'Counterpart': Ian's story and his past illustrate a tragic premise of the show in a way unlike other counterparts
Considering the fact that in the show one version always kills off the other, Ian's story went a different way as he didn't need a counterpart to erase his other self
The one thing unique about STARZ's 'Counterpart' is the way the characters deal with their counterparts. As the Justin Marks-created show follows the theory of a daughter universe which asserts the existence of two or several versions of the same world, it is the characters and the relationships they share with their counterparts which serve as the most fitting catalyst for the plot's progression.
Unlike any other show, 'Counterpart' does not have a defined scale to differentiate between good and bad. The only person who can be truly distinguished as good or bad is the very character's counterpart, and no other can make that distinction.
Starring J.K. Simmons as Howard Silk, Olivia Williams as Emily Silk, Nicholas Pinnock as Ian Shaw (aka Wesley Pierce), Harry Lloyd as Peter Quayle, and Nazanin Boniadi as Clare, the very philosophy of 'Counterpart' is a tragic one and this tragedy is clearly reflected in the Ian's story and the relationship he shares with Emily Prime.
Ian - or let's call him Wesley since he went by that name before his wife was killed - was never aware of the existence of the two worlds until he was found by the Management. This group of people, who had opened the Crossing between the two worlds almost 30 years ago, wanted Wesley to go to the Prime world, as they threatened to kill his wife if he decided otherwise.
Unfortunately, the worst did happen and Ian's wife, Nomi, was ultimately killed by the Management. With nothing left in his own world, which is the Alpha world, Wesley wasted no time in changing his name to Ian Shaw and disguising himself as a resident of the Prime world.
He also joined the Strategic team at the Office of Interface, where he soon developed a romantic relationship with Emily Prime whose marriage with Howard Prime had already come to an end. Although Ian does love Emily Prime, he kept his secret as a person from the Alpha world to himself.
In an interview with MEAWW, Pinnock described his character as an "Everyman", which indicates the fact that Ian did not end up as a part of Strategy by choice, unlike Emily Prime who was always ambitious about her role in the Strategy department.
Pinnock said: "It’s tumultuous and filled with deep love and passion. It’s also highly frustrating because they love each other but are still dealing with feelings for their ex-partners. But whereas Ian knows about Emily’s feelings for Howard, Emily knows nothing of Ian’s dead wife, Nomi. So, there is a lot of unsaid honesty’s that the two are battling with, but not communicating with one another."
This is the tragedy of 'Counterpart', where characters are not rulers of their own fate but are destined to lead a life that can be taken over by their own counterparts at any moment. Pinnock mentioned that if the show has a season 3, we can expect to see Ian's counterpart, too, and quite expectedly that will certainly complicate matters between him and Emily Prime even more.
As of now, let's just say that with Ian's character, Marks has basically summed up what he has been trying to say through the plight of other characters. We have seen almost all the counterparts, and while most of their encounters ended in tragedy beginning with Yanek, who murdered his own counterpart by mistake, to Baldwin, who was unable to save her counterpart; a few of them managed to hit it off somewhat well, like Lambert.
However, Ian's is a very different case. He did not have to meet his counterpart to decide which version would exist. Considering the series of events that happened with Wesley, once he crossed over to the other side, Ian considered Wesley dead and he went on to lead a life where Wesley did not matter.
Pinnock described a significant incident which brings out Ian's reluctance to even think about his past as Wesley. "When he and Emily travel to see Howard Prime on the other side, he tells Emily that he thinks they should 'build a wall and never come back.' That’s him talking about being far away from his past as Wesley as possible. He doesn’t like crossing or having people cross because every time he does cross or meet those from the other side, his true side as Wesley, it reminds him of his life with Nomi. It’s easier for him to just turn away and forget all his past pains and continue living a lie as opposed to wanting to relive his past."
'Counterpart' returns with Episode 9 February 11.