American Go E-Journal

Go Spotting: Counterpart

Friday March 23, 2018

The opening title montage for Starz’ new scifi, noir-spy series Counterpart is arresting: One black stone on a spotless white2018.04.01-Counterpoint S1-E1 - The Crossing go board separates into two stones, which then divide into numerous black and white stones across an endless board. This theme repeats throughout the rest of the series in both explicit and suggestive patterns, intimating that while the conflict you’re about to witness originates from a rigid black and white ideology, it is best played by the intuitive, shifting strategies of go.

Go players are taught early to “see the whole board.” That is nearly impossible in Counterpart, as the “board” grows and shrinks throughout the series, even as the acquisition and defense (or knowledge of ) territory remain essential.

The first episode, “The Crossing,” opens with a go game between the story’s central protagonist, Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons), and his friend Andrei (Silk is playing black, Andrei white)  in progress at an outdoor cafe in Berlin (above).

And it just gets better from there; there are several references to go and go memorabilia (including books), throughout the season’s episodes.

2018.04.01_Opening Scene_COunterpart_Episode5In episode 5, Shaking the Tree,  Silk –a heretofore weak player– nearly bests Andre (left). This is integral to the story as it tells us something important about this Silk (yes, there is more than one. I did mention this a scifi spy tale, right?) different from his counterpart.

According to cinematographer Martin Rhue, go was always integral to the show’s writers, which is why the game’s motif was incorporated into the title sequence.

Rhue confesses neither he nor Counterpart‘s creator /producer Justin Marks actually play go…yet.

But Rhue said a true go player would stage the board for each shot, as well as instruct the actors on how to handle the stones. Rhue did not know whether past famous games were  staged on the board or just a game from the contracted go player’s personal past.

If your are fond of noirish (scifi) spy tales reminiscent of le Carré’s Smiley’s People, as well as go, Counterpart – which wraps up its first season on Sunday, April 1 — might be just the series for you.
Charles “Doc” Sade

Categories: Go Spotting,Main Page
Share