Sunday, February 3, 2019

REVIEW: 'Counterpart' - Howard and Emily See Each Other in New and Complex Ways in 'In From the Cold'

Starz's Counterpart - Episode 2.08 "In From the Cold"

Howard Prime and Emily work together to figure out Indigo's plans. Clare and Quayle consider their future. Howard must face the truth about his wife.

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.

"In From the Cold" was written by Erin Levy and directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper

This season has prioritized the mysteries and spycraft of this world to an extreme extent. That's what has made the more personal character moments so compelling to watch because it offers a reminder to the audience why we should care about the overall plot machinations that are happening. Mira and Yanek still haven't turned themselves in to Management. The show did some brilliant work to better flesh out that side of the narrative and have it carry some genuine and lasting stakes to it. Mira and Yanek have been in control of many people's lives whether they knew it or not. Yanek created the Crossing by accident. Mira founded the Indigo school in order to put an end to this war and right the wrongs committed against her world. Only now is everyone starting to question their personal loyalties. The Office of Interchange may just be a corrupt institution where the people at the top are at war with each other and don't really care who gets hurt in the process. But the main characters are those on the ground trying to solve all of these mysteries while dealing with the personal ramifications. Howard and his other were trapped in each other's lives at the conclusion of the first season. They haven't gone back to their rightful worlds yet. They have had to keep these false identities going. It blurred the lines of their personalities even further. Howard Prime showed compassion and consideration while Howard proved that he was also capable of violence. And now, they are pushed to their breaking points here. For Howard, it's simply getting shot. In that moment, Emily Prime can only rely on her daughter to save the man who looks like her ex-husband. That moment is so liberating to Anna because she finally gets to see who her parents truly are. She learns that they are spies who embark on dangerous missions. She has the skills to save Howard's life. And yet, she doesn't learn everything about the agency her parents work for. She doesn't understand how her mother could have been in two places at once. However, that's so illuminating to the audience because it shows the depths of the relationships Emily had in the Prime world. She actually reached out to Anna. She saw her as her daughter who needed love because of the failings of her parents. It's the same reaction that Howard had last season. But the damage had already been done at that point. He couldn't change anything about it. And now, this information proves to him that Emily may not be the woman he loves. She may not be worth protecting. For years, he has lived in denial because he didn't want anything to change the life that they have together. He doesn't even know that Emily has become an entirely different person since waking up from her coma. She doesn't want to be the same spy she was before. She is throwing away all of the reminders of the time she spent in the Prime world. That's what makes it so painful to listen to Howard as he agrees to accept Management's deal while Emily also learns that Howard Prime is the one who has been taking care of her in her new life.

This episode puts such a focus on the growing intimacy amongst so many of the characters as well. Howard, Emily Prime and Anna bond as a family even though there are still secrets that must be kept. Howard Prime and Emily grow closer as well and even act as if they are an actual married couple. However, there is still the looming sense of dread hanging over all of the proceedings because of the way the hour opens. It's disappointing that the season has sidelined Baldwin so much as a character. She was a standout in the ensemble during the first season. This year, she's barely appeared at all. However, Spencer contacts her in order to kill Emily because of the threat she poses to Indigo's latest plan of attack. Instead, Baldwin warns Howard Prime that the attack is coming. He probably already knew that. He expected Indigo to react in some way to the news that Emily is remembering more of her past life and sharing that information with Naya. She has become a vital source of information. And yet, she still essentially feels like she is walking through an old life. It's confusing because of the time she has spent in both worlds. She has such vivid memories of her marriage to Howard and the time spent as a mother with Anna. She is making a choice to live in this moment and not return to the escape she sought in the Prime world. But she also sees this version of Howard as her husband. She has no recall of Howard Prime whatsoever beyond knowing that he is a violent man with no kindness in his eyes. Of course, the narrative has proven that these characters are capable of change. Howard Prime had to embrace his other's life in order to keep everything functioning normally. He is experiencing more of his emotions and sharing them with the people close to him. He understands that a threat from Indigo is coming that needs to be uncovered shortly. He and Emily are able to work as a team to decode a message that she had previously left. However, Howard Prime still finds himself coming up short in actually talking about how he lived with Emily for so long despite always being suspicious of her. Howard can bear his soul because he was afraid and felt the need to protect the bond that they had. Howard Prime can offer no good explanation. And yet, he is the man who helps Emily sort out her memories. It's thrilling. But it also makes it so tragic when the attack finally comes and Emily realizes this isn't her husband. She felt so secure. And now, all of that is gone once more.

Clare is also feeling these deeply personal emotions of inadequacy and confusion. She doesn't know her path in life anymore. She was devoted to Indigo completely for so long. She was willing and able to orchestrate the most deadly attack on the Office in the Alpha world. And now, she is still rattled by the realization that Mira killed her parents in order to recruit her. It wasn't simply something that happened because of the flu. She was targeted because of the access she could provide for the program in the future. And now, she has to justify every single action she has taken while knowing that she has been manipulated and used the entire time. She wants to believe the tape can't be real and it's just a hoax. However, she's now on the run with Quayle. Sure, the two of them hiding out in the Indigo school in the Alpha world may not be the smartest move because the other agents could find them there. But it does force her to reckon with her past. She sees this environment as the place that brought her comfort and stability. But it was also a monstrous place where she learned to erase her entire identity in order to service the overall mission. That's been her driving motivation for so long. She understands that Mira is trying to even the two sides once more. She doesn't want one to thrive and prosper while the other is suffering. Closing the doors wasn't good enough. It has to be made permanent while the Alpha world deals with its own flu pandemic. That's what the Indigo agents are currently preparing for. That's the mission that Spencer has been leading up for years. It's horrifying to Quayle and Clare upon that realization though. They see the horror of the aftermath in the basement of the school. They realize that this is the extent these people are willing to go in order to find justice. In admitting that it's wrong though, Clare has to accept that she was brainwashed into a radical. Sure, Mira is right in saying that the Alpha side commissioned the creation of the virus and used it against the Prime world. But does that justify the retaliation that Indigo is willing to commit? Clare and Quayle seem to walk away with the understanding that the Office needs to know about this. They simply can't just let Management argue it out amongst themselves. Naya has to put a plan into motion in order to save lives. But there is also no reason for her to trust Quayle and anything he has to say. He has burned too many bridges and gotten too many innocent people killed. But they may be on the same side now because of all the innocent lives that could be saved.