Counterpart – Episode 1: “The Crossing”

Staring: J.K. Simmons, Harry Lloyd, Sara Serraiocco
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Justin Marks
Creator: Justin Marks

A review by Brooke Ali

Howard Silk, a low-level UN employee in Berlin, is having a bad week. His brother-in-law is pushing to get Howard’s comatose wife transported to Britain. He’s been passed over for promotion despite three decades of loyal service. But when his “Other” crosses over into their world with a warning about an assassin, whose hit list includes Howard’s wife, everything he knows comes into question.

If you watched Fringe, particularly Season 3 and after, you’ll be familiar with the premise of parallel dimensions and a bridge that connects them. In Counterpart the alternate world was created by an experiment gone wrong during the Cold War. After its creation the other side, predictably, started diverging from the original, resulting in their world becoming very different from our own.

J.K. Simmons (Growing up Fisher, The Closer, those State Farm commercials) does an excellent job playing both Howard Silks: the meek, orderly Howard Silk on our side and the confident, gruff Howard Silk from the other side. Simmons is excellent in those non-dialogue moments where he’s reacting or just existing in character, like mouthing “he’s me” when confronted with his doppelgänger. Being able to play two characters at once really highlights his ability to naturally exist in character and its wonderful to watch. I’ve been a fan of his since his days on Law & Order, so double the Simmons can only be a good thing, in my books.

As a first episode, “The Crossing” does a good job to setting the scene. We’re introduced to the strange, highly regimented world of the UN spy agency where Howard works. We see how the other Howard seems to have become a completely different person, bringing up questions about identity that will be one of the major themes of the show. How much control do we really have over who we are, the show asks. Are we a product of our choices, or is our identity a foregone conclusion? How many “what ifs” would it take to have become a completely different person with a completely different life? And how much would it take to change?

Watch it! If you’re a fan of multidimensional espionage thrillers, and honestly why wouldn’t you be, then this is shaping up to be a good one. The cast is strong and the premise hasn’t – yet – been done into the ground by Hollywood, leaving lots of places for show creator Justin Marks to take this. I’m looking forward to the ride.

Brooke Ali
Brooke grew up in Nova Scotia on a steady diet of scifi, fantasy, anime, and video games. She now works as a genealogist and lives in Toronto with her husband and twin nerds-in-training. When she's not reading and writing about geek culture, she's knitting, spinning, and writing about social history.

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