Realistic to the point where this could probably be happening somewhere in America.
Still seemed like a low stakes spy school.
Quayle needs to get a clue.
Counterpart delves deep into a double agent, but will she go triple?
Counterpart has been teasing us for weeks about who the mole is and last week we finally found out. Clare (Nazanin Boniadi), who up to this point has only interacted with Baldwin Sara (Sara Sarraiocco), is married to Quayle (Harry Lloyd) and has been feeding information to the other side. This week we took a trip into Clare’s childhood and the mysterious “Project Indigo”. An orphan from a swine flu epidemic she’s sent to a mysterious boarding school. Run like a regular school things don’t really get too weird until young Clare learns they’re going to have to break her legs because her “other” has injured herself in a skiing accident. Clare is then groomed to take her other’s place until she is finally sent over with instructions that are both specific and oddly vague.
The scenes of Clare’s time at Project Indigo are cut with scenes of Clare and Quayle at the party they’re throwing for Peter’s birthday. Despite Quayle’s hope that his wife wasn’t involved Howard Prime (J.K. Simmons) comes over and helps him search the house and they discover that Clare has been replaced by her other. Despite Alpha telling Quayle to play the fact that he knows about Clare completely cool he is unable to and grills her at his birthday party. She passes with flying colors and unravelling before our eyes when the guests leave he confronts her with her own cyanide capsule.
He offers her the capsule telling her she failed but she tells him that everything is different now because of their daughter. Whew! That was a roller coaster. Let’s get to it!
It’s Clare’s turn: Supervillain or super sympathetic?
This episode gave us exactly what we wanted. Backstory for a character who thus far has been a minor player. The decision to cast Nazanin Boniadi made you understand that this character wasn’t just a small cog in this elaborate wheel. Every time she appeared you had a very strong sense that something was up with her. Now we know why and it actually might be more than one thing! In true Counterpart fashion and taking a cue from what they did with Baldwin’s character, Clare isn’t such a supervillain any longer. But she isn’t completely sympathetic either. Whether or not this removes her “teeth” remains to be seen.
“It won’t do anything, Peter. I let it go bad. It expired. Don’t you understand? All my life I never had anything of my own. But things are different now.” -Clare
Did this episode negate everything we’ve seen about her so far? Are we supposed to like her now? It’s this kind of ambiguity that makes the show so maddening and so wonderful. This really is down to Nazanin Boniadi’s portrayal of the character. Up until now she’s been a stone cold bitch (she slept with Baldwin and then ordered her hit for goodness’ sake). But the realism of Nazanin’s oddly detached yet slightly pained expression was riveting. We definitely felt uncomfortable for hating her so hard before now.
Peter Quayle can’t play it cool
Howard Prime specifically told Quayle to not give away the fact that he knows Clare is someone from the other side. We would have expected this deception to last a little longer than ten minutes. There aren’t that many episodes left but surely he could have pretended for one episode more? Let’s also not forget that this is man who is constantly cheating on the woman he supposedly loves. So we’re thinking Quayle’s objections to having an other has his wife revolve entirely around his pride. And let’s be real here: He should be incredibly embarrassed.
“You ever like to look back, Clare? You like to reflect on your life? Your family?” -Peter Quayle
We’ve had our issues before with Quayle’s utter ineptitude for someone whose entire job revolves around deception and the ability to keep a secret. He’s an intriguing character study certainly but he doesn’t seem to have a handle on anything important at work or in his personal life. Firstly hiding the cigars that he sent Clare out to buy more of in a totally obvious place is stupendously stupid. And second, using the “I’ll ask something really specific she’d never know,” trick? Come on. How long have they been married that the woman hasn’t slipped and he thinks she’s going to fall for that? Insert eyeroll here.
What kind of school is this, anyway?
The sinister realism of this episode was what we liked most about it. The school Clare was at could have been any school and the production elements were lovely. If we’d been orphans it initially seemed like not a terrible way to grow up. And there was nothing upsetting about the school until Clare is pulled from class and her legs were broken while she was awake. And two of our biggest questions about Clare’s time at the school are why she is such a “star pupil” for them (we never see her excelling at anything she does there and she isn’t much of a teacher) and whether or not Spencer is actually called to the other side or removed for more sinister reasons.
“There’s no easy way to say this… but we’re going to have to break your legs, and it will hurt.” -Mira
The school itself is still a bit of a mystery. As we said earlier Clare is never really given the opportunity to show any aptitude for anything that goes on there. We never see any training for the combat skills we know Clare must have as she didn’t seem to have a problem killing her other. We didn’t see her training to use or install any of the fancy spy equipment she later makes use of. She memorizes things well and her dad lived in our world. Those are the only things that really distinguish her in our mind. That’s one thing that makes her so sad to us as viewers. She was so supremely used by everyone around her.
Counterpart’s new big question will drive us just as crazy as the old one!
The subtle realism and snappy pacing of this episode of Counterpart really sold it to us. The 55 minute episode really flew by and made this bit of sci-fi fantasy work. We criticized the school portion of the show above for not showing anything that made Clare a really badass spy but in some ways the fact that they only showed the school indoctrinating the kids with propaganda made it a lot more believable for us. This isn’t your daddy’s spy thriller.
The biggest question of this episode is of course whether or not Clare is telling the truth to Quayle about how much the baby means to her. We certainly have our theories (she knew she had to start lying the moment he opened his drunken mouth in that toast where we screamed, “Shut up you moron!” At our televisions). It all just seems too convenient. She found the cigars so she knew she had to come up with a story. That’s our theory and we’re sticking to it! Sound off in the comments if you think we’re wrong.
Quayle, Quayle, Quayle. Give the guy some credit. He’s managed to screw up everything he’s come into contact with so far. Surely the man can’t be that bumbling and hapless. Can he have some sort of redeeming moment or will Aldrich just destroy him next episode? Will he start covering for other Clare to Howard Prime? Whatever he does do we anticipate it’s going to be ridiculous.
Nazanin Boniadi made us not care that J.K. Simmons didn’t really have much a role in this episode at all and that’s saying something. Thus far he’s been far and away the cornerstone of the series. Boniadi has this trick of saying a great deal with her expressions but also saying nothing at all. Her intriguing portrayal and the brisk pacing made this episode fly by. Quayle can be as stupid as he likes if it’s going to show us a master manipulator at her best.
We also enjoyed the way we were slyly shown how Lambert and Alexander Pope fit into the larger picture of the show with their connections to Project Indigo. And while we would have appreciated Quayle at least make a cursory attempt to drag out some sort of subterfuge to find something out about how her network of spies work we still loved the episode and thinks it puts us in a good position for the last few episodes of the season.
What will Howard Prime’s reaction to Quayle’s stupidity be? Will he start covering for Other Clare? Will Alexander Pope find out she’s been burned and what will her reaction be? Will Aldrich kill Quayle before he even gets a chance to explain he’s not the spy he’s just the idiot feeding the spy? We’re looking forward to all of these answers on the next few episodes of Counterpart!
QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, CONCERNS: We’re definitely concerned about some folks…
- We’re not falling for the fact that she named the baby Spencer. Still thing it’s all a ploy. Expired cyanide? Really??
- The whole “Motherhood changed me” was the card Clare pulled? Well at least she didn’t try to tell the serial cheater she loved him.
- Could Lambert have been any more disgusting?
- The saddest we felt for Clare was when she was losing her virginity to that random in the bar.
- Mira was an awful teacher. Seriously, Mira, what kind of people skills do you have?
- We’re surprised Quayle called Howard Prime and not Aldrich to help him look through Clare’s things when he sent her out. That’s why we think Aldrich is going to straight murder him.
Stay on the edge of your seats with us for Counterpart!We’ll be diving in deep with reviews and roundtables of Counterpart for the rest of the season, so make sure you stick with us!
Counterpart will continue on Sunday, March 11th at 8 PM ET on Starz
Counterpart Review 1×07 “The Sincerest Form of Flattery”