This Counterpart review contains spoilers.
Counterpart Season 2 Episode 3
Although Counterpart always has a carefully constructed narrative, “Something Borrowed” was particularly well crafted. The season has been building suspense and mystery as new facts about several characters are revealed and as those conducting various investigations uncover surprising clues, some of which we knew about and others which are new to us as well. As both Emilys learn more about Alpha’s past, we’re left to wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes, and the sense of vertigo standing at the precipice of what’s to come is thrilling.
At first, a Baldwin-centric episode appeared to be in store after the first two Counterpart episodes visited Alpha and Prime respectively, but the former Indigo assassin merely introduces a new wrinkle into Howard Prime’s existence on the wrong side of the Crossing. After a brief glimpse of Greta from afar, Baldwin is immediately put on the defensive bargaining for her freedom from Howard’s Section 2 colleagues, and it’s clear by the end of the episode what she’ll have to do: kill Lambert for the benefit of herself, Howard, and the Quayle couple.
Was anyone surprised by the fact that Lambert is holed up with his other, engaged not only in multiple vices but also a form of self-love only possible in Counterpart? Even the fact that the two Lamberts chided each other for taking turns buying groceries seemed like the perfectly selfish point of view for the character. However, knowing that he’s now aware of Clare’s complicity with Peter shows he’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve. It’s not surprising that Peter fell for the trap by following his “source” to the empty office, but it will be interesting to see what Agent Temple makes of his failed sting operation that led to the death of one of his own Housekeeping agents.
However, Clare now seems like the character with the most to worry about. She’s got Peter’s mistrust to manage and Lambert’s suspicions to navigate, plus visa bribes to pay and cells to activate. Then there’s the unexpected reappearance of Spencer, the boy she grew close to at the School before he mysteriously disappeared to be put on assignment, and although the consequences of that brief reunion are yet to be seen, it definitely adds another level of complexity to Clare’s story.
And it’s not just Peter who has to wonder about Temple’s deeper motivations for helping out. Emily Alpha might have a great amount of trust in her new acquaintance simply because she’s finally getting answers and assistance in figuring out her muddled memories, and Naya does seem genuinely sympathetic when breaking the news about Aldrich. But with the new information, however tenuous, that Shadow is a woman, both Emily and Naya have intriguing intelligence to sort out moving forward.
The juxtaposition of Emily Prime’s investigations into her other’s time spent in her world gave us two important discoveries (three if you count the coveted Management briefcase Ian found). The first is the perhaps unsurprising confirmation that the virus that decimated one reality did indeed come from the other. Whether it’s based on hearsay or not, Emily’s “accident” must have had something to do with stopping her looking into the outbreak and perhaps sharing her intel with its victims. The other eye-opener is the foreshadowing of secrets hidden in a church that’s important to both Emilys’ mothers. Could Counterpart be on the brink of a big reveal?
All of this intrigue would have made “Something Borrowed” excellent all on its own, but the addition of James Cromwell’s Yanek to the mix deepened the already rich thematic elements of the show. His conversation with Howard Alpha makes us question the altruism of the somewhat naive prisoner. When Yanek says, “Mankind has existed in a state of tension since the beginning of time between what is and what could be,” it brings a whole new perspective to what the existence of parallel worlds would do to the motivations of individuals and larger political forces. We’d always want what the other had because we’d know it was possible! Howard might not believe that one destroying the other is inevitable, but it does ring true to the audience.
Adding Quayle Prime to the drama unfolding at Echo is another master stroke. The idea that Echo exists to harvest the memories of Prime’s own citizens to use against their counterparts on the other side is both genius and shockingly exploitative. No wonder Marcel Prime (remember Howard’s Interface colleague that got the Strategy promotion over him in the series premiere?) is angry with Howard! If Howard Prime was the one that put them there, he’s gone down an even darker path than we imagined.
The concept of Echo adds a cherry on top of an already deliciously layered sundae of an episode. Counterpart maintains its steady pace while adding a different feel to its underlying tension and subdued action. It almost feels like a dam is about to break, which would give us a bout of excitement towards the middle of the season. That would be preferable to the chaos at the end of season one, but now that we know the terrorist attack was only a distraction for Indigo’s true mission, the prospect of seeing behind the curtain soon makes this week’s episode the perfect preamble… providing it pays off, which thankfully seems likely.