‘Counterpart’: The Season 1 Finale Lets Starz’s Best New Show Embrace Its Strengths and Start Again Fresh

“No Man’s Land, Part Two” may not have been the most shocking episode of the season, but it has the biggest keys to wear this show goes next.

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the “Counterpart” Season 1 finale, Episode 10, “No Man’s Land, Part Two.”]

It was always one of the open secrets about “The Wire,” the idea that the second-to-last episode of every season was where the real gut punches landed. So too it was with “Counterpart” Season 1. The new Starz drama has had plenty of twists and turns in its opening batch of episodes, but none bigger than the shootout that decimated the OI, leaving the ranking members of the office with the tragedy of lost colleagues, and also a diplomatic nightmare.

If that bloody cliffhanger was the devastating right hook to the series’ jaw, this Season 1 finale is the bell to sound the end of the round, before a catastrophe so big is able to stop the fight entirely. As both versions of Howard go back to two different versions of the same corner, the circumstances that caused them to swap lives have really begun to make that switch a little more permanent than either of them had previously thought.

Just like the premiere of “Counterpart” allowed Justin Marks and the writing staff to kick off the series with a slower burn, the guarantee that a Season 2 is on the way (with Betty Gabriel!) gave them a creative freedom to leave things in a less dramatic way. One-upping a massacre is an impossible position for a series to be in. Luckily for “Counterpart,” it never had to have that problem. Instead, “No Man’s Land, Part Two” can be more regroup than flashy encore.

“Counterpart” has done such an impressive job of building up this world that by Episode 10, the audience has grown fairly accustomed to the ins and outs of life inside the OI and the various differences between these two worlds. To be sure, it can only be a small delight in the wake of something so horrific and jarring, but the show still had an office procedure surprise up its sleeve with the bulky doodad that Strategy uses to talk to Management. It’s such a distinctive sci-fi gadget, but the garbled voices from on high being delivered through a spokesperson has such an eerie “1984” feel, made all the more unsettling by the fact that we can’t see who is actually giving instructions. This boardroom setup was also a nice precise way to show the subtle differences in interior decor between the two worlds (and an always welcome excuse to have multiple Kenneth Chois in the same episode).

If there’s one character to use as a counterexample to the idea that there’s not as much happening in Episode 10, it’s Quayle. Before he becomes the unlikely hero signal-caller that Management designates to lead the new spy task force, “Counterpart” puts him right back at the heart of another no-win situation. Even after such a horrific car accident that threatened both his and Clare’s lives, there’s a vein of dark humor in seeing the terror in Quayle’s eyes when he wakes up to find that his undercover wife has not only survived but has done so with barely a scratch on her. He’s basically doomed to his own personal, hellish Groundhog Day where he can’t escape the overwhelming pressures of keeping the facade of his life intact. The privilege of his job and his father-in-law being so high up in OI means that no consequence, be it mortal or legal, can separate him from Clare.

After making a truce with Howard Prime to protect Emily in exchange for Clare not being revealed as Shadow, Quayle gets to protect his family for now. The newly formed task force will surely be knocking on his door in due time, but for now a downright domestic Clare has cleaned up all the blood from their kitchen and is now ready to be the wife that her mom has given her the psychological permission to be. (The idea of deception is certainly no stranger to the series, but to wait until the end of the season for that particular conversation to be our main perception of Clare’s mom felt like something of a misstep from a show that’s given so much more to and for the other women.)

Counterpart Starz Ian

“Counterpart”

Stephan Rabold

If there’s one moment that does ring false in the finale, it’s Pope meeting his end so easily. For someone prone to monologuing, it was maybe only a matter of time before Pope left himself open to someone catching him off guard. Even Ian comes pretty darn close to to offing him right outside his front door in the previous episode. But it’s that commitment to being three steps ahead that makes it feel less earned when Howard catches him upside the head with the pointy end of a fireplace poker. You would think that someone with a table full of clandestine cell phones would be able to spot a potential murder weapon within arm’s reach of an enemy — even when it’s someone as reserved as Howard Alpha — but that’s what literally puts him on the floor, presumably dead in a pool of his own blood.

Episode 10 is also a momentous one for Baldwin, who helps Howard Prime stay alive after he gives her enough to cover Clare‘s fee. Offering price. She gets her own chance take personal revenge at the now deceased Aldrich, too. Her relationship with the waitress seems to be on the outs for now, after last week’s run in with one of Nadia’s friends led her to do some creative googling. (It’s always jarring to watch a fictional story happening so soon in the actual future from when you’re watching it. Apparently Nadia‘s funeral happened on April 18. We will honor her memory accordingly.)

For a show that had a natural, can’t-miss hook like body doubles, it’s a sign of how rich the series is that so much of “No Man’s Land, Part Two” is given over to all the non-Howard pieces on this gameboard. Emily Prime’s spirited argument for diplomacy, Ian’s decision to let his personal feelings cloud his professional judgment, even the infiltrator’s slow death in The Crossing all get their own weight beyond the drama of each Howard trying to return to a place more familiar.

Now that diplomacy between the two worlds has been dispatched, both Howards are locked on their respective sides. Alpha’s rationalization for striking Pope, ”I didn’t have a choice….I just wanna go home,” hints that he’s picking up the survival-at-all-costs mentality that Prime harnessed long ago. And whether it was Alpha’s words in that face-to-face showdown a few weeks back or seeing the look in Emily’s eyes as she comes awake again, Prime is starting to embrace some of that capacity for sympathy that’s been lying dormant since the split. Keeping each Howard distinct has been some of the best work of J.K. Simmons’ career, and this peek into how the two are starting to blur shows that he’s more than capable of keeping up the high quality of the performances as they become less polarized.

One of the really beautiful touches in this finale isn’t just the idea that Howard Prime starts putting flowers in the hospital receptionist’s vase again. It’s that when he has the ones for Emily‘s room, he puts the new ones right in with the old, opting not to take the others out. It’s the perfect metaphor for what the show is doing with both Howards, the blending of two separate, similar lives in the same environment. We’ve already seen one start to succumb to love, with an assist from a Rainer Maria Rilke poem. Now the question has become whether or not darkness has the same power to reach Howard Alpha in his isolated cell. “Counterpart” hasn’t quite hit the reset button, but it’s set the stage for a Season 2 where truly everyone has changed.

“Counterpart” Season 1 is now available to stream via the Starz app.

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Sony Seals International Sales on Spy Drama ‘Counterpart’

Sony Pictures Television has secured deals for spy drama “Counterpart” in more than 40 international territories including China, Japan, Korea, France, Spain, Russia and Canada. The series, created by Justin Marks, stars Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons in dual roles. It premiered in the U.S. on Starz in December and ranks at the premium cable network’s top […]

Sony Pictures Television has secured deals for spy drama “Counterpart” in more than 40 international territories including China, Japan, Korea, France, Spain, Russia and Canada. The series, created by Justin Marks, stars Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons in dual roles. It premiered in the U.S. on Starz in December and ranks at the premium cable network’s top […]

‘Counterpart’s J.K. Simmons: Playing Opposite Self “Favorite Actor To Work With”

Asked what it’s like playing opposite himself in Starz’s upcoming sci-fi espionage series Counterpart, J.K. Simmons joked that he’s “my favorite actor to work with.” But he acknowledged that it presents certain technical challenges to him and anyone else who “had the misfortune” to be in the scenes.
Another actor stood in for Simmons’ other self during shooting then got “erased” to add in his other performance, which Simmons called a “learning curve as indeed life itself…

Asked what it’s like playing opposite himself in Starz’s upcoming sci-fi espionage series Counterpart, J.K. Simmons joked that he’s "my favorite actor to work with." But he acknowledged that it presents certain technical challenges to him and anyone else who “had the misfortune” to be in the scenes. Another actor stood in for Simmons’ other self during shooting then got “erased” to add in his other performance, which Simmons called a "learning curve as indeed life itself…

‘Father Figures’ Movie Review: Owen Wilson and Ed Helms Find No Laughs in Their Daddy Hunt

Watching “Father Figures” is like finding a piece of food in the back of your fridge that you barely recognize, but know right away it’s not worth eating. Ostensibly a comedy in which Ed Helms and Owen Wilson try to find the dad they never knew, it unfurls its stale scenarios of familial grievance, R-rated gags and white male anxiety with a breathtaking level of laziness.

The weird thing is, a couple of smart, funny dudes this year have done well mining the neurotic Caucasian dad world for prickly, insightful entertainment: Noah Baumbach with “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” and Mike White with “Brad’s Status.” But “Father Figures,” which marks the directorial debut of “Hangover” cinematographer Lawrence Sher, and was written by Justin Malen (“Office Christmas Party”), exhibits the faint aura of a fill-in-the-blanks Hollywood assignment (for example, “plug up a hole in Owen Wilson’s schedule”), after which someone drew dirty pictures in the margins.

Helms plays Peter, an embittered, divorced father of a teenage boy (Zachary Haven) who hates him, and twin brother to a chill layabout named Kyle (Wilson) whose moneyed life in Hawaii with a sexy young bride (Jessica Gomes) is the exact opposite of Pete’s: charmed and carefree. Reunited at the wedding of their mother Helen (Glenn Close), the brothers learn that their dad wasn’t a husband who died when they were young, but an unknown out of many possible sexual assignations their mother had in the swinging ’70s.

Also Read: Sony Pictures Classics Acquires North American Rights to Glenn Close’s ‘The Wife’

The revelation is enough to send Peter and Kyle on a road trip together to find their father, and because they don’t get along — well, it’s really Pete’s churlish negativity versus Kyle’s untroubled positivity — the movie practically guarantees a certain amount of bickering and infantilized behavior. As Yoda might say to the screen, “The jinks are high with this one.”

In Miami, the pair scope out Terry Bradshaw (playing himself, which he’s good at) as a potential parent, and then must endure highly graphic depictions of their mother’s sexual prowess from the ex-Steeler and a fellow NFL retiree (Ving Rhames) before the brothers’ quest is known to the footballers. (That this requires you to imagine Glenn Close in these pornographic reveries is more like a joke played on a great actress than an actual joke.)

Tipped off that their dad might have been a Wall Street wunderkind who once partied at Studio 54 with their mom, the brothers then head off to find Roland Hunt (an expectedly committed J.K. Simmons), who turns out to be a dragon-tattooed, gun-wielding hermit whose antics nearly get them killed.

Also Read: Comedy Central Sets ‘Fake News With Ted Nelms’ Special Starring Ed Helms

Certain scenes are simply headscratchers: a rest area stop that leads to Kyle urinating on a boy, and the picking up of a hitchhiker (Katt Williams, valiantly playing along) that involves tying him up because the brothers think he’s a serial killer. (Um, Peter’s the one with serial killer eyes, no?) On their way to Wooster, Massachusetts, to explore the possibility that their dad was a decorated cop, Peter successfully flirts with a woman at a hotel bar, and when I jotted down, guessing, a certain sexual taboo in my notes, I was right.

A movie that makes Peter a proctologist partly for the rectum humor, that is race-queasy and glibly sexist, isn’t too hard to figure out in other ways. Sher shows no special affinity for comic pacing or enlivening dialogue scenes, either, so the movie just plods from scene to scene, building no momentum.

Also Read: TBS Greenlights Daniel Radcliffe-Owen Wilson Sitcom, Snoop Dogg-Hosted ‘Joker’s Wild’ Reboot

The autopilot vibe extends to the stars, too. Helms is running on fumes here with his humiliated-dweeb shtick, the movies he’s making a far cry from the sad sack promise he showed in “Cedar Rapids” and “The Office.” Wilson is Wilson — he always at least tries to have chemistry with his buddy vehicles — and it’s safe to wonder if he’ll still be trying to pull off the same beach-kissed, holistic groove when the movies are about retirees pulling off heists. (Grandpa Owen has a free autumn: sign him up!)

At the end, after Christopher Walken and a terribly used Ali Wong share scene time with a cat’s enlarged testicles in a veterinarian’s office, “Father Figures” makes a hard swerve into emotionality for the big reveal about the brothers’ origins. What you’re left with isn’t a warm feeling about mothers and sacrifice; you’ll just wonder why this had to be a big secret in the first place.

Neither committed to forging new comic ground with its wackiness, or savvy enough to make us care about a family journey, “Father Figures” is its own dad stereotype: it’s never there for you.



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Watching “Father Figures” is like finding a piece of food in the back of your fridge that you barely recognize, but know right away it’s not worth eating. Ostensibly a comedy in which Ed Helms and Owen Wilson try to find the dad they never knew, it unfurls its stale scenarios of familial grievance, R-rated gags and white male anxiety with a breathtaking level of laziness.

The weird thing is, a couple of smart, funny dudes this year have done well mining the neurotic Caucasian dad world for prickly, insightful entertainment: Noah Baumbach with “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” and Mike White with “Brad’s Status.” But “Father Figures,” which marks the directorial debut of “Hangover” cinematographer Lawrence Sher, and was written by Justin Malen (“Office Christmas Party”), exhibits the faint aura of a fill-in-the-blanks Hollywood assignment (for example, “plug up a hole in Owen Wilson’s schedule”), after which someone drew dirty pictures in the margins.

Helms plays Peter, an embittered, divorced father of a teenage boy (Zachary Haven) who hates him, and twin brother to a chill layabout named Kyle (Wilson) whose moneyed life in Hawaii with a sexy young bride (Jessica Gomes) is the exact opposite of Pete’s: charmed and carefree. Reunited at the wedding of their mother Helen (Glenn Close), the brothers learn that their dad wasn’t a husband who died when they were young, but an unknown out of many possible sexual assignations their mother had in the swinging ’70s.

The revelation is enough to send Peter and Kyle on a road trip together to find their father, and because they don’t get along — well, it’s really Pete’s churlish negativity versus Kyle’s untroubled positivity — the movie practically guarantees a certain amount of bickering and infantilized behavior. As Yoda might say to the screen, “The jinks are high with this one.”

In Miami, the pair scope out Terry Bradshaw (playing himself, which he’s good at) as a potential parent, and then must endure highly graphic depictions of their mother’s sexual prowess from the ex-Steeler and a fellow NFL retiree (Ving Rhames) before the brothers’ quest is known to the footballers. (That this requires you to imagine Glenn Close in these pornographic reveries is more like a joke played on a great actress than an actual joke.)

Tipped off that their dad might have been a Wall Street wunderkind who once partied at Studio 54 with their mom, the brothers then head off to find Roland Hunt (an expectedly committed J.K. Simmons), who turns out to be a dragon-tattooed, gun-wielding hermit whose antics nearly get them killed.

Certain scenes are simply headscratchers: a rest area stop that leads to Kyle urinating on a boy, and the picking up of a hitchhiker (Katt Williams, valiantly playing along) that involves tying him up because the brothers think he’s a serial killer. (Um, Peter’s the one with serial killer eyes, no?) On their way to Wooster, Massachusetts, to explore the possibility that their dad was a decorated cop, Peter successfully flirts with a woman at a hotel bar, and when I jotted down, guessing, a certain sexual taboo in my notes, I was right.

A movie that makes Peter a proctologist partly for the rectum humor, that is race-queasy and glibly sexist, isn’t too hard to figure out in other ways. Sher shows no special affinity for comic pacing or enlivening dialogue scenes, either, so the movie just plods from scene to scene, building no momentum.

The autopilot vibe extends to the stars, too. Helms is running on fumes here with his humiliated-dweeb shtick, the movies he’s making a far cry from the sad sack promise he showed in “Cedar Rapids” and “The Office.” Wilson is Wilson — he always at least tries to have chemistry with his buddy vehicles — and it’s safe to wonder if he’ll still be trying to pull off the same beach-kissed, holistic groove when the movies are about retirees pulling off heists. (Grandpa Owen has a free autumn: sign him up!)

At the end, after Christopher Walken and a terribly used Ali Wong share scene time with a cat’s enlarged testicles in a veterinarian’s office, “Father Figures” makes a hard swerve into emotionality for the big reveal about the brothers’ origins. What you’re left with isn’t a warm feeling about mothers and sacrifice; you’ll just wonder why this had to be a big secret in the first place.

Neither committed to forging new comic ground with its wackiness, or savvy enough to make us care about a family journey, “Father Figures” is its own dad stereotype: it’s never there for you.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Christmas Box Office Preview: Can New Movies Survive in 'Star Wars' Shadow?

Billy Joel, J.K. Simmons, Jimmy Fallon Belt Out Doo-Wop Version of 'The Longest Time' (Video)

Tina Fey, Robert Carlock to Receive Honorary Comedy Prize From WGA East

Beer and Boasting in Las Vegas: the Story of a Fox Comedy Premiere at 30,000 Feet

DC Fans Launch Petition for Release of Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ Director’s Cut

Hardcore DC movie fans have launched a change.org petition asking Warner Bros. to restore director Zack Snyder’s original “Justice League” cut, together with Tom Holkenborg’s (Junkie XL) score on home release.

As of this writing, the petition has collected over 19,000 signatures.

DC Movie fan Roberto Mata from San Juan, Puerto Rico launched the petition, condemning changes that were made to the film’s score and run-time following Snyder’s exit in May when his daughter died. Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the film, and composer Holkenborg was replaced with Danny Elfman.

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“All in all, the score is generic, out of place, too whimsical and a rehash of many other scores,” Mata wrote.

The film’s run-time also concerned petitioners. “In early October cinemas confirmed that the runtime [sic] for Justice League will be 2hrs long, much to the shock of fans, who were asking themselves: ‘how will a film that has 6 main characters, their supporting players, a story that revolves around an alien invasion, the terraforming [sic] of earth and the return of a familiar face, would fit in a 2hr runtime [sic]?’” Mata asked.

The petition’s mission statement — which is over 2,400 words —  can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

“Justice League” is currently playing in theaters.

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Trouble Alert: ‘Justice League’ Struggles Toward Weak $94 Million Opening

Hardcore DC movie fans have launched a change.org petition asking Warner Bros. to restore director Zack Snyder’s original “Justice League” cut, together with Tom Holkenborg’s (Junkie XL) score on home release.

As of this writing, the petition has collected over 19,000 signatures.

DC Movie fan Roberto Mata from San Juan, Puerto Rico launched the petition, condemning changes that were made to the film’s score and run-time following Snyder’s exit in May when his daughter died. Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the film, and composer Holkenborg was replaced with Danny Elfman.

READ MORE

See Zack Snyder's latest POWER MOVE.

PowerRank:

479

“All in all, the score is generic, out of place, too whimsical and a rehash of many other scores,” Mata wrote.

The film’s run-time also concerned petitioners. “In early October cinemas confirmed that the runtime [sic] for Justice League will be 2hrs long, much to the shock of fans, who were asking themselves: ‘how will a film that has 6 main characters, their supporting players, a story that revolves around an alien invasion, the terraforming [sic] of earth and the return of a familiar face, would fit in a 2hr runtime [sic]?'” Mata asked.

The petition’s mission statement — which is over 2,400 words —  can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

“Justice League” is currently playing in theaters.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Justice League' Fans React to Henry Cavill's Mustache Removal: 'This Is F–king Real?!'

Ben Affleck Steals a Batarang From 'Justice League'; Warner Bros. Responds With a Bill

Trouble Alert: 'Justice League' Struggles Toward Weak $94 Million Opening

‘Justice League’ Powers to $13 Million at Thursday Box Office

Warner Bros.’ “Justice League” powered to $13 million at the Thursday previews, on it’s way to an impressive $110 million opening weekend.

The Thursday preshow number for “Justice League” topped the preview ticket sales for “Wonder Woman,” which earlier this year grossed $11 million on Thursday night.

The Patty Jenkins-directed film went on to gross $103.3 million its opening weekend. 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” also starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot, grossed a whopping $27.7 million in previews and had an $166 million opening.

“Justice League” is expected to earn somewhere in the $110 million to $115 million range this weekend. The latest DC film was produced for an estimated $300 million.

Also Read: Here’s Why Superman’s Mouth Looks Weird in ‘Justice League’

“Justice League” stars Affleck, Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons, Ciaran Hinds, and Cavill. Zack Snyder directed the film from a script by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, the latter of whom stepped in to complete the film after Snyder stepped down following the death of his daughter.

Currently, the film holds a score of 38 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 122 “rotten” and 74 “fresh” reviews.

Also opening this weekend is “Wonder,” which features “Room” star Jacob Tremblay as a boy with a facial deformity who tries to fit in at a new school with the help of his parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson).

Also Read: ‘Justice League’ Rotten Tomatoes Score Is in and It’s Not Good

The film is projected to make $8 million to $9 million this weekend against a $20 million budget co-financed by Participant Media, Walden Media and TIK Films. Steven Chbosky directed the film from a script he co-wrote with Jack Thorne and Steven Conrad, and is based on the novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio. It has a 84 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

Sony Pictures’ “The Star,” an animated Christmas film about the animals involved in the Nativity story, is also expected to open in the $8 million to $9 million range.

It was produced for $20 million. Its voice cast includes Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan and Oprah Winfrey. It was directed by Timothy Reckart and currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 68 percent.

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Warner Bros.’ “Justice League” powered to $13 million at the Thursday previews, on it’s way to an impressive $110 million opening weekend.

The Thursday preshow number for “Justice League” topped the preview ticket sales for “Wonder Woman,” which earlier this year grossed $11 million on Thursday night.

The Patty Jenkins-directed film went on to gross $103.3 million its opening weekend. 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” also starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot, grossed a whopping $27.7 million in previews and had an $166 million opening.

“Justice League” is expected to earn somewhere in the $110 million to $115 million range this weekend. The latest DC film was produced for an estimated $300 million.

“Justice League” stars Affleck, Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons, Ciaran Hinds, and Cavill. Zack Snyder directed the film from a script by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, the latter of whom stepped in to complete the film after Snyder stepped down following the death of his daughter.

Currently, the film holds a score of 38 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 122 “rotten” and 74 “fresh” reviews.

Also opening this weekend is “Wonder,” which features “Room” star Jacob Tremblay as a boy with a facial deformity who tries to fit in at a new school with the help of his parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson).

The film is projected to make $8 million to $9 million this weekend against a $20 million budget co-financed by Participant Media, Walden Media and TIK Films. Steven Chbosky directed the film from a script he co-wrote with Jack Thorne and Steven Conrad, and is based on the novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio. It has a 84 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

Sony Pictures’ “The Star,” an animated Christmas film about the animals involved in the Nativity story, is also expected to open in the $8 million to $9 million range.

It was produced for $20 million. Its voice cast includes Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan and Oprah Winfrey. It was directed by Timothy Reckart and currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 68 percent.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Justice League': Joss Whedon Enrages DC Fans by Liking Tweet Blasting Steppenwolf

Does 'Justice League' Have a Post-Credits Scene?

'Justice League' Is a 'Chaotic, Baffling Mess' and 8 Other Harsh Reviews