I don't often get to talk about individual episodes. I prefer to analyze individual seasons, individual news, individual TV series. I had talked about the ending of "The Americans", an episode of "Better Call Saul" and a wonderful episode of "Atlanta" in the past. Rare exceptions for phenomenal episodes of enormous value for contemporary seriality.
Today I return on a single episode and I do it in relation to a little known, never awarded and absolutely niche series.
We're talking about "Counterpart", Starz's series, now in its second season, which owes a lot to series like Fringe but that soon managed to build its own mythology and sew its own identity.
The protagonist is a sacred must like J.K.Simmons, a story centered on 2 parallel universes that speak, study, help, threaten and constantly clash.
2 similar universes, often identical, with split men on either side living their lives unaware that there is a passage that would take them to a dimension where they could reflect in themselves.
They are similar universes, not identical. They are universes that have taken different paths recently and that until a few decades ago were identical in every detail.
Then what was the event that made them diverge? A bomb? A war? An experiment? Or perhaps an imperceptible variation that everyone was unaware of and that triggered a series of events that irreparably caused the two universes to diverge.
In the middle of an adrenaline-filled and dense second season, Counterpart places one of the most beautiful episodes in the history of seriality. "Twin Cities" goes back a few years and makes us witness the birth of the divergence. It all stems from a conscious change of the 2 "twins" who tried to change a tiny detail in their mirror lives to understand what would happen. The consequences were devastating for them and consequently became devastating for one of the 2 worlds.
Leaving aside the beauty of the staging and the attention to this particular origin story what makes this episode Epic, unique, exciting, historical and phenomenal is its philosophical, almost anthropological trace.
What would happen if each of us knew we had a mirror being on the other side of the door? A man equal to himself, with the same affections, the same work, the same emotions, the same perplexity?
What if you knew that he still has a son who is dead to you?
What would you be willing to do?
Would you run to his wife (identical to the one you love) if your wife had died or decided to leave you?
If you were sick and on the other side of the door there was the cure that your universe has not yet created? Would you break down that door, or would you stick to the deal?
The show dissects all this in one episode. The choice between 2 cities, 2 worlds, 2 lives, 2 destinies has always been fundamental in cinematography and sci-fi seriality but never put us in front of reality as "Twin Cities" did.
We would all inevitably be attracted by envy and hatred, fear and distrust towards our alter ego and therefore towards ourselves.
If we think of something bad, does that mean that our "double" is thinking it too? And if so, why not run for cover?
If I am thinking of killing my counterpart then does that mean that he will do the same thing? And if so then why not kill before he kills me?
Translated to each and every one of us, it would lead to madness, it would only lead to bad consequences.
And then that gap, which so much hope and cooperation had generated, should be closed?
Should the two universes be separated again before they end up killing each other?
Are we so blind and fragile and greedy that we do not consider how well collaboration with each other can do?
A capital episode for seriality as a whole. An episode that alone justifies and recommends the vision of "Counterpart", a niche series capable of generating an episode that would make everyone envious.