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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