Orphan Black veers into the horrific as intel on Project Leda reveals new insights on the origins of the Clone Club.
Let’s bitch it out…
In its fourth episode of the season, Orphan Black regains its desperate sense of urgency. It’s the closest in tone to the season premiere and, as a result, it’s a stronger episode than the last two entries – primarily because a majority of our characters are actually in very dangerous, compromising positions before episode’s end.
Chief among them is Sarah (Tatiana Maslany). At the end of last week’s episode, she was abducted at gunpoint by Rachel’s henchman, Daniel (Michael Bennett), before their car was rammed in the closing sequence. As predicted, it was Cal (Michiel Huisman) driving, but as the episode opens, it is Sarah who remains in charge. As soon as she’s out of the wreckage, Sarah grabs Daniel’s gun and the picture of Project Leda, covers the car in foliage and orders Cal to take her to Kira (Skyler Wexler). From there they switch vehicles and head out, making contact via Skype with Cosima to catch her up and gather intel on Leda.
It becomes clear very quickly that in order to move the investigation ahead, Sarah needs to discover what Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) knows. The geography and timing of her caravan adventure with Cal and Kira isn’t entirely clear, but ‘Governed As It Were By Chance’ is prepared to overlook questions of logistics in favour of propelling the narrative forward. Before long Sarah has teamed up with Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and they ransack Mrs. S’ trunks for information, unraveling the clues behind Rachel’s history and tying it into Mrs. S’ history with a human smuggler named Carlton (Roger Cross).
Interestingly Carlton just so happens to be in town (coincidence? Not on this show). The way in which we meet him tells us nearly as much about him as it does about Mrs. S – their hot and heavy hook-up outside the men’s bathroom clearly highlights the familiar sexuality of their relationship, despite the fact that they don’t appear to have seen much of each other recently. The purpose of their post-coital chat in the bar verges on exposition, but it does help to clarify some of the speculation Sarah, Felix and Cosima explore in how Mrs. S ties into Project Leda.
Cosima, meanwhile, spends the majority of the episode glued to her computer – often in service of Sarah. Thus far her role this season has been the most static, and as her symptoms become more pronounced, I imagine this will only continue. In her first scene, we see Cosima watch more footage of dead clone Jennifer (introduced last week) and the insinuation is clear: this is where Cosima’s journey will end unless they make significant progress in discovering a cure.
Cosima’s illness is contrasted sharply by Helena, who might as well be renamed the Terminator for her inability to die. For the first time this season Helena is given a substantial amount to do and, as we might expect, she kills it (literally in one case). After a near brush with death courtesy of spooked Prolethean Gracie (Zoé De Grand Maison), Helena escapes from the farm – hilariously rushing past a paralyzed Art (Kevin Hanchard) en route back to the city. Again it’s probably best not to consider geography and time as it’s not clear how Helena could have managed to find her way back to Mrs. S’ house, but it’s simply easier to accept it and move on. Especially when we end up with a scene like the one that caps the episode: after sneaking into Rachel’s executive suite apartment, Sarah is chained up by a still-alive Daniel in the shower. Before he can delve too deeply into his torture of her, however, he is lured away by Helena and killed.
This scene is a masterpiece of horror and tension as we witness his murder entirely from Sarah’s point of view: first with off-screen sounds of the struggle, then Daniel’s body falls into view, followed finally by Helena’s appearance. Sarah’s reaction at seeing her twin sister alive is one of palpable horror and Maslany has never been better than when she’s conveying such raw emotion. The episode-closing hug between sisters is incredibly creepy, uncomfortable and tense; it emulates everything that kicks ass about Orphan Black. Where can this possibly go from here?
- Although Helena’s reappearance is – to Sarah – on par to experiencing her own personal horror movie, the true terror in this episode is Helena’s memories of her invasive surgery by the Proletheans in their farm laboratory. I almost wish that the episode hadn’t ended with such an obvious reveal by Johanssen (Peter Outerbridge) that he and Mark (Ari Miller) had performed IVF on Helena’s eggs since her flashbacks were both clear and disturbing enough on their own.
- Alison remains the most isolated and simultaneously the most amusing of all the clones. When she awakens in rehab following her disastrous opening night performance, she vomits profusely, berates her nurse and bristles at the idea of someone shaving their armpits in plain sight. Obviously there’s a deeper level of pathos (from us, for her) and anxiety (when Kristian Bruun’s Donnie threatens custody of their children), but this storyline still feels the most lightweight and disconnected of all the S2 plots.
- I can’t tell whether Roger Cross’ accent bothered me because I know what his regular speaking voice sounds like from his time on Continuum and, briefly, Arrow. It could also be that his British accent simply isn’t good. Either way, I’m just happy to see more of him on my TV.
- We’re closing in on the Project Leda reveal after discovering that Rachel’s parents were the ones in charge and it was their lab that burned down and killed six other scientists. I really liked the scene where Cosima speculates about Rachel’s upbringing and personality in a clinical, psychiatric fashion as we watch contrasting images of Rachel as a little girl playing with her parents onscreen. It suggests that the clones, despite their biology and their upbringing, defy simple categorization. Whether it is Helena’s unnerving inability to be killed (shot and now smothered!) or Rachel’s happy childhood, the nature of their existence and their personalities are not uniform or predictable. What are these women?
- Finally, I haven’t spoken much about the visual aesthetic of the show since the second season broke new ground by taking the action to the countryside, but I must say that between this and the snowy landscapes on display in Hannibal, the Canadian winter has never looked so grim or so beautiful.
- Sarah (skyping with Cosima): “They let you out? You look like you could use some sun, Cosima.”
- Felix (when Alison says she doesn’t remember the curtain going up): “The people got their money’s worth.”
- Alison (when Yvonne tells her that she can’t do “the nasty” while in rehab): “I don’t believe I’ve ever done the nasty.”
- Sarah (describing Rachel’s apartment to Felix): “Straight out of cold bitch digest”
Your turn: did you think that this was the best episode since the premiere? Were you on the edge of your seat during Helena and Sarah’s reunion? Do you agree that Alison’s story is the most isolated but hilarious of all the Clones? Are the Cosima/Jennifer parallels a little too on-the-nose for you? And how does Mrs. S play into all of this? Sound off below
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on BBC America. Next week: Hot Paul is back!