TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “Governed As It Were by Chance” (02.04, 2014)

Helena came in, marching on a physically restrained Sarah baring a knife and covered in blood, a savior, an avenging guardian angel, and an angel of doom all at once. Sarah saw a dangerous, destructive force that she thought she had destroyed advancing on her evincing invincibility. And then, Helena did the one thing Sarah could not have expected: she turned to her clone for support in a time of great need.

Helena is often something of a villain in this show because of her unpredictability, her unending capacity for violence, and her connection to the Proletheans. The thing that’s easy to miss is that she is every bit the orphan that Sarah is and is, in reality, even more alone. Sarah has–to varying degrees–Felix, Kira, Cal, and Mrs. S. Helena has no one. Even the abusive father figure is dead. Her only real connection is to her clone, Sarah.

And Helena’s connection to Sarah is more than biological. She may have a willingness to do things that Sarah wouldn’t, but the determination that drives Helena, misdirected as it may often be, is the same thing that often turns Sarah into an unstoppable ball of rage. Helena doesn’t harness it for the same purposes that Sarah does, but she is if anything even more unstoppable when she does harness it because she doesn’t have the limits Sarah does. They are not just physically identical with nothing else in common–they are, as Helena says, sisters.* Helena is the free radical in the show’s solution, and she’s asking Sarah to provide her with the electron missing from her outer shell.

*Note that the word Helena uses is actually “sestra,” which is the Czech word for sister. (I used to have a boss who was Czech and that is one of the few words I ever heard her say in her native tongue, so, oddly enough, I recognized it.) However, it also translates as nun or nurse. Is she actually seeking salvation from Sarah as a nun or care as a nurse? I think either is actually a fair reading, though the idea that she’s seeking a familial connection with her “sister” makes more sense. It is possible, however, that she is using this word because of its multiple meanings.

I am a little–okay, more than a little–confused about how Cal managed to be the one driving the truck. Somehow, in the same time that it took for Sarah to drive to that intersection, he drove to the abandoned little farm he knows about, stashed Kira with the instruction to hide in the small wooded area, and drove over to the intersection to hit the car, luckily managing not to severely injure Sarah in the process. The exceedingly lucky timing and result of the crash are acceptable even if they’re a little logically silly, but it seems really bizarre for him to have been able to make it to that intersection at the same time as them with all of that extra work he had to do. Further, the man just found out he has a daughter and saves the daughter from a bizarre armed kidnapper who kills a friendly cop on his doorstep and then he leaves the daughter alone at some abandoned farmhouse, knowing that someone is after her mother? That’s pretty crazy behavior that frankly makes no sense. The preview for next week tells us why it wasn’t Mr. Big Dick–they apparently have other plans for him–but I just can’t make sense of how Cal got there or of his weird treatment of Kira.

Cosima’s part was pretty small and simple–she’s getting sicker and hiding it, but we already knew that. She’s still helping Sarah, but we already knew that. We need more Cosima per episode. Boo.

Alison has meanwhile entered rehab following her disastrous performance. I loved the introduction to her being in rehab, throwing us into her waking up in the rehab center with no context so that we’re wondering, “Where the hell is she” just as she is (Though I also kept thinking, “Wait–is this not Alison?” A hazard of a story filled with clones is that sometimes it’s not easy to know if a new character is being introduced or if an old character is just in a weird situation. I thought it was Alison based on how Maslany was moving but I thought for a minute that it might have just been a similar new clone.), though the out-of-central-casting rehab worker made it pretty obvious.

Felix meets with Alison and sort of makes an interesting point–not only might Alison actually need rehab, but it might actually get her away from her monitor and give her the ability to figure out how to handle the situation now that she is certain that Donnie is her monitor. She thinks she has two monitors, actually, which gives her even more to consider. It’s interesting that rehab gives her a type of freedom that she never has in her usual life, but we don’t really have anything to suggest what she’s going to do with that freedom.

All in all, this episode really felt rather like wheel-spinning to me, and Cal being the driver was difficult for me to stomach. There were times in season one when this show started feeling like The Tatiana Maslany Show, with her performance carrying it even though it didn’t really know what it wanted to do otherwise, and I think this episode fell into the same bucket. Fortunately, Maslany is actually so good that she can make it still worth watching. And that final scene between Helena and Sarah was still excellent.

Note: Don’t miss the Polar Bears review this week, either. We had more overlap this week than last, but he still tends to look at things differently than I do, so it’s worth reading both!

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9 thoughts on “TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “Governed As It Were by Chance” (02.04, 2014)

  1. Just wanted to drop a note that I had no time this weekend to watch the show. And I was able to post this comment without looking at your review :) Hopefully I’ll have time to get to the show tonight.

      • Finally had some time to watch it tonight. Not sure I can piece together my thoughts right now, but just wanted to say I enjoyed the review, as always.

          • Another solid review from the AV this week: http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/orphan-black-governed-it-were-chance-204512 (I particularly liked the point that the show/TM does a good job of making Sarah very street smart without making her unrealistic; she’s fazed when she should be fazed.)

            This show is funny; for the second week in a row, I kept thinking it was mostly filler/nothing was happening, and then WHAM that ending(s).

            The Cal driving the truck thing was so ridiculous I’m surprised the other reviews didn’t harp on it. It literally made no sense. I am pretty sure if you asked the directors/writers, they would just say “blah blah blah suspension of disbelief.” It makes even less sense to think he was going to go after some murderer and leave a young child at an abandoned house that nobody knows about. If Cal dies or gets injured, what does he think will happen to Kira? It’s ridiculous to think the timing could have worked, especially since we know that Daniel was probably in just as much a rush as Cal.

            Good point about Cosima. Her outlook is pretty grim, and either way we need a lot more of her.

            Alison thinks she has two monitors now? Who am I missing?

            I would DVR The Tatiana Maslany Show.

            • I would definitely watch The Tatiana Maslany Show. .
              Alison thought that Angela (Incidentally, her name is Angela DeAngelis–that might be the most unoriginal name in history.) was a second monitor before. Angela did reveal herself to be a police officer, but I don’t see why Alison would think that means that she’s not a monitor now. I don’t think she’s mentioned the second monitor since Angela said she was a cop, but she hasn’t really had reason/opportunity to do so.

              • Oh, right. I forgot about her because she wasn’t in the last episode.

                Oh, and can someone please write about how horrible Art is at acting? Like in every episode. He’s distractingly bad.

  2. Great review! I like your points on the Sarah-Helena connection, and yes, that final scene between the two was really brilliant and, as always, well acted. That was probably the most intense moment the show ever produced.

    I, too, wonder about Cal driving the truck.

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