Counterpart season 2, episode 5 recap: Shadow Puppets


In this week’s episode of Counterpart, Shadow Puppets, we start to question everything we thought we knew about the war between Dimension One and Dimension Two.

I thought last week’s episode of Counterpart was the best of the series. It looks like I was wrong. Shadow Puppets starts to move storylines forward, destroys others, and creates new paths for our alpha and prime friends. It was written by Maria Melnik (Escape Room) and directed by Lukas Ettlin (Daredevil). This is the wildest, most satisfying episode of the season to date.

The teaser is a revelation. We see Ian (Nicholas Pinnock) in bed with Nomi (Krissi Bohn). That’s the same Nomi he had barely introduced himself to in the second episode of this season. For a second, it feels like we’ve jumped ahead in time. The turmoil we left last week has been resolved and all seems well. But, that didn’t feel right. Plus, Ian’s beard was super trimmed. It was just slightly thicker than a five o’clock shadow. That’s not the beard of a spy.

Xscape’s Who Can I Run To is playing on the stereo. That could be a hint of the year they’re in. Ian and Nomi could just have good taste slow jams. Either way, that song was playing for a reason.

It turns out that we were seeing Ian Alpha living with his wife Nomi Alpha in Dimension One at least ten years ago. Except there is no Ian Alpha. There is no Ian, period. The man we’ve come to know and love as Ian is actually named Wesley Pierce. He was set up with a new identity in Dimension Two by Management. For some reason, he has defected or fled there. We don’t know how or why, yet.

We do know that Management is angry that Ian was trying to jailbreak a comm case. They’re also upset that Emily has gone off the grid. If Ian helps Management track Emily down, they’ll forget that Ian made contact with Nomi Prime. That was apparently forbidden in the terms of his new identity. This was only the teaser. It was just a taste of what this episode of Counterpart was about to give us.

The Greatest Cad of Them All

The people who work in Strategy in Dimension Two have supreme confidence that they’re offices could never be bugged. Howard Prime (J.K. Simmons), Quayle Alpha (Harry Lloyd), and Naya Temple (Betty Gabriel) talk rather openly. There’s one instance where Quayle Alpha is smart enough to use code and a note to let Howard Prime know that Claude Lambert’s Other (Guy Burnet) is still alive and in custody. But Quayle Alpha later dictates to his House of Cards confession machine.

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I don’t think this is a problem with the writing. I think it’s actually brilliant. We’re watching the characters break down under pressure and take enormous risks they wouldn’t have fathomed minutes earlier.

Quayle Alpha questions Lambert’s Other in private. We quickly learn that this is Lambert Prime. He had figured out that Lambert Alpha had been taken out in an effort to protect Shadow/Clare Prime (Nazanin Boniadi). This visibly shakes Quayle Alpha. But, Lambert Prime, sly as ever, uses the same line he used on Clare Prime last week. There was nothing to worry about. Lambert Prime would not sell out Clare Prime if Quayle Alpha could meet his price. That price, written on a note, was two million English Pounds. Lambert Prime even wrote down “That’s 6 zeros” just to be clear and to make me laugh.

Lambert Prime tells Quayle Alpha that when he met his own Alpha, there was never any animosity or existential crisis. The Lambert’s just saw this interdimensional reality as a chance for more fun. He assures Quayle Alpha that his loyalty belongs to the highest bidder. Lambert Prime makes this clear when Naya Temple enters the room and quotes his price for her to be two million and one British Pounds. He says the one pound at the end was for superstitious reasons.

Three Card Milla

Quayle Alpha’s dutiful administrative assistant Milla (Mirela Burke) is asked to show Howard Prime into his office. This is where tradecraft is used to tell Howard Prime that Lambert Prime is alive and in the building. Quayle Alpha gives Howard Prime the means to execute Lambert Prime.

Counterpart-Peter Quayle-Courtesy of STARZ Entertainment, LLC

There’s a nice scene that shows how everyone is starting to notice Howard Prime’s gruffness compared to the Howard Alpha everyone dismisses, uh, I mean loves. Confiscated Items Clerk Brody (Michael Patrick Thornton) is so busy talking he fails to notice Howard Prime steal a Glock and a clip. Brody does notice the ire he receives when he’s taking too long in checking Howard Prime out with the phony items he showed up to collect.

Howard Prime shows up to kill Lambert Prime, but he sees all the guards are already dead. Inside the holding cell, Quayle Alpha and Naya Temple are standing over the dead body of Lambert Prime. Who shot him? Naya Temple casts accusatory side eye at Quayle Alpha.

When the lockdown is initiated and searches begin, Quayle Alpha is able to talk to Howard Prime long enough to tell him that Lambert Prime is dead. When Quayle Alpha leaves that meeting, he finds his office being swept by Naya Temple. Quayle Alpha thinks he’s caught. The House of Cards confession machine will be found and heard. Except, it’s gone!

Naya Temple seems to have known it should have been there. She is visibly agitated when Brody shows up and thinks he knows who killed Lambert Prime. Cut to Howard Prime being interrogated by Naya Temple. She’s trying to convince him to flip on Quayle Alpha, who clearly must be working against Management to protect Shadow. She and Quayle Alpha both tell Howard Prime in this episode that Emily Alpha (Olivia Williams) knows Shadow is a woman.

Counterpart-Shadow Puppets-Courtesy of STARZ

Quayle Alpha is somehow able to get into the room after Naya Temple. Howard Prime is floored when he finds out about the House of Cards confession machine. He tells Quayle Alpha that there is no containing his weakness. He then tells him where he hid the gun. Howard Prime tells Quayle Alpha to kill himself. That is the clearest definition of character one could ever express. Howard Prime is one cold dude.

When Quayle Alpha tries to call Clare to tell her goodbye, she doesn’t pick up the phone because she’s reconnected with Spencer and they’re having sex. I think this was actually a ploy to keep Clare from interfering with what was happening. But, both Clare and Spencer seem to be weary of the spy games they’ve been playing for decades.

Quayle Alpha makes a run for it, gets the gun, and fights his survival instincts to come to the point of killing himself. A guard comes in and tries to stop him, but is killed by Milla. That’s right! Everyone’s administrative aide seems to be an Indigo sleeper cell member on Counterpart. Milla is the operative who killed Lambert Prime and removed the House of Cards confession machine before it could be found. She tells Quayle Alpha that he is important and must go on. She pulls his gun to her head and pulls the trigger seconds before Naya Temple walks into the room. Quayle Alpha is a good boy and says Milla was Shadow.

Counterpart 1995

The point of departure between Dimension One and Dimension Two seems to have been around 1995. That’s when Xscape released Who Can I Run To. It’s approximately one year before the interdimensional flu killed billions of primes. It’s also when the Quayle’s went to a rugby match with their dad.

Everything, from the position of players on the field to the halftime score, was identical. But there was a commotion in the second half of the match. This was caused by Quayle Prime who got lost on his way back from the bathroom. This is the videotape and notebook that he’s always watching and studying. Quayle Prime posits the difference in his life was caused by this moment. Maybe Quayle Alpha didn’t get lost or his dad took him to and from the bathroom. That’s why he is an important person and Quayle Prime is not. This is a level of guilt that isn’t rivaled by many. Both Quayle’s are so much like each other, it’s tragic.

Counterpart-Shadow Puppets-Courtesy of STARZ

Of course, the biggest thing that likely happened in 1995 was the plot to unleash the interdimensional flu in Dimension Two by Dimension One. This is the intel Emily Alpha had that got her run over prior to season one’s start.

In their third talk, Yanek (James Cromwell) isn’t as upset with Howard Alpha refusing to spy on Emily Alpha as he is upset that Howard Alpha won’t realize the two dimensions are at war. Yanek drops two bombshells. One is that he is actually a prisoner in Echo Base himself. He was granted domain over the inmates by Management, but he’s there because of prior deeds. And, Yanek Prime met Yanek Alpha. In fact, they discovered the Crossing themselves. After coming of age behind the Berlin Wall, they grew up to find a whole new dimension before the wall came down. It was a chance to use the best and brightest minds to solve the worst and darkest problems. But, they could up the processor speed by using the duplicate minds from both sides. Until, as Yanek Prime tells it, Yanek Alpha turned in some way.

You Have Your Mother’s Eyes

Mira (Christiane Paul) finally leads her siege on Echo Base. It’s a break-out mission. As guards and inmates are cut down by gunfire, Mira walks in and starts to look for her target. Yanek Prime walks out peacefully. He stops in front of Mira and tells her that she “has her mother’s eyes.” Yup! Mira is Yanek’s daughter. that would be bombshell number three. Is this Yanek Prime or Yanek Alpha? Is this Mira Prime or Mira Alpha. If it’s Alpha, that would explain her terrorist leanings. She is from Dimension One and knows it must be brought down. Except, she doesn’t want to bring it down. She wants Yanek to help her close the Crossing permanently in some way.

After they leave and before Emily Alpha shows up and reunites with Howard Alpha, Osman (Karan Oberoi) notices Howard Alpha on the ground. He can’t leave him alive since he knows his identity. Howard Alpha takes a gun from a fallen guard and kills Osman. I believe we watched a new Howard Alpha be born in that moment.

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One quick thing: Clare’s dad and Quayle Alpha’s father-in-law (Richard Schiff) is mentioned to have canceled their lunch date. His absence is brought to our attention and makes me wonder what’s up with the Diplomacy Department.

Next week it looks like we get one of those penultimate episode resets. But, we get it in episode six of a ten episode season. We will learn the story of Yanek, Mira, and the Crossing via current day scenes and flashbacks. I can’t wait.

Are you keeping up with Counterpart season two? What’s been the biggest twist, so far? Let’s discuss in the comments!