It pains us to write this, but we’re starting to wonder if Orphan Black doesn’t really know where it wants to go. We couldn’t quite understand why we were so underwhelmed by this generally entertaining episode until we started writing this review and realized that pretty much every plot element has either been covered at some point before in the story or just had an air of familiarity to it that, when taken all together, gave the whole hour a stale feeling. From Cal taking Kira away to safety, to Helena held in captivity and tortured by people who want something out of her, to Alyson and her endless Suburban Shenanigans to Cosima making a highly questionably alliance with an older scientist she feels has information she needs, to Sarah yelling at Siobhan and insisting she won’t do something she almost immediately turns around and does; we’re sorry to say, it all suffers from that not-so-fresh feeling.
Some of this, like the Sarah parts especially, can be chalked up to well-defined characters acting a certain way consistently over time. She’ll always be yelling at Siobhan for something, and you can usually count on her to change her plans on a whim. That’s who she is; mercurial, with a temper. But Helena being tied down and tortured by a shadowy group? Again? You can add all the imaginary talking animals you want to the scene, it’s still very well-trod ground at this point. Although perhaps not quite so well-trod as Alyson and her drug-dealing escapades. Unless the people involved, like Ramon her drug dealer or the woman she’s planning on running against, are somehow more than they seem, we have no idea why we’re being treated to this turn of events. We had a lot of fun with Alyson’s slightly murderous breakdown last season, even though it mostly all occurred separate from the main storylines, but we have very little interest in seeing something like this again. Alyson becomes a suburban drug dealer so she can buy votes to win a local election? No, thank you. We love Tatiana in the role, not to mention Kristian Bruun’s turn as Donny, so we hope they can find something a bit more interesting for them to do than this, although we’re not feeling optimistic about it. While it’s possible some rapid and insane plot twists will send all of these characters on radically different paths, for the foreseeable future, we’re looking at Helena being kept under control by a shadowy paramilitary group and Alyson starring in her own season of Weeds – and neither of those prospective storylines interest us all that much, we’re sorry to say.
And then there are the parts of the story that just feel like overt time-wasters, like that kind of weird Fun Happy Canadian Family Hockey Time music video that broke out suddenly in the middle of the episode. In a way, we’re glad to see Cal and Kira out of the story for now. For one, it does Sarah no good from a dramatic standpoint to be happy, in love, and well-laid all the time. She needs a bit of an edge to her to work, and the nuclear family stuff kind of kills it dead. Second, we can’t keep having a “OMG KIRA IS IN DANGER” moment every other episode. We can at least appreciate that the show creators seem to understand that particular element of the story is a bit played out for now. We’re also glad to see them leave because the cast is starting to get uncomfortably large and there needs to be some trimming down. When all you can manage to get out of Felix are some hugs and pep talks because there’s so much narrative business to take care of with all your other characters, you’re not being particularly efficient with your cast. More Felix being awesome, less waterboarding and suburban crime comedy.
But then there are those little touches each episode that remind you how thoughtful the people who create this show can be. The un-named drunken party girl in the creepy opening 3-way scene is shown to be an intelligent and forthright woman who takes a moment to bond with Sarah as a woman who instinctively understands how to question a woman without sounding like you judge her. In the same scene we got treated to another of Tatiana Maslany’s astonishing actor tricks as she started introducing herself as Detective Beth Childs and remembered halfway through the sentence that she’s supposed to have a Canadian accent, which she very subtly transitions to flawlessly in between words. What we loved most about it was how it brought absolutely no attention to itself. A different kind of actor would stumble or make a show of switching accents midstream, but she did it without blinking an eye.
And while we aren’t in love with the repetitive and stale nature of the storylines so far this season, we do appreciate that the show is still very good at remembering its main themes and working them into the scripts. “I did what any mother would do. I gathered my children and I left,” says Siobhan. “It’s about our kids,” says Alyson. “Are these orders coming from you or from Mother?” asks Rudy. “I didn’t even want kids,” says Dr. Virginia Coady. In an episode set up to position Sarah so that she’d be willing to give up Kira, practically every character had something to say about motherhood, and most of them seemed pretty sold on the idea that it’s a role practically made out of sacrifices. It’s still a very good thing that this show understands that its basic themes and motifs should all be female in nature and tone.
Which takes us to our final
complaint point: We keep waiting for them to become so – and we really did think this might be the episode to make it happen for us – but we still think the boyclones are boring as hell. And while it’s obvious that they are going to be the main storyline for this season, as well as the main antagonists for the seestras, we sure wish they’d all die in a fire quickly so we can get back to Sarah and her seestras burning Dyad to the ground after claiming ultimate control over their lives and bodies. For us, that’s the main storyline of Orphan Black. When the show deviates from that fight for answers, agency and autonomy, it becomes a generic sci-fi adventure story. We can see the Castor clones fitting into that story, but we really dislike how much they seem to be taking it over.
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[Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA]