One day, Howard Silk awoke to find himself transformed into… Howard Silk for Starz’s intriguing new drama, Counterpart.
The ten-part series begins with J.K. Simmons’ character overlooked for promotion after three decades of loyalty to… well; due to compartmentalisation, Howard doesn’t quite know what the governmental department he works for does.
Below the trailer are spoliers – I highly recommend diving straight into the series and coming back!
OH, THE BUREAUCRACY!
After introducing Howard Silk’s monotonous life in which he seemingly deciphers code, he is brought into a room and introduced to… himself.
The building he’s worked in for 30 years was the site of an East German, Cold War experiment which opened a portal to a multiverse world exactly the same at ours. However, in those three decades, the two worlds have changed and grown at an exponential rate.
While our Howard Silk is a nervous, fidgety civil servant, Howard Silk Prime (the one from the other world) is an ass-kicking, name taking, gun-toting badass. And that’s where both J.K. Simmons gravitas as an actor and the interesting, character-driven plot begins to take centre stage.
The two worlds and two Howards were identical until the experiment went wrong, but at some point after “The Crossing” was created, something happened that hardened Howard Prime.
The thematic question, for me, is… what happened to Howard Prime?
Unfortunately, like drug dealers on school playgrounds everywhere offer “the first one is free, but after that you know where to come” Starz released the pilot as a taster to get us hooked and episode two; Birds of a Feather doesn’t air until the end of January.
The ubiquitous Orwellian and Kafka-esque influences on display in most, if not all, dystopian sci-fi are here in abundance – the bleak Berlin setting, the grey uniforms, the bureaucracy, and the 1980’s-era computers (which I presume they use so they cannot be hacked) Yet these two dystopian maestros are not the only influence as espionage writers like John le Carré and Robert Ludlum’s influence are also clear.
The best way I can describe it is by saying imagine Graham Greene novel transplanted to Berlin, via J.J. Abram’s Fringe.
Creator and executive producer Justin Marks says he designed the series around the “nostalgia of a classic spy novel with a science fiction element sprinkled over it,” and he effortlessly delivers the tropes, conventions and language in the pilot. I can’t wait for more…
Counterpart continues its ten-episode season on 28th January.