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Counterpart - Season 2 - Advance Preview

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Counterpart - Season 2

After a stellar first season earlier this year, Starz's Counterpart is back for season two this Sunday. The premiere, titled "Inside Out", does not miss a beat, picking up pretty much right where the last season left off. The first episode follows Howard Prime as he remains trapped in the Alpha world, while the second, "Outside In", bookends the first, with Emily Prime the focus of the scrambling Office of Interchange in the Prime universe. The third episode, "Something Borrowed", and last one available to critics so far, has the most Howard Alpha of the three, but there isn't much I can say right now without revealing some big time spoilers. 

In picking this series back up, I was a little fuzzy on where things had left off, so maybe a quick recap would be helpful: Alpha world is what we'd consider "our" world- the original Howard, who was stuck in boring Interface for decades is from Alpha, as is his recently comatose wife, Emily. Prime world is the one with the "others", Howard's double who has risen through the ranks at the OI and long ago divorced Emily, herself a capable spy. Prime world is the one that was hit with the devastating flu in the 90's, and the one with the covert, unsanctioned operation "Indigo" training doubles of influential people to work as sleeper agents and infiltrate the Alpha world. Notable agents include the sleeper Clare, who has killed her other and married Peter Quayle, a director in the Alpha Strategy department, and Baldwin, an assassin she's hired. Howard Alpha was, of course, oblivious to all of this until his double ordered he be read in to help track down Baldwin (also due to the attack on Emily Alpha, who was secretly a highly-ranked spy within the OI and Howard Prime's source on Indigo shenanigans on the Alpha side). The two Howards switched places so Howard Prime could continue his investigation, though Howard Alpha ends up sucked into espionage on the Prime side as well. By the end of the first season, Indigo successfully launched an attack Alpha's OI, prompting Alpha officials to close the passage between the two worlds.

So as the second season begins, Alpha OI is understandably a mess. They've recruited an FBI "spy hunter" of sorts named Naya Temple (the lovely Betty Gabriel) to try to root out any remaining moles. Howard Prime and Peter Quayle have managed to keep Clare's identity a secret for the moment, but Naya's introduction definitely keeps them on their toes. Though Howard Prime intended to flee in the finale, he finds himself as entrenched in the business as ever, in large part because Emily Alpha has emerged from her coma. "Inside Out" spends a good amount of time letting us get to know her; she's in effect a brand new character, and her scenes were my favorite of the premiere. There is no instant Hollywood coma recovery, and her layered frustration and confusion is quietly devastating to watch, all of which plays against what know about the spy she was before she was injured. There is also the added layer of her relationship with the man posing as her husband; she was Howard Prime's source, after all, and he needs her help more than ever. Whether or not she's capable of helping anyone right now is another story.

The second episode starts to nail down the Indigo mystery on the Prime side. They're in a bit of a diplomatic nightmare, unable to take blame for the attack on Alpha OI while ultimately knowing they are responsible. They follow the only lead they have: the remains of the razed school in Potsdam. We also get to catch up with Howard Alpha, who is not doing so hot after Ian caught him red-handed moments after murdering Alexander Pope in self defense. In the finale, Ian mentioned taking him to "Echo", but I'm loathe to spoil exactly what that means, but suffice it to say: Howard Alpha is certainly detained, and you will learn all about Echo in episode three. Howard Alpha's were especially devastating to watch- I mean, he had just realized he was chasing an illusion in the Prime world by involving himself in the lives of Howard Prime's estranged family and decided that he needed to get back to his world. All of this about five seconds before the attack, the closing of the passage. Before the outing of Howard Alpha as an other in the Prime world.

I loved these first three episodes. The Howards are incredibly fascinating as a centerpiece in the first season, but I grew to love the entire ensemble, and these first few episodes seem to have grown more deft at balancing the many moving parts. I'm not a huge fan of some of the broadly drawn aspects of the show, like the vague villainy of Indigo and some of it's agents (not Baldwin, she can marry me), but the nuance of the main characters is was really makes the series and that is certainly not lacking so far in season two. I can't really say that the central mystery is especially compelling, but the fact that it brings interesting characters together across multiple worlds is what really matters, and I am beyond excited to see what happens next.

A few extra teasers - 

We will meet multiple doubles we've never seen before

We'll see Emily Prime and Howard Alpha interact

Anna makes an appearance (I love her, why can't the Prime Silks just be happy??)

The identity of Shadow is brought up

Someone makes it to the fourth floor

Learning more about Management seems to be in the cards for us

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