Orphan Black Retcons Its Mythology and Amps Up the Body Horror in "Transgressive Border Crossing"

Friday, 22 April 2016 - 10:49AM
Orphan Black
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Friday, 22 April 2016 - 10:49AM
Orphan Black Retcons Its Mythology and Amps Up the Body Horror in "Transgressive Border Crossing"
After last week's vastly improved, stripped-down premiere, I was worried that we might never see Beth again. Luckily, I was wrong, as season four seems to be committing to telling two parallel stories this season: one that takes place in the present with the Clone Club we know and love, and one that takes place in the past with Beth, M.K., and the beginnings of the Neolution conspiracy. Although this episode wasn't quite as elegant as the premiere, since it was jumping between the two storylines, the flashbacks are still a great addition to the season.

In some ways, it feels like this is what the second season of Orphan Black should have been, before it started to digress into an increasingly convoluted mythology. At the end of season one, when we all gasped at that "patented DNA" reveal, the conspiracy was complicated, but there was still a clear villain and focused direction to the plot. But then came the Proletheans, and Dyad, and Topside, and Project Castor, and the more names that were added to the mix, the more difficult it was to care. It's a little clunky that Orphan Black seems to be writing Dyad out completely, since it's been such a huge presence, but it will be worth it if we can get back to the important burning questions we had two years ago that the show has still never addressed. What is Neolution exactly? Why did they create the clones in the first place? What are their goals for the future, and what role do the clones play in it? 

And now the show has done what a second season should do: revise the mythology without overcomplicating it, while also raising the stakes. We're learning more about "the beginnings of all this shit," as Sarah so poetically puts it, which means getting back to the character work and squirm-inducing body horror that made this show so good to begin with. The revelation that Sarah already has that living brainwash-y worm thing implanted in her cheek (which means Kira probably does too) was horrifying, and definitely piques our interest about Neolution's nefarious plan.

So far, my only concern for this season is that they're juggling a lot of characters. One of my primary complaints about last season was that Alison and Donnie, while always hilarious, were often marooned in their own plotline that was mostly irrelevant to the other clones. This season has a pregnant Helena living with them, so they're much more integrated into Clone Club this time around, with wonderful results (I especially loved that Alison listed Helena's disqualifications for being a good mother as "eating frozen bread" and "being a murderer," but only in that order). And while I think Felix has every right to his own emotional reaction to everything that's happened, I don't know if having him go off by himself to find his birth parents is a good idea. (And what's going on with Rachel?) But that being said, the writers clearly understand that more economical storytelling was needed, so I have faith that they'll pull everything together in a satisfying way.

Best One-Liners



"Shiit...ake mushrooms, Felix!" -Alison

"In art it's called a phallus, darling." - Felix

"Can you hand me a towel, so this gets a little less Flowers in the Attic?" - Felix

"That's different. Helena's trained to kill people. We're manslaughterers." - Alison
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