TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” (02.02)

Recently, I wrote a rambling little post about the death of the paranoid thriller. Until this week’s episode, I didn’t realize that I had completely forgotten a current example of a paranoid thriller in Orphan Black. I think the show has been headed down the path to being a paranoid thriller since the start, but this episode really clinched it.

The strongest defining aspects of the genre were always the solitariness of the hero and the paranoia that resulted from that solitariness. The hero always had everything she trusted or believed in stripped away, step by step–even when the hero retreated into her past life, friends and family would turn out to be either part or tools of the conspiracy. Three Days of the Condor (Sydney Pollack, USA 1975) killed off Condor’s unit, then isolated him from his home, then used an old friend as bait to lure him into a conspiratorial trap, so that in the end the only person he felt could trust was a total stranger he had found at random and ended up kidnapping. (It should be noted that he actually could trust one other person, but he did not know it.)

As we have watched, the same thing has been happening to Sarah Manning in this series–her support system is slowly being taken away, step by step. The only people she thinks she can trust now are Felix and Cosima, and I don’t think she’s entirely sold on Cosima. Her trust in Mrs. S, to the extent that she ever had it, was already gone as soon as she saw that picture back in season one, and Mrs. S turning against people who had turned on her wasn’t going to fix that. She knew that, and when her “old network” failed she finally understood what Sarah has been up against–quite seriously her against the world.

The big question that brings to mind is: What of Felix, the one trustworthy person Sarah has? Since he and Sarah were outside the Dyad’s influence for their childhood, there is logical reason to believe that he is safe, but paranoid thrillers don’t tend to let the trusted best friend stay trusted–that friend is either turned or eliminated one way or another. I suspect Felix has a bad end coming.

Of course, the big news last week was that Helena was back, and now she’s unsurprisingly getting better, back in the hands of the Proletheans, who seem to be undergoing some internal strife that ends with a hole in the head of the particularly luddite Prolethean who has been watching her for years.

Sarah has always really been our lead character, but this episode was the first time in a while that it really felt like Alison and Cosima were in separate, unrelated plot threads. Cosima is full of sarcastic zingers as she finally gets to her lab with Delphine–I’ve never loved her more–but is thrown for a loop when she finally meets Rachel Duncan and finds out that she is another clone. Alison has finally figured out that her husband is actually her monitor and seemingly gained a new friend in the “plus-sized” Sarah Stubbs, but she has no idea what to do about her newfound knowledge.

The title and the ending sequence highlight one of the show’s themes–the conflict between science and religion. As the paranoid thriller elements close in around Sarah, I suspect that this theme will become more central to the story than the themes of trust and alienation that have dominated early on this season.

Overall, I really liked this episode, particularly the last ten minutes or so. As much as I’ve enjoyed the show, I really feel like this is the first time I’ve had a really good handle on it–the way I felt about Breaking Bad for nearly its entire run.

Also be sure to check out our Polar Bear friend’s review again this week. He is definitely faster getting these up than I am.

Notes

  • I’m pretty sure Cosima’s dress is either awesome or absolutely hideous, but I’m not sure which.
  • That grin about Sarah having stolen Leekie’s pass was great.
  • I had missed Maria Doyle Kennedy. As incredible as Tatiana Maslany is, much of the other acting in this show is rather hit and miss, and she’s a hit.
  • Felix has sometimes careened between cartoon character territory and reality (Even in this episode, that painting scene was just silly.), but I think Jordan Gavaris has really stepped up his game this season.
  • They need to be careful about having Kira on screen much–Skyler Wexler is a typical kid actor, which is not praise.
  • “So, you’re gay?” “My sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me.” Cosima is just awesome.
  • “Aynsley wore a scarf in the kitchen!” I love that he doesn’t even bother to say, “She knew the risks!” and yet the point is so clear.

Update: I’ve added a poll about Cosima’s dress. I am only including the two options, because that’s way funnier than including more nuance for a poll this stupid.