WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
COUNTERPART viewers have come to the end of this unique show’s second, and potentially final, season. Proving that good things often come to an end too soon, STARZ announced shortly before COUNTERPART’s second season finale aired that the show had been canceled. This news came as a shock to fans of the show. But after a 60% dip in the show’s viewership, COUNTERPART apparently became too difficult for STARZ to justify.
Fans of the science-fiction espionage thriller hope that MRC — COUNTERPART’s production studio — will be able to find a new home for the show at another broadcasting company. But the series struggled with viewership on its way down, relatively static ratings, and a surprising lack of awards — only two nominations and one win. One wonders if COUNTERPART’s third season will air on “our side,” or anywhere for that matter.
COUNTERPART – What’s the Deal?
Any good espionage show trades on intrigue, manipulation, and mistaken identity. And, COUNTERPART’s particular plot device, that there is an opening between two similar versions of reality, allows for intriguing espionage plots indeed. Where season one focused on setting the world(s) of the show up, though, COUNTERPART season 2 gave viewers a better sense of what both sides are fighting for and how they continue to do so.
By showing COUNTERPART’s backstory, season 2 also gave viewers a better sense of who the mysterious “Management” is. Although revealing the identities of the shadowy individuals who made up Management reduced the organization’s intrigue, revealing their identities gave COUNTERPART’s writers a chance to prove their worth.
It’s difficult to come up with an intriguing idea, but it’s harder still to make that intriguing idea workable within the confines of a serial TV science-fiction spy thriller, and making Management the original dual world conspirators was a good choice.
COUNTERPART – Double Pay?
Of course, a bonus of watching COUNTERPART is getting to watch great actors do double duty. One ongoing performance by Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons is great, but two are better. Simmons plays two different versions of the same man, Howard Silk — one meek (-Prime) and one aggressive (-Alpha). Although Simmons’s characters have the most behavioural variance, Olivia Williams and several other actors on the show, including Harry Lloyd who had a supporting role as young Joe Castleman in THE WIFE, similarly have difficult double roles to play.
COUNTERPART season 2 viewers also got to watch a unique performance by Oscar-nominee James Cromwell. Famous for playing Farmer Hoggett in BABE and BABE: PIG IN THE CITY as well as Zefram Cochrane in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, Cromwell played Yanek-Alpha, an old man living with the burden of having created the bridge between the Prime and Alpha worlds.
COUNTERPART Season 2 – Question Marks
Alexander Pope (Oscar nominee Stephen Rea), and Clare Quayle (Nazanin Boniadi) may have been the de-facto villains in COUNTERPART’s first season, but with Clare informing on Indigo, and Pope dead, things have changed significantly by the end of COUNTERPART’s second season.
In the second season, the vengeful and psychopathic Mira-Prime (Christiane Paul), the daughter of Yanek-Prime who was murdered in the ’80s by Yanek-Alpha, takes the reins as the show’s villain. She closes the doors between worlds, liquidates Management, and provides a helluva dark cliffhanger.
COUNTERPART Season 2 – The Tensest Cliffhanger Since CLIFFHANGER
Because the future of COUNTERPART is so uncertain, the stakes for the COUNTERPART season 2 finale cliffhanger are high. Though Howard-Prime and Nadia (Sara Serraiocco) successfully neutralize the Indigo flu carriers before they’re able to release the virus they carry, a single infected sleeper agent unwittingly avoids detection.
While Yanek-Alpha plays with his estranged granddaughter, reclaiming the life he shattered by creating the distinction between the Prime and Alpha universes, he suffers the ubiquitous Hollywood-style bloody cough into a white napkin. A flashback sequence shows Mira-Prime injecting Yanek-Alpha with something, and the reason for Mira-Prime’s confidence in her plan becomes clear: trying to release the virus via Indigo’s agents was just a distraction, Yanek-Alpha is the intended carrier. Mira-Prime completes the cycle of vengeance, killing her father’s murderer.
COUNTERPART Season 2 – Final Thoughts
As a season, COUNTERPART season 2 featured well-told exposition, great character development, lots of tension, and excellent acting. This season gave COUNTERPART’s creative staff opportunities to follow every science-fiction thriller serial’s highest calling, to use inventive storytelling to explore questions about human nature.
If this is the end of COUNTERPART, it’s definitely a disturbing one. But considering the relatively dark tone of the show up to this point, a happy ending would probably be more disturbing than the implied viral massacre viewers got.
With the doors closed and Management dead, it’s difficult to imagine what a third season of COUNTERPART would look like. However, I’m hopeful that MRC gets another chance. It’s rare to see something as bold and inventive as COUNTERPART on TV.