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Herc Endorses Starz’ FRINGE-y Sci-Fi Action-Drama COUNTERPART!!

I am – Hercules!!

Get this. Thirty years ago scientists in East Berlin accidentally created an identical second universe -- and decided to keep it secret, even from most of the people who make their livings unknowingly managing the link between Earth One and Earth Two.

An intriguing brainchild of screenwriter Justin Marks (2016’s superb “Jungle Book”), “Counterpart” explores many of the themes already explored by Star Trek’s many “mirror universe” storylines – to say nothing of whole arcs of Fox’s Bad Robot series “Fringe.” (Marks says he never saw “Fringe,” but I’m not sure anyone has asked him about 1967’s “Mirror, Mirror,” the Jerome Bixby installment famous for giving us Goatee Spock.)

J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson in “Spider-Man” and James Gordon in “Justice League”) plays Howard Silk, a low-level United Nations functionary who not only belatedly learns of the other universe, he learns his alternate-universe twin is much more important than he is. (If perhaps not as happily married.)

“Counterpart” is also going to remind Trek fans of that episode in which Q shows Jean-Luc Picard how the latter’s life would have turned out were he less of a risk-taker. Like the play-it-safe Picard, the lesser Silk tries to get promoted much later in his career, only to be rebuffed by a dismissive young superior.

As with all stories from this genre, the best fun emerges from the comparison and the contrast. Both Silks cannot help but marvel at their roads not taken, and it’s easy enough for us to marvel right along with them.

Uproxx says:

... No matter how convoluted the story gets — and it gets plenty, as you might expect from its influences — it works at its core because it can always turn to one Howard or the other, and the process of each man learning more about the roads not taken by his double are even more compelling than whether Baldwin can be stopped, or what the larger conspiracy is. The best scene in the six episodes sent to critics just involves our Howard looking around a room in the other Howard’s apartment and absorbing the biggest difference between them. Simmons’ delivery also can wring laughs out of the driest of lines, which proves an invaluable relief from an approach that’s otherwise intensely sober-minded. …

The New York Times says:

... the most entertaining new series of the winter. … Mr. Simmons works so subtly, and seemingly effortlessly, that you always know which Howard you’re watching, but you’re never aware of how you know. …

The Los Angeles Times says:

... In the excellent, intriguing and occasionally action-packed "Counterpart," beginning Sunday on Starz, a contemporary Cold War thriller has been erected on a science-fiction foundation …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

... guaranteed to make your head hurt — in a very good way. …

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... Mr. Simmons’ performance drives “Counterpart” because he manages to make both of his characters distinct. Viewers will not be confused which Howard they’re watching because Mr. Simmons performs each role in a way that is unique to that character, not only just how he changes the way he speaks or the expressions on his face but also even the way he moves is different between the characters. …

The Boston Globe says:

... Starz’s new sci-fi thriller, “Counterpart,” is built on a rather unwieldy premise that will either support seasons of absorbing brain-teasing or tumble over and scatter like a colossal Jenga tower. …

The Hollywood Reporter says:

… compelling ... Dense but absorbing, Counterpart is filled with both twists and slow reveals, urging you into commitment. Any time there's a hesitation, there's Simmons, whose outstanding work won't let you pull away, giving Starz and creator Marks a series that could stand out in the TV jungle. …

Variety says:

... uses its graceful and well-modulated sci-fi elements to ask thoughtful questions about missed opportunities, identity, and what happens when people get unexpected chances to remake their lives. And if that weren’t enough, “Counterpart” is also a handsome, character-driven serial for adults. …

9 p.m. Sunday. Starz.

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