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Orphan Black: Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis

“True or false.”

Orphan Black began with Sarah drifting into town intending to snatch Kira away from the safety and comfort Mrs. S had been providing her and run as far as she could, stealing and conning all she could as she went. My, how times have changed.

Meet the New Sarah, Same as the Old Sarah

Sarah has changed. The first season saw her transform from someone who’d leave town at the drop of a hat to someone who defiantly told Paul “I don’t do run.” Now she’s willing to sacrifice the one thing she’s wanted most of all, a life with Kira, to protect her. Sarah’s almost obsessive single-mindedness is still with her but has changed focus from wanting to be with her family to wanting to keep her family safe. And, of course, her definition of “family” has expanded too.

They were going to have to write Kira off one way or another soon. It’s supposedly only been months since the series started, but Kira’s managed to grow about a foot in those few months. Children and shows with compressed timelines don’t mix. Unless you play it like The Walking Dead and just completely ignore it. (No offense to The Walking Dead, obviously. I think ignoring it is a perfectly valid strategy.) Orphan Black does have other children to worry about, however. The Hendrix children, Oscar and Gemma, can remain offscreen without too much fuss, but what about Charlotte Bowles aka the littlest clone? Presumably she’s in Europe with Marion.

I’m not a fan of the way people keep popping off to Europe and temporarily dropping out of the story completely. To me, it’s a sign that the show is having trouble juggling the multitude of balls it has up in the air. Ferdinand has disappeared, presumably back to Topside. And Delphine has gone to Topside to do something vague but helpful. After all the build to the reveal of Charlotte last season, she and her mother are gone. They got a brief mention in the premiere but so far that’s it. Not good. Paul dropped out of the story a lot during both seasons one and two with only the occasional line to remind us that he was supposed to be wherever he was supposed to be. Paul is one character. Doing that to one character is fine; it becomes a problem when it turns from one into several.

Okay, momentary panic over possible decline of quality of Orphan Black in the future over. Back to this week’s episode which, missing characters aside, was pretty damn awesome. Orphan Black is back to the technique they employed last season, breaking up Clone Club and following each of their three main clones in their own little stories which inevitably connect back to the whole somehow or other. I’d much rather see Alison, Sarah and Cosima together all the time, but I recognize that those scenes are very time consuming to film and that Tatiana Maslany should occasionally get a break from having to talk to herself.

We also learned Cal’s big secret this week. Last season, he told Sarah that he’d developed some sort of drone technology that had to do with failing bee colonies but his partner sold the business out from under him to the military and that the military had repurposed his peace and free love project into weapons. Now we learn that’s not so much the case. War profiteer, said Paul. It’s a phrase you don’t hear very much anymore. Which isn’t to say it isn’t happening all day everyday. It’s just been replaced by the far less negative sounding “private contractor” moniker. Basically it’s someone who makes money from supplying arms, troops, or other resources to the military. The practice was illegal up until…I want to say Vietnam? Any history buffs care to correct me here? But is now a completely accepted aspect of modern warfare. Note: this paragraph was written from an American point of view. Orphan Black is set in Canada, where things might be different.

In any case, Cal’s secret not only makes perfect sense with what little we learned about him last season, but also ties in with this season’s theme of the questionable ties between big business, represented here by Dyad and Topside, and the military. As a side note, I’m still unclear if it’s the American or Canadian military we’re talking about and it’s really beginning to bug me. Having the show set in Canada would lead you to assume it’s the Canadian military but after the waterboarding scene I’m more confused than ever.

Keeping up with Clone Club

Alison’s run for the school board and her related foray into drug dealing (oh, Alison) is funny and a welcome respite from the heaviness of everything else but it does feel a little…irrelevant perhaps? Alison’s fight for her children’s right to not play in gravel would have more of an impact if her sisters weren’t fighting for their lives. Not to mention, Alison had a moment last season where she broke down crying after Cosima told her about her illness, apologizing for having been so focused on herself and her own problems. Cosima assured her those were real problems and they were. Aynsley’s death, Alison’s stint in rehab, being targeted by an illegal police sting operation and the discovery that her husband was her monitor are real problems. I’m not sure wanting to keep her kids from changing schools rises to that same level of importance.

Cosima’s sole function this week was as a vessel for exposition via the brand new and shady Dr. Nealon. According to him, the original Leda and Castor genomes are gone. The Duncans were the only ones who had them and they’re dead. But we did see Ethan’s place last season and he definitely didn’t share Paul’s taste for minimalism. It’s entirely possible, even probable, that the information is hidden somewhere among his belongings. We all know how fond he was of codes and embedding information in unlikely places. Dr. Nealon also provided a rundown of the mythology as far as we know it in case you have a life and, unlike me, didn’t spend the week before the season three premiere rewatching the first two seasons and taking obsessive color coded notes.

Helena is…somewhere in the Middle East? I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It’s a remote, controlled military environment where Sarah has little hope of finding her without inside help. We got to meet Dr. Virginia Cody, who, I presume, is “Mother,” as Fauxhawk so creepily referred to her. She cares about Helena’s pregnancy, enough to stop her “stress test,” although not enough to not smoke a foot away from her. C’mon woman, you’re a doctor.

Castor Creepiness

Two of the Castor clones got names. Fauxhawk is Rudy, which is way too adorable for someone so scary, and Mustache is Seth. Who is now dead. Killed by Rudy. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last week, Rudy told Sarah he didn’t answer to Paul. And yet, Paul showed up and asked him and Seth a bunch of questions while measuring pupil response. Still, I’m inclined to believe that Rudy and Seth aren’t (or weren’t, in Seth’s case) totally under Paul and the military’s control. They definitely went off book in going to Felix’s. Although Rudy was apparently in Dyad under orders. Pretty sure raping a woman wasn’t under orders however. Which leads me to the rape.

In general, I’m not a fan of rape as a plot device on television. Most of the time, it’s done for cheap shock value. Here, I hesitate to say, it may have worked. At the very least, it served to very clearly mark Rudy and Seth as bad guys. There’s been some uncertainty in the morality of their actions so far. They’ve killed Dyad personnel, but Dyad’s been the show’s big bad for two seasons. They attempted to kidnap Crystal but we had no idea their motive in doing so. Maybe it was an extraction, some kind of rescue. Now they’ve completely abdicated the benefit of the doubt. And the show did manage to squeeze in a bit of social commentary. As Patty derisively tells Art “I consented to the first guy, so that’s not rape, right?” By making their victim a non-clone whose name I don’t think was ever stated in the script, they up the fear factor insofar as Rudy is concerned. Rudy and Seth’s taste for violence is not limited by their cloneage. Patty could be anyone. Not being a clone, being related to a clone, or knowing a clone doesn’t keep you safe in Orphan Black land. It’s a controversial subject, please let me know what you guys thought of the choice in the comments.

Like the Ledas, the Castor clones seem to have problems of their own. They’ve managed to avoid the lung disease of Katja, Cosima, and Dolly the Sheep, but seem to have some sort of mental disorder that causes them to “glitch.” At first I thought what Seth was going through was real world PTSD, something far too many real world soldiers and former soldiers have to deal with. Now I’m guessing it’s something else entirely. When Seth’s “glitches” got too severe, Rudy, who had been shown to care greatly for Seth, fatally shot him in what can really only be termed a mercy killing. Still, the way Rudy didn’t hesitate was frightening. And although he stayed with his brother, reassuring him all the time, I’m wondering if he’s done this before, and if so, how many times.

We finally got a brief glimpse of what’s up with Mark and Gracie. They’re shacking up in a motel room and we see Mark burn his tattoo off with a blowtorch, presumably signifying his break with Project Castor and all they stand for and making him totally unrecognizable. Wait. Scratch that last one.

Bits and Pieces

Cal mentioned having friends in Iceland and wanting to take Sarah and Kira there last season.

Ramone, Alison’s drug and gun dealer, appeared in one episode last season, memorably delivering Sarah a gun hidden in a floral arrangement.

All of the Hendrixes’ money troubles have me wondering. What ever happened to the Clone Club Protection fund? Sarah used some of it to pay off Vic, but there was a huge amount left in Alison’s possession. Has she been keeping it from Donnie? Have the writers forgotten about it?

As has become a yearly tradition, Felix hands out new clone phones. This time they’re blue iPhone 5Cs. Which seems unnecessarily expensive given the rate they all go through them.

Kira’s fort is really a thing of beauty.

Clone Quotes

Felix: “My god, you must be Scott.”

Alison: “I could beat her, Donnie. I could beat her like a French meringue.”

Donnie: “Fist me!”
Alison: “Fist you?”
Donnie: “That’s a saying.”

Pupok: “Keep provoking them and we’ll never get any mangoes.”

Felix: “I think she may be concussed because she’s being weirdly straightforward.”

three out of four mangoes

sunbunny, who is probably not played by Tatiana Maslany


  1. I could do without rape scenes altogether, but as you said, sunbunny, it did at least serve a purpose. But then I don't like the Boyz being so clearly defined as villains this early. Would have preferred to guess at least a few more episodes. So double bad for me.

    But I still have Mark for ambiguity I guess. He spat out the Prolethian kool aid last season and apparently wants nothing to do with the military, but we don't know yet. Good. "Seth and Rudy are evil, therefore all boy clones are evil." True or false? Also, did Mark "glitch" like Seth, or was he just steeling himself for tat removal? Have to rewatch.

    I think Fawcett and Manson have purposely blurred the lines when it comes to country of location. It's obvious the urban scenes are in Toronto (Ontario plates, Scarborough) but they never mention Toronto even when they could. I remember reading an interview somewhere (sorry link go poof) where one of them said that the story takes place in "Generica", not anywhere specific. This would seem to hint that the Dyad-Topside-Military nexus transcends the 500 year old nation state setup. I see clone world as being a fictional alt-universe (not really Fringey alt) where the rules are slightly different for story purposes. In our world you can patent the manipulation of genetic material but not the end product human organism. In clone world that's perfectly legal. Different universe. So maybe the blurring of borders intentionally is part of that "alt" scheme.

    Two of my favorite episodes were when all of the various elements of Sarah's shite storm came to land on Alison's turf. The "pot luck whack Donnie with a golf club" episode in Season One, and the "rehab visitor's day" episode in Season Two. So I'm wondering if they will try that again with the whole school board thing. If so, I can't wait to see how Alison overdoes her campaign headquarters.

  2. I love this show. It's amazing how Tatiana Maslany handles these different characters. A couple of seasons in now, I completely see Alison, Sarah and the others as completely different persons. I sometimes forget they are played by the same actress. (As much as I loved Dollhouse, I never got the same feeling in that show). And the same goes for the guy who plays the male clones (I don't even know his name!), so far he's been great in all the different Castor roles.

    Rudy killing Seth was shocking.

    Rudy taking hair samples from Patty? What was that all about? Am I missing something again?

    This is one of the absolute best shows out there right now. This show was my #1 pick today over Game of Thrones and other shows.

  3. TJ - I have a couple theories about the hair but the review was so long already I didn't want to add more to it with my baseless theorizing. It could just be a trophy sort of thing but, like Cosima said, it is DNA so that could be in play as well.

  4. This was basically a set up episode for the remainder of the season. The Powers That Be did the right call to write Kyra out of the series at this point, not only the actress was literally outgrowing the story, the scenes of Kyra in peril were very near to getting old. I do wish that Cal could return at some point, though. Hey, maybe they’ll do a time jump on the end of the season to finally allow the Clone Club to catch a break, and Cal and Kyra will be able to return.

    So, just like the Leda clones, the Castors have design glitches. Although I wonder if theirs has more to do with the brainwashing they go through.

  5. Where are these mangoes?? I laughed so hard at that scene and then replayed it several times. Helena is so endearing, you forget about how many people she has killed. Like a rescued dog fighting pit bull, you just want her to be happy and loved now. I never liked the castor clones, but hopefully that story line will get better. I would watch Alison and Donnie arguing while folding laundry. They are great together, which is ironic since lumpy Donnie doesn't really seem like her type.


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