Tensions escalate between alternate realities in Counterpart season two
It’s all kicking off between the alternate realities in season two!
“Season two is about war,” says Counterpart creator and showrunner Justin Marks. And he doesn’t mean any common or garden war between nations, or even some HG Wells-style battle of the planets. Because Counterpart pits two alternate realities against each other. “And there’s a key line that comes from a new character to our show, played by James Cromwell,” he adds, “which is, ‘One world will destroy the other.’” That sounds pretty major.
Season one of Counterpart was a critical smash for Starz in the US (it’s available to stream on Amazon in the UK), with a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The show managed to explore that trusty old sci-fi staple of parallel worlds and give it an engrossing cold war twist. In the show’s slightly skewiff version of Berlin there’s a secret wormhole between the two realities, which branched off in the late ’80s for reasons so far only vaguely alluded to. Howard Silk (JK Simmons) is a lowly desk jockey at the Office of Interchange (OI) on one of these Earths, unaware of its true business – policing the wormhole – until he’s introduced to his very different doppelgänger from the other side, and becomes involved in interdimensional espionage at a time of increasing friction between the two worlds.
Season one was all very twisty turny, stylish and engrossing, with a bravura central performance from JK Simmons and an impressive supporting cast including Olivia Williams as Silk’s comatose wife (and her double, an alternate world spy, so she didn’t spend the whole season lying in a hospital bed).
But now the cold war is hotting up. “Without getting into spoilers, it really goes into some new, exciting territory, especially in the second half, ” Marks teases. “They may believe that they can coexist, but this is about war. This is about survival games. And that really escalates what our story is about far beyond what happened in the first season. So we can expect a more violent season. A more exciting season. And a real culmination of the initial plan.”
One of the odder aspects of season one were the never-seen “management” on the Fourth Floor of the OI, who communicate only via voice. “This is the season in which we start to pull back the curtain just a little more on the Fourth Floor,” says Marks. “We get to
The two worlds may believe they can coexist but this is about war
understand… well, I won’t say fully because I don’t think we ever want to understand every arcane detail, but I think we will have a very good sense of the origins of the OI and how a lot of things came to be the way they are.”
We’ll also be seeing a lot more of Olivia Williams, as the comatose Emily Silk finally awoke at the end of season one. “In a lot of ways this is Emily’s season. In season one we concentrated on Howard’s story and we do learn a lot more about the two Howards in season two. But with Emily, we have this new character, for all intents and purposes, coming out of her coma with amnesia, and starting to get to know about herself for the very first time. At the same time, the other Emily in the other world is on the trail of her other’s past too. So in a certain sense it’s about two women triangulating, honing in on what one of them used to be. It feels like the kind of mystery only our show could do.”
Marks also promises an expanded role for Peter Quayle who is now secretly harbouring the sleeper-cell agent from the other side who’s replaced his wife, Clare. “Nazanin Boniadi and Harry Lloyd really took ahold of those roles and brought them to life last year, so we got really excited about deepening these characters in season two and taking them in an even richer direction. Expect a lot from the two of them this year.”
Then there’s the introduction of a new character, Naya Temple, played by Betty Gabriel, a spy-catcher brought in by the OI to track down Clare (not that she knows Clare is the sleeper agent she’s after). “Naya is introduced as Quayle’s foil. Every show has to have the sceptic. Last season we had Aldrich who was honing in on Howard Prime’s secret. This season we have Naya who is very different from Aldrich in her methodology, but who in a lot of ways is far more dangerous and far more effective.”
Marks has also turned his hand to directing this season, for episode six. “It’s my first time directing anything. I wanted to do it for this episode above all episodes. I’m trying to think of something I can say about it that wouldn’t be totally spoilery. It really is unlike any episode of the show that we’ve done before for reasons that will become obvious soon.”
Counterpart season two comes to Starz in the US and Amazon Prime in the UK from 9 December.
Emily Silk plays a much bigger role this season.
Nazanin Boniadi is Clare, a mole from the Prime world.
Using the McDonald’s drive-through was fraught.
She refused to use a regular keyboard.