It’s an Alison Hendrix (Tatiana Maslany) episode! The beleaguered suburbanite takes center stage as her life becomes extra complicated on the day of the school trustee election.
Let’s bitch it out…
It was inevitable that Alison’s shady side business dealing drugs would intersect with her run for school trustee, but I’ll admit that I never expected to get an entire episode dedicated to this calamity. ‘Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate’ proves to be that strange, out of the ordinary episode of Orphan Black as the drama with the Castor boys is set aside and the comedy of Alison’s suburban situation is allowed free-reign. It’s a bit like Alison’s troubled family day visit in rehab in 2×07 ‘Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things’ in all of the right ways.
It’s a very welcome episode because of 1) the humour and 2) the focus on Alison and Cosima. Orphan Black, by the very nature of its premise, has great potential for comedy and Maslany’s chameleon acting skills often makes the “one clone impersonating another” antics hilarious. Tonight’s episode has all of the hallmarks of great comedy as Alison watches in horror as her bid for trustee seemingly falls apart because of switched envelopes, a contentious relationship with her mother, Connie (Sheila McCarthy), and Cosima’s inability to see without her glasses on. A lot of the comedy is generated from characters being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or from Cosima being mistaken for Alison, which isn’t exactly new ground for Orphan Black to explore, but it is something the series can pull off well.
The focus on Alison and Cosima is the element I enjoyed the most. No disrespect to Sarah or Helena, but this season’s narrative focus on Castor, the cure and Helena’s abduction in last season’s finale have, to some extent, isolated the other two core Leda girls in their own stand-alone stories. ‘Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate’ doesn’t bring Alison’s drug operation or Cosima’s new love interest into the A-plot so much as invert the focus to make their stories the A-plot for a change, reducing Sarah & Helena to near cameos status aside from their brief scenes in the Mexican canteen with S (Maria Doyle Kennedy).
The result is an episode focused on the two members of #CloneClub who have been least visible this season and a nice comedic shot in the arm for the series. Last week’s episode was a marvel of balancing disparate plotlines and providing Hot Paul with a proper send-off and while ‘Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate’ doesn’t quite hit the same highs, it’s a funny, well-balanced episode that brings Alison and Cosima back to the fore as we head into the season’s climax. And just in time judging by that visual of the blood in the bathtub.
- Considering Alison is running for school trustee and the majority of the episode takes place inside her old high school, it’s very on point that Pouchy nearly severs Donnie’s (Kristian Bruun) nose using one of those paper slicers you never see outside of schools.
- Favourite comedy moment: the look of disdain Pouchy’s niece throws Alison when she begins to recount the money in the car.
- The episode builds to the big moment when Alison delivers her speech to the auditorium of voters. It’s meant to be a hurrah moment as Alison proves to her mother that she has what it takes to lead, but the comedy ultimately undermines the drama. The speech is scrambled and mildly incoherent, and even when Alison rallies at the end, the result is kinda juvenile and silly. It’s hard to imagine the final product getting a standing ovation from the crowd.
- Last week, we thought that Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and Rachel were the couple we wanted together, but this week proves that Scott (Josh Vokey) and Rachel are also great. Watching Scott take control of the situation is extremely pleasurable, especially when he forces Rachel to play Agricola against her desire. I especially like the moment that passes between them when Scott hands Rachel the pencil to write out Duncan’s code.
- Shay (Ksenia Solo) isn’t the interloper many expected her to be, but she is curious enough to eavesdrop when Cosima’s evil ex, Delphine (Evelyn Brochu) swings by unannounced. Shay doesn’t know the whole truth, but between what she hears and what occurs when Cosima’s illness escalates quickly, she’s getting in pretty deep.
- I honestly don’t know what to make of the magical pixie waitress who knows Helena is pregnant, removes sharp cutlery to avoid bloodshed when S arrives, councils Sarah on staying out of the conflict and then offers her shower up to a complete stranger. Is she really intuitive, or is this a weird ethnic trope (the wise Mexican waitress) that Orphan Black is trading on?
- Finally, as much as I’d like to believe that all Helena needs to heal is a stiff hug from S, this solution seemed far too simple. I half expected the episode to end with S and Sarah discovering that Helena had run off.
- Helena: “How do you say food?” Sarah (turning to the waitress): “Food.”
- Scott (when Cosima asks if he can figure out if Rachel can decipher the symbols): “No. Felix humiliated her. Plus she scares me.”
- Alison (tearing down her competitor’s flyer from Bubbles): “I’m going to go win this election. And I’m going to recycle this!”
- Felix (cutting a wig for Cosima): “You need bangs. Bangs that say ‘unhappy sexless marriage’”
- Scott (agreeing to teach Rachel Agricola): “Yeah. Maybe we won’t start with the expansion packs”
- Alison (when Connie enters the debate hall): “Holy freaking Christmas cake”
- Felix (revealing to Allison that Pouchie cut off Vic’s finger): “There are not two Pouchies, darling.”
- Connie (to Alison, after being introduced to Cosima): “Alison that girl was mulatto.”
Your turn: what did you think of this Alison-centric episode? Do we need to sound the alarm for Cosima’s health again? Did you think Helena would be so easily won over? Do you want to see more of Scott and Rachel? Sound off below.
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on BBC America. Next week: Helena moves in with Alison and a new clone comes out of hiding?