Counterpart S1E4: “Both Sides Now”

For most of Counterpart’s runtime so far, our Howard’s role in the story so far has mostly been to give befuddled reactions to the events occurring around him, while characters like Other Howard and Harry Lloyd’s Peter Quayle have been more actively moving the story forwards. By this episode’s conclusion, though, it feels like things are beginning to change, and that our Howard will become more of an active participant in this story.

But of course we have to get to that conclusion first. The episode begins with Other Howard grilling his counterpart on his routine so that he can assume his life for the next week. It’s pretty clear that Other Howard doesn’t have a ton of respect for our Howard, which manifests in his plan to keep our Howard locked in a small apartment for the week he’s on the Other Side. Naturally, this doesn’t go to plan, as Other Howard’s daughter Anna arrives, to bring Howard to the hospital to meet Other Emily after she was attacked at the end of the last episode.

This leads to a number of scenes where Other Emily gets to immediately see through our Howard’s understandably inept attempts at spycraft, which leads to a number of poignant scenes where both characters get to see what their lives might have been. Howard gets to see the daughter that he and his Emily were never able to have, while Other Emily gets to see a glimpse of what a more compassionate, caring version of Howard is like. JK Simmons and Olivia Williams have some excellent chemistry throughout and they really sell the strange familiarity they feel to one another, despite technically having only just met.

Meanwhile, Other Howard is engaged in some good ol’ fashioned spycraft on our side. His scenes don’t have quite the same depth, but they do move along quickly, and are filled with Cold War-esque skullduggery like people from the Other Side living secretly on our side, and talks of deeply embedded moles on “the third floor.” I’ve no clue where it’s all going at this point, but it’s an entertaining ride so far.

Finally, there’s a subplot with Baldwin and her handler Clare, who takes advantage of Baldwin’s attraction and trust to set her up to be killed. Unfortunately for Clare, Baldwin is this show’s resident badass, who stabs her would-be killer with his own knife. The fight scene is short and brutal, and stands out in what is otherwise a fairly dialogue heavy episode.

And that leaves us with our Howard, with a newly forged alliance with Other Emily. In what might be his most proactive move thus far, he sheds the handler that Other Howard left him with, and strides off into Other Berlin. I don’t think he knows where he’s going anymore than we do, but it’s clear that he’s suddenly starting to feel like he has some purpose and drive.

Stray Observations

  • I think I’m going to aim to get these up on Monday, I’d rather take the time to do a proper review. If there’s anyone who really would prefer it up on the Sunday, though, please let me know.
  • Not much else to add down here, but the Other Side sure takes sick days seriously.
  • “But now old friends they’re acting strange /
    They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed”
    – Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”