'Counterpart' Season 2 - TV Review

The second - and final - season of "Counterpart," ten one hour episodes. See the previous review for the science fiction parallel worlds set-up.

At the end of the previous season, the two Howard Silks (both played by the excellent J. K. Simmons) got stuck each in the other's world, and had to inhabit each other's lives. The gentler of the two killed someone (in self defense, but nevertheless taking on qualities of his "other") at the end of the previous season and is in custody. The more hard-ass version of Howard is trying to live the life of his gentler counterpart with his wife Emily (Olivia Williams) who barely knows him - partly because she's recovering from a head injury, but also because his behaviour doesn't really match what she remembers of him.

Through all this, the ruthless and lethal Mira's (Christiane Paul) 20 year project of revenge against the alternate world moves forward, as agents on both worlds try to figure out what she's going to do.

The success of the series rests on the skills of Simmons and Williams, and they're more than up to the task. The more violent Howard is now dressing like, and trying to behave like his "other," but careful placement of context means that we have almost no difficulty figuring out which versions of Howard and Emily we're looking at. The writing remains very good: the dialogue was good, I never knew where it was going, but it always made sense and was always interesting.

I didn't enjoy this season as much, although I think it's just as good. This one is a bit darker, with the shadow of Mira and her actions coming into focus. The ending is satisfying although unsurprisingly just as dark as the series as a whole.

SPOILER ALERT: stop reading now etc. After a pretty much flawless run of logic up to the last two or three episodes, I have significant problems with the handling of the virus. Why did they need a couple dozen huge specialty boxes to transport it? They were only injecting ten people. And Mira's arrangement meant that the virus was released and active before the crossing was shut: okay, it was tailored for the world it was on, but there's still a big risk to her world. After hardass Howard hunted down the carriers and killed them, he came in close contact with a couple of them during the fight: that arguably made him a carrier (and he crossed back to his world). And last: how did Mira have virus to inject into Yanek? As we were shown, the development work on the virus was done on the other world.

Actually, there is one other logical error I noticed very early on in the first season. We're told that the other Earth lost 7% of its population to a disease. And yet the other Berlin is differentiated by a variety of wild and different architecture on its skyline. Sure, Berlin has been the leading city for modern architecture ever since World War II, but even when I was watching the first season I realized that a 7% population loss would crush your economy: you ain't building new buildings. That was several months before COVID-19 came along and proved this beyond a doubt. And consider what's happened with COVID-19: our population loss (in July of 2020) is somewhere well right of the percentage decimal point and the entire world's economy is choked. This other world lost 7%. No new buildings - not only would they not have the money, they wouldn't have the people to put in them. I mostly forgave the show this one though because it's not about economy, but about visually identifying the two different worlds.