Orphan Black: Variable and Full of Perturbation

Posted on June 08, 2014

Jordan Gavaris in BBC America’s “Orphan Black”

Well, there was bound to be a bad episode at some point.

It took the show creators and Tatiana Maslany some time to define Rachel as a character distinct from the other clones, causing us to wonder earlier in the season if perhaps there was a more-than-understandable limit to how many different characters one actress could be expected to play in the same story. With the introduction of Tony, the transgender clone, we think our earlier suspicion has been confirmed. Tatiana deserves all the kudos in the world for the acting high jumps and loop-de-loops she regularly pulls off on this show, but 4, maybe 5 characters are all she and the creators can handle in one season. And we can’t help feeling that the only reason Tony is transgender is because they’ve run out of ways to make cisgender clone women distinct from each other when the same actress has played … what? Seven or eight of them by now? They’ve run out of wigs and believable accents, so they taped some facial hair on her? That’s how it came across to us.

And we don’t quite know how to say this, but we have to because it’s central to the audience accepting Tony as both a distinct character and as a member of clone club: He did not look remotely transgender to us. He looked like a cisgender woman with a shitty fake goatee glued onto her chin. We realize there’s a whole range of gender variations out there and that “transgender” can’t be defined solely by people who present as one gender or another, but they made a point of showing us (rather clumsily, by zooming in on Tony’s crotch) that he’s fully transitioned and taking testosterone. We saw his entire body in a tight tank top and underwear and aside from the potato in his pants, there was not one thing to differentiate him physically from Sarah. Regardless of the rainbow of gender variations out in the world, a post-transition transgender man is not likely to look physically exactly the same as his cisgender twin sister, except with slightly thicker eyebrows. And along with the confusing and somewhat poor introduction of this character comes a set of questions we’re not sure the creators are prepared to answer.

“Just another variation in my sister’s skin,” says Felix about Tony. But wait just a minute here. As we noted last week, the old “nature vs. nurture” debate is central to this story. But with a gay clone and now a transgender one introduced, the creators are coming down pretty hard on the whole “nurture” side of the argument about human sexual orientation and gender variations. That’s a very bold point to be making – and it seems like one of those points they need to address very soon. They have a perfect character to voice these questions in Felix, because he’s both gay and not a clone, which makes him the most likely of the characters to point this out. Of course, Cosima should be pretty interested in this question as well, but we understand why it’s not high on her list of concerns at the moment. Has Cosima ever mentioned anything about the origins of her gayness vis a vis her clone sisters? We can’t remember. And the Felix kiss was borderline offensive in its weirdness – not because he kissed a transgender man, but because he kissed one that looks exactly like his sister. What was the point of that moment? We love that the show is so unabashedly queer, but when you put gay and transgender people in a story like this one, you better have a game plan as to what you’re trying to say about their origins. 

But regardless of the questions we might have about these things, and the problems we have with how Tony was presented, our real issue with this episode came down to plotting and pacing. We spent a lot of time on a poorly presented new character, only to shuffle him out of the story for now.  Tony’ will have a part to play down the line, we’re sure, but we’ve already got a ridiculous number of plates spinning on poles right now, not the least of which is Helena going missing with no one- not even the cop – particularly concerned that they let a psychopath wander off.  And while it’s fun to see Cosima get her gaming nerd on and then get high with Delphine, after sort of breaking up with her (again) and making up with her (again), there are way too many plot lines going on for these kinds of indulgences. All this time spent on Cosima having fun and Tony swaggering around Felix’s apartment, with revelations like “Paul is a ghost,” or “you were all designed to be barren,” just dropped into the story. It seems to us that this season might have been better served shelving the entire Helena/Prolethians arc for a while and concentrating solely on the goings-on at Dyad, since that’s clearly where all the story’s happening at the moment.

But we’re thrilled to find that what we said last week came true: the road to Donny and Alison’s reconciliation is paved with the bodies of people they killed.  Also: Kristian Bruun is the CUTEST little baby bear on TV, and the line of the week goes to Alison upon viewing the dead body in her car’s trunk: “This is not at all well-wrapped!” Having said that, it’s time to integrate Alison back into the story. Her entire arc this season has been about her home life and personal problems. It’s helped define her better than almost all the other characters, but she’s not actually doing anything in the story. We suppose getting rid of the body will have some repercussions, especially if it’s found and identified after Rachel went around telling people he died of a heart attack, but she’s too isolated from everything important. We love seeing Art and Felix go all Batman and Robin as the protectors of Clone Club. Now it’s time to bring Alison and Donnie fully into the fold and part of the team.

We didn’t expect the story to wrap up in any way this season, but with only two episodes left before the season finale, we fear they’re going to end it with far too many meandering plot lines. The bane of almost every conspiracy-minded sci-fi show, from The X-Files to Lost to Fringe, has been the piling on of far too many characters, plot lines and questions – and those are only the successful examples. Over and over again, TV history has shown us shows that collapsed under the weight of a story trying to do too many things at once while keeping an audience eternally engaged and guessing. Pull back on the throttle, Orphan Black.



Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA]

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  • Logo Girl

    Just kept staring at Tony’s beard, thinking: I WANT to suspend disbelief, I just can’t…

    • FunButNutz

      In early stages of transition, that’s EXACTLY what the facial hair looks like.

      • Grumpy Girl

        I thought so too, but didn’t know if it was specific to the people I knew.

  • Qitkat

    One of my biggest bothers of the episode, aside from the difficult-to-believe clone Tony, although Tatiana gave him a good shot, is that Helena is back with the Prolethians and nobody seems to care, at all. Felix was pretty ass-kicking, and I enjoyed seeing more of him this episode. There are now so many threads waving in the ether, that with only two episodes left of the season, and I don’t think the show has been renewed yet either, it will be challenging for a satisfying, as well as tantalizing, continuation for the future. We’re seeing a more fully realized Rachel, how heart-breaking to learn that the clones were designed to be barren, kind of like genetically-modified corn. As if people have no more reason to exist than to be science experiments. And Alison and Donnie, married couple of the week, for any show! They deserve their own SNL skit.

    • DeebaCee

      To be fair, no one knows Helena is back with the Prolethians.

  • Frank_821

    Yes am glad someone brought up the issue of Tony and his appearance. Just watched the episode on amazon. I think it would have been more interesting if they managed to make Tatiana more masculine. It would have amped up her awards creds if nothing else. The unfortunate part is I kind of like Tony. I liked his response and the little tidbit that Felix seemed unconcerned with his well being

    The best part of the episode was the whole Donnie/Alison interaction and Cosima’s uber-geek moment. It was a nice twist that the book had all those hidden notes and of course Kira has the brains to follow them

    It was nice to finally give Rachel a truly sympathetic moment. Despite her aryan demeanor, she doesn’t want to be seen as an experiment any more than the others

    But the show is getting too complicated. It looks now to need a few more episodes. Yes they should have waited to bring back Helena as well as this story with the Prolethians. And the twist with Paul is 1 too many new plot threads

    • Grumpy Girl

      Agreed. Whatever is going on with Paul is just . . . so tangential to me. If he appears to save some day, I will be sorely disappointed. I’m kind of hoping they’ve written him out this way. And I wonder if the attack on Sam shows that there is an attempt to clean out the monitors, post-Leakie?

      • lvogt

        I think Paul may be as deep undercover as Ms S was. I am curious as to his real motivations.

  • I guess I should have watched last night’s episode first before reading these posts…..DUH!!!!

  • SuzyQuzey

    Yeah, the Tony character is badly rendered.

    Does anyone happen to know where that cram and black lace top Delphine was wearing came from?

    • Grace

      seriously! I want that top!

  • RussellH88

    I think that this episode felt too self contained, and suddenly introducing a clone that looks like the White Power Ranger this late in the season was a mistake. The show should be sprinting towards the finale, not doing episodes where nothing really happens.

  • Alanna

    They’re definitely walking a very fine line with Tony and the idea of nature vs. nurture. My sister (who had only seen the first half of the episode) suggested that the original scientists might have introduced variations into the DNA, such as Tony’s gender and Cosima’s sexual orientation. But if Ethan says that Sarah’s fertility was a “mistake” in the DNA, then that sets up very troubling implications for Tony and Cosima also being “mistakes”. Coming down on the side of nurture over nature also creates some troubling issues. I’ll wait and see how they handle this, since the Orphan Black writers have done so well with sexual orientation in the past. But I’m really nervous.

    Oh, and I googled Cosima’s bio because I was under the impression that she identified as hetero until she fell for Delphine. I found this in the OB Wikia: “In an interview, Tatiana states that the writers mentioned to her that Cosima was bisexual, though Tatiana feels that Cosima simply just loves people.” If the writers specifically say that she’s bisexual — and that the other clones are also genetically bi but lean toward men — then that might help alleviate some of the problematic aspects I mentioned above. (I’m totally new to the science and politics of sexuality and may have no idea what I’m talking about, so please tell me if I’m totally wrong!)

    • CPT_Doom

      Actually having a lesbian and a trans clone (however clumsily rendered) fits with a “nature” explanation of both sexual orientation and gender identity. In actual identical twins, if one is gay or lesbian, there’s only a 50% chance the other one will be as well. So the same genes exposed to even minute differences in hormones and nutrition while in utero can produce very different individuals. The sisters were exposed to wildly different prenatal environments which would lead to greater differences. I wouldn’t be surprised if the synthetic DNA sequences were partially designed to create exactly those kinds of permutations.

      That being said, adding yet another clone seems excessive, especially as Tony barely moved any plot points forward. And his introduction took too much time away from the rest of the story, which was actually interesting. Donnie and Alison were amazing, although my favorite line was “everybody hates my mother” with “Holy Tilda Swinton” as a close second. I also loved getting another insight into Cold Bitch Digest’s editor-in-chief, Ms. Rachel Duncan. Her imagined explosion at learning she can never have children helped to really expose the damage done to her as a “self-aware” clone. Where the rest of the sisters – and Tony – were able to form their identities without knowing they were an experiment, Rachel has lived for two decades knowing she was a freak. Her desire to be “normal” including children is simmering right below the surface and I found that fascinating.

      • Grumpy Girl

        I agree about Rachel. Personality-wise, she has been the clone I could most identify with (dear Lord, please don’t let her be a complete sociopath!), and that imagined rage just made her so much more real. She’s the pinocchio who just wants to be a real girl. And her use of language in leaving Paul messages. So much better to say “irksome” than curse a blue streak as we would normally see on TV.

        • lvogt

          Love the Pinocchio analogy.

      • lvogt

        After the clones were implanted, the birth mother has a great deal of influence over the fetus. Amelia, apparently, was responsible for fertile twins. I don’t think the writers intend to decide the debate about nature vs nurture but to get us to think about it.

      • Badriya Al-Badi’a

        All the clones have the same genes, but that doesn’t mean that every gene will be expressed in every clone–that’s nature. If there’s a gay gene, they could all have it without all expressing it (it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case for all humanity anyway, but that’s a tangent).

        Allison and Donnie are just perfect together.

    • Grumpy Girl

      The whole “mistake” line is so scary. Ethan scares me far more than Leakie ever did, and I do wonder if Leakie was the lesser evil in removing Rachel from Ethan.

      I wonder what all they intended, and what all they didn’t know, that went awry. Because Helene is fertile too (they couldn’t have fertilized the harvested eggs if she was barren, right? Or am I misunderstanding that?–not my area of science. And what did he mean with the phrase “Kira is the end game?”

      • Cammie

        I think he said “Kira is the prize”?? I also wondered what he meant. For some reason, the way Ethan looks at Kira creeps me out. My husband, on the other hand, likes and trust Ethan, thinks the man has been brutally honest. We’ll see : )

        • I trust Ethan too. The actor’s brilliant too – the subtleties in his expressions when he spends more time with Rachel and finds that she’s not the daughter he knew, and then how happy he is to meet Cosima who is not the daughter he raised, but perhaps the daughter he expected Rachel to be (given she was raised self-aware). Just a shame Cos is sick and all that… am expecting Ethan to help her get better, show fantastic bedside manner, become attached to Cosima and for Rachel to become very jealous of the relationship.

          I think he’s also fantastic with Kira – but I think he, like us, suspects there’s more to the creepy kid than you’d think at first glance. I think he gives her the book because he trusts her. From memory, Kira tells Sarah that Ethan had been reading to her, and the next scene was the conversation between Rachel and Ethan at Dyad, where Ethan asked Rachel if she remembered that would read Dr Moreau to her (and she coldly answered that she hadn’t). It didn’t mean much to us at the time until the last scene with the Half-Blood Prince edition of the book.

      • Grace

        correct, if you have poor egg quality then IVF will not be able to help. the eggs will not fertilize, could fertilize and not split, could split and not make it to blast stage (day 5). You would have thought that Alison would have had children if it was possible, she seems to have the money to buy fertility treatments, so that would lead to a probable egg quality issue. HOWEVER they have seemed to imply that in part there is an issue with tumors in their uterus, so it is possible that it is both egg quality and attachment issues.

      • The clones are infertile because of polyps in the uterus. That would render implantation of a fertilized egg unlikely. Then those polyps spread to other parts of their body and eventually into their lungs.

        I just realized that it’s the clones barrenness that is killing them. Like a time bomb. Whoah…

    • martha

      I’m no expert, but I was under the impression that being transgender could be the result of exposure to certain hormones in utero. So Tony being transsexual would not be the result of nurture or his DNA.

  • S-k-s

    Yeah, wouldn’t the testosterone injections have rendered some more physical alterations on Tony? It’s an idea i think would have been interesting to explore if they were going to go there. (A muscle shirt? Something, anyway…) And I know there’s only so much you can do with hair, but the “mullet” was unbearable. I thought the voice slipped in and out of accent a few times, too, making it more confusing.

    What makes OB’s use of sexuality so refreshing is that the character’s sexuality is part of their lives, but not the only thing about them. Cosima isn’t the “gay clone,” she’s the smart/funny/sweet/sick and everything else clone, who happens to be in a relationship with a woman. But this seemed the opposite of that. The clone was a transparent plot device, and everything about the scenes in Felix’s apartment seemed to be ‘look what we’re doing, pat us on the back for being groundbreaking and new and original’.

    • In_Stitches

      They went ‘full glee’. No show should ever go full glee.

      • Grumpy Girl

        Great expression. I really, really wanted more from that character, as someone dealing with some similar issues in my immediate circle, and this left so many things at surface. Which is good for “a few hours in the life” but dissatisfying since it was a blur-in/blur-out character. The real benefit I got from Tony was the idea of how he was introduced to his family (his mother said something went wrong in IVF), because I’d been wondering why Alison and Cosima weren’t asking parents for clues, given that Sarah, Helena and Rachel were carried by surrogates. I had been thinking that surely there was some thought/pattern in where the clones were placed for birth/raising, but it seems that it was a randomized trial, at least in part?

    • ★ keri ★

      The clone was a transparent plot device, and everything about the scenes
      in Felix’s apartment seemed to be ‘look what we’re doing, pat us on the
      back for being groundbreaking and new and original’.

      I agree with this a lot – as I was watching, I was cringing at how stereotyped Tony’s introduction was, and clumsy, and the whole thing with antagonizing/kissing Felix as a way of proving his masculinity or whatever the writers meant by it was seriously creepy, since Tony really did come across as Sarah in drag.

      And then we got the geek boys gaming and Cosima getting high, and I felt like those scenes were also ultra fake, stereotype/cliché nonsense. (Also, I’ve never been convinced by Cosima/Delphine’s relationship – there’s no chemistry to my eye, idk. So I’m already kind of feeling like Cosima is a pat-ourselves-on-the-back character for the writers, and then to have Tony, too… Yes, it’s nice that they’re trying to be inclusive, but these characters just don’t feel right to me. I’ve never been able to drudge up any interest in what’s happening with Cosima, though I do care about the others.)

      Thank goodness for the “on the next episode” bit, though. I nearly thought they were exchanging one minority clone for another, with the introduction of Tony in the same episode as Cosima’s seizure.

      • I was raised by biologists–geneticists, actually–but not in a creepy way. It’s just my parents’ profession!
        Anyway, all the biologists I know love to party. Seriously. Weed, nitrous, helium. Definitely their idea of a good time. I loved that scene. To me it felt like I was finally seeing a realistic depiction of fun times in the lab.

      • Sandrilene

        It’s incredible how strong the incest taboo is. I was disturbed and couldn’t bear to watch Felix kissing a clone of his foster-sister. Tony was just too similar to Sarah.

    • Eclectic Mayhem

      I’m hoping that the introduction of Tony does have actual import; the problem that the clones are having starts with the uterus. I don’t know the process of transition but I’m presuming that Tony had a hysterectomy as part of his treatment. Is he safe now from the disease affecting Cosima?

      But, it has to be said, (and apologies if someone has said this down thread and I’ve just not got there yet!) a transgender clone was one of the options Jordan & Tatiana came up with at last year’s Nerd HQ when asked about new clones. So it might just be a brief experiment.

      • CompanyWhippingBoy

        Oh hey, it’s everybody’s favourite commenter on all things eclectic and mayhemtastic!
        I think, unfortunately, that Tony is supposed to be one of those one-off ‘crowd pleasing’ characters.
        Like ‘look what Tatiana can do NOW!’
        I love Helena, but I have to think that’s why they brought her back this season, too.
        They know they can put up a bunch of Helena quotes on Facebook and tumblr and everyone will go crazy for it.
        Everybody likes Helena? Let’s get her back in!
        Everybody likes Tatiana’s performances? Let’s get her to play a guy! So versatile!
        Next she’ll be a black paraplegic bisexual stripper nun zombie from Norway, so… that’ll be fun.

        • Eclectic Mayhem

          CWB! Good to see you over in this part of the world, come on in; everything at TLo is lovely! I’m very new to the Clone Club so that there was only my second contribution to the discussion. Great show though – wish I’d been watching from the start.

          How are things over at the AV Club? I’m afraid I never really got my head ’round the new layout last year and the loss of the ‘subscriber alert’ thingummygig. I know they’re back reviewing a couple of classic tv shows I like but I can’t be arsed to go and look for them.

          What ever happened to our lackluster GGs reviewer, I’ve not seen his name come up in a while?

          Hope all is going brilliantly with you!

          • CompanyWhippingBoy

            You know, I actually saw his Twitter linked to something else the other day and it says ex-AV Club, so I guess that’s why no new reviews from him.
            And arghh, I’m almost jealous you’ve been able to binge it!
            I’ve tried to get literally everyone I know to watch it – though the fact that it’s been shown on BBC3 over here hasn’t helped.
            They made the ads look all tacky and high-speed-chasy
            “No, but trust me! Ignore the ads, it’s good! …yes, the show with the clones. …no, it isn’t basically The Klumps.”

          • Eclectic Mayhem

            Hahahaha – of all the cross-media comparisons in the world, I think likening Orphan Black to The Klumps is the least fair!

            Shotgunning the show was brilliant, my jaw was extended in shock for most of it. I just wish I’d timed the binge a bit better; I missed BBC America’s recapping marathon by about a day so ended up buying half of S2 on Amazon Prime because I had to see it IMMEDIATELY.

            Sorry (not sorry) that Sims isn’t with AV Club anymore. When it all really kicked off last year I actually went back through the commentary from Week 1 onwards and it wasn’t until Week 10 that people started to get a little irked by his tone and by the fact that he’d clearly never read even a single one of our responses. There was some gorgeous costume stuff coming up in S4 too, lots of outfits communicating on a whole different level… but, hey, it’s here at the feet? skirts? Keyboard of Tom and Lorenzo that my eyes were opened to the hidden messages of tv costuming.

            Back to Orphan Black though – they must’ve known Helena was coming back! The writers couldn’t have pulled something as astounding (but medically possible) as her being a mirror twin out of their arses, surely?! And if Tony was merely meant as a crowd-pleaser I’m afraid he didn’t please any crowds…

          • CompanyWhippingBoy

            I’ve actually started watching season four again this week – such a great season, Luke can see her face! (D’awhhh)
            Maybe someone else will pick up coverage but I think they might be done with. Boooo.
            I hated that whole thing with the readers/commenters apparently wanting nothing but glowing reviews, though. He could have hated it for all I care as long as he had an opinion as to why.
            “Yeah… bit boring. Rory’s love life blah blah blah. Oh, and Lorelai was there, too.”
            I’m trying not to rant, but Lorelai and Emily are two of the most interesting TV characters ever to me and there’s SO much to be said about their relationship and about them as individuals that was just ignored because why not just put up a basic recap and concentrate on Dean vs Jess for the millionth time?
            I just… ugh.
            But I digress!
            Do you think they planned Helena coming back? I mean, obviously they planned on expanding the Prolethean stuff once they decided she would be, but I don’t know. I’m glad she is back, though!
            God, the bit where she comes to Sarah in the bathroom was genuinely my favourite TV moment in quite a while – it’s like you knew when he came into frame all bloody that it was going to be her, but I still let out a girly fan-squeal.
            Not nearly enough clone interaction at the moment, though. I miss it.

          • Eclectic Mayhem

            I definitely think they always knew Helena was a mirror and that therefore that shot to the chest wouldn’t be fatal. Back when Sarah stabs Helena with the rebar she (Sarah) asked her (Helena) ‘how’s your liver?’… Helena probably wouldn’t have survived that incident were it not for her unusual arrangement of internal organs. I think the writers always knew that Sarah & Helena were twins rather than simply clones and that they were a mirror of each other.

            I love their chemistry though, which is so bonkers when we’re talking about the same actress having chemistry with herself…?!? But it’s really there! What really got to me about that shower scene was that, no matter how utterly terrified Sarah was, she couldn’t help but lean into Helena and embrace her back – as much as was possible with her hands tied above her head. It’s one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen. And as for the roadtrip… hilarious! I can’t really decide which of the clones is my favourite; I love Cosima but Helena is so utterly fearless, feral and watchable!

            Sims had a real thing for Rory didn’t he? Just one of the many annoying elements of his ‘write-ups’… As for Todd van der Whoosit and his ‘they just want glowing reviews’ comment. He can still kiss my shiny, metal arse. When I’m not here chez TLo chewin’ the fat about tv and fashion I’m sometimes to be found running the International Buster Keaton Society’s twitter account (amongst other Damfino duties) and Todd vdW came up on a Keaton related search recently because he’d asked the world to finally declare for either Chaplin or Keaton and said he was #TeamChaplin… I saw that and thought to myself – WELL, I didn’t like you anyway Mr vdW but now I REALLY don’t like you!

          • CompanyWhippingBoy

            Yes! Once the shock of Helena turning up had subsided, that hug was one of the most twistedly sweet things ever.
            And you love Cosima? I just see her as ‘exposition clone’. ‘Plot clone’ also works. I’m split between Helena* and Allison, who hasn’t had nearly enough to do this season! Or, at least, nothing non-rehab/Donnie related. I love her relationship with Felix and want more of it as soon as humanly possible.

            And ha! Poor Todd – he’s actually a really good writer. I just think he was a bit overprotective of SIIIIIIMS.

            *Since you mentioned the road trip, how amazing was Maslany playing Helena fumbling over the words to that song on the radio? I can’t get over all the little things about her performances that make it perfect.

          • Eclectic Mayhem

            I do love Cosima, I love how sparkly and enthusiastic she is and her science geekery. I enjoy her relationship with Scott (when she told him that she was the person they were studying his reaction was something else). Having also been the only girl to be roleplaying Call of Cthulhu with the teen nerd boys from school, back in the day, I completely identify with that element of her character!

            Alison is great too though and Felix is awesome. I probably like best whichever clone I’m watching at the time!

            It’s so good to ‘see’ you here at Tlo buddy – pull up a chair, stick around. Tom and Lorenzo are fabulous and opinionated (it says so – right there *points up*), funny and whip smart; you’ll fit right in!

          • CompanyWhippingBoy

            Yeah, I do visit the site sometimes anyway, I just don’t normally comment here much.
            And it’s not that I don’t like Cosima, it’s just that she’s basically there to propel the story forward and ‘discover’ things. Like a few episodes ago, when Sarah was on the road with Cal and Kira – Cosima was literally there to give her a bit of infodump and send her off on her way.
            Also, I hate that she’s just stranded off with the loathsome Delphine the entire time – like I said, not enough clone interaction currently.
            I mean, I prefer her infinitely to Rachel bloody Duncan…

  • In_Stitches

    I had hoped that the next clone would stand out not for being a different, distinct character from the others, but for being similar to one of them. It makes sense that with identical genetic material AND a large enough sample size, two of the clones would be likely to be similar in appearance and attitude. I mean, it’s nuts that so many of them dye their hair so drastically (and all of them in different colors).

    • Grumpy Girl

      I thought only Helena, Rachel and the german looked really distinctly different with color–the rest is styling? I remember in the early episode when Sarah impersonated Beth and it seemed mostly to be straightening her hair and adding some highlights (which I presumed mores because Beth, as a runner, would spend more time outside during daylight/sunshine than Sarah as a grifter)? But I have never been accused of seeing all the shades of brunette, so I would defer.

      I thought Becky, the dead swimmer, seemed very like Beth, too, just without the awareness that made her depend on drugs. Which makes me wonder if Alison was an alcoholic pill popper before she found out, too? There are a lot of similarities, but they appear “in the moments.”

      • I think the only thing that Tony contributed to the story was the message for Beth – not just that Paul was a ghost like Tony’s friend (I’ve forgotten his name, but I assume that was his monitor), but there seemed to be some awareness in the message that Beth was struggling. So if Tony’s friend knew Beth was struggling, then why didn’t Paul do more to help? I know the actor is appalling (he really annoyed me in Arrow too, but it’s only been in Season 2 of Orphan Black that I realised they were the same mannequin), but the script could have indicated that Paul tried…

  • banga

    A problematic episode, for sure. I’m optimistic they bring it all together in the next two — they’ve earned my patience.

    The intellectual property/copyright variations in the DNA of each clone buy the writers wriggle room on the nature/nurture front.

    • lvogt

      It’s a rope-a-dope tactic. I am confident they are very purposefully setting something up that will be big.

  • NinjaCate

    I didn’t get that Tony was fully transitioned actually. The crotch shot doesn’t mean much unless he vocally confirms it because lots of trans men with will prosthetics, and you have to take hormones long before you physically transition anyway. My only real issue with Tony’s appearance was that they didn’t cut his hair. I thought that would have gone a long way in differentiating him physically from the other clones, but trans bodies vary in the same way that cis bodies do. The fact that he isn’t a hulking mass of muscles doesn’t make Tony less male to me. The really bad beard was a mess though. Almost as bad as Rachel’s wig last season.

    • “The fact that he isn’t a hulking mass of muscles doesn’t make Tony less male to me.”

      Did anyone make a claim otherwise or express the idea that he should be a “hulking mass of muscles?”

    • martha

      I had a problem with Tony’s not being masculine enough. Why did they show his legs when Tatiana Maslany’s are waxed totally smooth?

      • amaranth16

        The lack of body hair was a little surprising to me, too.

    • Cammie

      I love Tatiana, and really like the show, but Tony? Meh. Is Tony supposed to be American? If so, the accent was horrible.

      • aesteve212

        I thought the Canadian dude accent came out every now and again, but yeah it wasn’t very consistent. I agree that this was just one too many characters, and TM/the writers are struggling with the distinct details.

      • Definitely not American. Sounded very Canadian to me.

    • Qitkat

      I wonder about this too. My take on Tony is that if we see him again, he will look more male. I thought we were supposed to think that he was not that far along in his journey of transitioning, so the hair/makeup people did not go overboard in giving us a character that is as well differentiated as the other clones are. We know that this show has a superb department, far more talented than many, so I see it as a deliberate choice on their parts.

      • Grumpy Girl

        I agree. My impression was that he was still wearing a compression shirt, too.

    • amaranth16

      Yeah, I assumed the crotch shot was showing a prosthetic. And it was clear that Tony hadn’t had top surgery (not that it’s a requirement…).

      • mmebam

        Also the line about his friend not caring “what’s between my legs.”

    • Eclectic Mayhem

      I really didn’t mind his hair as I was thinking along the lines of ‘genderfuck’ but I really don’t know whether that would be likely if someone is committed to surgical transition?

  • ScarlettHarlot

    Any thoughts on the significance of Kira having the book with Ethan’s notes? I don’t trust him one bit. What was his angle in leaving her his notes?

    • Alanna

      I’m hoping it’s a “hide it in plain sight” situation, where he leaves the valuable info somewhere that nobody would think to look. But given what they’ve been doing with Kira all season, I’m afraid that she’ll glance at Ethan’s drawings and suddenly figure out the key to cloning, how to cure Cosima, and the secret to making a perfect creme brulee.

      • S-k-s

        Yeah, I wish they could un-Kira this show. She’s about to beom the magical little child who knows everything, and I always hate those characters. (She’s already given me some serious Hera-BSG vibes, and let’s just say that was one of my least favorite parts of the show.)

  • @Biting Panda

    My exact tweet was, “Sweetie, you’ve got a little pubes on your chin.” I echo your Tony thoughts and will even one up you in the interest of risky stereotyping. Nothing about Rachel ‘ s personality is congruent with off the charts maternal instincts. Why is this ice box of a women being driven mad by her broken biological clock?

    • lvogt

      Why is because she Antoinette on testosterone. Rachel is like Spock. She has learned to mask her emotions because they are so powerful and she has just learned they have taken away her ability to decide for herself.

      • Grumpy Girl

        Agree completely. She is a master of controlling herself to present who she wants others to see, not as she sees herself. That’s why when the other clones get to show us emotion-based human interactions, with Rachel instead we see videos of herself as a small child, and her imaginary smashing of the office.

        • lvogt

          Yeah. All the clones are sociopaths as far as we know. The ones who seem the most normal… or at least haven’t killed someone or tried are sick. Rachel gave Leekie a head start but she is ready to go all Alison on someone. I would have said “Helena”, but Helena was kept in a dungeon and a cage and could still forgive her sestra for shooting her where her heart should have been. Sarah is very masculine in demeanor and Tony is her on testosterone.

  • JP

    But does Tony’s beard distract from Rachel’s bad wig?

    Erm, no.

    Loved Donnie and Alison bonding — you guys totally called it.

  • FunButNutz

    OK SO I agree that the long hair on Tony was a horrid mistake, but Trans men when they are first transitioning are only able to grow a scruffy half-assed beard….that’ just part of the process. If you watch Tatiana’s mannerisms as Tony…you will see that she physically carries herself like a man…she walks like a man…she walks with different posture. I thought watching her was a triumph. But the failure completely goes to who decided on the hair. If you’re genetically female but believe yourself to be male…you don’t have a lot of options currently when it comes to genitalia, but you do everything else to makes yourself look male. You grow facial hair (even if it’s awful). You bind your breasts before you have them removed. You take Testosterone…and YOU CUT YOUR HAIR. SHow me ONE FTM with long hair and I’ll take everything back!

    • ShaoLinKitten

      I thought the same thing. I know several FTM trans men and they all have super short hair.

    • Grace

      I thought cutting the hair would have made it 100% more believable. is it really hard to do a short wig though? especially when Tatiana has so much hair?

      • ShaoLinKitten

        There was that little bit during the commercials where they said just that–they couldn’t do a short wig over all her hair. But they manage the Rachel wig, don’t they?

        • Grace

          maybe just have her wear a hat and look like it’s short? I mean, I know that’s cheating but that might have been better

          • ShaoLinKitten

            I don’t buy that they can’t get a wig over her hair. Do you watch Penny Dreadful? Tonight, Eva Green was wearing a shaved head wig that looked pretty damn real, and she has as much hair as Tatiana Maslany. They could have figured something out. They said they did a number of hair and make up tests and the one they settled on was the best Tony. That makes you wonder what the other versions looked like. The stuff of nightmares, no doubt.

        • Grumpy Girl

          Yes, Becky was bald as she progressed through treatment, so surely that was an option, even if it was combined with a hat. Cause i could see Tony wearing a stupid trucker cap. (Obviously I put too much thought in this . . .)

    • kimmeister

      The FTM that works at my company has long hair. I was fairly baffled when I met him for that very reason.

      • FunButNutz

        I guess I have to take everything back now! Thanks!

    • Eclectic Mayhem

      Ah, okay – thank you! Somewhere upthread I was wondering whether it could be a little bit of ‘genderfuck’ but wasn’t sure whether anyone going through all the immense mental/emotional/financial upheaval of transitioning would want to keep people guessing.

  • Rottenwood

    I could live with the Tony thing, really, but it’s nuts for this show to introduce a new clone in the home stretch of a season, and give him a stand-alone episode just as it needs to start wrapping things up. If they had to do this at all, it should have been early next year when the show could breathe.

    I was kind of hoping Tony was some absurd long-con being run by Beth in drag.

    • TropiCarla

      I thought it was a flashback of Sarah running a con at first too. I still can’t get over the hair thing. How awful. Even long white-guy corn rows would have been better than this — but maybe they couldn’t get that to look different enough from Cosima. I can forgive the scraggly facial hair, but not that shitty mullet. *shudder*

  • @Biting Panda

    And I too am all for fluidity, but that kiss felt incestuous and that’s my least favorite plot device.

    • ShaoLinKitten

      I don’t mind a good ripping incest plotline, but this one creeped me out bigtime.

    • Grumpy Girl

      I got the sense that Fe was fairly creeped out by it too? Or was I projecting?

  • MilaXX

    I think we all saw the Allison/Donnie reunion coming. I’m on the fence out Tony. I agree we really didn’t need another clone this season. I think Tatiana played Tony more convincingly clothed than unclothed, but it was a new character a bit too late in the game for this season. Other than Duncan meeting Kira, and giving her his copy of The Island of Dr Moreau with what looks to be his notes on the cloning experiments (which are probably the same notes that got burned in the fire), and the Allison/Donnie reunion, I don’t think we needed this episode.

  • Flowersplease

    Tony was awful and unnecessary. Please no more clones. Do more with what you have already, both clones and non-clones.

    • Grumpy Girl

      I don’t mind more clones, as long as they are off-stage, so to speak, like Becky was. Some reference to them existing but being out of the loop. No need to pull them in as long as Helena isn’t trying to shoot them all any longer.

  • QJ321

    All I could think while watching was – this is a clone too far. And to what end? A vague message from Beth? Definitely a filler episode. I have mixed feelings on Cosima. I was really glad to see her have more screen time, but she’s bordering on Mary Sue territory. She’s brilliant, she’s funny, she’s cool, she’s queen of the nerds, she loves everyone, she can’t stay angry and forgives Delphine again. Given the faults we’ve seen in her clone sisters, her perfection is too extreme. I hope they balance it out soon.

  • Redspring

    I think they’re leaving the idea of nature open. Both because there are variations in the DNA–i.e. Sarah’s fertility and because aside from Sarah and Helena, they were all in different wombs.

  • ShaoLinKitten

    Did Tony Clone remind anyone else of Carrie Brownstein’s character Lance from Portlandia? In fact, I think Lance is a more convincing man than Tony was. That hair, voice, and goatee were just laughable.

  • MaggieMae

    The writers are losing control of the story and about to lose this viewer!

    • lvogt

      Fear not. I recall the writers have said they are intentionally separating all in order tie it all back together at the end.

  • decormaven

    Not having a lot of knowledge about transgender issues, this show is definitely offering food for thought. I’m fine with the Tony storyline, but as the dear uncles have said, there are a lot of plot issues to resolve in a few short episodes. It doesn’t help I finished S2 of OITNB last pm, either. Drama overload!

  • mmebam

    I hope that Tony fulfills a role that is unique to him. Because right now I can’t stand him.

    • I’m hoping that his testosterone shots are having some interesting effect on his biology that allows for crazy science (please get better ASAP Cosima).

  • MaggieMae

    I’ve gotten myself all worked up and irritated, thinking back to S1, and all the story lines the writers dropped. Honestly, I think I’ve been filling in a lot of the story in my head, you know, what I imagine is happening, versus actually being engaged in a coherent story. We know almost nothing about Beth. And that seemed like a super juicy story line starting from S1E1! Then, for awhile, it was Maggie Chan, Maggie Chan, Maggie Chan. Now it’s as if she doesn’t matter. Where’s Cal? Why is Dyad such a threat? What’s the deal with Paul and does anyone care? It’s gone from highly entertaining to highly irritating. Okay, my voice is rising and the pitch is getting high. Putting the keyboard down, now.

    • lvogt

      Not all back-story is a plot-line. Have faith. As Michelle Forbes said on set: “Good lord, where are you guys going with this?” because it just keeps getting weirder and more complicated and yet it all makes sense.”

      • MaggieMae

        I felt that way at the beginning of S2. I HAD faith. Not so much now!

        • lvogt

          Fair enough… but I have no problem with where it’s going. I think they’re playing the long game with a lot of balls in the air and a big payoff at the end. For me the plot, while complex and interesting is a vehicle for these great character studies and interactions between the characters. There are very few shows that deal with so many deep issues, especially with drama and wit. I’ve found the whole thing fascinating.

        • lvogt

          To each his own. Personally I think it’s been great.

  • Pound of Salt

    Re the nature/nurture issue, I could have sworn there’s an episode where we find out that there is some genetic variation to the clones, so we don’t yet know the extent of the different natures they have been given

  • YUP.

  • Synfrique

    Kristian Bruun, Woof!

  • veriance

    as someone who dealt/deals with infertility Rachel’s table flipping office ruining rage at learning she is infertile hit home. Well played Team, well played.

  • This was a bad episode. it could improve in hindsight depending on whether or not anything that happened here pays off later. I doubt it. But something in the interpretation here did not feel right. I’m going to tread carefully because I’m not gay, but I do not think that the existence of gay and trans clones necessarily puts the show on the nature side of the nature/nurture (though it could, TV show writers are typically not known for nuanced treatment of science). Genetics in the real world are complicated. There is a wide difference between genotype and phenotype. Identical twins are USUALLY discordant (only one twin affected) for type 1 diabetes. These kids have the same nature AND nurture and completely different pancreases. Just sayin.

  • rhaazz

    I agree completely.

  • Paula Pertile

    I’ve been binge-watching this to get caught up, and Holy Tilda Swinton! How on earth does this actress do it? and how on earth do they film this? (don’t tell me). Love it, and agree with all your musings. This last one was odd, but its all still good.

    I want Alison and Fe dolls – her in her headband and glue gun, him in his chaps. Maybe a string to pull to have them say their best lines.

    And I’m glad Max Headroom is gone – he bugged me.

  • Kevin Troy Darling

    It’s bad when a character is introduced and you laugh out loud. I was expecting the story to start closing in and instead it expands.

  • Hey Uncles, I think the clones are meant to be a study in epigenetics, and not so much nuture vs. nature. Here’s a nice line from wikipedia:

    a single fertilized egg cell – the zygote – continues to divide, the resulting daughter cells change into all the different cell types in an organism, including neurons, muscle cells, epithelium,endothelium of blood vessels, etc., by activating some genes while inhibiting the expression of others.[5]

    Kinda sums up the storyline nicely, no? Allison is the neurons, Helena is the muscles, etc., etc.

    Also, lots of changes happen during transcription, that is to say when our cells are regenerating. Hence the amazing variation of life.

  • korilian

    I was incredibly skeeved out by the quasi incestueus kiss. I could have overlooked Tony’s bad look, if he hadn’t been such a hot mess of a character. I did not get him at all and then we find out his big revelation is some cryptic BS about Paul of all people!!! Does anyone ctually still give a shit about Paul? I mean, really?

  • Alyssa Wolcott

    Thank you for bringing up the gay issue. I could almost understand Cosimas bisexuality being attributed to “nurture vs nature”, but the poorly costumed transgender just pushed it too far. People are born gay, just like people are born straight. Oftentimes they realize they like the same sex around middle school, sometimes earlier. It has nothing to do with environment, though some people learn to be more “open” than others (like Cosima), but they usually still stick to their preferred gender.