Counterpart S01E04 “Both Sides Now” Review — Switching Things Up

I wrote last week as to how S01E03 showed languish in narrative development almost all through the episode, slowly but surely knitting together pieces, only to turn up the heat towards the very end with a quick succession of events that get things back on track and promise exciting days ahead. Well, Counterpart seems to be delivering on that promise with its fourth episode, which mostly focuses on the complexities arising from the two Howards switching lives, along with some interesting developments regarding the brewing conspiracy.

The opening game is nearly finished  the pieces set in position, ready to make their moves as Counterpart prepares to get into the thick of the action, after having established the universe, its key players and the central conflicts therein.

We see Howard Silk reluctantly make his way to ‘other’ Berlin, after meticulously detailing every aspect of his daily routine to his counterpart. Howard Prime, on the other hand, seems completely nonchalant and is a little perplexed as he fully realizes just how very different their lives truly are. Howard crosses over and meets with his contact Raash, a droopy-eyed man who seems to have little interest in being Howard’s tourist guide to the ‘new’ city. As he travels through the city and takes in all the sights and sounds of this Berlin, unknown to him, through the windows of his car, Howard’s eyes seem to light up with some hope. Maybe his one-week visit to this strange town will provide him with just the kind of escapism he needed, but never got in his monotonous routine-life back home. But his supposedly-quiet and uneventful trip suddenly takes a turn for the unexpected, as Howard Prime’s daughter Anna ― mistaking nice-Howard for her dad ― gives him the news of her mother’s ‘accident’ and drags him to the hospital.

(Credits: STARZ/Counterpart)
Howard crossing over (Credits: STARZ/Counterpart)

Meanwhile, Baldwin is seen with a mysterious new character named Claire who offers her shelter and new clothes as they figure out the next steps of their mission. We learn that Baldwin has some “kill list” that she needs to finish in order to facilitate whatever big plans the Embassy man Lambert seems to have. Baldwin and Claire seem to have a very trustful and loving relationship between them, each of them sympathetic to the plight of the other. Howard Prime tries to fit into the shoes of his counterpart while also getting some investigation done. He meets an old friend of his, Heinrich, who is apparently a crosser living undercover. As they revisit the past over drinks, Howard tries to scrape whatever useful information he can from this man, who has seemingly proved to be valuable in the past as well.

This episode was far more engaging than the last and had a very taut consistency to it that shows the director’s confidence in the script. All kinds of complications are possible from the Howard switch and Episode 4 delightfully explores some of them, especially the unexpected and highly unconventional ‘reunion’ of Howard’s family that tugs heartstrings. We are also introduced to some completely new characters and the writers do a good job of quickly sketching them out and outlining their role in things to come. Which is important, considering that they seem set to become key secondary players in the narrative.

Apart from shaping the new, this episode also solidifies and develops the older, known characters and situations. For the first time ever we see a ‘friend’ figure in Baldwin’s life, in the form of Claire. By devoting ample time and material to explore their dynamic, the showrunners make it clear that Baldwin won’t be just some run-of-the-mill baddie ― as one might expect from the pilot ― and that her character will be far from being one-dimensional, with emotional sympathetic overtones complementing her arc. After learning about some pandemic affecting the other world in the last episode, today we have more hints shedding light its history… as Howard is told that people don’t shake hands in the other world due to some “germ thing” and we see their citizens wearing face masks and utilising hand-sanitizers installed everywhere across the streets.

The title Both Sides Now evokes some of the central themes in the series ― the characters reflecting upon, and realizing, their existence in two different lights, in two different worlds. Instead of simply fantasizing and contemplating about ‘what could have been’, crossers like Howard and Baldwin actually get to experience a converse to the lives they have led all along. We also feel Emily Prime missing her ex-husband as she observes Howard, the husband that never was.

(Credits: STARZ/Counterpart)
Experiencing both sides (Credits: STARZ/Counterpart)

Towards the beginning, there’s an excellently executed sequence where the two Howards play cards. Through this little inconsequential match, that proceeds predictably, the director gives us a snapshot of how the two Howards compare and compete, with themselves and against the world. The scene sets up the aura of psychological tension between them that is to follow eventually, so thick you could cut it with a knife. And as an upshot to the nice-guy Howard leading a tumultuous week away from home, it seems like the new city has started to turn him gutsier and more confident ― as evidenced by him boldly declaring his intentions to Raash at the end of the episode. Perhaps Howard Prime will also, in turn, develop some humility and compassion by living of his counterpart?


(YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Episode 3 “The Lost Art of Diplomacy” Review – Raising The Stakes )

Did you like Counterpart S01E04? 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.

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