Counterpart returns after a very interesting pilot to further the events that unfolded the previous week, after our introduction to this bizarre world and its many possibilities. Still going the slow-burn route, the narrative develops significantly ― exploring the central conflict in greater detail and establishing existing character roles firmly while also paving the way for new ones. Themes of identity and the power of free will are explored more elaborately, and to a much darker degree, in this episode.
The second episode of Counterpart sheds more light on Howard Prime and his world while also exploring the prime villain Baldwin’s backstory.
We see more of Emily Prime (Howard Prime’s ex-wife) and her role in their secret organization as she tries to make sense of a recent turn of events. Meanwhile, our Howard, who used to work at Interface level, has been promoted to Analysis and must now learn to work alongside his counterpart. However, reasons to explain why a peace-loving common man like Howard needs to be mixed with such dangerous situations, where he is clearly like a fish out of water, are not very well argued for. It almost feels like the writers are taking liberties with the script just to somehow get the two Howards (and therefore two J.K. Simmons) in the same room.
Probably just to invoke the relevance of the episode title Birds of a Feather, taken from a popular proverb, by repeatedly bringing the two counterparts together. Although the title’s implication feels more reinforced in a completely different situation, one which becomes a defining moment for Baldwin’s character. Hopefully, the upcoming episodes shall build a better case for the seemingly unnecessary need for Howard’s involvement. Given that he’s the protagonist, his character development will be integral to the show’s future.
If the pilot was all about Howard then Episode 2 is (almost) all about Baldwin and her murky past. Howard Prime gains intel that Baldwin’s real name is actually Nadia Pierro and that her counterpart is a violinist of Italian descent. They plan to predict Baldwin’s next moves by studying her counterpart’s behavioural tics. Apparently, she trained in violin as a kid before the worlds split. It is possible that the split caused one Nadia to be successful in her musical pursuit while her counterpart, now Baldwin, was not so lucky. Did the failing cause her to turn towards a life of crime and violence? The writing does a good job of subtly hinting at a lot, without overtly implying anything, leaving our imagination free to connect the dots.
Plot development might sometimes feel a tad convenient but, in a world where shows like Breaking Bad set the bar for meticulous writing, that’s probably not too much of an issue as of yet. The differences and connections between the two worlds are clarified both through exposition and visually with comparative shots of the city skyline. Cinematography improves in this episode, as does Simmons’ scope for displaying his acting chops. His skill is especially obvious in scenes with both Howards present. Even when there’s almost nothing else to tell them apart, one can still figure out who is who simply from Simmons’ mastery of facial expressions and the way he carries himself.
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Did you like Counterpart S01E02? Let us know in the comments below. Stay tuned for more weekly reviews and recap of Counterpart only at The Projection Room.
When not watching films or TV series, Shaswata can usually be found either reviewing them or battling writer’s block. His obsession lies with framing and composition in cinema, something he explores by capturing the most memorable moments through screenshots and sharing them on social media.