TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “Ipsa Scienta Potestas Et” (02.05, 2014)

Orphan Black is a rather ludicrous show. It’s about clones, for crying out loud. The clones were created by a shadowy, insanely powerful multinational corporation called the Dyad that is now hunting them. They are also being hunted by a shadowy group of religious nuts called the Proletheans. Within the Dyad, there is a never-ending power struggle between the head scientist and another executive–who happens to be yet another clone. Within the Proletheans, there is a power struggle between those who consider the clones abominations and those who consider them miraculous. Everyone around the clones (except for Felix, apparently) is part of the conspiracy to watch and keep track of them.

So, the show is often treading a fine line where it may pass over from ludicrousness into ridiculousness. And often, the only thing that keeps it from careening over that edge is the power of Tatiana Maslany’s performances to make the clones into such real people that there is something relatable at the center of the show no matter how far out it goes.

In “Ipsa Scienta Potestas Et,” we can see those cracks more than we usually do–the Proletheans have always been nuts, but literally sewing Gracie’s mouth shut as punishment for doing something (They don’t know what, really.) that ended up allowing Helena to escape is at best bordering on ridiculous. (Or were they punishing her for not being willing to tell them what she did? Sewing her mouth shut for that seems like a completely backwards punishment, doesn’t it?) And then the creepy Mark, whom Henrik treats as a son and who was so obsessed with Helena, suddenly has some sort of romantic interest in Gracie. Perhaps he’s actually just turned on by having women who are being held prisoner, but I doubt that’s where it’s headed–I think it’s more likely that it was just supposed to be a surprising bit of weirdness from an already-weird character.

Then, to top all that off, Gracie’s mother threatens her by saying that if they cannot retrieve Helena, “You will carry the child yourself.” So, apparently they were using Helena as just a surrogate–using an already-fertilized egg of whatever parentage they are wanting to produce. Which raises another question: Why do they want Helena for this duty? I really don’t know what the answer is or even have a guess beyond, “She was there and could work.”

However, for all that the Proletheans are seemingly vaulting over the cliff into ridiculous territory, the often-borderline Helena has become more believably human than ever before. Her mixture of psychopathy and childishness has always been strange, creepy, and understandable, but I don’t know that it’s ever been as effective and believable as it is when Sarah is talking her down from killing Helena. She has a child’s loyalty to her family, even to the point that she accepts what Sarah says about Felix, calling him “brother-sestra.” She’s willing to kill Sarah because she represents a problem and she knows only one way to fix problems–kill them. She’s willing to kill Paul because she knows that Sarah has been “involved” with him in the past and doesn’t understand that is was a brief, unimportant, sexually-based relationship and so she can only see Paul’s entering into another such relationship as “unfaithful.”

Helena explains to Art, “When I was seven, the nun said I had devils inside me. They locked me in the cellar. She gave me darkness. So, I give her darkness.” Art, ever the cop, pays no attention to the pain behind Helena’s psychopathy, and instead only listens when she starts giving him bits of possibly useful information. Even when she asks, “How does this help my sestra?” and gestures at the handcuffs, he doesn’t even bother to answer, let alone to acknowledge that Helena may not be as evil as he thinks, since she does care about helping Sarah.

I’ve been saying that Felix had to be taken out of the equation somehow, because a friend like that just doesn’t stay around in a paranoid thriller, and here he finally got taken away, albeit temporarily, with the Dyad setting him up to be found guilty of a murder. One has to wonder how long he will still be around.

The big news this week was finding out that the original genome that created the clones was destroyed in the lab explosion. As a result, the Dyad lost the genetic sequences that made the clones able to survive, resulting in the illness issues that have plagued them ever since. The Project LEDA picture that Sarah has been holding onto has always seemed like it wasn’t as important as Sarah thought, but now it suddenly does matter more, since these people would be the only link to that genome.

Overall, this episode worked really well whenever we weren’t with the Proletheans, but they seemed a bit over-the-top at this point.

Notes

  • “There’s no reason we shouldn’t have awesome socks.” I’m totally with Cal on this. Awesome socks are one of the great luxuries in life.
  • “Why can’t Scott come and work with us on the really sensitive shit?” “Because we would have to kill his family.” That may be Delphine’s best moment on the show to date.
  • I think I’ve heard the Shitgoblins play before. I think I have a friend who played guitar with them.
  • Please tell me I’m not the only one who immediately responded to the presence of the sardines by saying, “Well, Art is an idiot. She will get out of the cuffs with those.”
  • Credit to Art, he is every bit as patient with Helena as he is claiming to be.
  • Credit away from Art, “I’m going to make me a grilled cheese sandwich.” Bad grammar and grilled cheese–two black stereotypes in one sentence, just in case you hadn’t noticed that he’s black.
  • Why must gay men in TV/movies always have horrible taste in music? Tears for Fears had its good moments (“Shout”), but “Head over Heels” was not one of them.
  • I can’t be the only one who thought the cop should be even more suspicious of Cal when Kira appeared with a gas mask, can I? We Breaking Bad fans know what someone in an RV wearing a gas mask in the middle of nowhere is going to look like to police . . .
  • The TV-Watching Polar Bears have an excellent take on this episode this week again as well, so give that a look.
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4 thoughts on “TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “Ipsa Scienta Potestas Et” (02.05, 2014)

  1. Completely agree on the Proletheans being over the top. I feared something like this right from their introduction, but I was willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully they can rein them in a bit as we move forward; that was the only thing keeping this from crossing over into A/A- territory this week, as the Helena-Sarah relationship I find fascinating (and of course, well acted). That sniper sequence was one of the best the show has done.

  2. Helena is awesome; she may be becoming my favorite clone at this point.

    Sad to see an episode with no Rachel.

    You have been predicting Felix’s demise for awhile now, but I will still be very unhappy when/if that happens.

    Maslany continues to shine. Even in bad episodes, her performances make it all worthwhile. She was really outstanding as Helena in this one, and I enjoyed seeing some Helena/Felix interaction.

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