[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]
Is Orphan Black the greatest show plot-wise? Not necessarily (the occasional flip over to Beth’s boyfriend, Paul, or to the police’s investigation* drags), but that’s not why I continue to tune in. I watch for Tatiana Maslany’s demanding, skilled performances portraying the show’s various clones. It’s a demonstration of her talent, how often I forget and have to remind myself that this is the same actress taking on different guises, because that realization isn’t even considered while watching. One is simply too swept away in the story’s sci-fi basis to notice.
From a technical standpoint, as well, the seamless filming of Alison and Sarah, or Alison and Helena, on screen at the same time must be credited for not standing out as having been tampered with,** but instead drawing no attention to its smooth combinations of images that would be impossible without editing.
*Viewers surpass the cops so much in information that watching them investigate only creates pointless backtracking
How the Clones Rate
- Cosima is probably the least interesting, mostly because she is the clone most separated from the rest, a distance that corresponds with the fact that most of her conversations with her “sister” clones take place over the phone. She is also, despite her intelligence, turning out to be the least cautious one, falling for the person she believes is her monitor (spoiler: her suspicions are true). That is just setting herself (and every other clone whose protection depends on their united front of silence) up, knowingly being stupid and feigning ignorance to the gravity of her actions. Love can make you blind but the price of that blindness could be deadly, with other clones already being killed of without much reason, except perhaps that their meeting and investigating as a team is causing enough of a stir that one of the them had to be convinced to go rogue [see Helena]. The one perk of Cosima’s storyline is that it has opened up a spot for the great actor, Matt Frewer (Eureka, Alice), to step in as Doctor Leekie, leader of “Neolution,” where humans need not wait for evolution and adaptations to occur naturally but take charge with science.
- When we first meet Alison, she clashed with fellow clone Sarah over their differences in lifestyle (stay at home mom juggling the paradigm “soccer mom” role vs. trying to run away from a shady past with a daughter previously left behind). Still, it seems their shared anger and stubbornness has broken through that initial dissidence, and it couldn’t be better timing for conciliation. While Sarah has been better able to cope and deal with these unexpected turns of events (used to things not going according to plan), Alison has been reacting to her fears without thinking, landing herself in a mess of a breakdown this episode that is far from private. Falling off the deep end with alcohol and paranoia of her husband or neighbor being her monitor, she’s making decisions she would have never made sober***. She could truly use an ally, as she recalls her transgressions and seeks Sarah’s aid (or more specifically an offer to stay at Sarah’s foster mom, Mrs. S’, home, completely embarrassed and wanting to hide from her kids and friends, who would make her address and take responsibility for her recent bouts of crazy).
- If it was “judge a book by its cover” time, I would say I do not like Helena‘s look at all. It is the most dramatically different from the rest of the clones, with blown out, dyed blonde hair. This reflects the obvious, that she is the most extremely different and mentally damaged of them all, but having her stand out takes away from the more nuanced variations in dress and hair that the other clones have. Then again, Helena is also becoming the most fascinating of the clones, with her conflicted feelings about who to trust and who to listen to. When she cut off that guy’s tail in episode seven, “Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner,” and then followed that up with some sick dancing at a club, tail in hand, I knew she was someone to watch. Maslany seems to have been allowed or directed to go nuts as Helena, and does so with a relish both insane and packed with energy. And now, since her interactions with Sarah and Sarah’s daughter, Kira****, Helena has become a bit of an anti-hero, because she’s starting to hesitate about following her mission. As the “original prototype” from which the other clones were replicated*****, she been told by some “cloaked in shadows” higher ups to destroy all of her replicates, but Sarah’s not dead.
- Sarah, the likable, rebellious clone who takes on the main perspective from which viewers follow the story.****** Until the tragic conclusion, however, she took more of a back seat this episode to allow the other clones to split the spotlight.
*** To follow up hot glue torturing her husband in episode six, “Variations Under Domestication”, here she smokes pot and sleeps with her neighbor’s husband.
****As a detail, I thought it was interesting that Sarah’s daughter, Kira, recognized Allison right away when she pretended to be Sarah and wanted nothing to do with her fake mother yet listens to and feels a sympathy for Helena. This difference in response gives legitimacy to Helena’s claim that there is something different about her and Sarah, something that bridges between them and makes them “connected.”
***** At least that’s what she’s been made to believe. There’s no corroborating evidence yet, outside of her saying it to be so.
****** Unlike the other clones, who were already acquainted and knew what they were when she meets them, Sarah, like the viewer, is new to cloning. By needing to have things explained to her, the viewers are able to learn all the explication stuff by proxy in a manner that’s plausible (Sarah doesn’t know what’s going on so it makes sense that there would be long dialogues discussing the matter).
~ SIDENOTE ~
I have a soft spot for sibling relationships and Sarah’s foster brother, Felix (played by Jordan Gavaris), continues to light up the screen as the sibling trapped in Sarah’s mad situation, her only link to the outside world who she trusts completely, and the only friend she can count on to do every crazy thing she tells him to do with little convincing or complaint (impromptu bartending, babysitting, lying, etc.). He doesn’t even have to think long about her requests, which can often be ridiculous (putting together her fake funeral) or cause him to be brought to the attention of the police/her violent ex-boyfriend Vic. She’s his sister and without a doubt he has her back. This exists the other way around, too, in that she would do anything for him. It’s just a lot of “do for her” right now.
This episode ends on the harsh note of seeing Sarah’s young daughter, Kira, getting hit by a car, a disturbing sight that doesn’t get softened for the awareness that this is a staged scene on a television show, where no children were actually harmed. Truthfully, knowing a child had been struck by a vehicle would have been emotionally impactful enough. The camera not cutting away from the haunting image felt slightly extreme, for shock factor’s sake more than story necessity.
And yes, probably this cliffhanger will lead to the discovery of some medical abnormalities, where doctors are in awe at how Kira was able to survive in spite of her injuries (because she will survive). And surely the question “how did a clone have a child in the first place?” will come up. But that image of that little girl… that image will never be forgotten
So while I’m a little frustrated by some of the directions this show is taking, I find I remain invested in the fate of the clones (and Felix) to be sure to tune in for tonight’s new episode, “Unconscious Selection.” But I’m curious how others felt about the episode. Any clone preferences? Share your likes and dislikes about Orphan Black in the comments below (and please, no future episode spoilers).
–Orphan Black screencaps from here