Do you miss shows like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, The O.C., or Revenge?
Well, worry not, because you can dive into Amazon Prime’s offering, Counter Play! Promised with luxury, scandal, romance, greed, and mystery—who wouldn’t dare love it, right?
Were they able to give what they promised? Well, before going into the verdict, let's go into details.
Counter Play Season 1 Episode 1 immediately introduced the people of the affluent and scenic town of South Point. It takes place four years after a fellow named Aaron's traumatic near-death accident. He returns home with a new identity and vengeful game-play that begins to unravel the lives of his old school friends.
The story begins with three girls discovering an unidentified dead body with no records of him to be found by the police at all. While it immediately raises a lot of questions, it also offers confusion.
Because, along with the murder scene, they also say, "Aaron Robertson is dead." It's easy to assume that the Aaron Robertson everyone is referring to is the same guy, but not necessarily.
If it wasn't for the confusion, the mystery might have been a good one.
Along comes Aaron’s friend, Jess Haynesworth, a very entitled rich guy and a bully who would do anything just because he wanted to do it. It's very easy to hate the character, not because he's entitled, but because he's a brat without reason.
Right off the bat, it's evident that Jess is being prepped to be the show's antihero.
With a flashback scene, we learn that Jess has something to do with Aaron’s murder, along with another friend Ethan, on a night that they left Aaron alone in a boat. Ethan wanted to go back and help, but Jess stopped him from doing so, resorting to blackmail.
Even with the flashback scene, it's impossible to tell why Jess had to blackmail Ethan to leave Aaron alone in the boat.
Sure, he doesn’t like Aaron, but is it an anger that could lead him to abandon someone from his own circle?
If it was explained what had gotten him so angry at Aaron, maybe it would be easier to give Jess a chance. But the storytelling went a different way.
It was like being told to take a medication without knowing about your illness.
A good antagonist is someone you can understand. Someone to whom you can relate. It was hard to find a single connection with Jess.
Until it is explained why Jess was able to do what he did, it will be difficult to connect with the character. That said, I'm very open to a surprise. If any, I'd like to see Aaron not be a name of a victim but be an identity of hate.
While it's no feat to feel bad for a murder victim, it's always a nice welcome to see a layer to a character.
Jake Spector came in with a physique of a fighter. Here, we learn that he had already commenced with his plan on taking back what he lost from the people who had taken them.
The transition to Jake Spector was anti-climactic, sad to say.
It didn't feel like he was the lead. If it wasn't for the dialogue, it would be hard to figure out he wanted revenge. And if that wasn't enough, the actor didn't emote anger—that kind of anger that would want to exact revenge.
Then, there were Riley Cornwall, Aaron’s ex-girlfriend who was already trying to move on from his death, and her mother, Mrs. Heather Cornwall.
On a side note, there is a scene when they are talking to each other over the phone that is the least believable of all.
There was no way anyone could tell they were in different places. It was like she was in the house with her mom, in her bedroom, while her mom was in the living room, and they were pretending to be far away from one another.
Other characters have been introduced, also, to little fanfare.
Faith Morgan, the show’s female lead and Jake Spector’s girlfriend who still has a lot of room for improvement; Emily Loui, Riley’s best friend and Ethan, s fiancé, who hates Jess’ guts; and Matt, a private investigator, reopening the Aaron Robertson case.
Too many characters, and too little time to introduce them properly.
Pilot episodes are written as introductions, and Counter Play has a lot of missed opportunities.
It would be easy to nitpick because it felt like everything was rushed. However, the story itself has a promise to become a better show.
The scene cuts and transitions made it hard to connect to the characters. The approach made it seem like the viewers are outsiders looking into the lives of the wealthy, but who would want that?
Diving into the storyline, it would be best to make viewers feel as if they are part of the show and not people who salivate to be a part of their glamorous lives.
While this is called nitpicking, it is also a chance to get better. Here's hoping the producers and editors will do something about it to make sure that the quality of the show won't suffer going on.
Was it a personal preference that hindered me? Absolutely. As a medium that connects viewers through optical and auditory means, it's easy to say that little effort has been given to hide the fact that the show is on a shaky start. Even the songs just popped in and out to signify that the scene had been changed.
Hypercriticism is not a hard feat to do here. And, since we're already here, let's remember a rule of storytelling: show, don’t tell. Most of the time, instead of seeing things in action, things are a part of the dialogue and it's unrealistic. The schemes, the description of their lives? It was like listening to an audiobook.
Heck, they even included a dialogue when Jake Spector admitted that he was, in fact, Aaron Robertson instead of allowing us gradually discover this juicy piece of information.
It was understandable, though. Unlike most series, Counter Play has shorter episodes and the budget isn't the same as other mainstream TV shows so the appreciation is still there.
My story isn’t purely about revenge. It’s about taking back my life.Jake Spector
If they really needed to tell that immediately, they could have taken inspiration out of Revenge to see how it should be done.
Relating to the characters was so difficult that it failed to give a better feel to these people and the episode in general.
Watching this episode alone certainly wouldn't make someone a fan. However, recognition should be given to Mrs. Heather Cornwall, played by Australian actress Michelle Rowley.
Cornwall showed that promise of becoming a great character. Actually, investing in her character felt easier than it was with Jake Spector.
Yes, they really need to do something about that.
While it's understandable that the production is on a budget, there are always efficient and effective ways to use the budget wisely without having to make it feel forced. The vision and the end result are likely quite different.
As TV Fanatics, we deserve to see a better show, and Counter Play has the promise of becoming better.
Given a tagline as Australia’s answer to Gossip Girl, the expectation was higher. Since they promised to give luxury, romance, greed, and mystery, there was anticipation for something more. However, the episode fell short with its grand promises.
Of course, this is just the first episode so I’m not giving up on the series just yet. After all, there are questions that are yet to be answered.
Who attempted to kill Aaron Robertson? Why did they try to kill him? How did Aaron become Jake Spector, and who was the real Jake Spector? Where did that identity come from?
How about you? Do you agree or disagree with the overall impression I had of Counter Play Episode 1 Season 1? Who are your favorite characters in the show? What are your thoughts about the episode? Would you stick to it? Let us know in the comment section!