Counterpart Season 2: Justin Marks Hints At Deeper Intrigue
The spy game heats up in Counterpart season 2, and creator/executive producer Justin Marks tells us what to expect when the show returns.
Counterpart season 2 will return to the Office of Interchange, a secretive international organization charged with gathering intelligence and maintaining diplomatic relations across a bridge between parallel worlds. Since this “Crossing,” as it’s called, was closed at the end of last year’s finale, the second season promises to be quite different with new tensions between those in power and among the spies who were cut off from their world of origin. Creator and executive producer Justin Marks helps clarify where the show left off and focuses viewer attention on what’s to come for several of the new and returning characters.
Counterpart stages its spy thriller in modern day Berlin, where history branched off into a new reality thirty years ago. “Berlin really stands allegorically at the center of our show because it’s a city that for most of the twentieth century was divided into two halves, and we were always really intrigued by the idea of telling a Cold War parable, an allegory for a certain time that hearkens back to some of the tropes of the old Cold War spy genre, but took that in a more metaphysical direction,” explains Marks. “And when trying to find a city where it would take place, it really just felt like the perfect place to do it because of the long spiritual history of what Berlin represented.”
The mystery surrounding how these forked realities came to be and who is in charge of keeping their existence secret is one that will be explored in Counterpart season 2, according to Marks. “Quite a bit of our effort and work in the first two seasons has been about keying up Management and keying up the fourth floor and the history of the fourth floor and the history of the Office of Interchange in general,” he says. “While I love leaving some things in the air for people to interpret and other things we’d like to be very straightforward about, the history of the Office of Interchange is something that I think we’re going to get a lot of answers for this season.”
One of the top priorities for Management in the Alpha world (which operates essentially as a stand-in for our own reality) will be dealing with Prime world operatives from Project Indigo, a violent group who sought vengeance for perceived wrongs perpetrated on their world last season. Enter FBI agent Naya Temple, played by Betty Gabriel. “Naya Temple has sort of stepped into the role that was left empty when Aldrich met his unceremonious end at the end of season one,” says Marks. “If Aldrich as a spy hunter represented all the old guard, Cold War methodology and sense of old-boy network, Temple comes into this as really a breath of fresh air.”
Temple is an interesting choice for a spy hunter given that she initially is unaware of the alternate realities that divided off from a common history thirty years ago. “[She] knows nothing about the Crossing at the beginning of her run and is read in for the first time and has to now piece it together,” Marks acknowledges, “but because she has no loyalties and no sense of network in this world, she’s able to see things though a much clearer lens. She’s going to cause quite a problem for anyone who’s hiding in this world, whether it be Clare or Howard Prime.”
The job may be complicated by the fact that Project Indigo’s true motives may involve more than simple revenge. “The diplomatic crisis that ensued at the end of ‘No Man’s Land’ to me is one that was easily preventable if only both Managements had been honest with themselves and with each other about the situation. But instead politics were played and the doors were closed,” says Marks. “It’s going to be awhile before there’s any hope of real reconciliation, and I think a lot has got to happen before then. Especially when you consider that Indigo, who choreographed all this, has really only been choreographing all this to set up their real move, which is what we see playing out this season.”
It’s certain that Clare, the elusive Shadow from season one, knows more about Indigo’s true mission than she’s telling her husband, Peter Quayle, who discovered her duplicity last year and now has to keep her secret for his own survival. “I think the obstacles that they faced last year were nothing compared to what they’re going to have to go through together this year on their search for what I would call truth, which is to say an honesty between themselves and an honesty around them with their world,” Marks predicts. “I mean you’re talking about two fraudulent people both paired together almost against their will, and the question really is: is love possible in that scenario? And there’s a lot of really unexpected answers.”
Related: Counterpart: The Secret of Clare’s Double Life
The question of love also exists between Howard Prime, who is masquerading as Howard Alpha, and the newly awakened Emily Alpha as well. Might he have feelings for this version of his wife, who might not have the same feelings of alienation as his own Emily back home? “It’s such a hard thing because I watched Howard Prime this season interacting with Emily Alpha, and I asked the same question, and that’s what we do as writers,” says Marks. “There’s an extent to which he needs her intelligence so he can figure things out and so he can get home, but there’s also, as was evident in the first episode of this show, this moment of Howard Prime taking Emily Alpha’s hand when she’s in the hospital bed.”
Marks hints at a darker past that may be influencing Howard Prime beyond intelligence gathering and his own emotions. “I think it’s safe to say that there’s still skeletons in the closet there, and there’s still a sense of feelings he holds for this woman,” Marks teases. “And the question is: is a connection with that life going to come out the longer he spends with her, or is he going to find his own worst tendencies starting to come out again in ways that he thought he had escaped many decades ago after his divorce?”
Meanwhile, Howard Alpha was last seen being sent to a black site called Echo, and his interrogator this season will be a mysterious figured named Yanek, played by James Cromwell, whose role Marks was tantalizingly tight-lipped about. “One of Yanek’s main precepts is this idea that, when confronted with another version of one’s life, both cannot exist simultaneously. One most destroy the other; there’s a vacuum that they will compete for,” he says. “Howard doesn’t necessarily believe that, but I think this is the season where he’s going to have to come to terms with it. And the way that Jamie Cromwell played this character is so brilliant, and there’s so much to this character that I don’t want to reveal that I can’t wait for people to meet him in the beginning of the season.”
Howard Alpha is, of course, also trapped in a world not his own, but one ray of hope last season was his attempt to heal the relationship with his counterpart’s daughter, Anna, who doesn’t know that this Howard, who lost his Anna to miscarriage, is not her father. “Sarah Bulger, who plays Anna, is very much a part of our show this season and kind of sits on one of the biggest secrets of the season, which I look forward to revealing at some point,” Marks hints. “But we love this idea of being able to have a relationship with the grown version of a child you lost, and we would never discard that for anything. So yeah, it’s safe to say we’re going to see plenty of Anna.”
Further Reading: Counterpart Season 2 Trailer, Release Date, Cast News, and More
And don’t forget about Baldwin! The Indigo assassin had her own storyline last season, and she has plenty more to contribute, even though her violinist counterpart, Nadia, is no longer in the picture. “That’s probably one of my biggest regrets is killing Nadia so soon,” admits Marks. “Although it’s hard to say because in hindsight it’s a regret, but in the moment it felt like we needed that in order to understand Baldwin better and to go further in that direction. But we love those two characters. Baldwin is a character who caught us all as writers by surprise in the first season as we began to grow her, and we found ourselves unable to let her go and kept her in the story. And the same thing happens in season 2 albeit in a different way as we reintegrate her into the events of the story.”
Whether Counterpart fans are anxiously awaiting a reunion with their favorite spy or assassin or they anticipate meeting the enticing new characters, they won’t have long to wait. Counterpart season 2 returns to Starz on December 9 and will air each Sunday for ten episodes. For the full audio of this interview with Justin Marks, be sure to subscribe to our genre television podcast, Sci Fi Fidelity. Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Soundcloud
Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter.