Counterpart is one of many shows that premiered after I vowed not to begin watching new TV series anymore before not at least a couple of highly rated seasons have already run. Too often I got invested in great shows that were then cancelled too soon (and more importantly without a proper conclusion), or dragged into getting used to a mediocre show and then not have the heart or strength or whatever you want to call it to just dump them.
So even though the cast, trailer and premise1 for Counterpart seemed quite promising to me, I ignored it when the pilot episode ran in early 2018. “Luckily” it got cancelled after just two seasons, so I’ve been sitting on it ever since the second and final season finished last year. After a quick check to see if they managed to finish telling their story despite the cancellation (I can now confirm that they did) I spent the last three days binging through the entire series and liked it even more than I had hoped.
I wasn’t aware that it played almost exclusively in Berlin and featured quite a lot of German characters. Naturally I had to make fun of some scenes, but all in all the show did a pretty good job with it. Lots of native speakers, and they were allowed to speak German most of the time when the scene required it logically. Sometimes when it was required logically and the actor was non-native, it was pretty rough, but it never reached Jack Bauer2 levels. It’s a bit sad that for some of the larger roles they still decided to have them speak English with a thick German accent, even in situations where they 100% would have spoken German in reality.
Now for the show itself: Storyline was right up my alley – sci-fi without aliens, “complex” connections between different worlds in a high stakes action/crime drama and of course quite a bit of family ties sprinkled into all of it. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Dark, and even though they are two very different shows, I feel that most people who enjoy one of them will also enjoy the other.
Terrific cast all around, definitely not a one-man show (or two-man show, ha!) by J.K. Simmons. Most of them on a level where I’m now actively looking up other shows in which the cast features prominently to watch next, which is something I haven’t done in a while. Pretty funny to see Didi Hallervorden in a dramatic, albeit very small, role (don’t look it up, you’d possibly spoil yourself just by the casting info). Also the farmer from Babe.
As mentioned above, the ending was conclusive and satisfying to me, even though the showrunners tried to find a new home for a third season. That might have worked, but I do think that the shortness of the show helps the quality as well. It feels more like a sci-fi short-story than an epic, the latter of which being much harder to pull off. Adding more and more seasons would possibly have made it venture into sci-fi soap opera regions.
Finally, a flu pandemic features prominently in the story – so it even counts as perfect lockdown watchlist material. What are you waiting for, give it a try already!
“After discovering that the spy agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension, a low-level UN bureaucrat in Berlin is thrust into a shadow world of intrigue and danger and must determine if he can trust his near-identical counterpart in the other world.” ↩︎