One of the core appeals of Counterpart is the metaphysical conflict between the characters and their others — not just the compare-and-contrast between Howard and Howard Prime, for example, but those rare times when the doubles share meaningful time on screen together. As Emily Prime tells Howard in “You to You,” the mostly exhilarating lead-up to next week’s finale, “This is why they say we shouldn’t see the alternative. Because when you do it’s really hard to let go.” What they’re seeing is powerful because a person is naturally drawn to a version of his or herself, but it’s also haunting because they have to contend with the choices they’ve made and the roads not taken.
The key scene in the episode brings Emily and Emily Prime together in a room after the latter has successfully negotiated Howard’s return to the Alpha world. There’s tension between the two Emilys, because Emily Alpha had crossed over to Prime numerous times to observe and interact with Emily Prime’s daughter Anna, having not had a child of her own. What comes out of that conversation are some surprising and difficult revelations about maternal ambivalence, the thought that Emily never really wanted children but nonetheless felt a hole in her life that needed filling. Emily Prime’s frequent absences from Anna’s life made Emily feel responsible for the girl’s well-being, and maybe some sense that she was Anna’s mother, too.
It should never be forgotten that the doubles in Counterpart are the same person, even if circumstances have often led them in very different directions. So when they come into contact with each other, we’re witnessing an externalized version of an internal conflict — a person arguing with himself or herself about various inflection points in their lives. The two Emilys enter the scene with a serious, longstanding dispute over Anna and leave the scene holding hands, because they have reached an understanding about why Emily felt the need to cross over the Prime world and why Emily Prime should absolve herself for her lapses as a parent. “The lines on your face are the same as mine,” says one to the other. The Emilys get themselves to a place where they can forgive each other — and because they’re versions of the same person, it’s really just Emily forgiving herself.
The time Emily Prime gets with her other is part of a deal that also sends Howard back to his Alpha home. For Emily Prime, it’s a surprisingly painful parting. This was the version of Howard that she wished she could have had, one more attentive to her and Anna than the freewheeling Howard Prime, whose activities as an agent shaped both his priorities and her personality. In the time the humble, home-cookin’ Howard Silk spent in the Prime world, he’s been able to earn the trust that Howard Prime lost and earned some genuine love from Emily Prime, too.
From Howard’s perspective, Emily Prime may also be the Emily for him. That’s why he takes so long to get through The Crossing. After all, his Emily was leading a double life for years as an agent. She had an affair on him. And she long expected, reasonably, that he was too trusting and gullible a person to carry any suspicions about her activities. He was “my Howard” — safe, sweet, bland, reliable — and not someone who enjoyed equal partnership with her. Now Emily wants her Howard back, but he’s not entirely that Howard anymore. He’s not Howard Prime, either, but he now knows the truth about his marriage and his former life in the Alpha world and it stands to make things exceedingly difficult.
In “You to You,” the drama between the Howards and Emilys is balanced out nicely with the intrigue between worlds heading quickly toward conflict. With Spencer’s Indigo cell nearing a retaliatory virus strike against the Alpha world, Clare and Quayle, under Naya’s guidance, try to short-circuit this inevitability by putting a wire on Clare and having her press her one-time (and recent) lover for information. The sting operation goes horribly awry, but Baldwin and Howard Prime turn up to rescue Clare from Indigo’s clutches.
It seems that Clare has definitively sided with the Alpha world in defending them against a terrorist attack, which leaves Mira alone to seize control of the Indigo mission and shut down The Crossing once and for all. Her arrangement for her and Yanek to meet with management face-to-face seems not to go as planned when the two are separated and Mira gets thrown into a holding cell. But she’s thought through this contingency and counters with a plan to cajole Ian to free her from captivity, which then gives her easy access to the fourth floor, where she murders every single management person on both sides. Yanek is stunned. These were all his former hand-picked colleagues, after all, and he can at least comprehend why they want to keep their two-worlds experiment going, even if he vehemently disagrees with them. Mira has no such sentimentality about them or about Yanek himself — who, let’s not forget, was the “other” who killed her father.
Going into next week’s finale, Mira and Mira alone has the power to reshape destiny however she pleases. Since the split between the two Yaneks happened over a gift to her, she’s the appropriate person to dictate the future.
• Important reminder at the beginning of the episodes to get your vaccinations, especially when you’re personally about to release a genocidal flu that will wipe out the entire population.
• The look on Quayle’s face when he learns of the other Spencer is priceless. When your wife has named your daughter after a former lover — and given her a boy’s name, no less — that is the cuckolding of the century. Not many could recover from that, but Quayle is just ineffectual enough to do it.
• “Be kind to her if you can.” Lovely words from Emily Prime to Howard about going back home. It isn’t easy for her to let him go herself, for one, but her time with her counterpart has led to an understanding that she sincerely hopes Howard can gain, too. But it’s going to take time.