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A note from the editor:
Which of the changes thrust on us so suddenly will last beyond the present moment? This is the “will we shake hands again?” question, or, for the sports world, the “will we high five again?” question. Drag me too if you wish, but I kind of get what that hysterical woman lamenting facemasks was so distressed about. A smile from a stranger at the store, a handshake the first time learning someone’s name, clinking beers with the rowdy fan next to you in the nosebleeds: none of these in isolation are a big deal to lose, or even anything I partake in very frequently. And none outweigh love for neighbor (the framework I insist on using rather than that chilling utilitarian call to serve the “greater good”).
But if these small things have fossilized in front of our eyes, they are artifacts of something more that was lost. We dread the future enough, irrationally or not, without mile markers like painted spots on the floor guiding where to stand in line, or broadcasts of NBA games in empty arenas magnifying the change ahead of us. We already feared the slide into the unknown–blinking “the future is NOW” lights don’t help matters, however low the wattage in each little bulb.
But I’m also a sci-fi fan at heart, and one of modernity’s creatures perfectly capable of adapting to a new, sterile normal. I empathize with those who can’t figure out what’s so hard about the permacouch life for others, or who, perhaps, find it a little exciting to don a mask and step into a different world than the dull one that preceded it.
Which brings me to another quarantimes recommendation: Counterpart.
The Starz series’ premise–that there are not only two alternate realities progressing along the same timeline, but that they interrupt and interact with each other–is inherently difficult to execute. J.K. Simmons shoulders that burden with his herculean performance as the lead. The surface-level difference that created a starkly different version of the world on the other side of our own? A biological disaster, namely a virus that runs rampant and kills millions. In the virus-plagued world, people are living with the grimmest outcomes of a pandemic, with sanitization and yes, facemasking, some of the cold and distanced public’s highest remaining virtues (while a lack of disciplined cleanliness is stigmatized). If that isn’t enough to hook you, there’s also a lot of badass spy stuff.
Rewatching Counterpart has helped me exercise both the anxiety and futurism occupying my mind, getting some of the judgment out of my system while I’m at it. It’s worth the ‘ol free trial roll of the dice.
– Cray Allred