Season 1, Episode 10: “No Man’s Land – Part Two”
Directed by Jennifer Getzinger
Written by Gianna Sobol & Justin Britt-Gibson
* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 1 finisher, “No Man’s Land – Part One” – click here
* Season 2 recaps & reviews to come next year!
The massacre at the United Nations in Berlin is over, and many are dead, or injured. Howard Prime (J.K. Simmons) has slipped away, seeing as how he’s illegally on this side. On the border between the Alpha world and the Prime world, Angel Eyes (Nolan Gerard Funk) has reached a point where the United Nations on the original side can’t go get him “without orders.” And so, bureaucracy plays a part in this sci-fi, interworld spy opera.
The UN massacre is called an “isolated” incident of “workplace violence” by Roland Fancher (Richard Schiff), hoping to pass it off so they can take care of things internally. After all, the Alpha world knows nothing of the Prime world. Then there’s Peter (Harry Lloyd), recovering after his self-inflicted car crash, waking up and finding Clare (Nazanin Boniadi) is just fine. His wife’s warning that this attack is only the start of something bigger.
On the Other Side, Emily Prime (Olivia Williams) and Ian (Nicholas Pinnock) are meeting with OI Director of Strategy Bob Dwyer (Kenneth Choi) to tell him it’s their side who’s responsible for the violence at the UN on the Alpha world’s side. And in the original world, Aldrich (Ulrich Thomsen) and his man Cyrus (Mido Hamada) are doing the OI Housekeeping dirty work, or trying to, as it’s getting murkier all the time in regards to who needs to be cleaned up and taken care of, and who remains an asset. In addition, Aldrich’s found the Alpha version of Angel Eyes dead in his apartment where Baldwin (Sara Serraiocco) left him.
At the office, Roland talks to Peter about what occurred in the office, seeing one of the killers walk past him when the shooting started. Father-in-law still wants his son-in-law around when he goes to meet with UN “management.” In the Prime world, a similar meeting is going on. Management only meets with them through a highly regulated piece of communication equipment, used by what looks like a military officer. Emily Prime tells management about Indigo, as does Quayle. What Emily Prime discusses is that one of the shooters is in “neutral diplomatic territory,” which could be a purposeful move to force a possible war. Nevertheless, there are disagreements on both sides as to what to do. Surprisingly we discover management wants to know Peter’s opinion, who suggests they let the Other Side “act first.” Emily suggests, in the Alpha world, they ought to admit the attackers were from a rogue faction.
For now? Angel Eyes remains left between borders in the Crossing, bleeding out.
Baldwin’s confronted by Greta (Liv Lisa Fries) about her real identity, Nadia, which leads to a discovery of her guns, and that other part of her identity. It’s inexplicable, of course. It’s hard to fully empathise re: Baldwin, and simultaneously it’s heartbreaking to watch her exist in a place halfway between worlds and identities at the same time.
“On the other side of the door, I can be a different me.”
At home, Clare and her mother discuss marital issues; the fake daughter wonders about her own situation and slyly tries to ask a few questions, paralleling the normal relationship her parents have with the one she’s had to fake with Peter. A strange, ironic scene. Not to mention they don’t know that Cyrus is outside keeping an eye on things, and he’s got some plans. Yikes.
On the border, a young soldier offers Angel Eyes a drink of water and finds him dead. This prompts the Alpha world to shut their doors to the Crossing, which alerts the Other Side. This action has vast implications.
Howard Prime is off disappearing. He calls back to Aldrich, asking that Emily is taken care of in his absence. Aldrich tells him about the Crossing being closed, and he also says he’s pulling all protecting from the hospital. Meaning Emily will be unprotected entirely, especially now that the original Howard can’t get back home. That’s cold as ice.
Speaking of the original Howard, he goes to see Alexander Pope (Stephen Rhea) for a little chat in the Prime world. He’s having trouble being between worlds, wondering about what could’ve been in a different life than the one he’s been leading all these years. He feels as if he’s becoming a different person, so he wants to get back to the Alpha world. Even if it means dealing with the man who tried assassinating his wife. Pope’s going to require more than a “sad, grovelling promise of neutrality.” He wants Howard to become his double agent. He also reveals the truth of the correspondence between Howard Prime and the real Emily. Pope – and Aldrich – are each trying to obliterate Howard Silk on both sides, by using them to implode a whole identity.
Well, it doesn’t go entirely as planned for Pope, who gets his head knocked in when Howard fears he’s about to be killed. The most ironic? Howard doesn’t want to become like the other him, yet this has forced him into doing something irreversible, proving he’s not so different from his Prime version after all’s said and done.
“Thus endeth diplomacy”
At the hospital, Emily is left without anyone watching her room. Baldwin goes for the kill while she can, stopped by Howard Prime, as Aldrich waits in the basement planning to take them both out at the same time. A double cross gone wrong. Howard Prime offers her a bag full of money to walk off into the sunset. She does, and she takes out some of the OI Housekeeping men intending on killing her. She likewise takes Aldrich down when he goes for Howard Prime.
Peter gets home to a bloody mess. He finds Clare cleaning up the aftermath of having to kill Cyrus in self-defence. For the first time in ages, Quayle hugs Clare. They’re getting closer, after all the betrayal and the lies and the corpses in the wake of their relationship.
Later, Howard Prime and Peter find themselves at a bar together. They don’t have Aldrich on their back, so that’s one sliver of good news. Quayle is in charge of the “mole hunt.” The two men agree to work together, for the sake of their wives in their respective situations, albeit wildly different situations. And so, a truce is struck. However, it’s hard to read Peter and what his intentions are in light of all the latest developments. Is he so desperate not to upend his life that he’s willing to keep loving a spy, someone who faked loving him and probably still does to some degree? Someone who helped allow a massacre of innocent people?
Original Howard’s been brought off to some dark cell, stowed away.
Howard Prime sits at the bedside of Emily, reading to her as his Other usually would if he were there. And if by nothing else other than necessity, the two Howards become one another. It’s tragic to see Emily waking up to Howard Prime instead of the man who’s so long waited for her to wake, her real husband Howard.
This poem from Rainer Maria Rilke – read to Emily by Howard Prime – feels perfectly fitting, resonating with the themes of identity throughout this series so far.
This all sets up such an interesting bunch of threads for Season 2! Counterpart started out strong and ended even stronger than anticipated. Such great potential after a really compelling and exciting and unexpected Season 1. Lots of fine acting, too. Williams and Simmons both do a fine job with their dual roles, and it’ll be nice to see more of the original Emily in Season 2. Bring it on.