Ten­sions es­ca­late be­tween al­ter­nate re­al­i­ties in Coun­ter­part sea­son two

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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.”

mir­ror, mir­ror

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.

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