Friday Finds: “Counterpart”

Friday Finds shares a piece of content I’ve recently discovered on broadcast, cable, or streaming TV.

Today’s find: Counterpart
Genre: Hour sci-fi drama
Origin: Anonymous Content
Find it on: Starz, season 1 (10x)

Counterpart posterAlthough not officially premiering until January 21, last Sunday Starz offered a sneak peak of the first episode of its new series Counterpart – and if you like your sci-fi layered with mystery, action, and alternative worlds, it looks like a winner.

Starring the inimitable J. K. Simmons in a dual role, Counterpart‘s premise is that during the Cold War, the Soviet Block somehow opened a portal under Berlin to a parallel world. A world which was identical to our own but which took a divergent path after the portal opened. One of the big initial mysteries left after the premiere episode is exactly what that means – although I would guess it means the Cold War ended in a very different way than we know it.

Simmons pulls off the dual role well, as to be expected from his excellent previous body of work. “Our” Howard (Simmons) is a rather meek, low-level drone working at the building housing the portal – although he has no idea what is really there. In contrast, the Howard from the “Other Side” is a deadly, high level intelligence officer. You can seen in the episode that each starts to learn from the other, likely a theme for the rest of the series.

The overarching theme may be implied from several conversations in the pilot – do we end up who we are by the choices we make, or by the circumstances we live in? What will we ultimately find out led each Howard down his path?

The exploration of the Other Side and the alternative histories of both sides is something that could be really interesting – again, if layered sci-fi like that is of interest to you, recalling series such as Lost or Fringe.

The one minor drawback to me comes out of this being a German co-production. Simmons, an American, seems plunked in the middle of Berlin without any reason and without any other American around. Perhaps they will explain this at some point. The Berlin setting is different but the combination, at least to me, gives it a little bit of a weird vibe.

Thumbs up!

That aside, I highly recommend giving Counterpoint a try. The pilot is available on demand from Starz and is also in rotation on its networks. And, as noted above, the full series premieres January 21.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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