When a simple homespun meal with aging radicals turned on a dime into a bloody (in both senses of the word) free-for-all, complete with shotguns and meat carving utensils, Tom turned to Lorenzo and said, “Oh GOD. I love this show so much.” But that’s not the first thing he uttered at the sight of Mrs. S.’s facility with a knife and fork. He blurted out the same thing he did last season when Kira bounced off a car’s bumper and he’s not embarrassed at all to repeat it: “Fuck ME.” This is not something we normally yell at our TV. In fact, we can’t ever recall yelling at our TV that way except when we were watching the very best episodes of Lost. And yes, we do consider that very high praise. We’re going to start applying the Fuck Me Test to all our TV reviews from now on.
As we noted in last week’s review, another way the show is like Lost is in its highly entertaining videogame/Choose Your Own Adventure-style plotting, where things routinely take a hard left turn and the setting and situation vary wildly from moment to moment . You’re in the jungle on a deserted island! Find the secret hatch! Achievement unlocked! Figure out how to open the hatch! Achievement unlocked! There’s a crazy Scottish man with a gun! Disarm him! Achievement unlocked! The world is going to be destroyed unless you push this button! Achievement unlocked! And so on. In this episode, Sarah goes from the balcony of a motel to the creepiest laundromat in the history of garment-washing to an even creepier garage to being kidnapped to hiking through the woods with her foster mother, all in the space of about a minute. And what makes this so interesting is that Sarah’s the only character this kind of rapid scene-shifting ever happens to. Alison and Cosima’s stories and settings are largely straightforward because that’s largely how they live their lives, but Sarah’s is literally all over the place. Like Tatiana Maslany’s astonishing performance, the storytelling actually changes its style based on the clone currently being featured.
Speaking of Tatiana’s acting, we have our first real bit of criticism: Rachel has not fully established herself as a character and you can feel that lack of assurance in the performance and presentation. The accent’s just slightly off, the wig looks really wiggy, and Tatiana’s just not nailing her the way she nailed all the other characters instantly. She comes off like a million other B-grade villains/villainesses of countless genre tales; all Received Pronunciation and arched eyebrows. Since the actress has more than established herself as up to the task of creating distinct characters, we supposed it’s more accurate to call this a criticism of the writing and directing. All the other clones are so distinct and well drawn that that the creative team might want to turn their energies toward figuring out how they want this one played.
Having said that, we enjoyed her scene with Cosima. One of the things we loved – and the show’s very good at showing these little moments and reactions – was the utter shock on Cosima’s face when Rachel walked into the lab. Even someone who knows she’s a clone and has met at least 3 other people wearing her face can be shocked when she encounters another one unexpectedly. You’d figure something like that never stops being unnerving. And for all our complaints about the Rachel performance (which are relatively minor and vague), she did give the second best line delivery of the episode: “So. You’re gay.” Number one is, of course, Alison’s “That’s my sacrum!” Best chest-thumping comeback came from Cosima: “I was clever when I was like six.”
There does appear to be the hint of a backstory with Rachel’s intense interest as to how Sarah got pregnant. As in so many really good sci-fi stories, motherhood seems to be one of the major themes, along with a certain underlying tone regarding society’s need to own women’s bodies. It’s not a coincidence (nor was it subtle) that we get our first extended introduction of Henrik, the cowboy Prolethean leader with his arm buried up to the elbow in a cow’s nethers as he artificially inseminates her. Multiple deaths and conflicts played out this episode and they all had to do with people arguing over their right to own and control a female character, whether it was Cowboy Henrik and Tomas debating Helena’s importance or Mrs. S and her “bird watcher” friends, having it out over ownership of Kira. Everyone wanted a piece of some female this episode ( in Rachel’s case, she literally handed over a piece of Sarah to Cosima) and in every case, it came down to an issue of motherhood, with science and religion facing off against each other over the central question of the story right now: How did Sarah manage to become a mother and just what does that mean about Kira in this war of ownership?
Thank God we have Alison and Felix to lighten the load a little, so to speak. We weren’t quite sure how to take Aynsley’s death and Alison’s involvement in it last season, but it looks to us like the writers chose the best way to follow it up. Having her find out almost immediately after the funeral (in which she HILARIOUSLY showed up in Holly Golightly drag, complete with the world’s worst Bump-It) that Donnie is her monitor gives her character so much more direction than simply whining and crying about Aynsley. Although to be fair, the scene where she confessed to Felix may be one of the funniest the two every played together. “Are you joking? No?” “I think I need to keep drinking for a while and then I’ll have an idea.” It broke our hearts to see him ditch her like that, but he’s got a fierce devotion to Sarah that overrides any budding fruit fly friendship, even if said fruit fly did commit an entertaining sort of murder. (“AYNSLEY WORE A SCARF! IN THE KITCHEN!” ) We look forward to Alison turning her tight-assed fury on poor Donnie. We suspect glue gun torture just isn’t going to cut it now.
As for Mrs. S, we tend to believe the response she gave Sarah when she point-blank asked her whose side she’s on. “Yours, love. It’s always been yours.” Granted, the lying about Project Leda (Very “DHARMA Initiative,” yes?) doesn’t cast her intentions in the best light, but she had a shotgun in her hand and she could’ve taken Kira from Sarah by force but chose not to. The look of sadness on her face when she saw the look of fear and mistrust on her daughter’s was enough to tell us that whatever else her intentions may be, she doesn’t seek to harm Kira or Sarah. Well; that, and crucifying an old hippy on a table with a carving fork and knife to keep her from hurting them. Oh, and the shotgun blasts to the heads. That kinda sold the point too.
Our point, if we can be said to have one, is that this show is crazy fun, zipping around in a million directions, featuring a whole buttload (important TV critic word) of secret agendas and groups pulling strings, headed by a wholly entertaining cast, half of whom are played by the same actress. They’ve taken the core concept of the show and really run with it. So far, the second season is shaping up to be even better than the first.
Oh, one more thing:
“Who are these cursed children you brought into our lives?”
“They’re Project Leda.”
Was Old Crucified Hippy asking about Sarah and Kira or Sarah and Felix? After all, why would she refer to a mother and daughter as “children?” Is Felix a more central member of Clone Club than he realizes?
[Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA]