10:15am PT by Ron Gilmer
'Counterpart' Season Finale: 3 Theories That Could Change the Game of the Starz Drama
[This story contains spoilers through the first nine episodes of Starz's Counterpart.]
"Love the lie."
On Starz's breakout spy-fi drama Counterpart, that one phrase sums up the state of practically all of the interpersonal relationships presented in the J.K. Simmons starrer. After all, any show dealing with espionage is all about secrets, lies, obfuscation and what happens when those secrets and lies are uncovered.
Case in point: Peter Quayle (Harry Lloyd), a highly placed leader in the U.N. spy organization called the Office of Interchange, must decide how to handle the revelation that his wife Clare (Nazanin Boniadi), the mother of his child, is actually a doppelganger from an alternate universe. Clare is a sleeper agent from the other world, who was sent to kill Quayle’s wife, take over her life and gather intel for a mission. Clare was able to emotionally manipulate Peter into implicating someone else for her crimes, saying that marrying him and giving birth to their child has fundamentally changed her to his side. Peter has chosen to love the lie.
Howard Silk (Simmons) is the main player in Counterpart: he’s a ruthless spy from the other Earth who has been working both sides for years. His double on this Earth is a meek bureaucratic drone, pressed into service by Howard Prime to assist him in rooting out an assassin from his world, who is targeting key members of OI for replacement with doppelgangers. Both Howards are/were married to a woman named Emily (Olivia Williams), but their relationships are very different. Emily is a spy in both universes, but Howard Alpha (our world) is unaware of his wife’s secret life.
Ahead of the April 1 season finale and this weekend's marathon, THR takes a look at three theories about how Counterpart could set the stage for its previously announced sophomore run.
Theory 1: The Emilys Switched Worlds Years Ago
Emily Alpha is in a coma after being hit by a car six weeks ago. Howard Alpha believes it to be a random accident, but Howard Prime knows better. It is revealed that Alexander Pope (Stephen Rea), the leader of a fanatical organization called Project Indigo on the alternate Earth is behind it all: Clare’s insertion, the assassinations and Emily’s “accident.” Howard Alpha is sent to the alternate universe to cover for Howard Prime, where he meets Emily Prime. He also meets her daughter Anna (Sarah Bolger). This hits Howard Alpha hard: his Emily had a miscarriage years ago, a child they were going to name Anna.
On our Earth, Howard Prime has used Emily as a source for years. His tenderness when he’s around Emily Alpha is very much out of character. He caresses her hand, talks to her as if she’s awake and fights for her against relatives who want to take her away from him. Given how he treats everyone else, this behavior is very suspicious. Likewise, when Howard Alpha tells Emily Prime about his life, her intense emotional reactions betray the fact that she is supposedly not his Emily. Add to that the Anna factor, and the signals are there that the Emilys switched roles years earlier. Maybe Howard Prime used the supposed miscarriage as an opportunity to make the switch. This would track with the fact that Howard Prime’s marriage only lasted a few years because he knew he was living a lie. Emily Prime also had a drug problem, which would seem to be an outgrowth of being unable to deal with the situation. Howard Alpha, on the other hand, was ignorant of all this, and as a result, has a 28-year marriage. It was revealed in the Howards' conversation in the interface room that Howard Alpha knew deep down his wife was a spy, but was willing to overlook it. He too loved the lie.
Needless to say, if it’s true the Emilys switched places it would blow up the dynamics of all the relationships going forward.
Theory 2: Alexander Pope Is Responsible for Unleashing the Pandemic on His Universe
The aforementioned Pope is a very mysterious figure, having been portrayed initially as a good guy and mentor to Howard Prime for years. As time has gone on Pope has been revealed to be anything but good, having put out contracts to kill Howard Prime, Emily Alpha and numerous others on our Earth. His rationale is revenge, alleging that our side unleashed a swine flu pandemic that decimated their Earth, killing over half a billion people. His goal is to rally support on his side to strike back and conceived Project Indigo to do just that. Indigo’s mission is to take children, turn them into sleeper agents, and infiltrate our Earth to carry out some as of yet unknown attack.
Our side has vehemently denied releasing any such pandemic, so it’s reasonable to assume in this theory that Pope is the one behind it. The cold war that has bubbled underneath the surface for decades would then explode into a full-on war for control of the resources of both worlds.
This would appear to be Pope’s real endgame in this scenario: to control not only his Earth but ours as well.
Theory 3: Aldrich Is Playing Both Sides
Aldrich (Ulrich Thomsen) is the head of OI Housekeeping on our Earth, which is a cheeky name for the division that does the wet work for OI. He is a hardboiled, no-nonsense leader who is also portrayed as a stand-up guy, as evidenced by his affection for the Alices. Alice Prime defected to our world, and he allowed her to live with her double, which is decidedly against protocol. On the surface, he appears legit, but there are certain things that betray this view. His story about playing chess with his double and sending a femme fatale to the other Earth to manipulate him (ultimately driving him mad) doesn’t pass the smell test frankly. His division is compromised, and while it appears Peter is the weak link (because of Clare), he is not above suspicion. His failure to stop the infiltrator at the end of episode nine also calls his loyalties into question.
The season finale of Counterpart airs Sunday, April 1 on Starz. Stay tuned to THR's The Live Feed for more coverage.