December 10, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Counterpart”


COUNTERPART:  Sunday 9PM on Starz

Starz’s COUNTERPART is both TV’s most cerebral thriller and its most cerebral sci-fi, a very serious story of espionage that happens to take place between two parallel versions of Earth where virtually every inhabitant has a physical (but not psychological) double, and the border between the two Earths is a subterranean version of the Berlin Wall.  The existence of those duplicates allows for a degree of complexity that even John LeCarre might envy, and series creator Justin Marks has no patience for coddling his viewers, who must carefully follow each twist of story and character.

Fittingly, tonight’s Season 2 premiere, written by Co-Executive Producer Erin Levy and directed by Charles Martin, barely tossed off the complicated events of last season in a brief “Previously On” before jumping into the new.  The story picked up more or less where it had left off, and the opening hour took place entirely on our version of Earth, where the border had been closed after a terrorist attack by Earth Prime’s “Indigo” group, which seeks revenge for what it believes was our Earth’s deliberate infliction of a plague on Earth Prime that killed much of its population, via sleeper cells that kill their Earth counterparts and assume their identities, emerging violently when summoned.  When the border shut, the two versions of Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons) had switched personas, leaving the experienced security agent Howard Prime to take care of this Earth’s version of his wife Emily (Olivia Williams), who had just woken from her coma, but doesn’t yet remember that she had been working with Howard Prime, who’s now pretending to be her actual husband.

Got that?  Things were no simpler at the Quayle household, where Peter (Harry Lloyd), the head of Strategy at the Office of Interchange and Howard’s boss, had discovered that his supposed wife Clare (Nazanin Boniadi) was actually the Prime version of Clare and a ruthless member of Indigo.  Howard, Peter and Clare, who know each other’s secrets (or at least some of them) are now in a reluctant and distrustful partnership, protecting each other while also warily looking out for betrayal.

The only new element introduced by the season premiere was the arrival of Naya Temple (Betty Gabriel), a former FBI agent brought in by Management to work with Peter and find the remaining members of Indigo, who will no doubt soon be on our protagonists’ trails.  Otherwise, Counterpart stayed in its lane, incrementally developing the strains in the Quayles’ marriage as the Silks attempted to find some equilibrium.

Counterpart doesn’t seem to be seeking new viewers for Season 2, still very much its own outpost of uncompromising plot-intensive drama and gray, wintry visuals.  It’s powered by the intelligence of its writing and the excellence of its cast, both of which remain evident in the premiere.  After the somewhat candy-colored adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl that AMC recently offered, Counterpart is bracingly firm in its insistence on being an espionage story that demands one’s full attention.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."