Review Scorecard: Orphan Black 'Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow'

Monday, 15 June 2015 - 10:38AM
Orphan Black
Monday, 15 June 2015 - 10:38AM
Review Scorecard: Orphan Black 'Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow'
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Welcome to our review scorecard, where we (semi-arbitrarily) assign points to the parts of an episode that we loved and hated, the parts that worked and the parts that definitely didn't. We'll weigh more significant aspects of the show with more points, either positive or negative, and tally all the points up at the end for a final score that will reflect the quality of the overall episode.

The Good

"Siobhan the bomb" +1
Love the moments when Mrs. S. has a salacious backstory and is basically Ripper 2.0.

Helena takes on an apprentice +5
It was both disturbing and charming to see Helena training Alison's daughter to be an eye-gouging assassin in anticipation of her karate competition. And Gracie's delivery of the line, "Helena! We don't do things like that anymore" was hilarious. It reminded me of New Girl's "Nadia! American manners!" but in this case it's "Helena! WASP manners!"

The BAND +5
Of course Siobhan was in a band! I can almost forgive how on-the-nose the song is, just because we got to hear Siobhan sing. 

Helena's terrible singing +2
Everyone got to sing this episode! Helena singing incomprehensibly into a cooking spoon made my day.

"A post made of fists, I think." +5
I'm still not really on board with the possible romantic tension between Donnie and Helena, but their interplays are still amazing. For example, Donnie's reaction to Helena's recounting that the nuns at the convent used to "beat the demons out of us" was priceless: "Oh. I guess I never heard that story." Equal parts flabbergasted, compassionate, and inappropriate, just like Donnie himself.

Sarah impersonates Mrs. S. +2
I always love when the writers throw back to Sarah's conwoman days, but it was especially satisfying to see Sarah imitate her foster mother, in an episode that highlights Siobhan's wild child history and the parallels between her and Sarah.

"It's one of those really bad colds that messes with your... syntax..." +5
Best line of the episode, courtesy of Donnie Hendrix.

Helena gets a refund +3
Helena is often hilarious and sometimes endearing, but she's at her best when she's completely terrifying. We all need more brutal, blood-soaked Helena in our lives.

Shay isn't the mole +5
As I said when Shay was first introduced, it would be both repetitive and predictable if Shay were the Castor mole. It starts to get old when every single new person to enter the clones' life is duplicitous in some way, not to mention that it would have followed too similar a trajectory as Cosima's relationship with Delphine.

Speaking of Delphine, she was fairly terrifying this episode, in a great way. Evelyn Brochu's performance was deeply unsettling, with her measured voice, sleek appearance, and penchant for subtle psychological terrorism. When she filled the bathtub up with water and took out that tiny razor, I honestly believed that she was going to murder Shay and make it look like a suicide, and at the end of the episode I'm still not convinced she won't.

Castor is Leda's absorbed twin +5
I loved the reveal that Siobhan's mother provided the original DNA for both Castor and Leda. The idea of an absorbed twin is gruesome on its own, and it provides the perfect metaphor for the poor defective Castor clones. Plus, the line "Hell of a twist of nature, isn't it?" could describe this show in a nutshell.

+33 points

The Bad

The decision to kill the Castor original -5
It was a sufficiently dramatic moment when Mrs. S. declared that she was going to kill the Castor original, but it seemed like a very hastily made decision, considering that they were potentially talking about killing an innocent. I'm as horrified by forced sterilization as anyone, but there was no discussion of other options, which left a bad taste in my mouth. And the fact that Sarah was horrified at the idea of Siobhan killing her own mother, but was apparently fine with her murdering an innocent man, just underscored this lack of development.

Project Castor's brief appearances -5
The brief scenes with Rudy and Mark weren't bad in themselves, but they served to remind me that the Project Castor storyline has been mishandled this season. There was so much potential for Project Castor to provide a contrast between the objectification of women and the objectification of men, fpr the boys to be terrifying villains, for Projects Leda and Castor to provide different views of the nature/nurture argument, for the boys' relationship with their "mother" to be developed and contrasted with all the other mother/child relationships on the show. All of these angles came up at some point in the season, but none of them were developed satisfactorily. The season finale is next week, and the stakes for the inevitable showdown with Project Castor still don't feel sufficiently high.

The cuts between Siobhan's song and Topside's assassination -2
Usually I enjoy violent scenes that make creative use of music, like Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles's use of Johnny Cash and/or Garbage, but the song used during the Topside assassination was laughably hamfisted. Siobhan singing the lyrics, "Are we gonna get up, are we gonna stay on the floor" while we're literally watching a man crawling on the floor was far too literal for my taste. 

Gracie's complete lack of a poker face -3
In her scenes with both Alison and Helena, Gracie was practically screaming at them, "I'm leaving and I'm not coming back!" I hesitate to take too many points off for this, as it's consistent with Gracie's character to be a bad liar, but it made the ultimate reveal that she betrayed the Leda girls far too obvious.

Delphine's characterization -3
As I stated above, Delphine was terrifying in this episode, and Evelyn Brochu did an amazing job as a sleek, soft-spoken villain. But Delphine's overall characterization has been all over the place this season. What are her motivations exactly? Why is she loyal to Dyad and Topside? Does she actually care about Cosima, or is she just weirdly stalker-y/possessive? Were there any indications in the first season that she could have a controlling personality? Do they have a plan for this character, or did they just think she was boring and want to mix it up with some villainous tendencies? Delphine is becoming a mass of unanswered questions that we won't care to try to answer for very long.

Trafficking in motherhood stereotypes -10
While I loved almost everything about Helena's storyline in this episode, I was uneasy about the show's tendency to paint her as a "mother bear." Her acquiescence that she would need to "walk a different path" now that she had become a mother rubbed me the wrong way. How often do people say that about male characters? A male assassin may start to experience some ethical conflict once the child is directly placed in danger as a result of his occupation, but no one ever asserts that men can't compartmentalize, that they are fundamentally and wholly changed by having a child. And similarly, Helena's show of brutality because they "threatened her babies" is a tired cliche, and does a disservice to the fact that Helena is generally a badass character who doesn't need the all-powerful "maternal instinct" as a motivation. 

I would have placed Orphan Black's exploration of motherhood in the "pro" column, as it's generally a feminist show and explores women's relationships with motherhood or potential motherhood in complex and nuanced ways. And this episode was certainly making motherhood its primary theme, between the Helena debacle, the concerns about forced sterility, and the relationship between Mrs. S. and her mother. But unlike most episodes of Orphan Black that focus on motherhood, "Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow" reinforced stereotypes rather than thwarting them.

Overall boredom -10
I'm not sure how I could have possibly been bored by an episode that included Helena killing drug suppliers bloody, Mrs. S. singing, and the reveal of the Castor original, but I was. 

-38 points

Total: -5 points

Penultimate episodes have the thankless job of getting all the pieces set in place for the finale, but that's no excuse for being boring. Many of the individual moments paid off, but they didn't really amount to anything. This wasn't a terrible episode, but it wasn't a good one either, and it doesn't exactly give us faith that the finale will be able to tie up this frequently uneven season. 

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