Counterpart – Episode 3: “The Lost Art of Diplomacy”
Starring: J.K. Simmons, Olivia Williams, Nicholas Pinnock
Director: Jennifer Getzinger
Writer: Amy Berg
Creator: Justin Marks
A review by Brooke Ali
The first two episodes were gripping. A new dimension is revealed. Guns are shot. Throats are slit. Covert ops are uncovered, and some cars are going to need some serious interior detailing. But, as in all espionage tales, there come the time where the story needs to slow its pace a bit and focus on the politics that are the cause of all the gun shooting and throat slitting.
As the title suggests, diplomatic tension is the main theme of this episode. We learn that there has been some sharing of data, science, and technology but it has not been done amicably or generously. Baldwin’s capture is now used as a bargaining chip for data: census records and seismic charts (which, for some reason, the director feels are more valuable than a vaccine for Hepatitis C). Each side is trying to get as much and give as little as they can, a relationship that speaks to long growing distrust and animosity. Ian (Nicholas Pinnock) wonders why they keep the bridge between dimensions open at all. This is why, because of the potential for sharing, however grudgingly.
We also get an important detail that has been hinted at in the previous episodes. There is a pandemic on the other side. The episode includes a charming public service announcement reminding people to turn in your family, friends, and neighbours if they show signs of “infection.” They’re at risk of fines and jail time for failure to report. The video shows a group of children playing together. One child starts to cough and the other children respond by putting on their ubiquitous face masks and backing away in mass. It’s actually pretty chilling and a great way to finally confirm our suspicions. This is also saying a lot about the culture Universe B is experiencing. The director’s reaction when Lambert mentions the pandemic tells us another important detail. There’s tension between the universes about who is to blame.
One of my favourite parts of this episode, aside from that darling PSA, is Emily B’s trip through the bridge. As a first time crosser, she gets to be our eyes as we discover the strictly regimented process of leaving one universe and journeying into another. The process is punctuated with corridors, tiny rooms where you must stand on an exact spot and wait for clearance, luggage checks, documents stamped. Everything watched over by guards with large guns. The fact that this is all happening in Germany is very symbolic. It brings to mind a very East Germany/West Germany vibe.
Don’t worry, though. It wasn’t all political lunches and secret meetings. Near the end of the episode, we still get some guns shooting and a car that’s going to need all new windows.
Verdict: Watch it! Of course, what else was I going to say? This show continues to be a delight. If you haven’t started watching it yet, it’s still early enough to catch up.