Major spoilers below for Counterpart’s Season 2 premiere, so be sure to watch before reading on.
With its first season, Counterpart made for one of TV’s most craftily enjoyable thrillers, despite a lack of awards recognition. Season 2 has finally arrived, and the premiere “Inside Out” interestingly reverted back to the series premiere’s single-Earth approach in bringing audiences up to speed on characters new and old. Creator Justin Marks spoke with CinemaBlend’s Sarah El-Mahmoud during a recent press junket, explaining why Counterpart‘s season opener simplified things, relatively speaking.
Yeah, there are a couple of reasons. One is the thematic reason. You know, the last season ended with the closing of the doors, and we wanted to spell out the divide and the distance between both worlds. The best way to do that, rather than doing a crosscutting pattern where, like we did for most of last season except for the first episode, we wanted to just sort of spell out the chasm between them.
While this episode might have outwardly compared to the series premiere in terms of its singular focus, the situations are completely different now that the two worlds have ceased communication. (Probably not ALL communication of course.) Had Justin Marks and the writers split the narrative in “Inside Out,” the show might not have driven home how radical this standoff is, nor now helplessly stuck Howard Prime and Howard Alpha are in their flip-flopped worlds.
Aside from that narrative-driven angle, Justin Marks explained that Counterpart‘s premiere also pulled back the world-switching reins a bit for the sakes of both the audience and the crew. In his words:
The other reason was a little more pragmatic. It’s been a year. I won’t pretend that the show is easy to digest. And because of the two worlds and the same people on two worlds and all that kind of stuff, I didn’t want to just assume coming into the show again in the second season that everyone remembered where everybody was. We wanted to take a moment to just breathe and reestablish the geography, to remember that Howard Prime was in Howard’s world and Howard is in Howard Prime’s world. Then Shaw is over there and Emily Alpha’s here and Emily Prime’s there, et cetera. So we wanted to sort of take a breath, slow it down and focus on the characters in these two episodes to kind of recharge everything. Then starting in Episode 3, we kind of return to our traditional crosscutting pattern.
Justin Marks also said that this season brought in new crew members, both in the writers room and out, and that it was really in everyone’s best interest to avoid the criss-crossing pattern from the get-go. Considering the premiere introduced Betty Gabriel’s suspicious Naya Temple, showcased Peter Quayle’s lapse in forward-thinking, and brought in a wealth of new information about Emily Alpha, I’d agree that holding all of the action to Earth Alpha was an aces plan.
Olivia Williams’ Emily Alpha had only just woken up when Season 1 ended, so fans likely wondered about her past throughout the hiatus. Thankfully, Counterpart quickly revealed more about the duplicitous and hard-edged woman that Emily Alpha doesn’t remember being before her “accident.” She also appears to have zero interest in returning to her former ways, an outlook that just might appeal to Howard Prime.
Olivia Williams’ dual counterparts are in for some major moments in Season 2, and as Justin Marks explained it, Emily Alpha’s current storyline was part of the original pitch to the network.
So this is where the show has been going, you know? At the very beginning of the process, when I was first talking to Starz about the show, they said, ‘Okay, well that sounds cool for Season 1, but what would Season 2 be?’ And I said, ‘Season 2 is long before we started anything. Season 2 is about the Emily we never knew.’ We were always leading towards that throughout Season 1. Even the mysteries and the secrets that were being revealed in Season 1, which was pretty big, are nothing compared to what we’re learning about her in Season 2.
Those are some pretty loaded words from Justin Marks, considering how twisty-turny Season 1 got, although as the creator, he boasts the biggest insight. Since Emily Alpha doesn’t have a firm grasp on anything, viewers will presumably get to tag along in learning more about her unbalanced relationship with Howard and how under-the-radar her professional exploits were.
It’s this enigmatic exploration that really appeals to Justin Marks when it comes to bringing Season 2 to viewers, as he’s quite excited to peel back the layers of Emily Alpha’s life as episodes go forward. Here’s how he put it.
The real exciting thing is that we have a mystery structure that only Counterpart could do, where you have Emily Alpha who’s woken up having come out of this coma, with very little memory of a certain aspects of what she did and who she was, and is discovering that, or rediscovering it, over the course of this season.
A TV character losing their memory in a context like this can often feel cheap or cheesy in the wrong person’s hands, but Counterpart can easily overcome those odds thanks to all the other plot threads concerning character’s identities and beliefs. And Justin Marks teased what’s coming ahead whenever viewers will return to Earth Prime to see what that version of Emily is up to.
Then Emily Prime, on the other side, is also trying to sort of track down who this woman was. So both Emily Alpha and Emily Prime are both after the same woman, which is who Emily Alpha used to be, and they’re both solving the same mystery. I think that’s something that we don’t really always get to see, and what gives us a very unique structure as it unfolds. Because of course, Emily Alpha stands at the center of Indigo’s plot for reasons I won’t go into, except to say that obviously they tried to have her killed last year, so there must be something important.
Fans shouldn’t count on learning each and every one of Emily Alpha’s secrets in the first two or three episodes, so we should probably expect many more clues in the weeks to come. And since Indigo head Mira isn’t the most welcoming person, those clues might be foreboding for Emily Alpha’s future.