Friday, February 2, 2018

Pilot Review: Counterpart

Counterpart (Starz)
Premiered January 21 at 8pm

J.K. Simmons is a fantastic actor who’s been around for a long time, playing regular TV roles on both sides of the law on “Oz” and “The Closer,” and recently rose to prominence with an Oscar win for his turn as a cruel instructor in “Whiplash.” It makes complete sense that someone would want to give Simmons his own show, especially since he gets to play two parts! I didn’t know anything about this going in since I had seen snippets of advertisements without paying any attention, and I figured that he was a spy of some sort. This is infinitely more interesting. I’m a big fan of alternate universes, and the idea of simultaneously creating two here by featuring the same character in both is very appealing. I’m thrilled to see Simmons get a deserved spotlight in the lead role, and I’m also excited by the supporting cast involved here. Olivia Williams, well-known for “The Ghost Writer” and “The Sixth Sense,” is a mysterious associate of Howard’s on the other side who also has the same face as the wife he claims died from cancer years earlier. Harry Lloyd, who started out on “Game of Thrones” in its early days, is Howard’s superior on our side. Ulrich Thomsen, such a great asset of another dark show, “Banshee,” is an unsympathetic operative on our side, and Jamie Bamber from “Battlestar Galactica” is Howard’s brother-in-law who really doesn’t like him all that much. I’m not sure exactly where this show is headed, but this pilot was intriguing enough that I’m on board to find out.

How will it work as a series? We’ve seen a bit of life on the other side from when that Howard went back there to meet with his wife, and otherwise we just have to take his word for it that things are what he says they are. As long as this show uses its brooding setting to its advantage instead of drowning in it, I think it should be able to sustain itself very well and remain exciting.
How long will it last? This show was picked up for two seasons by Starz right off the bat, a resounding sign of the network’s enthusiasm. It’s a bit puzzling given that, whenever that’s happened in the past, with “Boss” and “Magic City,” the ratings have been a disappointment and they’ve been axed immediately after the second season. I think this one, which has received positive reviews, should do just fine to play out as long as the story can continue.

Pilot grade: B+

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