Orphan Black Review: 'Formalized, Complex, and Costly'

Monday, 04 May 2015 - 9:39AM
Orphan Black
Monday, 04 May 2015 - 9:39AM
Orphan Black Review: 'Formalized, Complex, and Costly'
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Orphan Black wasn't bad this week, necessarily, but it was almost entirely inconsequential. There were a few revelations about the mythology, all of which had been heavily implied in previous episodes or were just common sense. The interactions between the characters were well-written and the episode passed easily enough, but not much had actually happened by the end of it.

The fact that the best parts of the episode were completely disconnected from the larger arc underscores the fact that Orphan Black is beginning to struggle a bit with maintaining cohesiveness. I loved that Rachel was able to overcome aphasia out of pure ire, but her scenes could have been lifted out and placed in the next episode without consequence. Alison and Donnie were wonderful as usual, but they had zero contact with any other clone. It's the beginning of the season, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they'll perfect their juggling act in future episodes, but this wasn't the strongest installment.

We Are Family

The most consequential part of this episode by far was the discovery that the Leda and Castor clones are biological siblings. Unfortunately, this is also by far the least surprising surprise the show has offered us in three seasons. It grabbed my attention because the Club's awareness of this fact will certainly impact the characters going forward, but I assumed as much the moment the boy clones were introduced, to the point that it seemed more surprising that the characters weren't also operating under that assumption once the season started.

Castor/Leda Defects

Again, it seemed like Cosima was just telling us what we already knew when she connected her own illness with Project Castor's neurological defects. It can only be a good thing that the characters are up to speed already, but it didn't exactly move the plot or mythology forward. 

That being said, the plotline itself is intriguing, and I'm curious to see how it plays out. Particularly during the mildly Oedipal thumb-sucking moment between Rudy and his "mother" after he kills Seth, I wondered how much of their maladjusted behavior is the result of a traumatic upbringing and how much is the result of actual defects in their genome. And as we all know, meditations on nature vs. nurture are what Orphan Black does best.

Remember Mark?

Mark and Gracie returned in this episode, and although the characters have never been the most interesting, there were a few character beats worth exploring. I would be fascinated to learn more about the psychology of a clone that willingly defected from what seems like a tight-knit and brainwashed group, but he's dead now. So it goes. At least Gracie showed some backbone and wiliness at long last, which we will hopefully see more of going forward.

Alison Breaks Bad

I will reiterate my evaluation from last week: Alison and Donnie's drug dealer subplot is a wonderful, Desperate Housewives-esque satirization of suburban hypocrisy. But Alison and Donnie's suburban antics have been successful in the past because they were at least obliquely tied to the main plot, while now they're stranded in a parallel universe to a distracting degree. Isn't Alison wondering about Cosima's health? Or concerned about her children's safety now that they have homicidal, military-trained boy clones coming after them? I realize that "Any boy clone that tries to cross the Hendrixes is going to get his butt kicked," but come on now.

The Return of Art

I'm glad that the show is welcoming Art back to relevance again, although I had mixed feelings about the revelation that he was in love with Beth. On the one hand, it's a little hackneyed, especially since so many of the male characters on the show are in love with one clone or another. On the other hand, it was a little more restrained to save this revelation for three seasons in rather than letting that color Art and Sarah's relationship from the beginning.

If nothing else, it gives the characters a chance to talk about Beth, whose legacy I always enjoy. During the first season, I thought one of Tatiana Maslany's greatest feats was allowing the viewer to get to know Beth while also getting to know Sarah. Even though Sarah herself didn't even know Beth, you still felt like you were getting a sense of her. And revisiting the character now almost has more pathos than it would at the beginning, since the Project Leda clones have since developed such strong bonds. Sarah would likely feel more regrets about Beth's lonely demise now that she knows Beth would have become her sister.


-Sometimes I think Orphan Black overestimates the bonds of biological families who didn't grow up together. It makes sense that the Leda clones would be close, since they've been through so much together at this point, and the fact that they're identical reinforces that feeling of familial bond. And it even makes sense that the Leda clones would have conflicted feelings about the Castor boys as a result of the genetic connection, especially Sarah, since she didn't have much of a family growing up. But when Sarah seemed to expect Mark to view them as "family," it came across as much more naive than Sarah has ever been in the past.

-I wonder if any of the characters were disturbed about Rudy making out (and possibly more?) with his Project Leda execution victims. I was, a little.

-I will begrudgingly accept Art's feelings for Beth, but please, Orphan Black writers, don't let him be another love interest for Sarah. She arguably has too many of them already.

-Should we change the name "Project Leda" to "Project Clytemnestra" or should we expect to find out that Project Castor was an offshoot of Leda in some way?

-Best Hendrix line of the week: "I talk to your children so you don't have to."
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