the discoveries they’ve made at the school. Besides seeing the brutality their own side is capable of with the dead children, they also quickly conclude that the lie exam technician leaked their investigation of what they thought was merely a dead drop. The hidden file folder containing the identities of three sleeper agents may have been a convenient plot contrivance (unless someone left that there for them on purpose), but at least it gets them headed in the right direction.
In fact, it ties in nicely with Baldwin’s continued attempts at completing her contract as we see her eliminating the counterpart of one of the men pictured in the dossier. Is she motivated by the seductive prospect of traveling the world with Greta, taking pictures, making love, and living off the 100,000 Euro payment? Perhaps, but who can truly know whether Greta is genuinely curious about this drifter who creepily breaks into her apartment or whether she has an ulterior motive for keeping the assassin close? It’s hard to trust anyone in Counterpart.
The real success of this episode comes from the catharsis of the confrontation between the two Howards in the interface room. After seeing our Howard’s reaction to the trauma of the dead children at the school, it’s easy to forget how much he’s changed during his brief time in Prime’s world. As a result, Howard Prime’s assertion that his meeker self should thank him for waking him up from his dreary, oblivious existence rings false whereas we (and Howard himself) might have agreed with the Section 2 agent in the past.
But Howard Prime doesn’t understand that not all of his other self’s naivety is denial: Howard knew about his wife’s affair with Andrei. In fact, Howard Prime’s choice not to be truthful about Emily coming out of her coma just comes across as needless cruelty. He thinks he’s ending the discussion by insisting that nothing will have changed when they switch back to their own lives, but our Howard delivers the more definitive mic drop: “The ability to love someone, unselfishly, is the only thing that will separate me from you.” Meanwhile, good luck dealing with Emily’s mother, Howard Prime!
While this week’s episode of Counterpart may have been marking time in portions, it is clearly pivoting towards a very revealing conclusion. With Howard’s argument with himself as the pinnacle scene, “Love the Lie” bridges the very revealing Clare back story at the Project Indigo school last week with whatever the aftermath will be in the final two episodes. Mira and her companion are still out there, and Pope himself is still at large. Will the mistrust and lies among those battling the conspiracy preclude them from defeating it? Therein lies the fun of waiting eagerly for next week’s installment.