Orphan Black: Governed As It Were By Chance

Posted on May 11, 2014

Orphan-Black-Season-2-Episode-4-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOTatiana Maslany and Michiel Huisman in BBC America’s series “Orphan Black”


We can’t help thinking that the creators, when they were mapping out this season, came up with the idea of Helena in a blood-drenched wedding dress  with an equally bloody knife in her hand  approaching a screaming, tied-up Sarah – and then reverse engineered the entire story arc based on that one scene. We have no evidence of that, but it wouldn’t surprise us a bit. That was one HELL of an earned moment – for both characters. Helena, for all her serious flaws and transgressions, is someone in search of a family and her time with the Prolethian cult has solidified that yearning in her; naming and articulating itself to her. It took the most screwed up family situation of all, complete with bovine insemination tools and murderously jealous sister-daughters, to get her up out of her bed and into Sarah’s arms.  Sarah, literally tied down in the scene, has all her worst nightmares come true for her. Her sins have come back to haunt her,  knife in hand, and she, for once, can’t run away from them. It was both horror and deep character work at the same time. Terrifying and melancholy at the same time.That’s some primo genre writing.

In addition, there was a motif of each clone waking up this episode – and it might be interesting to note which ones didn’t. We never saw Cosima or Rachel wake up from anything this episode, but Sarah, Helena and Alison all woke up from horrors of one kind or another: a car crash, a rape, a public collapse. Loss of control – the one thing all three of these women fear and hate the most. Sarah wakes up and runs, Helena wakes up and seeks, and Alison wakes up and accepts. More beautiful character work hidden in the plotting. We don’t know if it’s notable or not that we don’t see the other clones enacting this motif. Certainly, Cosima stands apart from the other three because she’s dying and she’s not telling them about it. Rachel stands apart from them because she chooses to and because she was raised to, apparently.

Meanwhile, Mrs. S. gets her freak on and we still don’t quite have a handle on what she does and doesn’t know. She still appears to be nominally on Sarah and Kira’s side, but she apparently knew Rachel Duncan’s parents and she’s deeply worried about a whole “world of shit” unraveling if Sarah digs too deep into her origins. Just what the hell is going on with this lady?

And to that highly important question we’ll add the much less pressing one of just who or what the hell Cal is in all of this. He seems almost too good to be true in a story where almost all of the men are devious or stupid. We know he’s not stupid because he can magically turn a transistor radio into a police scanner, so that leaves the other option. What was that whole deal about not asking who owns the RV but admitting it wasn’t in his name? And did we imagine a subtle reaction to the word “Dyad” when Sarah said it to him? Since the military aspect of Project Leda became a raised question this week, we once again can’t help thinking his military science backstory is not a coincidence. We hope he doesn’t turn out evil, though. He’s too dreamy for it.

Except for those last ten minutes, we appear to be still in place-setting mode. If we have any concerns about that, they’re minimal, because we’re enjoying ourselves so much. There’s obviously a lot of information to keep unpacking with a show like this and so far, everything’s been well-paced. But when a show’s “Previously on” pre-opening montage is as long as this one’s getting, it bears noting. The number of characters, agendas, and storylines in play are starting to reach critical mass and we’re starting to see the strain. Characters just disappear for lengths of time or, in the case of someone like Art, are left stranded in the story, doing very little and looking kind of dumb for it. And while the plotting and pacing are admirably tight, we were brought right out of the episode in the first few minutes when it was revealed that Cal managed to stash Kira in a remote location and somehow catch up to Sarah at the exact moment he did to cause the accident. That should have come up at some point in the writers’ room. Unless he’s either got super-speed or a TARDIS, that is. 

All we’re saying is this: it’s been a great ride so far, but we’ve noted two areas now where the seams are showing: Tatiana Maslany’s somewhat tentative portrayal of Rachel and the sort of drifting aspect of the plotting and pacing. It’s still a great show. We’re just concerned they’ve reached the limits as to how many storylines they can run at once and how many characters the immensely talented lead can play in one story. As much as we love the explosion in all directions this season, we’re about ready to see a tightening of focus. Now that Helena and Sarah are reunited, that may be what we’re getting.



[Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA]

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  • Inspector_Gidget

    My fave moment was Art moving his binocs and seeing crazy-eyed Helena barreling toward him. Something you never want to see, especially paired with her screechy theme music!

    • ShaoLinKitten

      Helena is so excellent. Creepy and dangerous, yet I cannot help but feel pity for her. She’s a tortured soul. I really hope she and Sarah can find a way to bond. We know Sarah isn’t so great at being a nurturer, but Helena seems to crave her. I’m so excited to see a storyline with them working together,

      • Inspector_Gidget

        Plus the cult ranchers are way more captivating enemies than the Dyad Group. Anyone who can freak out Helena, of all people, can’t be all bad!

        • berkeleygirl

          Peter Outerbridge is fantastic in pretty much everything he does.

      • malarson2

        There’s something about her, I agree. We – my kids and I – always go back to how hilarious she was in that diner scene in season 1 when she and Sarah ‘did lunch’. Eating that green jello? Awesome. Plus, they love to imitate her saying, ‘hello, saestra’ (that’s the way they spell it in our sub-titles). She’s delicious, weird music and all.

    • ladybane

      …. I probably shouldn’t tell anyone this (but on the internet, no one knows you’re dog), but I have Helena”s theme music as the ring tone whenever my boss calls me. Picture Helena, only without the whimsy.

    • nannypoo

      That was absolutely my favorite event of this entire show. Can you imagine being Art at that moment? Brilliant.

  • lvogt

    It seems the Prolethians have provided what Cosima needs in the form of embryonic stem cells from the very resilient Helena. Now, who’s going to go get them?

  • ShaoLinKitten

    I wonder what the significance is of the show titles all being from Sir Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum Scientarium (New Instrument of Science). It’s a treatise on a new system of logic, or scientific method, that Bacon proposed. Via inductive reasoning, his goal was getting rid of all the obstacles to our understanding of nature. First, you observe, then you experiment, then draw conclusions. He criticizes the reliance on ancient philosophers and advocates for in-depth and lengthy observations of nature before conclusions are made. He believed that many errors had been made by previous natural philosophers, and incorrect conclusions drawn. His method would eliminate those errors, but only via the hard work of data collection.

    • Thanks for this info! I’d wondered about the interesting titles of the episodes.

    • Qitkat

      You have raised the bar for serious intellectual commentary. Thanks, I’m a bit in awe.

      • ShaoLinKitten

        Thank you so much! I’m a semi-pro TV critic myself (I have a monthly column in The Broad Street Review), so close watching is my game. Orphan Black is a show that definitely rewards the type of deeper investigation, though it can also be totally enjoyable as a wild ride. That’s why I love it so. I think this month’s article is going to mention Orphan Black.

    • Is that what the titles are from? Man, that makes me love this show even more.

  • One thing’s for sure, the pacing of the story is really rolling along…something the writers of The Walking Dead need to pay attention to.
    Helena walking around the corner in a blood-stained wedding dress was such a fantastic visual! Tatiana’s portrayal of Sarah and Helena was riveting. When Helena put her head on Sarah’s shoulder was an “Aw” moment. Then my movie-making geek reared it’s head and asked, “WAIT!! How did they film that? It’s the same actress!”
    I’m with TLo on just how many story lines a 42 minute show can support. Art seemed lost and we don’t even know what happened to his dark-haired partner (the who tried to trick Alison last week – her name escapes me).
    Anyway, Orphan Black is always a surprise, and a very welcome one on Saturday night. And TLo’s superior reviews on Sundays is a treat too! Thanks, TLo!

    • twigg

      OB has a wonderful actress named Kathryn Alexandre that works as Tatiana’s double for double and triple clone scenes. If you google her name you’ll find a few behind the scene videos of how they made certain scenes in Season 1.

      • Cool, thanks for the info! I’ll have to take a peek.

      • Lattis

        That is clip is really interesting. Thanks.
        You can really see how Kathryn Alexandre’s acting pays off when you watch the shower scene in the last episode. The intensity of emotion on Sarah’s face as Helena threatens her and then embraces her is really something to see.

  • Fluffludd

    My bet is Mrs S & Co. blew up the lab, and losing her loving parents made Rachel a cold bitch longing for revenge on anti-cloners.

  • SuzyQuzey

    Cal is definitely part of Dyad. I got the idea that he was part of it from a young age and was chosen to impregnate Sarah. He’s been monitoring Sarah and Kira, both loosely and otherwise, for a long time.

    I’d like to give a shout-out to whoever designed the opening credits and title with the DNA delix. Both imaginative and evocative, and perfect for this series.

    • Qitkat

      That creeps me out if true about Cal. I don’t want him to betray Sarah, but that might be inevitable.

    • MilaXX

      I agree. Cal is too good to be true and so far with the exception of Felix all the men in this tale have turned out not to be trusted. I’m on the fence as to whether or not Art is completely trust worthy.

    • Nicoclaws

      He looked pretty shaken when she said the corp name. Maybe he knows who they are but isn’t completely involved.

  • gayle

    The moment when Helena snuck into the creepy medical room and realized what had been done to her…I did not know I could feel that horrible for her.

    I don’t remember where I read this but somewhere one of the show’s creators essentially said when it comes to Sara she is the last person you would want responsible for saving the world and I felt that in this episode. She has a checklist of information she needs but no real game plan which makes her exciting to watch but also frustrating at times. Did she seriously think she was just going to walk out of Rachel’s apartment? Why the hell did she go with no backup? I need her to get her @#$% together because Rachel will squash her like a bug otherwise.

    • SuzyQuzey

      I thought at first they had inseminated Helena. I have to say, plucking eggs from an ovary is a much more delicate procedure.

  • Qitkat

    That final scene. Whew! Such pathos and chills. This show rocks. So hard. I’m constantly forgetting that Tatiana is playing all these women. She had better get that Emmy recognition, damn it! Who else on any show can come close? As much as I love Elisabeth Moss, some professional recognition and admiration has to come Tatiana’s way.

    Getting curiouser and curiouser as to Rachel’s backstory. A happy, stable childhood? The cold, emotionless approach she has to her sister clones? The tentative way she is being portrayed, almost as if she is in gray and not glorious living color as are all the other clones. She’s too flat to be taken as fully developed, yet the dead serious approach she has is scary-calm. Something’s missing or deeply buried and hidden in her.

    So I’m reading this review, and I am questioning, who is Art? I just plain don’t recall. So I’m in total agreement as to the saturation point of the many characters. A tightening of focus is seriously demanded so we all don’t unravel from the brain strain.

    • ShaoLinKitten

      Art is the police officer who was Beth’s partner. He is onto the whole clone thing and was photographing Helena.

    • RussellH88

      I remember when I watched the first season, I was able to kinda group Sarah, Beth, Cosima, and Alison as being the same actress, but Helena was always the outlier. I kept thinking “Wow, the actress playing her is so talented!” before I had to remind myself that it’s Tatiana.

  • MarinaCat

    Can someone explain why Art didn’t go after Helena?

    • tiny_bookbot

      I’d guess it was because he had to choose very quickly between chasing her and giving her room to get away. He was outnumbered by the Prolethians (six of them, armed, versus one of him), and fending them off while keeping hold of Helena would be almost impossible. If he lets Helena get away (and disarming the Prolethians gives her a way better shot at that), he’s got the police resources to track her, and he could probably guess she’d head back for the city, where Sarah last was–much more favorable circumstances for him.

      • berkeleygirl


      • ShaoLinKitten

        Also, he had to play it off like he was just taking nature photos. Why would he chase after a woman who was obviously being chased by armed men if he was merely a tourist?

        • par3182

          He flashed his badge to stop the Prolethians and pointed out some gun regulations; they knew he was a cop.

      • MarinaCat

        But she was clearly distressed, being chased with guns (at first) fearing for her life. And uh, he’s a cop! A very weird scene.

        • tiny_bookbot

          But Art’s a cop on suspension, and Helena in distress is still Helena the assassin who brutally murdered several people last season–which, in the show’s timeline, is just a matter of weeks, perhaps a few months ago. Art is the cop who was tracking her for a while, so there’s good reason to suspect she’d see him as an enemy and react to direct interference with violence.

          Maybe if he’d had some jello and sugar packets, he could’ve gained her trust.

    • carpediva

      Yeah, talk about being pulled out of the episode! A terrified woman running away from creepy dudes you’re surveilling (even if unofficially) and you shout after her ineffectually, then have a dick measuring contest with the armed men chasing after her?! I had to pause for several moments of befuddlement and incredulity.

  • GeoDiva

    That bathroom scene was scary as hell!

  • stephbellard

    The one thing I don’t get about this show’s conceit — and I’m hoping someone can explain it for me — why are Sarah/Cosima/Alison keeping all of this a secret? Why don’t they just go the FBI or on national TV and expose the whole thing? I mean, I get why Dyad doesn’t want its experiment exposed, but why are these women going along with it? If they came out in the open, surely it would be harder for Dyad and the Prolethians to keep hunting and hurting them?

    • MarinaCat

      I’d actually go to the NYT. The government might be in on it!

      • ShaoLinKitten

        The government probably is in on it, hence the soldier in the Leda Project photo.

        • ladybane

          but which government? Isn’t Project Leda a British program? And for some reason, the show takes pains to avoid mentioning that they are in Toronto, so we are supposed to (I guess), presume that this is all happening in the United Canadias of America, probably in New Yorkagoronto.

          • ShaoLinKitten

            The program seems to span multiple countries. We’ve seen American, Canadian, British, Ukrainian, French, Italian, German Austrian… so I’d say this was a global conspiracy. I figured the show took place in Canada (it being BBC America). Aren’t both Beth and Alison Canadian? Cosima is the American clone (and I find Tatiana Maslany’s version of an American accent cute). But you’re right, they do try to make it seem sort of blandly North American. I would like to visit New Yorkagoronto 😉

          • ladybane

            yes, but what about poor Jennifer Fitzsomething, who we just met (posthumously) – is she American or Canadian? Cosima is definitely from Michigan, right? Can someone tell me if she is doing a Michigan accent well?

          • ShaoLinKitten

            Did some Googling. Wikipedia has a chart of all the clones in the Orphan Black entry. It says that Cosima is from San Francisco, and she sounds like she has a CA accent. She went to U of Minnesota but that’s not a Minnesota accent, so her being from SF makes more sense. The chart says Jennifer Fitzsimmons is American. Not sure how they knew that. Maybe I’m not watching carefully enough?

          • RussellH88

            I think they said that she’s from the Midwest, at least that was the information given when they initially revealed the new clone to the media.

          • Logo Girl

            Cosima is from Berkeley, CA. but going to school in MI. And and someone from Berkeley, I’d say she is doing a good job.

          • ladybane

            Thank you,

        • stephbellard

          Whether the government is involved or not, the clones don’t know that right? At the very least there should’ve been an early discussion like, “Yeah can’t go to the cops because the government might be in on this.” It just seems like a really big plot hole. Especially in Season 1 when Helena was pulling all that murderous shit and Sarah would always try to keep Art from finding out and I’d be like…WHY? Why not just tell him and let the cops take over, arrest Helena and deal with the Dyad?

      • stephbellard

        They should go to Glen Greenwald. He’d be all over that shit.

    • banga

      I think the writers have done a good job establishing the Clone Club’s twin motivations of curiosity about their origin and survival. Dyad has been shown to be organized enough that it would be realistic that they would have a ‘poison pill’ in place in case of exposure. I.e., mutually assured destruction. So if they expose Dyad, they will probably be killed, and they certainly won’t learn about their history.

      • twigg

        Dyad would definitely blow it all up before being exposed.

      • stephbellard

        But this is just conjecture, NOTHING like that has been explained or depicted in the show. If that was the case, there should’ve been a scene where Rachel explains to them that going public could end their lives. Otherwise it just seems like all sides — the clones, the Dyad, the Prolethians, and even fucking Helena — are always doing illegal shit and then all indirectly working together to make sure the cops don’t find out.

  • banga

    Am I remembering correctly that Mrs. S stole the Leda/Drs. Duncan photo out of Amelia’s bag? So did she know the Duncans? It’s unclear!

    • CPT_Doom

      My guess is that the destruction of the LEDA lab was part of the IRA war against the British government and Mrs S and her friends didn’t know exactly what they’d tangled with when they targeted it. I could see Amelia turning to them when she escaped while pregnant with Helena & Sarah and the IRA was either misinformed about LEDA’s real purpose or just decided it would be a soft target. IRA involvement could be the world of sh*t Mrs S warned about if Sarah dug too deeply. In fact it might be that Mrs S was given Sarah as a hostage.

      • banga

        That’s a great thought!

  • LionessTess

    Now that Helena has escaped and Grace tried to kill her, I wonder if Grace’s punishment will be to act as surrogate Helena’s fertilized egg and marry Crazy Eyes, Pastor Henrik’s right-hand man.

    • ladybane

      I like the way you think.

    • ShaoLinKitten

      Is Grace not dead?

      • asympt

        No, Grace isn’t dead. Her throat must hurt pretty badly though. Her–mother, I guess–told her father she was resting. Helena only choked Grace out until she “went to sleep”, which is remarkably forbearing of her given that Grace had fully tried to murder Helena.

        • ShaoLinKitten

          I must have been distracted when that was happening. It is plot device-y that Helena let Grace live. Helena is not a merciful type.

    • martha

      Am I the only one who thinks that Grace looks like an older Kira?

  • Badriya Al-Badi’a

    One other thing about Helena–she and Kira still have some kind of bond, I think, because of the way Kira told Sarah that a guardian angel would be looking out for her. Of course she gave Sarah the origami butterfly when she said it, but I think on some level she knew that Helena would be looking for Sarah and would be there to help her.

    • RussellH88

      I thought that too, and then I remembered that the little boy in season 1 called her the “Angry Angel”.

  • JP

    This season is blowing me away, even with the flaws.

    One other thing I’ve noticed on this show: other than the clones who have the respiratory issues, does no one die? Helena, shot but survives (probably due to that whole mirror organ positioning thing), Daniel, car wreck with no pulse, and he crawls out of the damn wreckage. OK, that one Prolethian at the diner, but I’m talking main characters here.

    • heybethpdx

      Actually they made a point of Sarah NOT checking Daniel’s pulse – she started to, but pulled back and said she thought he was dead – a sure tipoff he wasn’t!

      • JP

        Did she pull her hand away? I must’ve blinked at the wrong time. Of course, I think he’s dead NOW. *g*

  • TropiCarla

    On a shallow note — I just wanted to say that this episode was the first one that made me connect with Mrs. S. …… Hot West Indian exes FTW! I loved the line about the ‘pint and a pair of tits,’ as well as his light generic West Indian accent. lol It seemed his days will be numbered though — as befit other plot devices (like the cute drug/gun dealer).

  • JaneG

    Helena and bathrooms = scary OB scene. It is written.
    I want more of Sarah being Rachel and demanding stuff, like perfect room temperature.
    Fee on Cosima and Delphine being in a “transgressive lesbian geek spiral” was hilarious and yet so true.

  • MaggieMae

    I’m having too good of a time with this show to quibble much, but here goes: I’m a little disappointed that after S1’s powerful opening with Beth, we really don’t know much about her, and it seems like the door on her storyline is closed. I had high hopes for Art’s involvement in the story arc, but it’s not happening for me. Surprising myself, cray-cray Helena is one of my favorite characters. I hope the writers don’t lose control.

  • Alana

    I’m currently binge watching to catch up, but come here in between each episode. I had a thought based on all the artificial insemination shown this season: what if they aren’t clones–but multiple fertilized eggs from in vitro treatments? That doesn’t explain the odd “patent” in the genome sequence: but that would have to be in the genetic material before fertilization, anyway, right? Do you suppose that will ever be explained? It doesn’t seem like it would be an easy thing to do on TV, does it. Sigh. I hope the military involvement does not mean they were working on some “super soldier” crap. That’s just overdone.