Season two hits the halfway point as Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) negotiates deals with Helena and Rachel.
Let’s bitch it out…
In many ways, ‘Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est’ feels like a battle of wills between three clones: Sarah Manning, Rachel Duncan and everyone’s favourite Ukraine food junkie, Helena. It’s quite nice to spend more time with Rachel and Helena, because we don’t actually know that much about either of them. Of course now that we know them better, I would like to unlearn some things about Rachel, specifically in relation to her sexual proclivities.
Let’s discuss Helena to start, shall we? For the duration of the show, Helena has always been used in equal measures comedy and horror. It’s a deft line to walk, and a credit to Maslany’s acting that she doesn’t overplay the larger than life aspects of the character. In ‘Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est’ there’s comedy in Helena’s reaction to Felix (Jordan Gavaris) as a “brother/sister”, as well as her random selection of food samples at Art’s (Kevin Hanchard) house. These comedic scenes help to soften some of the edges – her eccentricities wear us down so that when she snaps into violence, it’s all the more shocking. Last week’s bathroom scene was a perfect combination of both qualities: Helena rocking her Prolethean wedding dress, covered in blood, wielding a knife and hugging her screaming twin sister. There’s nothing quite as WTF in this episode (at least when it comes to Helena), but the emotionally cathartic moment she shares with Sarah while attempting to assassinate Rachel only works because there is something more to the character than her fondness for jello and little white donuts of death.
How Maslany manages such honest performances playing opposite herself is a mystery, but there’s genuinely raw emotion in their final showdown in the empty loft. As Sarah pleads with Helena to stop the assassination, she cries describing what it felt like when she thought she had murdered Helena and couldn’t tell anyone about it. After the events of the first season finale, it seemed impossible that Sarah and Helena would share another scene without trying to kill each other. Now suddenly Helena feels like a vital part of the show and the Clone Club. I’m not sure I’d turn my back on her anytime soon (poor Art discovered that the hard way), but if Helena’s kicking around, it’s in the Clone Club’s best interests to keep her on their side.
And then there’s Rachel Duncan. The proto-clone is exactly what you’d expect to get if you raised a clone in a sterile environment and then set her loose in a position of privilege with unlimited resources. She’s aggressive, clinical, detached and – as evidenced by that cringe inducing scene when she examines Hot Paul (Dylan Bruce) like a prized horse – this bitch is more than a little kinky. I’ve seen some disgusting stuff on TV this week (thanks Hannibal!), but seeing Rachel order Paul around like a dominatrix and stick her fingers in his mouth takes the cake for awkward weirdness. Knowing very little about this clone villain, this is pretty much exactly what I figured sex with her would be like (compared to, say, the fun, flirty and interrupted sex that Felix and his unlucky morgue attendance lover try to engage in).
‘Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est’ is essentially about Sarah making deals with each of these women. Ultimately it’s important that she delay further conflict with both: Helena appears willing to forgive her for the attempted murder and by saving Rachel’s life Sarah earns leverage to keep Felix from being framed for the murder that Daniel committed at Cal’s (Michiel Huisman) property. Sarah’s deal with Leekie (Matt Frewer) also buys her some time to track down Rachel’s father, Ethan, who we learn didn’t die in the Project LEDA fire. If she and Helena can find the Swan Man, he may be able to reveal more answers (the fact that Leekie is concerned that it will cause trouble suggests that they’re on the right track). As we head into the back half of the season it’s still not clear where the remainder of the season will take us, but with greater insight into both Helena and Rachel, at least we know the ride will remain interesting.
- Let’s give a warm welcome back to Hot Paul, who reminds us that he’s an asshole when he physically assaults Felix in order to get the incriminating evidence on him and then reminds us of his hotness by stripping naked for Rachel. Boo and yum.
- Cosima and Delphine (Evelyn Brochu) make a startling discovery this week: Leekie has a stem cell that’s compatible with Cosima, but Rachel has ordered him not to use it as punishment for Sarah’s behaviour. He also reveals that the LEDA fire wiped out all of the original samples, which is why the Dyad doesn’t seem to know the hows and whys of the clones. Of course, his words to Hot Paul about the dangers of finding Ethan Duncan suggest that Leekie is not entirely forthcoming, so who knows what the Dyad does and doesn’t know.
- I will confess that I had actually forgotten that Cosima hadn’t told Sarah that she was sick, so it was as much of a shock to me as it was to Sarah when Leekie spills the beans in the bar. I wonder how Sarah will approach this, considering she saw first hand the effects of the illness during her brief time with Katya.
- In punishment for letting Helena escape, Johanssen (Peter Outerbridge) and wife Bonnie (Kristin Booth) punish daughter Gracie (Zoé De Grand Maison) by sewing her lips shut. Ugh! I find it interesting that the current group of Proletheans claim that they’re letting go of the old ways, and yet they use such an archaic form of punishment.
- Also, it appears that Mark (Ari Millen) is sweet on Gracie. That should spell doom for one or both of them before the end of the season. There’s basically no such thing as a happy ending for couples on this show.
- We only spend a little bit of time with Cal (Michiel Huisman) and Kira (Skyler Wexler) this week, but their scenes further cement the fact that Kiera is a magical pixie child who can see (sense?) the future…or something. Also: Cal has all sorts of fake IDs, guns and rolls of dollar, dollar bills, y’all. This suggests that he is either a rapper, or something far shadier than we were originally led to believe.
- Finally, no Alison this week. Did you miss her, or are you happy not to check in while she’s drying out in rehab?
- Felix (when Sarah asks him to find Helena some clothes): “I’m sure I must have a Ukranian folk costume here somewhere.”
- Sarah (as she and Art arrive at Maggie Chen’s locker): “Helena, don’t jump out and scare us with an axe or some shit, okay?”
- Helena (watching Rachel have sex with Paul): “Very pretty, dirty, sexy Rachel”
Your turn: did you feel the twin/clone connection between Sarah and Helena? Was Rachel’s sex scene with Paul incredibly disturbing? Do you think Leekie is being honest with Cosima? Did you miss Alison? And will Felix ever get to get it on with the morgue guy? Sound off below.
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on BBC America. Next week: roadtrips and bar fights!