Orphan Black: Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est

Posted on May 18, 2014

Orphan-Black-Season-2-Episode-5-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOTatiana Maslany in BBC America’s “Orphan Black”


We’re not afraid to admit it: We’re a little confused.

But we’re supposed to be, right? The show’s going off in so many directions, with so many secrets and competing agendas that our confusion is a result of the masterful storytelling on display, which is designed to keep the viewer on their toes and questioning everything at all times, right? It’s not because it comes on at wine o’clock on a Saturday night and we’re an old married couple, right?

Fine. We were a little heavy-lidded by the end and perhaps not as sharp as we should have been. But we have a good excuse! Wine!

To be fair, we’re pretty sure most of what we’re confused about really is by design. It all comes down to this for us: we have absolutely no idea what side anyone in this story is on (aside from Sarah and Art – and the jury’s still out on him, as far as we’re concerned). Hell, we’re not even sure what the sides are. Mrs. S., Dr. Leakey, Delphine, Cal, Paul, Donnie – that’s a LOT of wild cards in one story. And this isn’t us being paranoid; every one of those characters has or had deep secrets and questionable associations and agendas. The only ones we might give a pass on are Donnie and Delphine, but don’t hold us to that. Clearly, this is a story where people can turn on a dime. Henrik and his crazy family are clearly a bunch of bad guys, but they’re obviously not the only ones. We thought Rachel had shades of gray to her – and perhaps she still does, in a Ben Linus kind of way – but she tipped over into some serious villainry this week; putting Felix on the hook for a cop killing and threatening Cosima’s health – and her life, really. And in the long tradition of genre villains with Received Pronunciation accents, she has a weird and disturbing sex life.

Seriously, that was the least-hot use of Paul in his underwear we could have dreamt up. Paul in his underwear in a vat of cold chicken soup. Maybe. Paul in his underwear being attacked by raccoons. Paul in his underwear, which is on fire. Paul in his underwear full of po- okay, then. Mission accomplished on that front. Our point? Rachel’s one crazy, nasty bitch. More than we realized, we think. There’s a reason we brought up Ben Linus. She reminds us very much of him; a revolting user and abuser who might just have a backstory complicated enough to make us understand her motives once we learn more. 

And like so much of this show, even that sex scene had a feminist undertone to it, in a twisted sort of way. There’s nothing particularly eye-opening about a “woman on top” sex scene, or even one where the woman is dominant. But this was written and portrayed exactly like any number of villainous sexploitation scenes going back decades, in countless films and TV shows, where the bad guy manipulates an unwilling damsel into sex. Except this time, the person in charge was a woman, slapping around her unwilling partner, sticking her hand in his mouth, groping his body like a piece of meat. If the genders were reversed, there’d be no question that we were looking at a sexual assault. And we’re not even making the argument that this wasn’t an assault; just that it’s kind of hard to do so when we don’t understand either character’s motivation yet. In other words, Paul consented to this, but we have no idea why he did so; mainly because he’s one of those people in the story who’s impossible to pin down. 

And then there’s Cal. We knew it. He was too good to be true AND he had a military connection. Seems he also has a bunch of money, weapons and fake IDs hidden in that RV which is “not in his name,” as he told Sarah last week. We thought that meant some other benefactor owned it, but it turns out it means he owns it under a different name. Duh. Should’ve seen that one. We really hope Cal’s not bad, though. Sarah, and especially Kira, could use the break. And besides… SOOOOOOO CUTE YOU GUYS AMIRITE. Dreamy.

We realize this is not a very serious critical review. Sorry, it’s Sunday, this show pushed all our diva buttons AND it gives us man candy, to boot.

Before we check out to take a power nap in preparation for writing tonight’s Mad Men review, we’ll say that the team really seems determined to snag Tatiana an Emmy nomination this year, writing in scenes that take your breath away with the emotion on display. That’s good of them to do. We totally support it. It’s too easy for people who don’t watch the show to wave away the raves about her acting by reducing what she does to techniques and trickery. Between last week’s horror-filled final moments and this episode’s rip-your-heart out tearful final moments, they’ve really given her the space to spread her wings and wow the audience. We get to see both the depths she’s capable of mining and we get to see her do it by playing a scene against a radically different character, also played by her. In other words, from a narrative perspective, the scene in the empty loft wasn’t particularly necessary. It didn’t make a lot of sense and there were a dozen ways to get Sarah, Art and Helen to that point without it. But it sold the hell out of the bond between these two women and it got Art fully on board in a way he probably wouldn’t have been if he didn’t witness that interaction with his own eyes. We’re fine with the way the show’s zipping all over the place and we’re even fine with scenes like this one, that don’t make a whole lot of sense. We can’t accuse of this  show of spinning its wheels or taking too long to tell its story. If they want to take a moment and give its hard-working star a clip for her Emmy reel, we’re happy to sit back and watch her go to work.

Also (and continuing the tradition of this not being our classiest TV review ever): Show of hands from the gay guys in the audience who wondered just what the hell Colin was doing pouring lube into his hands while both of them were still wearing pants? Anyone?




[Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA]

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