Sunday, February 17, 2019

REVIEW: 'Counterpart' - Everyone Makes Tough Choices in Order to Keep Hope About a Better Future in 'Better Angels'

Starz's Counterpart - Episode 2.10 "Better Angels"

Mira's looming threat forges some unlikely alliances.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Starz's Counterpart.

"Better Angels" was written by Maegan Houang & Justin Marks and directed by Charlotte Brändström

This finale features many characters pleading for the chance at a better future. It's an hour that puts fully into context the fight to keep hope alive. Everyone strives for the idea of something potentially better for their lives. They don't have to be the same people that they were in the past. They have the potential to grow and change. They can choose to accept different choices now. But there is also the immense tragedy of people not being able to make those changes for better lives. There is still a fair number of terrorists in the world who wish harm on others to strike some sense of justice for a past grievance. Mira and her followers were radicalized by the idea that the Alpha world created the flu epidemic that wiped out the majority of the Prime population. The closing of the Crossing would not be satisfying enough to end this long-simmering conflict between the two worlds. They believed that balance must be restored even though the two worlds would never interact with each other again. The closing of the Crossing means that they will develop on wildly different courses with no influence on each other whatsoever. There is the expectation that the Office of Interchange will remain operational despite the Crossing being shut down for good and Management being killed. There is no solid leadership structure to make these decisions anymore. Mira executed her plan exactly as she wanted. She could manipulate Shaw to her own benefit. Him being a party to this is enough for him to see the need to make his own change in life. He can't be manipulated by Mira over and over again. He can't be manipulated by the people who created the identity of Ian Shaw either. He was beholden to Management this season because of that arrangement that saw him get safe passage to the Prime world. He had to work against Emily Prime because of it. And now, his personal connections to the past complicate the future for everyone. He is able to give Emily Prime a decisive victory by planting a tracker on Mira. She too is killed because of this entire conflict. She doesn't make her grand escape. However, she still succeeds as well. The Crossing is closed and the virus will spread throughout the Alpha world. She put together contingency plans to ensure her vision was achieved. It just means she had to ruin many lives in the process without it seeming like their grand sacrifices ultimately meant anything.

Emily is pleading with Ethel to have a change of heart and confess where her friends are who have infected themselves with the virus. When Naya's team discovers the cabin in the woods, Ethel is the only one there. She has armed the place with traps and explosives. She is very dangerous. She is destined to die on this day. That's her fate. Death is coming for everyone in her terrorist cell though. The rest are simply traveling to other parts of the world to spread the virus. Ethel is left behind to try to take out as many of the agents who wish to stop them. Emily makes the decision to approach her in the hopes of changing her mind. The team only got this information because Clare got it out of Spencer. She too manipulated him for her own benefit. She was given no other choice after being kidnapped by Howard Prime and Baldwin. They have complete clarity on who they are and the lives they should lead. Howard Prime no longer wishes to be the husband caring for his wife in recovery. He is the assassin in the field making deals and killing enemy targets. He is the one who kills every member of the terrorist cell before they can leave Germany. As such, that gives everyone the hope that Mira's plan has failed. She won't kill off the majority of the population in the Alpha world. Instead, Howard Prime has earned his freedom. He has negotiated a deal to return to his world alongside Baldwin. However, all of this comes at an immense cost. Emily dies as a result. She tells Ethel that she has the potential for a better future. But she doesn't cave to the pressure like Spencer does. Emily tells Howard that she doesn't recognize the woman she used to be. She has spent a season reckoning with these painful memories and wanting to be a better person. She still goes out into the field in the hopes of stopping a massive tragedy from occurring. She ultimately gives her life for this fight. It's just so tragic and heartbreaking because she too just wanted to be reunited with her husband. That reunion is so short-lived here. They didn't even know if there could be a future between them. Too much had happened that meant they couldn't go back to the lives they were living before the accident. Howard has been tortured in the Prime world. He has formed a more honest connection with Emily Prime. And yet, Emily is also willing to try to embrace a new reality alongside Howard. She still loves him. That love is so powerful. That's what makes her death so shocking here. She wants to believe that people are capable of change and will make better choices when confronted with the worst versions of themselves. She believes in that optimism. She just isn't allowed to put it into practice.

Of course, Howard is. In the aftermath of Emily's death, he holds his other at gunpoint. He has the information that can lead to the capture of the terrorists before they succeed in their attack. But it's a much more personal confrontation here. He wants to believe that Emily would still be alive if Howard Prime never contacted her and established a connection with her. They had a season of pretending to be a couple. Emily felt so betrayed by it in the end. She learned exactly who he was. He has reverted to the man everyone fears as well. Quayle and Naya see him as the man complicating their plans. They don't know if this will all work out for them. He is a major wild card. And yet, he is completely vulnerable in that moment with Howard. He understands the reaction that his other is having following the death of his wife. He loved Emily too. But it's so telling that Howard Prime pushes Howard to pull the trigger. It's the decision he would make in this moment. But it's not what's best for Howard. He too wants to be a better person. He wants to prove to everyone who has theories about how nature demands the two worlds to consume each other that they are wrong. He doesn't have to become just like his other in order to survive. He loses everything here. But he doesn't follow that tragic trajectory of once again becoming a killer. He was faced with that brutal reality earlier this season. It's still something he is capable of doing. But here, he recognizes that Howard Prime isn't truly to blame. He is better off continuing to eliminate this threat and return to his world. That's the life that Emily would want for him. That's exactly what occurs as well. Everyone is returned to the world in which they belong. Some remain working at the Office of Interchange. Quayle has been reinstated even though Clare will be reporting to Naya directly as they face new threats that could emerge. There is the hope that everyone is exactly where they are suppose to be. And yet, it would be too naive to think that because no one came asking for Spencer or the other people associated with the Indigo program. More spies could be in the Alpha world. Emily Prime's faith in her other is warranted. Emily succeeded in stopping this attack. However, she was also incapable of saving the world for good. Mira simply had too many plans to ensure this outcome. And so, she kills the man who killed her father. She gave Yanek the opportunity to reconnect with his actual daughter and the family she has built for herself. But in the end, he was the only carrier necessary to prove that war and delusion can be so costly even in the face of those who see the value in peace and compassion. Howard doesn't want to return to work at the office. He wants a better life for himself. But it's also bittersweet knowing that this world won't be capable of providing that for him even in the wake of Emily's death.