TV Episodes Review: “Orphan Black” “The Weight of this Combination” (3.01, 2015), “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis” (3.02, 2015), and “Formalized, Complex, and Costly” (03.03, 2015)

I don’t have some grand unifying theory of Orphan Black at this point. I wasn’t terribly happy with the first two episodes, but I felt the third was an improvement. I’m separating my comments by storyline groups, because the truth is this show feels very fractured right now. Obviously, there has been some overlap with the main storyline, but the clones seem almost like distanced relatives at this point.


Oddly enough, the crazed, manic, half-sensical, “soccer mom”* weirdness of Alison Hendrix that has often served as this show’s comic relief has shot out of the gate as the most interesting aspect of the show. Donnie gets fired and then Alison decides to buy her drug dealer’s business as he leaves for college in order to replace Donnie’s lost income and provide a voter base for her to run for the school board. It’s a humorously crazy plan from a narcissistic, shallow drug addict who likes to wrap herself in the flag of her children.

*This is a phrase I’ve never understood. Why isn’t it just “suburban mom” or “upper middle class suburban mom?” That’s what it means. What does soccer have to do with that? Does it just seem weird to me because nobody played soccer where I grew up?

And she and Donnie of course begin the plan with a great mix of intelligence and pure stupidity. Selling the drugs under the guise of selling home-made soap is a good plan: soap is easy enough to produce and something this client base can justify bringing home. However, they leave the garage door unlocked and don’t consider the possibility of the kids telling someone where they are, so that the school board opponent just waltzes in.

The comic relief storyline is at least going somewhere and it has been repeatedly entertaining, which is more than we can say for some.


Cosima is now going through a sort of existential crisis, asking questions like what happened to the male clone’s soul when he died. This crisis is a ridiculous cliche that smacks of having no atheists around to tell them what’s wrong with it.

People become interested in science via curiosity. I found NASA and spaceflight fascinating because I was interested in aliens. I learned about the limits of the human mind’s ability to reason through reading about conspiracy theories. And that’s not just me, that’s how scientific-minded people often end up in that area. The same happens with religious questions. I was interested in the mind-body problem so I thought about it, read about it, etc. and by the end of high school I was convinced that there is no mind (or “soul”). It would take evidence suggesting a distinction between the two to make me question that, not just an emotional experience.

Cosima is having the existential crisis now that she should have had ten years before, and that makes it seem extraordinarily silly.


Dyad apparently just has a never-ending bureaucracy that never has any clue what’s going on a step below it. And Delphine really hates Rachel. That’s really all there is here.

Well, and Rachel is actually still scary. That stare she gave the doctor when he was testing her visual recognition was the same terrifying stare that she gave before being attacked, and I think that means she’s not out of this game.


All of these clones seem like the same guy. Ari Millen plays them all pretty close to the same. However, that does make sense given their background–they were all raised and trained together, by the same people with the same rules. Unlike the female clones, these are clones who are put in such a position that they are likely to end up being very similar people.

The downside is that it makes them less interesting. Yeah, it makes sense that they are so alike, but just having ten of the same character running around is just dull.

They’re really after something that the LEDA clones should be after as well, so there’s also no real sense to the antagonism, even before the discovery that they are siblings. It seems pretty clear that at some point, all the clones are going to be working together to get the original data that the military and Dyad have hidden away.

Helena doesn’t seem to be terribly affected by what CASTOR has done to her so far, still acting like the same crazed borderline psychopath she’s always been, even though she’s held where she cannot act as she would like. One interesting aspect of her that was sort of suggested with the military attempted to test her, though: how would you know if she started to show the same cognitive deterioration that Seth showed? She’s so uncooperative and out-of-control normally that it would be essentially impossible. Also, I do like that she sees through the lie about Sarah having given her up.

Sarah/Felix/Mrs. S/Art/about 700 others

One thing that’s interesting to note is that Felix has really drifted away from being the comic relief he was early in the series. While Alison also always provided comic relief, Felix’s unique way with words and often-surprising reactions always also made for great comedy. Jordan Gavaris’s easy naturalism in the role always also made Felix an appealing character. While Felix is still appealing, he’s become far less funny and far more helpful. He’s been forced to take on much of what used to be Mrs. S’s role, and as is Felix’s wont, he’s doing it with aplomb.

Meanwhile, Art and Sarah are trying to figure out what the CASTOR clones are up to, with Sarah hoping to find some way to retrieve Helena. Sarah finds Mark just a bit too late, stumbling across him just in time to see him killed but not in time to find out what he’s found.

Mrs. S’s emotional shutdown is proving to be a minor hindrance, but Sarah keeps finding ways around it or getting just enough from her to continue forward, which makes it all the more emotionally powerful: she cannot even force her way into helping Felix, Sarah, et al. She’s alone and there really isn’t anything she can do.


  • Did Donnie say “saltwater pool?” I’ve never heard of a saltwater pool and the existence of one seems very weird.
  • I still laugh and think, “It’s Mr. Big Dick!” the first time we see Paul in any episode.
  • Chekhov’s cough from Cosima. Chekhov’s footlocker in Gracie’s hotel room.
  • Why did Mark not even bother to read what was in the footlocker? He really didn’t even consider the possibility of there being a clue somewhere in that paper? I have a feeling someone whose name may rhyme with Quarah might decide to read those later and find something.

4 thoughts on “TV Episodes Review: “Orphan Black” “The Weight of this Combination” (3.01, 2015), “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis” (3.02, 2015), and “Formalized, Complex, and Costly” (03.03, 2015)

  1. I don’t know if I love this season but Helena is so awesome that it’s worth watching just for her.

    If they just did a spinoff show with Alison and Donnie I don’t think there would be any real difference at this point.

    • I feel like this show has careened between greatness and weakness more severely than anything I’ve seen this side of “Lost.” It’s been easy to ignore because Tatiana Maslany is just that amazing. But introducing the CASTOR clones created an entire section of the show that doesn’t necessarily involve her, and that’s exposed the show’s wires a bit too much so far.

      • Yeah, that’s probably right. A lot of shows seem to struggle with the “how do we top last season” idea, but OB takes it to the extreme. Season 2 was basically described by the writers as S1 on speed, and S3 seems to be “let’s double the cloneliness.” Who knows what S4 will have in store, but OB only seems to know one direction in which to take things: up.

        Which is unfortunate, because the character development can be the show’s strongest points. TM does such a great job that we have really good and distinct visions of Alison, Sara, Cosima, Helena, and even Rachel. I’d like to get to know all of them even more. It doesn’t need to be a race to solve the conspiracy before the bomb blows up the building, but it feels that way at times.

        This was what BB did really well. It laid the groundwork for so long that by the time it upped the intensity it was well, insane. But it’s rare to let the intensity burn for so long. The CASTOR/LEDA/Dyad storylines are often a distraction (probably a necessary one, tho) from the best parts of the show.

        P.S. Did you see Woman in Gold? I thought it was interesting when I heard about it, but never got around to seeing it. I also struggle to take Ryan Reynolds seriously in roles. But now that I know that TM is in it (presumably for an unspeakably short amount of time, I’m sure), I’m putting it on the to-watch list.

        • I’m a little afraid that “Orphan Black” will fall into the same trap I felt “Mad Men” did. In its first two seasons, “Mad Men” was setting up a long-term story about Peggy Olson as a symbol for the modernization of American social values in the 1960s and Don Draper was there as a symbol of the old guard white males who see the erosion of their privilege as an attack. And then, when the public and critics went nuts about Hamm/Draper the show decided that he was what was interesting and abandoned its early plot. Orphan Black seems to have decided that what people like is, to use your word, “cloneliness.” And what was interesting was TM and the sense of tension that we got from joining Sarah in her complete lack of knowledge in this crazy conspiracy around her.
          I did not see “Woman in Gold.” I would love to see her get to star in something else she can sink her teeth into, but it did not look like that was it. (It looked like that was a Rocky Balboa role even if she were on screen often.)

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