TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” (02.10, 2014))

After a messy and increasingly dull middle portion of its second season, Orphan Black finally regained its footing for its penultimate episode and this finale, but it also left us in an odd place for the future.

Dyad and the Proletheans appear to be threats no longer (or at least severely diminished threats–each has lost its leader, apparently, though it seems a little weird to think that Rachel is dead from that.), but instead we’ve got the military and its project CASTOR. While there would be no reason to care about this parallel project initially, we are then shown that Mrs. S and Paul apparently gave them Helena in order to get Marian Bowles on their side to get Sarah, Cosima, and Kira out. Cosima is extremely sick, but she also has the key for Duncan’s synthetic sequences, in The Island of Dr. Moreau.

The episode begins with an interesting non-chronological sequence (something this show rarely does) showing Sarah fighting with Mrs. S and eventually admitting that she knows Mrs. S always has Kira’s best interests at heart while Felix falls apart with guilt in the foreground and then Sarah’s eventual surrender to Dyad. He didn’t have time to realize it wasn’t Sarah, so his guilt is clearly misplaced, but he of course cannot forgive himself for not realizing that it wasn’t Sarah. Jordan Gavaris plays this scene wonderfully, making the typically lighthearted Felix absolutely heartbreaking for a moment.

Meanwhile, Delphine does what she can to help Cosima as she’s being removed from her post, leaving Cosima and Scott trying to get Sarah and Kira out of Dyad from within while Mrs. S and Felix try from without. For all that this series has been a paranoid thriller, we get some real attempted teamwork in this finale, and nobody even needed Helena’s unpredictable violence to bail them out this time.

Ethan Duncan’s suicide was one of the most effective scenes in Orphan Black‘s history, marred only a little by the difficulty I had in believing that Dyad/Rachel would allow him to use his own teabags. Not only was it a powerful moment for Duncan, committing suicide rather than allowing the experiment to continue and apparently also in recognition of what has happened to the woman who was once his daughter, but Rachel’s screaming, “You can’t leave me again!” is a powerful reminder that, for all the coldness in Rachel, she has had a horrible, pain-filled life with no family. She doesn’t remember having loving parents even though she did, perhaps because she needed to bury that memory to hide all the scar tissue that her upbringing in Dyad would have put over it.

Overall, I feel like the second season of Orphan Black was much like the first–it was far from perfect, but it was generally good and sometimes brilliant. And, even in its worst moments, Tatiana Maslany could carry the show. I’m not sure about the future, but two seasons of being good is enough to buy some benefit of the doubt.

Notes

  • It was so obvious what was coming when Kira asked Cosima to read her a story that I actually laughed.
  • I wonder if it was an intentional pun to mention Felix by the first syllable just after Cosima was talking about “The Golden Ratio,” which is also called phi, which is pronounced the same in Greek or in the US even though it is pronounced with a long i sound in much of the world. (It’s also a number often used in pseudoscience and given undeserved significance.)
  • I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t remember that Helena had not met Cosima and/or Alison yet.
  • When I saw US military showing up, I thought, “Hey, Mr. Big Dick!” Felix, the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Until we saw them trading Helena, I just kept thinking of the finale of the brilliant Jekyll, a bit of silly nonsense tacked on to the end of what was otherwise one of my all-time favorite television experiences. (If you haven’t watched Jekyll, watch it now. It’s on Netflix instant. It’s amazing. You will have a better, richer life for it.) And then thinking about it, I realized that there are actually more than passing similarities between that show and this one, which may explain some of why I get frustrated with this show. Jekyll had a very different format that made its focus easier and had an in-his-prime Steven Moffat writing, so it had advantages, but it also did much of what Orphan Black does much better.
  • I’m confused about the Nitrogen. I have no idea what that meant.
  • Does any of Felix’s music actually make sense together? I know I have weirdly eclectic musical tastes (I wrote a football article once where the sections were named for songs on my iPod. The songs were by Oasis, Dido, Amanda Palmer, Elton John, and Alice Cooper. I don’t think a lot of people can turn on their iPod right now and find those artists.), but even I think the range of his music seems a little extreme. However, the idea that he listens to vinyl is so perfectly Felix.
  • Also be sure to check out the Polar Bears Watch TV take–the last one of the season!
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16 thoughts on “TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” (02.10, 2014))

  1. Cosima’s still the hot one, but Helena is rising in the rankings.

    The show definitely had some downers, but overall, it was a fun ride and it ended well. Sarah really is amazingly resilient.

    I’m glad to see Cal come back in and be somewhat useful.

    • Sarah is still pretty clearly my second-favorite clone, with her manipulative criminal past, her toughness, and–perhaps most importantly–her accent. But Helena got more interesting this season. She was a bit overly cliche of a character back in season one–the murderous religious nut. Now she’s different. She rather reminds me of a description I remember reading of the protagonist in Joyce Carol Oates’s novel “Zombie” (I’m paraphrasing this from memory, so forgive its likely inaccuracy): “At turns cunning and calculating while at others sadly child-like, never showing any sign of a conscience but also oddly sympathetic for his honest inability to understand right and wrong.”

      I agree about Cal, though it seems a bit like having the reliability of Felix and capability of Mrs. S all in one person, which makes Sarah far less alone than she has been in the past.

  2. Pingback: Orphan Black “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” Review (2×10) | Polar Bears Watch TV

  3. The nitrogen container was Helena’s eggs that Henrick harvested. On another site it was thought that this could produce the stem cells Cosima needs to reboot her immune system. I’m not sure about that, but seems as good a theory as any. I doubt that Rachel is dead too. Not as excited about season 3 , provided it’s renewed, as I was after season 1.

    • Ah, okay. Thank you for explaining that–I felt like I had to be missing something!

      Marian’s comment that this “goes beyond Rachel” or “doesn’t end with Rachel” (I can’t remember exactly off the top of my head.) made it sound like Rachel was gone, which seems bizarre.

  4. Oh, the nitrogen container went way over my head too, if that’s the explanation.

    The same kid actor was playing Rachel in the flashbacks as Marian’s kid, right?

  5. You’re not going to like this, but…..

    I started watching Jekyll on your recommendation. I gave it two episodes, but I am not a fun. It’s too ridiculous for my tastes. I don’t have a problem with sci-fi/thriller/mystery, but this one seems to just buy into itself too much (and some of the special effects are horrible). The two main women are keeping my interest, but I also think Hyde is kind of a ridiculous character. I am not sure I can articulate it, but the show isn’t resonating with me. Should I keep watching?

    • If you’re finding it too ridiculous after two episodes, no, you probably shouldn’t. The last 1-2 episodes are almost laughably over-the-top, even though I still find them fairly enjoyable. If the “Wanna play lions?” scene doesn’t get you interested, the show probably never is.

      The way that it’s so outrageous and yet simplistic in its characterizations is actually part of why I love it so much–Hyde so enjoys how perfectly evil he is that it makes him almost charming, even though it also makes him something of a melodramatic mustache-twirler. And a big part of enjoying this show is just enjoying writer/show runner Steven Moffat’s type of humor. I have generally loved it, whether it’s on “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” or this one, but it’s definitely a subjective thing.

      I will point out that it wasn’t popular enough to get a second season even though Moffat has repeatedly said he wanted to do one. Clearly more people felt like you do about it than felt like I do!

      • “also makes him something of a melodramatic mustache-twirler.”

        That’s a pretty good example of what I was getting at. The “wanna play with Lions” scene was good and I found the plot/storyline interesting, but the execution was just lacking. I kept thinking what they need to do is take this same idea and do it correctly – it was just too over the top, for me.

        I will note that I find it funny that you like this show, warts and all, when it seems like you have a critical eye towards so many other pieces. Perhaps this genre is just your Expendables!

        • More like Steven Moffat is my Sylvester Stallone.

          You could say much of the same about “Doctor Who,” which I love far more than I should, even with it being so great at promoting atheist ideals. And what do those two shows have in common? Moffat.

          I love “Sherlock,” too, which Moffat also runs.

          • On faith, I watched the last four episodes. I did think it got better: while it got more ridiculous, that didn’t seem to bother me as much. If there was a second season of the show, I would watch.

            That said, I’m not sure I follow the connection between the end of S2 of OB and the end of S1 of Jekyll. Maybe I don’t remember what happened in OB, but what were you referencing?

            • It wasn’t a specific plot point or anything, just a similarity in seeming like it may just have gone a step too far toward the ridiculous. The twins in Jekyll always seemed like a silly add-on to me, and some of what was going on at the end of Orphan Black felt similar.

              I’m surprised but glad to hear you think it got better. My brother says, “Trust me! I’m a psychopath!” probably once a week.

              Now if we could get you into Doctor Who, I’ve got a great Chris Johnson joke in the intro to my top ten countdown that I doubt many Whovians will get!

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