Counterpart: Twin Cities
January 21, 2019 6:10 AM - Season 2, Episode 6 - Subscribe

The origins of the Crossing are revealed.
posted by oh yeah! (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I also really liked it because they have kind of been trying to posit Alpha World as full of eeeeevil, but in this, it shows the problem started in Yanek-Prime. It's not clear whether the theory that destruction is inevitable is true or not, but it really deepens the complexities for me in a really nice way.

Also I like how biologist-Alpha is the 'nice one' of the pair as well, and I think one of the reasons Management didn't act on Mira was because of guilt over her fathers' death and how they institutionalized her afterwards.
posted by corb at 7:18 AM on January 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I may need to give this one a re-watch, as I had a hard time keeping the Alpha/Prime identities & locations straight. But, wasn't it Yanek-Alpha who killed Yanek-Prime, thus causing Mira-Prime to go on to create the Indigo School?
posted by oh yeah! at 7:35 AM on January 21, 2019

This is classic science fiction, with the science just a pretext for examining the human condition. I agree that it was Yanek Alpha who bought the Alphaville album "Afternoons in Utopia" for his daughter. Keeping Primes and Alphas straight was confusing though.

Has any other episode been completely Howard-free before?
posted by cardboard at 8:56 AM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

The initial discovery of the crossing makes no sense if you think about it. To give some physical orientation, in previous episodes consider the south side is where Alpha has the entry point to the crossing, and Prime's entry point is on the north side. There's been no indication that they are mirror worlds where left and right are reversed (which would be an interesting way to tell another story - you could tell who was an other by reversed body asymmetry, others would have to deal with the left-right reverse while navigating, and others would likely not be able to survive long-term in the mirror world due to the molecular chirality of food being reversed).

After the incident, both Yanek1 and Yanek2 would be approaching the crossing from the south, looking through the crossing to the north. They wouldn't be seeing each other. If they stayed in sync and walked through the crossing simultaneously, they both would be in their other world, not seeing their other, unaware they were in the other world. If one stayed put, and the other crossed, then walked around the building (not through the crossing), then they would both be in the same world and could interact.

But they are shown as if they are looking in a mirror, with each Yanek looking to their world's north. Which doesn't match up with the worlds not being mirror-reversed.

Or maybe, the crossing is like a mirror that doesn't reverse. Both Yaneks enter their right side of the crossing room, but sees the other entering from the left, like the worlds are folded over each other at the crossing. And now that I think about it, the dropped flashlights are shown to be on the opposite side of the crossing, not on the same side like a mirror. And if both world's entry to the crossing on on the south, it would mean at the crossing north and south would switch. That is, you walk north to go through the crossing. After you walk through, you walk to the other world's entry point, which is also on the south side, which has to mean north and south switch when you make the crossing.

OK, now I convinced myself the way it's presented could make sense. And my brain hurts.

(But I'll add the engineered virus doesn't make sense. How would they test it to find if affects only the people in the other world? And the drift between worlds wouldn't seem to be so much so that people would have different immunities. And it seems excessively ruthless. You could just fill the crossing room with concrete to block access from the other world.)
posted by ShooBoo at 9:27 AM on January 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I went through that whole thought process, too, ShooBoo. It was provoked by the flashlights, which stood out to me in the detail of carefully not being mirrored, but rotated. After a moment's thought it was clear to me that they had to do it that way, for the reasons you point out. Worse, I think from a particle physics perspective a mirror universe would be primarily antimatter, so BOOM.

I didn't like this episode. I should have enjoyed the backstory of this mind-bending event, but I didn't. I had some suspension of disbelief problems, primarily about funding and government oversight.

I really think Yanek is entirely full of shit on his "inevitable mortal enemies" theory. He's just personally malicious and crazy as a loon and has elaborated this whole theory to absolve himself of any guilt.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:17 PM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you connect two identical rooms together by means of a portal on the south walls, each one will appear to be rotated a half-turn from the perspective of the other.
posted by BungaDunga at 1:25 PM on January 21, 2019

idec about the physics that were represented but I am interested in the fact that it was Yanek who caused the first divergence from congruity between the worlds.
posted by some loser at 2:24 PM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

I will admit tho that this episode was kind of boring. So I get the impulse to find SOMETIHNG to talk about.
posted by some loser at 7:26 PM on January 21, 2019

Agreed - this is feels like Golden Age stuff where the science/ physics doesn't really matter, it's the concept that's being examined.

I know it was the... 60s?... 1989 - IRBs didn't become were a thing since '74, and the research would still be fundamentally unpublishable without widely divulging access to parallel worlds, so not sure how E. Germany could be funding anything.

(Until there was an economic differential wherein, Alpha has cheaper labour/ less regulations [or something] and you could brokerage between the two sides until you had a self-funding institution - like we saw with the diamonds, etc.)

Agreed Ivan, Yanek's just a bad egg, and his motives and justifications are all self serving. The rat cannibalism thing was a bit strange, but I guess it was useful to show bad-Yanek's aggrieved-male/ MRA- / incel- like justifications.

But it's still tragic.

I'm pretty sure immunity doesn't work like the way Yanek thinks it does. The level at which his plan might work is generational - lots of people are going to have to die in order to shift population HLA distributions.

In a super-hypothetical case, it would require 2 viruses (influenza is convenient) where one (A) confers strong antigenic protection against itself and the other one while being very weakly virulent. The other (B) virus clade would be monstrously virulent and prone to provoking cytokine storm responses.

Problem is, you'd have to infect only one world with A (probably by invoking travel quarantine for a flu season +/- a few months or until the genetic determinants of antigenicity ebbs to near minimum in the wild viral population or the clade fades into the background), open the quarantine and release virus B which spreads through both universes. This is assuming that you want to have some regular movement back and forth eventually.

You could potentially have people with immunity to (A+B) be asymptomatic or low-symptom carriers of (B), even.

Theoretically possible but we still don't yet know enough about viruses/ influenza to engineer something with better than - highly optimistically - 60% chance of this working in the wild - given (wealthy) state-level resources can be thrown at this. In complete disregard for ethics. Requiring thousands (if not more) experimental subjects to die. And probably close to a decade (probably less if you enroll more test subjects). That it affect all populations worldwide equally and/ or as expected? No more than 10%. No-one in 1990 would have the technology to even contemplate doing this for realsies.

A research program like this would make Josef Mengele look like an anti-choice protestor, albeit still a very rabid one.

Still really struggling sorting out Prime/ Alpha. But given the origin story, its moot which one is which a priori since they're the same.

But yeah, this isn't Star Trek mirror universes; Prime Howard is nice, Prime Yanek was not so nice but also was induced to completely lose his marbles. (the Wikia uses Dimension1 and Dimension2 for Prime/ Alpha)
posted by porpoise at 8:12 PM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Man can those scientists write a grant request! Dear sirs or madams: our research into slightly better potted plants requires a multiacre building in Berlin, tens of millions of dollars in equipment, a bureaucratic staff of a thousand or so, and a paramilitary force. We can't publish anything. Also please let us be part of the U.N.
posted by condour75 at 8:15 PM on January 21, 2019 [13 favorites]

(or, what porpoise said, paragraph 2)
posted by condour75 at 8:18 PM on January 21, 2019

It's awesome that other people are thinking about the problem similarly!
posted by porpoise at 8:18 PM on January 21, 2019

Agreed that the science was way more plausible than the science funding.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:31 PM on January 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

This episode was a bit heavy on the tropes, with the scientist whose act of selfish betrayal distracts him from all the smoke and flashing lights of the experiment going horribly wrong, which of course ends up being the original sin that turns him into Cain and Abel. And the computer melting into rivulets of glowing screen still displaying code was distractingly cheesy compared to the show's usual restraint.
posted by mubba at 10:21 PM on January 27, 2019

Wasn't keen on the cheesy effects, but I did enjoy Yanek going off the deep end. His "research"at Echo looks even more shonky now, completely motivated reasoning and cherry-picking data. Apart from Howard, we've got the lady who met her other and decided to set up a ménage a trois and my favourite arsehole Lambert. I totally see how he gets to his conclusion- if you hate yourself and you're a self-absorbed git, it's hard to realise that not everyone feels the same way.

I'm not sure what Management's succession plan is either. They're not getting any younger.
posted by harriet vane at 8:09 AM on February 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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