Counterpart: Both Sides Now
February 11, 2018 6:22 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

[Spoilers, obviously] This was a palate cleaner after the first three relentlessly grim episodes. I mean, aside from Nadia Prime being betrayed by the one person in two worlds she thought she could trust and then making a kabob of her assailant, much of this hour was a welcome shift in tone. I particularly enjoyed Howard and Emily Prime connecting, the pathos of the Howards taking in their daughters' rooms, and most of all the last image of Howard jauntily taking the initiative away from his minder.

I'm confident that the next episode will have us back to our usual diet of duplicity, betrayal, murder, and impending doom, but I think it's smart of the showrunners to change it up now and then.
posted by mojohand at 8:03 PM on February 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

[Spoilers, obviously]

[perplexed 'That word you are using, I do not think it means what you think it means' Inigo Montoya face] This is the newest thread for the newest episode, there's nothing you can spoil unless you have advance screeners for episodes that haven't aired yet.

Another great J.K. Simmons showcase. It's just amazing how there's never any doubt whether you're looking at HowardPrime or Original-Howard. Even once they switched wardrobes, there's just this difference in his posture and expression. Loved the parallel daughter's-bedroom scenes, so good.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:31 AM on February 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

My wife and I are referring to the Howards as "mild-Howard" and "bold-Howard", but at the end of the episode mild-H stepped up his game a bit. We may need to find different descriptors.
posted by jazon at 10:24 AM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I never had children, though very much wanted to, so Howard's meeting Ana, and especially the bedroom scene, was very affecting for me. I couldn't decide if, were I in his position, I would find it unbearably heartbreaking or somehow comforting. Or, perhaps paradoxically, both.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:55 PM on February 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

We're referring over here to East German Howard and West German Howard, given the obvious parallels with the Berlin wall.

Also, I'm wondering - so West-German Howard never found out about Emily's work with Housekeeping, right? And West-German Emily had a miscarriage, while East-German Emily did not.

What if East-German Howard found out about Emily's work, and thus wasn't able to be sidelined in Interface so long - and was thus more capable, and able to stop an attempt on Emily from succeeding? What if West-German Emily's miscarriage was a result of her work?
posted by corb at 9:19 PM on February 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Simmons is excellent at differentiating WHoward and EHoward - even after WHoward 'picked up his game.'

I'm kinda liking this bit of the show - not just the 'physical history' but also how those differences in events and responses shapes people's future decisions.

I think that the odds of miscarriages are within the margins of these two split worlds.

Speaking of which, my objections were allayed when it was explicitly stated (earlier?) that the split was within the recent past - that the divergence would continue to exponentially (give or take) widen. I'm more than a-ok with that.
posted by porpoise at 10:32 PM on March 14, 2018

"I think that the odds of miscarriages are within the margins of these two split worlds."

That way madness lies.

I think it's an open question if at some level of description a complex system could behave deterministically even if it has randomness at another lever of description. So I can imagine alternative histories which could be surprisingly similar over long periods of time. This is, of course, an old historiographical question, how deterministic history is.

Nevertheless, what we know with certainty, empirically, assuming it's reasonable to even entertain counterfactuals, is that at the microscopic scale, events would diverge immediately and dramatically. Miscarriages are only the tip of the iceberg -- pretty much at the point of historical separation, all zygotes will not be the same, the developmental biology won't be the same. The people born will all be different, except for the very few exceptions, by chance, who aren't. There's no plausible explanation that this would be otherwise. The specifics of the world would immediately vary, the way successive hands of cards vary.

However, there is some regularity about how card games proceed.

In my opinion, this view of parallel universes, a branching, is not that interesting (when rigorously considered) because you're stuck with all this stuff that is different in uninteresting ways, and the stuff that stays the same will be either be self-evident and also uninteresting, or alike in a sense so abstracted that it's not interesting at the human scale (i.e. a story).

However, in many-worlds QM and the like, you get every possible permutation across the whole multiverse and so it's imaginable that for any given universe, there's another which is as arbitrarily like or unlike the other. So if you want to imagine jumping between universes where the only thing different is one person's middle name, maybe that makes sense. But maybe it doesn't: what if what's imaginable doesn't correspond to what is possible in this sense? Such as is the case with our misleading mathematical intuition regarding many things?

Why, yes, I have spent an extraordinary amount of time contemplating parallel universes.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:00 PM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ivan, you haven't been commenting/ watching 'Travelers' [fanfare] with us!

I have potentially lots of words to throw around and back with you just not right now =)
posted by porpoise at 8:42 PM on March 15, 2018

I love Travelers. But I watched on the Canadian release schedule. I like its approach to time-travel.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:01 PM on March 16, 2018

So which world is being called Prime, and which Original?
posted by harriet vane at 4:31 PM on January 13, 2019

So which world is being called Prime, and which Original?

I don't know if we had the terminology down at this point in the S1 threads, but it gets established eventually that 'Prime' is bad-ass Howard's world. The world of mild-mannered low-ranking Howard & in-a-coma-Emily is 'Alpha'. If you watch the show with subtitles on, generally they'll use "[character first name] Prime" when there's a scene between two counterparts.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:50 PM on January 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Super late to watching, but I want to say I'm having a hard time with the diverging realities thing. Specifically the one significant divergence we've been told about; an extinction-level pandemic in Prime world. If that happened I'm thinking things in Prime would be a whole lot worse than we see. Even if Berlin was somehow spared, so that all the characters in Berlin Alpha have living counterparts in Berlin Prime. What about the rest of the world? I'd expect Prime to be more like Children of Men, not just a version of Earth with fewer cars, no cell phones, but really beautiful futuristic twisty skyscrapers everywhere.

(I'm certain this can all be explained eventually, and hopefully will be as the show progresses past the 4 episodes I've seen. No spoilers please.)
posted by Nelson at 10:42 AM on January 14, 2019

Even super later to watching, but to me the more interesting question is what keeps the pandemic on that side of the portal given how many people keep passing back and forth, both officially and unofficially?

And what are they all supposed to be doing anyway, if so few people know about the other world that Alpha Howard can do his bizarre, inexplicable Interface job for 20 years and have not a clue what any of it is about? Every time we see the border stations, there are people going back and forth. Who are they? How do they know? And what are they crossing over to do?
posted by Naberius at 10:01 PM on May 27, 2020

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