The televangelist Robert Schuller composed a sentence I’ve never forgotten:
What would you do today if you knew you would not fail?
But something about that always bugged me.
I couldn’t put my finger on why it did until today, after watching the leaked first episode of Counterpart from Starz.
Maybe it’s just me, but Schuller’s sentence encompasses just two things: Doing something or getting something. Maybe many people would just think about the getting of something: Having the winning lottery numbers, for example.
It wasn’t until today, after Counterpart, that I realized Schuller’s sentence bugged me because there’s a second sentence that needs to be asked afterwards.
That sentence is this:
Who would you be tomorrow and for the rest of your days if you didn’t fail today?
The best — goddam, it’s the very best — example of not failing that changes you for the rest of your life comes from Back to the Future.
That moment not only changes George’s life, it changes George.
And a changed George has a very different life than the George we see as his original — or alternate — destiny at the start of the movie.
This contrast is what Counterpart raises:
What if there was another you?
The thing is, there can always be “another you,” depending on what we do.
Counterpart raises this issue with an unsettling glimpse of a man meeting his — ahem — counterpart from another world. And that counterpart is vastly different from him. It’s as if the original George from Back to the Future ran into the George who punched-out Biff.
And now that I’m thinking about this, I realize why the movie Quest for Love holds so much appeal for me too. It’s another story of a man and his counterpart. In that movie, we only know of the counterpart from the reputation he’s left behind.
And thinking some more, this is a side-angle of the brilliant movie, Run Lola Run. Lola’s actions impinge of the future lives of those she happens to run into.
Who are we? Are we the person we are right now or should we have been someone else based on some obscure action taken — or not taken — in our past?
I hope these questions raised by Counterpart will be a central part of the series and not something just swept aside.
Even for viewers not of a philosophical bent, the leaked first episode is weird enough to grab them and keep them. But there’s more to it — or can be more to it — than that. And I hope there will be.