Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 29, 2018)
A series that delivers a thriller with a supernatural bent, Counterpart focuses on a UN agency based on Berlin. It turns out they guard a path into an alternate dimension.
This three-disc package includes all of Season One’s 10 episodes. The plot synopses come from the series’ official website.
The Crossing: “Howard Silk (JK Simmons) discovers the truth about where he works. The Office of Interchange searches for an assassin.”
Most pilot episodes devote their time to a general introduction to characters and situations, and we get that from “Crossing”. However, the show also manages a pretty good level of intrigue and action as well, factors that make it an above-average series opener.
Birds of a Feather: “Howard must work together with his counterpart. Baldwin (Sara Serraiocco) comes face to face with her past. From the other side, Emily (Olivia Williams) tries to make sense of her orders.”
After the grand theatrics of the pilot, “Birds” devotes more time to exposition, and it does fine in that regard. While it seems less thrilling than its predecessor, it gives us the necessary shoe leather.
The Lost Art of Diplomacy: “Both sides turn to diplomacy to resolve a conflict. Emily obtains a special visa. Howard interrogates a suspect.”
Compared to the first two shows, “Art” packs less action. However, it compensates with greater depth related to characters, and the introduction of some potentially significant new roles adds intrigue to this effective program.
Both Sides Now: “Both Howards deepen their investigation of the conspiracy. Quayle (Harry Lloyd) meets one of Howard's sources. Clare (Nazanin Boniadi) must decide what to do about Baldwin.”
The most enjoyable aspects of “Now” come from the scenes in which the two Howards need to impersonate each other. Otherwise, “Now” delivers reasonable plot exposition, even if the rest seems less fun than the interactions between both Howards.
Shaking the Tree: “Howard discovers another side of Emily. Howard and Emily search for answers about a mysterious drop site. Aldrich (Ulrich Thomsen) and Quayle seek intel from an old friend.”
Much of “Tree” wanders down the “plot-thickening” side of the street, and it does well in that regard. The series has been slow to spell out various general narrative themes, so it’s good to get a bit more substance in that regard.
Act Like You’ve Been Here Before: “Aldrich questions a not-too recent death in the office. Emily, Howard and Shaw follow a lead.”
With more of a focus on relationships than usual, “Act” drags a bit. Honestly, the show works best when it deals with plot points and not the characters – well, outside of the Howards, who are always interesting.
The Sincerest Form of Flattery: “Clare's past is revealed. Quayle suffers through his own birthday party.”
After the semi-lackluster “Act”, “Form” brings us a good bounceback, partly because it delivers more formal information about the past. Indeed, we get a rare flashback to see details of Clare’s path to the present. Combined with useful “modern day” material, this becomes the most impactful episode in a while.
Love the Lie: “The aftermath of the Indigo school discovery takes an emotional toll. Quayle grapples with his wife's new identity.”
After the highs of “Form”, “Lie” doesn’t fare quite as well – but how could it? We get back to a broader array of characters and see the narrative advance nicely, especially when the two Howards confront each other and we observe how much they’ve changed across the series’ run.
No Man’s Land, Part One: “Howard attempts to thwart the Guest's plans. Howard and Emily chase Kaspar (Bernhard Forcher).”
When I discuss a two-part episode, I wait until I get to the second segment. So go read that!
No Man’s Land, Part Two: “A crisis at the O.I. leaves both Howards stranded.”
With a season-ending episode like “Land”, we expect to see some character/story points tied up – but not too many, as we need opening for the next year. In this regard, “Land” provides a reasonably satisfying show, mainly in the way it allows the participants to progress.
“Land” focuses mainly on those character bits and leaves the general arc a little in the lurch, but it mostly fares well. While not the most exciting season-ender, it concludes matters in a positive manner.