Orphan Black: The Stigmata of Progress

Posted on April 29, 2016

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Orphan Black has always been a show that had various iterations of “family” at the center of its numerous themes, including a very “nature vs. nurture” take on the family you’re genetically bound to vs. the family you make for yourself. Most of the characters have felt this pull at one time or another. Sarah is occasionally stuck between the family she knew growing up (Felix and Siobhan) and the daughter, twin sister and clone sisters she’s bound to by blood. Allison has struggled with her responsibilities to her clone sisters and her responsibilities to her husband and adopted children. Rachel has spent her life both yearning for and resenting her adoptive parents and hating her genetic sisters. Siobhan spent her life estranged from her mother while protecting her adopted children. Cosima had to choose – more than once – between her lover and protecting her clone family. And now we can add Felix to the mix, as he all but severs ties with Sarah the moment he meets his biological sister.

On the surface, this storyline might seem a little out-of-left-field, but it continues to make perfect sense to us. In fact, it’s so well set up that we find ourselves impressed by the show’s ability to wring thematically appropriate emotional drama out of longstanding character situations this far into its run. Felix has been nothing but a faithful ally and good brother, uncle and son to his adoptive family – and he has seen them run out on him or exclude him more than once. He’s watched his adoptive sister form new and powerful bonds with an increasingly large set of genetic siblings, even as she’s gotten further and further into the web of conspiracies surrounding her life, leaving  him as little more than, in his word, a sidekick. He was ripe for this direction in his life.

Not that anyone needs an explanation as to why they’d track down their biological family, but it seems pretty obvious to us that this is all a setup for something bigger. It’s always possible the show is pulling some sort of fakeout, but no one really believed Adele is really – or merely – Felix’s sister, do they? First off, it all happened way too quickly. Second, if you wanted to build Felix a natural ally, you couldn’t come up with a better character than the hard-partying, flamboyant loudmouth who nonetheless wants to learn all about Felix’s innermost thoughts. It’s way too convenient. Sarah’s right to be dismissive of Adele, but she’s handling it in the worst possibly way.

 

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In other Orphan Black family news, Donnie and Alison remain criminal masterminds, albeit ones who constantly run afoul of the law and place themselves in positions of maximum suspicion. The second they came up with the idea to dig up Leakey’s body in their garage (with a fantastic bit of comedy added when Donnie mentioned they should probably just buy a jackhammer at this point), we knew it was only a matter of time before someone was going to be knocking on their door at the exact wrong moment. But Helena once again comes to the rescue – for her new family – by posing as Alison and somehow managing to answer the cops’ questions convincingly. It’s glossed over rather quickly how she knew the names of Alison’s campaign workers, but we’d bet the show is adding a psychic component to the clones this season. Alison was standing right outside the room with her eyes firmly shut when the answers just leapt out of Helena’s mouth. That sure doesn’t look like a coincidence.

In fact, it seems that Kira might be exhibiting some form of clairvoyance herself. Sarah might notice this if she paid the slightest attention to the poor girl, who’s clearly traumatized from all the upheaval and abandonment in her life and clearly not just a normal little girl, given how strangely she’s been acting. Much like her dismissal of Felix this episode, it would seem the lack of attention Sarah’s paying her daughter is going to bite her in the ass somewhere down the line. You can’t just dismiss your family in this story without paying a heavy price for it.

Granted, Sarah, as per the usual, has a LOT on her mind at the moment, not least of which is the killer maggot-bot lodged in her jaw. Just as the show has doubled down on its family themes this season it has also gone all-in on the body horror. The scene in the dentist’s office slowly went from mildly tense to horrifying until it exploded in a spray of blood. On the flipside, the show hasn’t lost its dark sense of humor. The scenes of Alison and Donnie digging up Leakey’s body were both disgustingly horrifying and laugh-out-loud hilarious at the same time.  Tatiana Maslany and Kristian Bruun have fantastic chemistry together. Although to be fair, Tat has fantastic chemistry with just about any of her co-stars – even herself.

And finally, in the body-horror sweepstakes, we have the almost-unwatchable spectacle of Rachel getting her new eye. We weren’t sure whether this character had long term possibilities in the story, especially since she’s played as, and looks like, a standard Bond villain, which is a little broader than this show likes to go (guy-with-tail notwithstanding). But her rather toxic mix of sibling envy and parental hatred, combined with her alliance with the increasingly creepy Charlotte, is making her come off more fascinating than ever.

And we kinda hope to see a Kira vs. Charlotte Creepy Kid Smackdown before the season is up. We don’t know where things are going and we’re more than happy to just enjoy the ride, but that’s one thing that simply HAS to happen.

 

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