TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done” (02.09, 2014)

Bad things happen to the people caught in the crossfire of the clones’ battles with Dyad and the Proletheans. This episode was really the first time we had much of an opportunity to see the effect of the experiments on those other characters, other than Felix–specifically, Gracie, Donnie, and Delphine.

Gracie

Gracie has been caught in an odd situation–she grew up in a bizarre religious cult, watching as her crazy father won a power struggle with a Luddite faction to take control of the cult. He apparently made every woman in the cult have children via artificial insemination with himself as the father. He brought in an unpredictable, violent woman whom he saw as a “miracle” who defied science and set about making her his special project, and the project of the entire cult.

Gracie saw Helena as a rival and an abomination. She saw her as her father’s new favorite and–being a clone–something against her god’s rule. Perhaps fearing that her father had lost his way or simply feeling something like sibling rivalry, she hated Helena and worked to rid herself of Helena’s presence. And then, when she turned against Helena, her father reacted with the same violent control fetish that had consumed him elsewhere. Maybe Gracie thought she was immune before, but after Helena’s arrival, she definitely knew that she could be her father’s victim.

But then, when Helena returned, Gracie was still forced into part of the Helena program, impregnated with Helena’s eggs that had been fertilized by her father. Helena was blissfully unaware of what was happening and the only weapon Gracie still had against her father, and so they suddenly became allies.

Gracie has been an interesting character and well-played by Zoe de Grand Maison. She’s been caught between her fear of her father and her disapproval of what he’s done and caught between fear of Helena and recognition that she is a fellow victim. This episode brought her into sharp relief, and it was a welcome development.

Donnie

Donnie was always a bumbler. At first, he seemed to be a clumsy monitor. Then, it turned out that he was a clueless dupe.

However, now that he has accidentally killed Dr. Leekie, he has found a reserve of toughness and confidence that was never there before. And in the process he has discovered a wife where he may never have known that he had one. He turns away Vic and Angela surprisingly effectively (albeit with an assist from Alison on the former) and finds that Alison, for perhaps the first time ever, is actually attracted to him as a result.

Alison’s life was always mostly facade–it was a middle class suburbia cliche taken to an extreme with absolutely no sign of any personality. Donnie was a big part of that–fat, lazy, unhappy, but too dull-witted and lazy to do anything about it. His emergence as a more colorful and interesting husband (and even someone who was capable of not bumbling something has opened her up to herself.

Delphine

Delphine has always been caught between being a scientist interested in a complex genetic project and her feelings about Cosima–she has repeatedly been forced to serve one at the expense of the other, only to wind up feeling guilty about her choices ever after. I think it would be fair to say that she has tended toward allowing her feelings for Cosima to dominate. Now, though, she is placed in Leekie’s old position only to find herself an unwitting pawn to Rachel’s plans for Kira.

From Sarah’s perspective, Delphine now looks like a Dyad agent who helped perpetuate a terrible plan to steal her daughter. From Cosima’s, she looks like either a fool who fell for Rachel’s plan to use her to get Kira or a liar covering up the fact that she is actually a heartless Dyad agent, and it cannot be easy to tell which is the truth.

Meanwhile, Delphine has attempted to do what would be best not just for Cosima but for all the Dyad-opposed clones, only to have it reduce her trustworthiness in their eyes and help Rachel and Dyad in their quest for Kira. She is now where Donnie was when he first found out about the clones.

Overall, I think this was a stronger episode than the last couple have been. The stories have gotten more compelling and the action has moved forward better. I am not sure that Mark’s character development has made sense, but otherwise the storytelling has remained organic and it has worked.

Notes

  • “Lord and butter, Donnie!” Is that what she said? Did I mishear that? Because that’s weird.
  • Does Donnie actually know that there are 11 clones or was that bluffing Vic?
  • When Delphine first saw the computer, I thought, “Oh, come on, Rachel is far too careful to leave that where Delphine could see it.” I’m glad it turns out that it was Delphine who didn’t understand that, not the writers.
  • I was surprised by Mark–he seemed to be more sold on the plan than he was on Gracie. Honestly, his turning seems rather odd.
  • “I am not afraid of you.”
    “Neither am I.”
    One of you is lying. It’s not Helena. Does anything ever scare Helena? I’m not sure I would want to know about anything that could.
  • “Helena is a miracle, Mark. She defies the laws of science. It is a sign that I cannot ignore!” A sign that you need to be the father of all of these children from all of these women? I don’t think I follow that one. He’s certainly not the first religious leader to say something similar, though.
  • Helena’s looking back at the burning Prolethean home seemed rather out of character. Even the look on her face just didn’t seem like Helena–it looked like Sarah. It’s a small enough moment that it doesn’t matter much, but it was the first moment in this show’s history that Maslany seemed like a different clone than she was playing at the moment.
  • Donnie and Alison provided the comic relief in this episode, so Felix was pushed away from his usual comic moments.
  • Typical Maslany amazingness: That was clearly Rachel dressed as Sarah, and repeating the same establishing shot with Sarah herself immediately thereafter made it even clearer. She moves very differently and the inflections of her voice are completely different.
  • Our friend Polar Bears Watch TV has an excellent review this week, so check that out. Somehow, I forgot to talk about Rachel’s breakdown, but I will echo his sentiments. It was another great moment for Maslany. I get almost bored of saying that.

TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “Mingling Its Own Nature with It” (02.03, 2014)

Relationships are breaking down everywhere in Orphan Black. None of the groups we had in place at the start of this episode are still in the same place and stable at the end.

“We are your instruments in the war for creation.”

The Proletheans’ new order, being led by the bizarre Henrik Johanssen, is summed up by his extraordinarily creepy marriage ceremony with Helena. He explains that, unlike their past leader, he believes that he can channel his faith through science. To him, impregnating Helena would be a symbol of God’s triumph in the modern world. Science didn’t know, in his view, how to make Helena fertile, so if she is, it must be from God. (Yeah, like Nick Naylor said, “If you’re wrong, I’m right.”)

The fact that Helena is still barely even conscious not just through the “wedding” but even as Henrik carries her off to what I can only assume is the bedroom where he plans to impregnate her does not seem to bother any of the Proletheans, but it sure makes the entire sequence as creepy as possible. Helena has always been unhinged to the point that it would be possible to argue that she’s never in control of her actions anyway, but docility has never been a trait of hers–she’s still broken. And make no mistake about it, this sequence is really better described as a ritual rape than a marriage.

Now, we can also see the cracks forming in this group–Henrik’s daughter Gracie (Who is played really well by Zoe De Grand Maison–her desire to fit in with her family but discomfort with her father’s actions is palpable from her first appearance but not really spelled out until early in this episode.) doesn’t believe in her father’s vision of the merger of modern science with religion while the way Mark keeps looking at Helena seems to suggest that he will be jealous that his father is the one getting to inseminate her. It’s a bit difficult to know whether this is a rift that’s likely to pull the group apart rather than just this trio, but it’s there.

“But ‘mummy’ threw my Visa card out the window.” “Because they might track us.”

This exchange shows us the cracks in the Felix-Sarah-Kira unit that has been the most stable grouping in the show. And then Sarah takes them to meet Cal, Kira’s father, which makes Felix feel like a fourth wheel on a tricycle–“There’s no place for me here.” Felix has always been there for anyone who needed him, and the discovery that Sarah has someone else in mind to help take care of Kira makes him feel useless, so he decides to go help the clone who most recently begged him for help–Allison.

Felix may have accepted Sarah’s activities in the past, but he also knows just how destructive she can be and has been, telling her, “You’re a wrecking ball.” Could this moment be what leads to Felix turning? He can’t continue to be there for Sarah forever–that’s not how paranoid thrillers work–but rather than dying or otherwise being cut off from Sarah, is it possible that he starts to worry that Sarah is the worst thing for Kira and helps the Dyad?

“He’ll be like, ‘Great Scot, I’ve created life itself!” “Cosima, come here. I think you should see this.”

First of all, that impersonation was sort of scarily good. Why do they have other cast members? Just let Maslany play everyone. Actually, just fire all other actors in the world and let her play everyone ever.

Cosima, the one who is seemingly in the most dangerous position down the hall from Leekie and sleeping with her monitor, is the one in the most stable position. She and Delphine aren’t perfect–Cosima even does call her a “bitch” here–but Delphine is also able to respond perfectly, with complete understanding of what Cosima was saying and no return malice. The only real cracks we get here are the fact that Delphine feels like Cosima isn’t taking her situation seriously enough, which is somewhat true.

“Just wondering. . . . Who are you?”

Cal builds “pollinator drones” for areas where the bee population is too low, but his partners sold out to the military. Can we get more parallels to what the Proletheans are doing with Helena? He built a piece of modern technology to help nature through its own woes only to have someone else take it and use it as a weapon. So, he’s retreated away from science and modernity toward nature, living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a patch of weed out back and a chicken coop out front.

At the end of the episode, he has Kira and Sarah has just been in a car accident not far away, so Cal’s going to end up caught up in this web. Is he the Kathy Hale of this situation–an innocent victim who ends up being the only one the hero can trust? Or is he another old friend who turns out to be part of the conspiracy?

Notes

  • “My worst nightmare–not having done my hair for picture day.” Sometimes I wonder if Felix is a bit too much of a walking stereotype, but sometimes he’s just hilarious.
  • When Felix is discussing his departure with Sarah, he is apparently wearing a purple sequin shirt underneath the ratty grey sweater . . .
  • “Your play?” “Don’t belittle me, Cosima!” I’m impressed that no one else belittled it yet! How did Sarah not respond to Felix by saying, “Oh yeah, she needs you for a musical. It’s not like I just escaped armed gunmen with my daughter and that may be more important?” I like that everyone else seems willing to accept that Allison is actually so high-strung and Loony Tunes that her musical actually is a big deal.
  • Why are there so many friendly local cops in movies and TV who will cover up anything for someone just because they think this is a “good” person? And don’t bad things always happen to them?
  • “New Waver, huh? Sounds like ’em.” Much like the description of David Tennant as having “sort of ‘modern’ hair” on Doctor Who, calling Felix a “New Waver” is a somehow perfect description that seemingly means nothing.
  • Want to know more about the weird musical Allison is performing? I think this is its website.
  • And the Polar Bears have a review up as well–we didn’t talk about many of the same things this week, it seems! Fun!