The Crossing is the first episode of the Starz Original Series Counterpart. The network released the first episode on December 10, 2017, more than a month before the show's official debut date of January 21, 2018.
The title refers to the cross-dimensional doorway at the heart of the series. Characters refer to it as "The Crossing."
Series creator Justin Marks says the pilot episode started out as a feature film. He reworked it as a television series with help from Jordan Horowitz and Amy Berg at the suggestion of producers at Media Rights Capital.
Howard Silk learns the surprising truth behind the Berlin-based United Nations agency where he's been employed for nearly three decades.
Creator Justin Marks says the first scene he conceptualized was Howard in the Interface booth. He had an idea of two men reading from sheets and having no idea what any of it meant. Marks wrote Counterpart as a spec feature. It landed at MRC (Media Rights Capital) in 2013 and they suggested that Marks develop it into a series. Current Season 2 writer Maegan Houang was a script reader at MRC at the time and says she was one of the first to read it.
The first day of filming featured the scene where the two Howards meet for the first time. Marks says trying to get the one actor/two characters thing right was a steep learning curve and they never really mastered it. The short scene took two days to film.
The built-set environment and other elements were designed by Dan Bishop (Mad Men).
Half of the opening scene was filmed in Berlin and half in Los Angeles. The hotel hallway is LA while the exteriors and interior of the bathroom were in Germany.
The exterior of the Office of Interchange is the Tempelhof Airport. This was the location of the Berlin Airlift, a major event in Cold War between the US and USSR. The lobby of the OI is the historic USC hospital in Lincoln Heights in LA. The exterior of the art deco building was used for the soap opera General Hospital as well as movies and shows since the 1940s.
The hospital scenes were also half in Berlin and half in LA with exteriors filmed with actors in Germany and interiors at a hospital in Silver Lake.
Actor Olivia Williams was asleep during many of the scenes in her hospital room.
Initially, Marks planned to kill Baldwin in this episode, the other writers' fought him on it and he relented.
In slow motion, glass falls like snow onto a sidewalk. A body of a man falls with a thud. He has what appears to be a bullet hole in his chest, and his face is bloodied. Upstairs there is a broken window. Fireworks explode over a city skyline. There are gunshots, the sound of breaking glass, and someone shouting “Nine!” inside the room. Those sounds mix with the sound of the pyrotechnics outside.
Polizei (Police) arrive with shotguns and automatic weapons. Shouting in German, they surround the front of the building. Bystanders on the street, some wearing grey cloth surgical masks, watch as the officers examine the fallen body and enter.
On the 14th floor, a team of riot officers breach a hotel room and find a number of dead men. They find a woman in a short burgundy dress and silver heels cowering in the shower. She appears to have been crying. The police call “all clear” and a man who appears to be a detective enters the room. His partner follows shortly with a bag. He reports that “He” is gone suggesting that they’re tracking a male and that the “deal” went wrong suggesting they were tipped to the meeting prior.
Inside the bag, there are bundles of Euros. A 100 Euro note is visible (Its markings match those of the real 100 Euro note) as well as visa slips with Office of Interchange travel stamps. The head detective gets rid of the riot officers while he and his partner remain with the woman.
The second officer describes the contents of the bag, “Visas, credentials, currency from The Other Side. They speculate their target left in a hurry. The head turns to the woman, questioning how “Baldwin” got away and again describing his target as a man. She is nonresponsive and continues to cower. Giving up, he orders his subordinate to get her in the car and suggests that, since she saw his face, they can extract that information from her somehow.
Never Underestimate the “Hooker in the Bathroom”Edit
The detective is cursing under his breath as he takes the bag down to the back of the building. He’s dialing a number on what appears to be a clear slab of glass but is, apparently, some sort of advanced smartphone. He explains that the target is gone and defends their actions in trying to move in quickly suggesting they are not police officers after all.
His partner leads the stumbling woman to the back, driver’s side door of what appears to be a dark gray Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV. She nearly collapses to the street, but he catches her. The detective assures the person on the phone that their target is not going anywhere because they have the bag with the visas and money. He says, “He can’t get to their world.”
As the man helps the woman, described as the “hooker in the bathroom,” up from her stumble, she steals the knife from his belt and cuts his throat with it with a single stroke. He collapses to hands and knees, bleeding out and clutching his throat. He tries to speak but can’t.
Ending his call, the detective hears the hammer cock on a handgun. He turns slowly to find the “hooker from the bathroom” holding what appears to be a Glock in both hands with a finger on the trigger. The fireworks are still going off. The woman looks up to time her shot. She fires and a colorful explosion overhead drowns out the noise. The detective is shot in the middle of the forehead and falls dead.
She removes her black wig revealing a short, almost shaved, haircut underneath. She stuffs the wig in the bag and moves off down the street.
Meet Howard SilkEdit
Howard Silk places a stone during a game of GO in a riverfront café. His companion (Bernhard Forcher as Andrei) points out that Howard is about to lose the game. Howard claims he is trying to teach his friend who complains that Howard is too nice and the game always ends with him losing. Howard stands to leave promising he will win “next time.” Andrei says he sometimes feels Howard lets him win. The older man smiles and says, “Where would be the lesson in that.” He doffs his hat and coat, grabs his briefcase and leaves.
Howard stands alone surrounded by people on a train platform. On the train, he reads “Einstein on Peace” while standing in the middle of the car.
- EDITOR’S NOTE: “Einstein on Peace” is a collection of the scientist’s writings on the subject of peace in the post-WWII/Cold War era. The book covers Einstein’s role in the breakthrough fission weapons that both sides used to threaten the world as well as his advice to leaders on how better to get along with their peers and avoid future conflicts. The editors of the book posit our world would be much changed “If statesmen had listened to him.” LINK: https://books.google.com/books/about/Einstein_on_Peace.html?id=MxokDwAAQBAJ
The Office of InterchangeEdit
Howard, dwarfed by the massive Office of Interchange building in Berlin, walks into work. Inside, he enters his code into the keypad and is allowed through the turnstile under the watchful eyes of an armed security officer in a maroon beret. He turns in his smartphone and is handed a claim ticket in exchange.
In a locker room, Howard removes his watch, ring, glasses, and all his clothing. He changes into a suit provided for him. He is again alone surrounded by co-workers who chatter away in what sounds like German.
Howard joins a line of workers, all dressed identically in a grey suit, white shirt, maroon tie. Each in turn, hands over a card to a woman at a desk and signs in on a piece of paper provided. The card is stamped and then inserted into a built-in pocket on the side of the briefcase.
The card, labeled in German as “Interface Assignment,” is stamped with “Office of Interchange” in English. The translation says “Austauschdienst” or literally “Exchange Service.” In addition to Howard’s name and the date (14-04-18 or April 14, 2018), it lists 1683 under an undecipherable heading, 3242 under “room number,” 18-A under “luggage number,” and the initials S L under the heading “signature.”
Howard passes through another security checkpoint again manned by the armed officers in maroon berets. He enters a long stone corridor with his fellow workers. One side of the corridor is made up of a series of doors. Each has a pair of lights near the handle. The red lights are showing as Howard takes his place in front of one of the doors alongside the others.
Once everyone is lined up, a buzzer sounds, the lights on the doorframe turn green and the doors pop open. The men each enter a different door. Howard follows a few steps behind. The room is tiny, grey concrete walls with a window set in one. Beyond the window is an identical room. It seems very much like some prison visitation cubes where glass separates visitor from the inmate. A desk and chair are built into the wall in front of the window. A lamp, letter opener, and pencil sit on a tray on the desk. Howard places his briefcase on the desk as a security camera watches from the transom window behind him. Howard sits waiting for five seconds.
The Weather Was Too Hot For RidingEdit
Another man enters on the other side of the glass. He too places his case on the desk and sits down.
Howard retrieves the letter opener, slices through the two blue security stickers along the opening of the briefcase, and opens it. His counterpart on the other side matches his actions. Howard removes the case’s contents - three sealed manila envelopes - then closes and places the case to the side.
The man on the other side holds up a blue card and reads, “I took the long way to work today.” Howard shuffles through the envelops until he finds one with the same phrase he just heard printed on a thin white label on the front. He uses the letter opener to cut through another security sticker. The stickers on each envelope say 3242 (the same number was written under the heading “Room Allocation” on the card).
From the envelope, Howard removes what appears to be two connected sheets from a dot-matrix printer. He tears neatly at the perforation and places the sheets in front of him.
- Howard says, “The weather was too hot for riding” and pencils a check mark on one of the pages.
- The other man, through a speaker, says “It never cools off at this time of year.”
- Howard replies, “My mother loves the winter, but she lives in the south” and makes another check.
- The man says, “Mine is partial to spring.”
- Howard, “Flowers in the air,” check mark.
- Man, “Orchids.”
- Howard, “Always a good season for orchids.”
According to the page, this phrase is designed to end the exchange, but, as Howard is packing up his materials, notices that his counterpart has a smudge on his tie and points it out. This apparently breaches some protocol and the man is surprised. He frowns, touches the smudge, then touches the finger to his tongue.
Howard exits the room, the door light switches from green to red.
Meet Peter QuayleEdit
In the locker room, a co-worker (Marcel) asks Howard about a meeting he’s scheduled “The girls are saying you have a meeting upstairs.” He asks Howard if he is going for the “strategy job” and advises that his “friend” not waste his time. Howard ignores this advice and makes a joke about Marcel missing him if he gets the job.
Howard is guided by a woman into another small stone room. She tells him to stand on a circle painted on the floor as the heavy double door in front of him cycles open.
Inside is standard open-floorplan office with an eclectic mix of antique office technology. Typewriters share desk space with early IBM-like desktop computers and dot matrix printers. A raised platform at the end of the room holds what is apparently the only private office on the floor. Above the step up to this area is what appears to be a departure board with a split-flap display. A number of office workers are busy with filing and other tasks.
Howard is led into the private office and sits down in front of Peter Quayle. Howard offers his resume, but Peter says they have it “on the computer” and proceeds to pull it up on the monochrome monitor. It shows Howard’s been in the office 29 years and worked his way up to interface.
Howard touts his performance. Peter asks about Howard’s wife. Howard says she is “improving.” Peter goes on about how much she is liked in the office, but says he’s never met her.
Howard attempts to turn the conversation back to his job performance. Peter asks about and then cheerfully mocks the fact that Howard lives in the Wilmersdorf neighborhood of Berlin.
Howard tries again to get the meeting back on track pointing out that he’s been in “Interface” for quite some time. Peter admits Howard’s “one of the best” and that “no one has every had a complaint about him.”
Howard presses forward asking for the job in “Strategy.” Peter says the post has been filled. He says Howard is an “interface man” and finds no reason to “upset the cart” by giving him the promotion.
Howard tries again, but Peter interrupts and says “oversight” noticed his “non-approved exchange” with his counterpart about his smudged tie. He says someone with Howard’s experience should know better. Howard loses it. He says he’s been coming to work for 30 years but still doesn’t know what they actually do at the Office of Interchange. Peter shuts down the meeting saying if it was going to happen for Howard, it would have already happened.
On his way out of the building, a co-worker invites Howard to drinks to celebrate Marcel’s promotion to strategy. Howard begs off saying he has plans.
Meet Emily Burton SilkEdit
Howard visits the Albert Schweitzer Krankenhaus. He pauses at the nurses' station. A nurse smiles at him and removes a flower from a vase on the counter. Howard replaces it with one from a bundle of flowers he brought with him. The nurse points out that the flowers are alstroemerias, which are her favorites. Howard says they’re his wife’s favorite too.
Howard’s wife, Emily Burton Silk is comatose. One machine breathes for her as another counts off her heartbeats with muted beeps. Howard places the flowers in a vase. He is interrupted by his brother-in-law Eric. Emily has “concussive trauma.” After six weeks, Emily’s family wants her moved to long-term care in England. Eric (Jamie Bamber) leaves behind a set of papers he wants Howard to sign to facilitate the family taking custody.
Howard settles in beside his wife’s bed and begins to read.
- EDITOR’S NOTE: Howard reads the opening line to "You, Only You, Exist" by Rainer Maria Rilke. It is a popular love poem.
Hello From The Other SideEdit
When Howard returns to work the next morning, his code doesn’t work at the first security checkpoint. He is ushered into a dark concrete room with large antique reel-to-real magnetic tape recorders along one side. He is joined by Aldrich whom Howard says works for “housekeeping.” Aldrich begins recording and starts to question Howard. He is interrupted by Peter Quayle who says Howard doesn’t know a damn thing because he’s “nobody.”
Aldrich leaves and Howard tries to get Peter to tell him what’s going on. Peter says someone has walked in from the other side, perhaps a defection. Howard has no idea what he’s talking about. Peter ignores him and continues that usually such visitors are turned back but this latest is different and valuable and refuses to speak to anyone but Howard.
Aldrich returns with a man in handcuff and a black hood. Once the hood is removed, Howard is looking at himself across the table. Howard’s double (Dimension Two Howard) is disappointed in what he sees in the other him and surprised that his other has no idea what’s up with the Office of Interchange.
The D2 Howard explains that he only has 12 minutes to get back. He offers his terms, no one besides the four people in the room should know about the arrangement. Aldrich questions why they should listen to him, D2 Howard says if they don’t listen to him then people will start dying.
There’s a kill order out from “his side” targeting people on Dimension One Howard’s side. Aldrich suggests they take it to the “fourth floor” but D2 Howard says that group may be compromised. Aldrich says there’s no intelligence to confirm any of what he’s saying. D2 Howard counters that D1’s intelligence is a “shit show.”
Peter wants to know who’s on the list but D2 Howard refuses saying he won’t tell until he knows where they all stand. He plans to return tomorrow on a “longer visa” for “courier duty.” He says they’re going to need D1 Howard and suggests Peter and Aldrich read him in on what’s going on.
The Duplication, A Murder, And a Game of GoEdit
Later in the traffic tunnel for the Office of Interchange, Howard and Peter are both freaking out. Peter says nobody gets to meet their other. Howard demands an explanation. Peter tells a brief version of events leading up to the duplication of the universe.
“30 years ago, during the Cold War, there was an experiment, an accident in this building. Eastern scientists … Something went wrong. They opened up a passage directly beneath us. When you go through this door, you come out the other side, you’re in another world identical to ours … same events, same experiences.
This building, where we are now, this is called The Crossing.”
Howard points out that while his “other” looks like him, they are nothing alike. Peter explains that, while the worlds were identical at first, they’ve diverged over time. He says they now trade information and gather intelligence on the other side, but the whole thing is kept secret and contact is supposed to be limited.
Peter is unclear as to how many people (world leaders et cetera) outside the Office of Interchange might know about The Crossing.
Aldrich joins them and explains that, before he left, D2 Howard said one of the assassin’s targets is the D1 Emily Burton Silk. Aldrich says they’ll put a watch on her. Over Howard’s protests and continued questioning, Peter assures him his wife will be safe and walks off.
Howard visits Emily again at the hospital. He replaces the single flower in the vase at the nurses’ station, but does not speak. He sits with Emily as the machine beeps along with her heart.
In a nightclub (apparently called Bar Bone!) men in various stages of undress dance to a heavy techno/industrial beat. Marcel from the Office of Interchange notices a young man staring at him as he walks up to order a drink at the bar. The man motions for Marcel to following him and he does. They go down a narrow red-lit corridor and the man disappears behind a door. When Marcel reaches it, he finds it locked. Baldwin steps from her position at the end of the hall and calls his name. He turns toward her. She shoots him in the forehead. She steps closer and fires two more shots into his body.
Howard plays GO with Andrei the following morning. He questions his friend on nature versus nurture and wonders aloud if we are simply the sum of our choices. Andrei disagrees, he says we are who we are and “the game only ends one way.” Howard says his problem is that he’s too young.
To Catch a KillerEdit
D2 Howard returns through The Crossing. There are two balaclava-wearing armed guards on his side in what looks like the customs area at a small train station. He passes through a sliding door and is met with the familiar Dimension 1, maroon-berets. They ask the purpose of his visit and he explains that he has the “embassy pouch” and is on a “12-hour visa.” They remove a bottle of what appears to be vodka from his bag. Howard explains “it’s better on my side.” They stamp his visa and allow him through.
He’s met by Aldrich and Peter and driven to D1 Howard’s apartment. D1 Howard prepares coffee while the others discuss Baldwin. She’s apparently killed several people in Dimension Two. D2 Howard doesn’t know why she targeted Marcel.
He explains that there’s infighting in Dimension Two. Aldrich says he’s heard a few things about it. D2 Howard says there’s a faction, maybe trying a takeover. He says it’s unclear who is involved but that they are hard-line ideologues who don’t care much for diplomacy with Dimension One. D1 Howard stands awkwardly by unable to participate in the conversation.
D2 Howard says things are contentious with lots of defection talk on his side of The Crossing, while, at the same time, people have been disappearing. He says he doesn’t know why Baldwin is targeting certain people, but he says he knows it’s not random. He says they may be going after D1 Emily to send D2 a message. He claims his Emily died of cancer and therefore Baldwin’s masters had to cross over to find her counterpart.
D2 Howard explains that he is officially designated "4C," which on his side is “Diplomacy.” In reality, he claims to be “Section 2.” He says he’s spent his career building the D2 clandestine operational network in Dimension One.
D2 Howard asks about the D1 Emily, thinking she might be at work. D1 Howard explains the accident. He says six weeks ago she was crossing a street when a distracted driver, a kid, came out of nowhere. Howard says she’s in a coma.
Over the objections of D1 Howard, they come up with a plan to use Emily as bait to lure Baldwin into a trap. D2 Howard wants to replace his counterpart. He wants to know every step in his routine at the hospital because he says Baldwin will have been watching and the slightest deviation could cause her to bolt.
As they leave, Peter tells Aldrich to kill D2 Howard if he “makes one left instead of a right.”
The Two HowardsEdit
The two Howards are left to get acquainted and learn about their differences. D2 dresses in his counterpart’s clothes, including a favorite tie that he lost on his side years ago. D1 says he can keep it.
D1 lays out his routine, he goes straight up to her floor and says hello to the nurses. He then reads to Emily, poetry mostly. He mentions Walt Whitman and Maria Rilke by name.
He offers D2 some funnel cake because he thinks it tastes similar to something he had when he was a kid in Maine. D2 can’t have any because he has high cholesterol. D1 Howard is unaware if he shares this trait.
D1 presses him on what kind of music he listens to (he doesn’t), what’s his favorite food (American), the similarities they share and how they ended up so different. D2 says people have driven themselves crazy trying to chart how individuals in the two dimensions diverged.
D2 wants to know how come D1 never got promoted but his counterpart says he doesn’t know. D2 says genetics, childhood, and the rest of it don’t matter because people are helpless to their experience. He says the difference between the two Howards could be a single moment, one little thing went wrong.
D2 asks if D1 stays in touch with Emily’s family. They discuss what an ass her brother Eric is. In Dimension One, Eric tried to talk Emily out of the wedding. In Dimension Two, Howard and Emily eloped. Apparently, the D1 couple wed more quickly (28 years ago in October), shortly after they met whereas the D2 version had a longer courtship.
D1 admits he couldn’t sleep at the prospect that another version of Emily might be uninjured in the other dimension. He is devastated that this is apparently not the case. He says it’s too early to tell if his Emily will survive. D2 says he “wasn’t perfect” in his marriage.
Best Laid PlansEdit
Aldrich arrives and the plan is set in motion. As they drive to the hospital, D1 Howard remembers he needs to buy flowers and has Aldrich pull over at a florist shop. At the hospital, both Howards are outfitted with in-ear coms for communication with the other agents hidden at various locations around the location.
Peter explains that they have two men on every exit. Emily is in Room 322. D2 Howard asks for a gun and Aldrich obliges with the warning that “our guard’s never down.” D1 Howard quickly adds that the nurse on duty will be Talia. D2 Howard orders Aldrich to keep his counterpart out of sight around the back of the hospital.
D2 Howard enters the hospital. Talia rises and removes the flower from the vase as always, but he doesn’t stop to give her one from the bundle he carries. He makes it into Emily’s room and closes the door. He holds her hand.
Eric arrives in front of the hospital and all the agents go on high alert. D1 Howard hears the description and tells them to stand down. He briefs them on the plan to move Emily to England and the papers left in the room earlier.
D2 Howard refuses to sign the papers and verbally cuts Eric in two and explains that he will never let Emily go. Baldwin shows up outside. D2 Howard pulls his gun and tries his best to explain quickly to a terrified Eric that someone is heading up to kill his sister. He orders him to sit and stay.
D2 Howard sets himself up in the doorway to one of the other patient rooms on the same floor and waits for Baldwin. She arrives on the floor, notices there is no flower in the vase and stops. She removes her shoes and turns around to run. Talia asks if she can help her. Baldwin begins running with D2 Howard giving chase. Baldwin fires at the man and the nurses. She turns to run and he gives chase.
Peter Quayle runs toward the hospital. Aldrich handcuffs D1 Howard to the car seat before he too heads inside.
Baldwin manages to evade the agents, jumps out a second-floor window, lands on the ground below, takes out the agents posted there, and manages to make it to the back of the hospital. There she spots D1 Howard in the car and raises her gun to fire. Baldwin is struck in the face by a shot. D2 Howard is up above them. He continues firing but is apparently out of ammunition. Baldwin escapes on foot down the street.
D1 Howard rushes upstairs to check on Emily. He finds Eric in her room and tells him to leave, the hospital and Berlin.
D2 Howard returns to the Office of Interchange. He explains to Peter that Baldwin will try again. He says he’ll get another visa in 24 hours and return. He says Peter should keep watch and that they will need D1 Howard again.
On the drive home, Peter explains there’s usually a whole process that goes along with learning about the Other Side including mental health professionals and others. Once they arrive at Howard’s house, he demands a promotion and real access/operational knowledge. Peter says it doesn’t work like that. Howard counters that they need him now so they’ve got to figure it out.
At the same time, the Dimension Two version of Howard passes through “customs” again and out the other side. He emerges on the street in Berlin with a much-altered skyline. He makes his way to a bar and is joined by Emily Burton Silk. She questions why he’s been visiting Dimension One so much of late.
The Crossing is available at Starz.com and Starz On Demand - https://www.starz.com/series/counterpart/episodes/36675/details