ORPHAN BLACK - SEASON 2 - Episode Guide, Recaps, and Reviews
Episode 1 - Nature Under Constraint and Vexed
Director: John Fawcett
Writer: Graeme Manson
Summary: Sarah enlists Alison, Cosima, Felix, and Paul to help her infiltrate the Dyad Institute and discover what Rachel has done with Kira.
After fleeing from the chaotic scene at Mrs. S.’ house, Sarah catches her breath inside an empty diner. She tries calling all of the contacts in her phone only to discover that the numbers for the other clones have been disconnected. Rachel Duncan calls and offers to reunite Sarah with Kira and Siobhan if Sarah surrenders herself. Two strange men enter the diner. One of the men sits in Sarah’s booth. Claiming that they are there to take Sarah to Kira, the men prepare to quietly abduct her. The line cook behind the counter pulls a shotgun and threatens the men. The man in the booth shoots the cook, causing him to fire and kill the other man. Sarah escapes in the ensuing commotion.
Sarah finds Felix in a nightclub and tells him what happened. Sarah arranges a meeting with Paul when he calls to deliver a message from Daniel Rosen. Delphine tries convincing Cosima to attend a Dyad event and to forge an alliance with Leekie. As Delphine draws blood from her, Cosima reminds Delphine that the samples are for Cosima’s research only and are not to be given to Dyad. Felix asks Alison to acquire a gun for Sarah. Sarah arranges a clandestine phone call with Paul and learns that Rachel plans to leave with Kira on a private plane if Sarah does not surrender. Paul also tells her that Rachel will be at the Dyad event later that night and that Daniel has been tasked with capturing Sarah. Sarah narrowly avoids being caught by Daniel.
Sarah tells Cosima that she plans on taking a gun to the Dyad event. Alison meets with her contact Ramon, who works at Econo-Mart, to arrange the purchase of a handgun for Sarah. Delphine delivers one of the blood samples to Dr. Leekie after they discuss Cosima. In the wake of Aynsley’s death, Alison learns that she is the new lead in a musical being staged by the Glendale Community Theater. While staking out Alison’s rehearsal, Art and Angela spot Sarah as she arrives to retrieve the gun from Alison. Art and Angela detain Sarah for questioning. Alison spots the commotion and stays hidden.
Sarah tells Art and Angela what happened at the diner. Art decides to check out her story. Rachel instructs Paul to prepare for a trip to Taiwan. Rachel plays coy when Leekie asks her about Sarah’s daughter. Angela learns from detectives Grigson and Diaz that the feds took over the crime scene at the diner. After Sarah confides in him while Angela is in the diner, Art lets Sarah go. Ramon delivers Alison’s gun to Sarah at Felix’s apartment. Sarah, Felix, and Cosima ponder how Sarah plans to infiltrate the Dyad event. To distract Daniel, Sarah arranges to turn herself in, but she actually sets Daniel up to abduct an unsuspecting Alison instead. Daniel lets Alison go when he realizes he has been tricked. Meanwhile, Sarah infiltrates the Dyad event by pretending to be Cosima.
Posing as Cosima, Sarah greets Dr. Leekie and swipes his security keycard. Delphine realizes that Cosima is actually Sarah, but Sarah threatens Delphine to admit what she knows about Rachel. Delphine reveals that Rachel is conducting a meeting with Asian businessmen in Leekie’s research wing. After the meeting concludes, Sarah confronts Rachel at gunpoint. Rachel reveals that she lied about Kira and Mrs. S. to lure Sarah, and that another group actually kidnapped them. Paul arrives and pulls his gun on Sarah. He confirms Rachel’s claim that Dyad does not have Sarah’s daughter and explains that he was also played. Sarah attacks Paul when he tries restraining her, but he ultimately allows Sarah to escape after knocking out Rachel.
Sarah visits Art to tell him that someone other than Dyad took Kira. Art reveals that the man shot at the diner was a Prolethean religious extremist like Maggie Chen. Sarah realizes that it is Helena’s people who took Kira. Helena stumbles into a hospital and collapses from her gunshot wound. The man from the diner arrives and looks on as nurses rush around Helena. Elsewhere, an unidentified man takes photographs of Kira sitting on a hotel room bed.
The second season of “Orphan Black” has its work cut out for it, seeing as how the sci-fi hit opens its sophomore year to a whole host of ever-heightening expectations. When the series first premiered in April of 2013, the stakes were almost as minimal as the quiet fanfare announcing the show’s nearly unnoticed arrival. As Internet chatter became more vocal week after week in preaching the gospel according to Sarah Manning and company, dominoes fell with rapid speed in garnering widespread mainstream attention. With the undercarriage of the bandwagon dragging against the pavement from the added weight of well-earned Emmy lobbying and Times Square billboards, what was once mere cult status buzz was now a full orchestra of loudly trumpeting cherubim and seraphim.
Co-creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett return to respectively write and direct the second season premiere. What they show with “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” is that despite their brainchild’s increased exposure in the offseason, they are still focused on creating entertainment geared towards the devoted fanbase most of all.
For those foolish enough to board the “Orphan Black” train without first taking the immensely pleasurable trip through season one, “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” does its best to be a primer on the series’ major hallmarks without bringing forward momentum to a complete halt. It is a Borg-like exercise in futility however, as the still-spiraling complexity of the meta-storyline turns the prospect of a midpoint entry into a brick wall for latecomers. But in trying to pat each duck before calling goose and racing headfirst into a new arc, episode one offers a familiar-feeling highlight reel comprised of new clips featuring everything it is that makes “Orphan Black” uniquely intriguing and irrefutably lovable.
Manson’s script almost gets off scot-free by having a plot that is practically incidental to everything else happening within the hour. Picking up mere minutes after season one ended, Sarah is frantic to find her daughter and Mrs. S., although the latter is apparently not so high on the priority list, since Sarah seems to forget that two people are M.I.A. when demanding Kira’s return. Finding Kira involves confronting Rachel by infiltrating a Dyad event, though Manson all but admits this is barely a real setup. Sarah repeatedly mentions that she has no plan for getting in and no idea what to do when she gets there. Alternately referred to as a “big event” and a “glitzy corporate event,” the Dyad shindig doesn’t even have a proper name or stated purpose. That is how unimportant it all really is.
Of course, this nondescript cloak and dagger scheme is the kind of task that can only be tackled by getting everyone possible involved. That includes Cosima, Alison, Felix, and Paul. Even Art, Angela, Delphine, Donnie, and Leekie find some time to shine. The only character without a spotlight is Vic. And with actor Michael Mando’s name no longer present in the title cards, it doesn’t bode well for Sarah’s former bad boy beau remaining a featured player.
Really, it doesn’t matter too much that everyone puts in an appearance mainly to make sure viewers have a proper crash course refresher on who everyone is and how they relate to what has transpired thus far. Card-carrying clone club members have a chance to see all the scenes and all the relationships that matter most to them. In turn, “Orphan Black” has an opportunity to showcase everything that lends the series its one of a kind charm of fast-paced cliffhanger twists spiked with the right amount of tension-deflating humor.
Let’s face it. The only reason Sarah has to drag Felix out of a beat-bouncing leather bar is to reinforce his flamboyant flourish and to give a guffawing gander at his cheeks in assless chaps. The same idea goes for Alison’s asthma-themed musical theater song and dance. The story certainly does not move forward with wink and nod scenes like these, but affection for the characters definitely does.
Anyone still needing a push off the fence in affirming Tatiana Maslany’s talent (and if you do, shame on you) needs only to review the scene of her infiltrating the Dyad party. Even before the word “shite” comes out of her mouth, this is clearly Sarah in disguise pretending to be Cosima. And pulling off one clone resembling a different clone is nothing short of astonishing performance-wise.
Maslany’s characters are in neither the makeup nor the wigs. They are embodied in her mannerisms, expressions, gait, eyes, and inflections. The amount of dedicated effort into making each of these clones unique, to the point where one impersonating another qualifies as one more personality, is impressively stunning.
“Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” accomplishes exactly what it means to, as well as what it needs to as the second season kickstart. It carries the signature style, look, feel, and personality that defines “Orphan Black” as a program unrivaled among its peers. This particular chapter is arguably an extended hide and seek sequence setting the stage for what is to come, but that makes it the perfect hour to settle back into the groove and buckle in for the whiplash ride virtually guaranteed to be on the horizon.
Episode 2 - Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion
Director: John Fawcett
Writer: Karen Walton, Graeme Manson
Summary: Sarah learns what really happened on the night that Kira disappeared as the Proletheans prepare their own plan for the clones.
Helena regains consciousness in the hospital. While plotting with Art and Sarah, Felix receives an unexpected phone call from Kira. Sarah speaks to her daughter for only a moment before Kira’s captor Benjamin cuts off the call on the other end.
At Aynsley’s funeral, Alison finds text messages on her husband Donnie’s phone that renew her suspicions about him being her monitor. On a farm, Prolethean leader Henrik Johanssen thanks Mark, the man from the diner shootout, for saving Helena’s life. Henrik’s wife Bonnie prepares a bed for Mark as Henrik tasks him with retrieving Helena from the hospital. Art and Sarah trace Kira’s phone call to the Green Acres Motel, but Kira and Ben are already gone when they get there. After Daniel arrives at the motel, Art detains him for questioning while Sarah follows a trail of Kira’s dropped clothing items. When the trail ends in the motel’s laundry room, Ben takes Sarah captive from behind.
Ben takes Sarah to a remote house where she discovers that he is in league with Mrs. S. Leekie moves Cosima and Delphine into their new lab at the Dyad Institute, but Cosima is disappointed in the resources. Felix interrupts Alison’s rehearsal just as the play’s director Alexander gets touchy-feely with her. Alison confesses to Felix that she mistakenly killed Aynsley, as it now appears that Donnie really is her monitor. Felix and Alison concoct a plan to verify if Alison’s suspicions are true. Siobhan reveals to Sarah that she made her house look like the scene of an abduction in order to secret Kira away safely. Siobhan reintroduces Sarah to Brenda and Barry, two members of her old network that helped their family disappear before. Sarah reunites with Kira. Angie shows Art a picture of Helena in the hospital and they realize that they have another clone on their hands. Art instructs Angie to leave it alone, but Angie goes to the hospital anyway. By the time Angie gets there, Mark has already removed Helena in a wheelchair.
Henrik’s daughter Gracie becomes wary of Helena’s presence on her family’s farm. Tomas flogs himself as he keeps watch over Helena in her new recovery quarters. Henrik and Tomas debate the nature of the clones and their purpose when Henrik points out that Helena’s internal organs are on the opposite side of her body. Felix and Alison stage a fake rendezvous with Sarah in order to lure Donnie. Donnie takes the bait by following Alison to Aynsley’s grave while reporting the encounter to Dr. Leekie over the phone. Alison turns out to actually be meeting with her theater partner Sarah Stubbs instead of Sarah Manning. When Alison confronts her husband, Donnie plays it off by pretending to be concerned about Alison’s grieving process over her friend’s death. Sarah learns that Siobhan plans to take Kira to London with her, but Sarah objects to staying behind with Felix and Brenda. Sarah shows Siobhan the photograph that Amelia gave her of the two Project LEDA professors from July 22, 1977, but Mrs. S. claims to have no knowledge of it.
While Brenda and Barry tend to the details of their plan with Siobhan, Sarah prepares to kidnap her own daughter. Rachel interrupts a romantic moment in the lab between Delphine and Cosima to give Cosima an instruction to uncover why Sarah’s biology is different from the rest of the clones. Kira tells her mother that she saw the Project LEDA photograph before when she watched Mrs. S. snoop through Amelia’s belongings. As Sarah prepares to steal Barry’s truck with Kira as her passenger, Siobhan realizes that Brenda and Barry are actually planning to hand the girls over to the Proletheans. Siobhan takes the gun away from Brenda and pins her to the dining table with kitchen implements. Mrs. S. then runs outside and shoots Barry dead before allowing Sarah and Kira to escape in the truck. Siobhan goes back inside to confront Brenda and ends up executing her former friend.
Frustrated and worried, Alison calls Felix for help with Donnie, but Felix explains that he is tied up leaving town with Sarah and Kira. Henrik and Tomas debate the possibility of procreation with Helena. When Tomas disputes the notion, Henrik has Mark execute Helena’s former guardian.
With the loose ends left over from season one more or less tied as sufficiently as they can be for now, “Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion” is free to stride at a stage setting pace that erects a long line of dominos sure to tumble in episodes to come. Round two of season two also continues the fan service trend of planting colorful Easter eggs for the diehards whether it is one more gawk at Felix’s buttocks, a wine-swigging tête-à-tête between Felix’s Oscar Madison and Alison’s Felix Unger, or the not-so-surprising return of everyone’s favorite Jell-O-slurping clone.
Helena may as well be recovering on a gurney next to an emphysema-stricken Cigarette Smoking Man, since the new mantra of “Orphan Black” rips the page, cover, and spine from the X-Files book of “trust no one.” Familiar faces and newly introduced schemers alike change allegiances more than Tatiana Maslany changes her wig and wardrobe. What co-creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, along with co-writer Karen Walton, give the audience is a delightfully uneasy sense that nothing can be taken for granted in the world of Sarah Manning and company. And the rest of us may as well not even try figuring out where any of it could possibly be headed.
The prevailing mystery in the works for the sophomore arc appears to be based upon whose duplicitous finger will be first to knock down that previously mentioned domino line into a horizontal spiral. Or perhaps it will just be toppled over in the commotion once all of the shadowy mustache-twirlers take their turn jockeying for the top spot in taking down Clone Club.
Behind door number one is the faction of Prolethean zealots musing over Helena’s potential to procreate when they are not otherwise occupied with milking cows. Door number two holds foster mum Mrs. S., who has gone from convenient daycare option whenever Sarah needed Kira out of the picture to perhaps the most dangerous player of all, mostly because no one can be sure whose side she is really on. Of course there is still the Dyad Institute. Formerly shaping up to be a formidable clandestine force poised to thwart every machination of the clones, they have been practically been pushed all the way out of the backseat and into the trunk what with all of the other threats now fighting for control of the adversary wheel.
Let’s not forget the seeds planted in Alison’s persistent frustration and in Delphine’s career-advancing romance. At the rate everyone is being given reasons to play for one or more rival teams, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility for Kira to turn surprise traitor at this point.
The only group that can be trusted is the show’s creative team. Just two episodes deep and “Orphan Black” has already demonstrated a smart sense of how best to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the show’s top tier elements. If the wheat is not obvious, the absence of chaff certainly is.
Not only has Vic been given his walking papers, but Paul has for the moment returned to the nest where he has always been most comfortable, which is a perpetual offscreen limbo wondering where he fits in. His romance with Sarah has grown cold enough to catch frostbite and with the clone cat out of the bag, so has any of the suspense in his subplot. Taking a knee on the sidelines while scoping out a proper purpose is the right place for him to cool down in the meanwhile.
With Katja taking a dirt nap since the season one premiere, Rachel Duncan is fast emerging as the heir apparent to the jeweled tiara of weakest clone in the bunch. I’ll fight tooth and nail against anyone who foolishly dares question my unwavering loyalty to the massive talent of Tatiana Maslany, but Rachel is far from her strongest character portrayal. Unlike the other clones with their individual quirks and identifiable mannerisms, Rachel is the one duplicate who comes across as more of an amalgamation of the others as opposed to a unique characterization. At the very least, it is hard to argue that she has a long way to go to trade that tiara for Helena’s crown of most fearsome nemesis.
The relatively few weak spots in “Orphan Black” barely even register anyway. “Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion” spackles right over any concerns about the meta-arc by offering so many red herrings, Spanish prisoners, cloaks, daggers, breakneck twists, and whiplash turns that fans of the show need both a scorecard and a chiropractor to stay in step with the action and to recover from the fallout. It may not be a recipe for a storyline that is easy to jump into, but it sure does make for a reliable hour of enjoyably immersive entertainment.
Episode 3 - Mingling Its Own Nature With It
Director: T.J. Scott
Writer: Alex Levine
Summary: Sarah turns to Kira's birth father for help in escaping the city while the Proletheans make Helena one of their own.
Sarah and Felix escape to the country with Kira. Daniel arrives at the Birdwatchers hideout in search of Kira and observes from a distance as Henrik and Mark dispose of Brenda and Barry’s dead bodies.
Sarah uses Kira to distract the clerk at a general store while Felix shoplifts food for their trio. Angie reports to Art that Helena is missing from the hospital and Art threatens Angie once again to drop her pursuit of the case. Alison’s frustration with Donnie boils over in the Hendrix household. Sarah breaks into a secluded home in the countryside and takes up temporary residence there with Felix and Kira. At the Dyad Institute, Delphine shows Cosima the video journal of a clone named Jennifer Fitzsimmons, who died after experiencing the same symptoms suffered by Katja Obinger. On the Johanssen farm, Gracie reluctantly follows instructions to serve food to Helena while Mark observes. During the night, Felix is startled awake when the owner of the cabin where they are squatting returns home, but Sarah identifies the man as Cal Morrison, Kira’s birth father.
Cal and Sarah discuss their tumultuous past as well as his paternity. Outside the play rehearsal, Angie pretends to be interested in befriending Alison, but Alison comes to suspect that Angie may be another monitor. Sarah talks to Kira about the girl’s father. Felix talks to Cal about Cal’s history with Sarah. Cosima watches more footage of Jennifer Fitzsimmons and Jennifer’s monitor Greg that documents the decline of the other clone’s health. Felix admonishes Sarah for pretending not to know whose cabin they were in and for never telling him the truth about Kira’s father. Felix decides to leave Sarah and Kira with Cal while he goes back home to check on Alison.
Cosima and Delphine perform an autopsy on Jennifer to learn more about her condition. Alison calls Cosima with a warning about Delphine and to relay the suspicions about her own monitors, but Cosima dismisses Alison’s concerns. Alison confronts Angie when she attempts to make friends again and Angie reveals that she is a cop who wants to know about Sarah Manning and her connection to Beth. Alison warns Angie to stay away. Sarah hides when local lawman Tom comes to talk to Cal about reports of a mother and child shoplifting as well as an abandoned car found nearby. After Tom is sent away, Cal and Sarah rekindle their romance. While performing in the “Blood Ties” musical, a drunk and frustrated Alison falls off the stage and collapses.
Posing as a detective, Daniel conducts his own investigation into Sarah and Kira’s whereabouts by interviewing the clerk at the general store. Daniel then has a run-in with Tom. Art stakes out the Prolethean farmhouse while Henrik talks to his daughter about accepting Helena as part of their family. Daniel comes to Cal’s home and grabs Kira while she feeds chickens in the back. Sarah rushes outside and Daniel pulls a gun. Sarah wrestles with Daniel while Cal takes Kira back inside. Tom arrives on scene and Daniel shoots him. A standoff ensues that ends with Daniel forcing Sarah to drive them away at gunpoint.
Henrik and Helena are ceremonially joined together in a Prolethean religious ritual. Daniel calls in to report that he has Sarah and that he found her Project LEDA 1977 photo just as an oncoming truck smashes into their car.
Still recovering from the blistering speed at which the previous episode ran, “Mingling Its Own Nature With It” pulls up the reins for a slightly more settled pace. That pace is still far from slow, but measured enough to provide a much-needed breather as viewers continue adjusting to the whirlwind introduction of new characters, new threads, and new reasons to stay continually invested in a regular hour of imaginative intrigue.
Episode three also serves as a reminder that when it comes to crafting the tempo of a television show, it isn’t enough to consider the episode in a vacuum. It must also be considered how that hour slots into the rhythm of the overall season, and this particular hour moves with just enough purpose to keep the right plates spinning at exactly the right speeds.
As “Orphan Black” continues serving up questions faster than it can provide near-term answers, one of the many blanks that has been in play since the very first episode is finally filled in with the reveal of Kira’s birth father. Overly perceptive Kira simply blurts out the obvious question and pulls the cat from the sack before Sarah can come up with a con to dance around the issue.
And is there a better-suited actor for the role of a likably sweet outdoors type with a subtle dark streak and a don’t-mess-with-me attitude than Michiel Huisman? With memorable turns on “Treme,” “Nashville,” and “Game of Thrones,” Huisman’s presence here is further proof that “Orphan Black” plays to win when it comes to attracting top talent and delivering top performances.
On the ancillary player front, Paul remains quietly absent, upsetting no one in the process. Meanwhile, Angie steps up her game by stepping out of her role as a needling thorn in Art’s side to become one in Alison’s instead. No longer required to impersonate Beth, the suspense has all but been sucked out of Sarah’s relationship with Art. Shifting Angie’s purpose in the aftermath is a welcome adjustment since it finally gives the police partner something to do besides bouncing Art’s dialogue while he played catch-up regarding the clone conspiracy.
With a dozen episodes under their belt, the “Orphan Black” Powers That Be have had time to develop a firm grip on what works best with the various relationships on their show. They now appear to be moving their playing pieces to the spots on the board where everyone works best. As tightly wound into the main storyline as Felix has always been, his most entertaining scenes generally emerge with Alison at his side. Moving him back in that direction while Cal occupies Sarah’s spotlight, at least temporarily, is the smart place for Felix to be.
Elsewhere, Helena could care less that Tomas is now out of the picture. Good riddance too, as her oddball Prolethean marriage to the equally odd Henrik is infusing their newly-forged dynamic with far more dramatic potential than she previously carried with just one nutty religious zealot on her arm.
What of Mrs. S., Alison’s mental and physical breakdown, and whatever Cosima and Delphine are about to expose in their Dyad lab? Well, even a show with this much going on knows when too much is too much, and battles on those fronts will have to wait their turn somewhere down the line. The writers have some level of respect when it comes to putting too much on the audience’s plate for digestion in any single hour, after all.
As fast and as furious as season two has hit in a short amount of time, “Orphan Black” has mercifully shown no interest in drawing out any side plots past their points of ripeness. The finger-snapping quickness at which new developments twist into the primary storyline keeps the series fresh without being confusing. Sure, there is a lot to chew on, and a new mouthful is ready to be fed before the previous one is even swallowed. But the taste is so flavorful that there is no danger of having to spit anything out, even if Clone Club members are on track to be happily overstuffed and liberally overfed by season’s end.
Episode 4 - Governed As It Were By Chance
Director: David Frazee
Writer: Russ Cochrane
Summary: The clones uncover their connection to Project LEDA as Henrik reveals his true intention for Helena.
Cal reveals himself as the driver of the truck that collided with Sarah and Daniel’s car. After leaving Kira somewhere safe, causing the crash was Cal’s desperate attempt to stop Sarah’s gunpoint abduction. Cal pulls Sarah from the wreck while Daniel remains unconscious in the passenger seat. Sarah stops Cal from calling the police and Cal watches in shock as Sarah prepares to open fire on an approaching police vehicle that ends up passing them by. Bewildered at the situation, Cal nonetheless helps Sarah camouflage the wrecked vehicle with broken tree branches before they flee the scene.
The Johanssens reiterate their welcoming of Helena into their family while Gracie continues resenting the clone’s presence. Alison regains consciousness and realizes that she has been entered into rehab. Cal takes Sarah to an abandoned farm where Kira is hiding. They stash Cal’s truck and take to the road in an RV. Using Daniel’s phone, Sarah sends a text message to Rachel in order to stall Dyad’s discovery of what happened. Sarah dodges Cal’s inquiries about what is really going on with her situation. Art continues his stakeout of the Prolethean’s farm. Gracie tries to smother Helena with a pillow, but Helena plays possum and knocks the girl unconscious instead.
Helena stumbles around the farm and finds an operating room where she has a flashback to Henrik and Mark performing some type of surgery on her. Art watches as Helena runs away from the property. Mark leads several gunmen in pursuit of Helena, but Art stalls their hunt with a threat. Cosima continues her research into Jennifer Fitzsimmons’ illness. She and Sarah video chat about Project LEDA and the photograph in Sarah’s possession. Cosima tells Sarah that Leda was a human lover of Zeus, with whom she bore children who were half-man and half-god. Sarah plans to track down Mrs. S while Cosima agrees to look into the Project LEDA lead. Siobhan meets with Benjamin in order to acquire papers for traveling to London so that she can track down a contact named Carlton Redding. Ben tells her that Carlton is actually currently in town. Felix visits Alison at the New Path Wellness Centre and they discover that Alison committed herself there voluntarily while still under the influence. Sarah leaves Kira with Cal while she returns to the city. Meanwhile, Daniel regains consciousness and frees himself from the hidden wreckage.
Siobhan finds Carlton at a club and they rekindle their love affair. Donnie and Alison have a confrontation at the rehab clinic that ends with Donnie threatening to deny Alison access to their children if she fails to complete the wellness program. Sarah and Felix meet at Mrs. S’ house and find a scrapbook that reveals Carlton was once imprisoned for smuggling people through his underground pipeline. The adopted siblings also find a newspaper article identifying the scientists in the Project LEDA photograph as Susan and Ethan Duncan, Rachel’s adoptive parents. Siobhan asks Carlton about Project LEDA, but he claims to know nothing, despite being the person who brought Sarah to Mrs. S as an orphan. Siobhan asks Carlton to take her to a contact named Cassov, who Carlton identifies as “the ferryman.” Sarah plans to infiltrate Rachel’s apartment at the Cameron Arms while Felix takes the newspaper clippings about Rachel’s parents to Cosima. As the duo leaves Mrs. S’ house, a person wearing a dark coat steps from the shadows of a closet in the home.
Sarah tricks concierge Troy into unlocking Rachel’s apartment by impersonating Rachel on the phone. While Sarah searches the apartment, Cosima relays what she has discovered regarding the Duncans over the phone. Cosima uncovers that Sarah’s surrogate mother Amelia was carrying Sarah with the plan of giving her over to the Duncans at birth. Somehow, the Duncans ended up with Rachel instead. Sarah finds men’s clothes in the wardrobe and realizes that Daniel is Rachel’s lover, and likely her monitor. Sarah tries to hide when Daniel enters the apartment unexpectedly. Sarah attempts to escape, but Daniel knocks her out and takes her captive.
Daniel interrogates Sarah to learn what she knows about the Project LEDA photograph. When Sarah refuses to cooperate, Daniel produces a razor blade and begins cutting behind Sarah’s ear. Daniel is interrupted by music in the other room. He draws his gun and investigates, but he is stabbed to death by Helena. Sarah is shocked to learn that Helena is still alive. At the Johanssen farm, Henrik reveals to Mark and Bonnie that he has begun creation of a new life based on the extraction taken from Helena.
It occurs to me while watching the fourth hour of Orphan Black’s second season that whoever took and/or originally kept the Project LEDA photograph had better turn out to be someone who intended to expose the conspiracy. Otherwise, you have to question just how secret a clandestine cloning experiment could have been when someone is creating photographic evidence of the participants, not to mention labeling it with an exact date and name as clues for someone to put together.
Even calling it “Project LEDA” is ill advised, given the nature of the Greek mythology story to which it relates. Come to think of it, how is it that Cosima and Sarah are only just now getting the idea to research Rachel’s parents and background? Granted, everyone is constantly busy dodging cars, bullets, and crazy clones, but one might think a little library legwork would be the first order of business whenever a new clue or name comes Clone Club’s way. Then again, that it took this long to consciously recognize such logic gaps is a testament to how great of a job the storytelling has done with keeping viewers distracted.
The fact that only one person dies by the end of “Governed As It Were By Chance” is rather remarkable when you step back and reflect on how many near-death experiences are teased within the episode. In the aftermath of the oncoming truck collision that ended the previous hour, Sarah and Daniel open this one as two unconscious and bloody messes slumped in the seats of the only sedan made since 1998 that didn’t include any airbags. Before going after Chevrolet however, they may want to tally up all of the other injuries and file everyone’s lawsuits at once.
Alison is in roughly the same shape as sister Sarah after taking her opening night tumble off the community theater stage. Cosima is still coughing up a lung and doing a poor job of hiding it. Helena has suffered quite a bit as it is, but it gets even worse when young Gracie Johanssen tries snuffing out her family’s interloper with a smothering pillow. But if Sarah’s bullet couldn’t keep Helena down, what hope does a goose-feathered sack have? Helena plays possum, gets the drop on Henrik’s ginger-haired daughter, and puts her out with a sleeper hold that would bring a proud tear to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s eye.
Rachel hasn’t taken a beating since Sarah tackled her and tickled her nose with a handgun back in the second season premiere. That might make Rachel the record holder for clone who has gone the longest without bleeding or hitting the floor.
Speaking of chokeholds and floor hitting, Siobhan finds herself in the arms of former flame Carlton, except those arms are wrapped around her head and neck instead of around her waist. Although that happens too after Carlton realizes that a much better idea would be to put his hands underneath Siobhan’s skirt rather than on her throat.
Casting Maria Doyle Kennedy, as well as giving her the prominent “and” title card to wrap up the opening credits, has always hinted at a larger purpose for Mrs. S besides being Kira’s convenient dumping ground. From deadly sharpshooter to Mata Hari seductress, the new use that “Orphan Black” has for Siobhan is finally giving the character a chance to let it rip as someone shaping up to be as layered and as unpredictable as any of the clones.
Looking back with hindsight, season one side stories like Olivier’s tail and Vic’s misplaced cocaine lopsidedly pale in comparison to the subplots already pulsing through season two. The jury is still deliberating whether or not Felix will have something more important to do in the next six episodes aside from playing Alison’s comedic relief partner. But enough of the non-clone supporting characters are serving as electrified lightning rods for action and suspense that it may not matter.
The Prolethean plot is now entering phase two. Smart money says there is more than meets the eye to Cal’s relationship with Kira. And whatever Siobhan is up to can only grow in importance to the overall arc of Sarah’s mysterious origin story.
In the meantime, when Dr. Leekie isn’t taking an informant’s phone call, he and Delphine appear content to wait things out in the locker room with Paul. “Orphan Black” writers either have something brewing for everyone else while they sit patiently offscreen, or they are smartly keeping obstacles off the road to ensure a clear path for the better stories to race. If the latter, then kudos to the creators for not inserting anyone into the show unnecessarily without a pure purpose in mind. Part of what makes “Orphan Black” such a fast-moving hour is how little fluff it has interfering with its aerodynamic speed. Let’s keep it that way.
Episode 5 - Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est
Director: Helen Shaver
Writer: Tony Elliott
Summary: Sarah teams with Helena and Cosima makes a deal with Leekie after Rachel and Paul use Felix to blackmail the clones.
Rachel and Paul return from Taiwan to find Dr. Leekie and a Dyad team processing the crime scene in Rachel’s apartment. Rachel deduces what Sarah has learned after finding the “Cambridge, 1991” videotape in the VCR. After examining Daniel’s body, Rachel takes the handgun that Daniel used to kill Officer Tom Bowman.
Felix is furious with Sarah for bringing Helena back to his apartment after escaping Rachel’s building with her. To Helena’s chagrin, Sarah and Felix give her the nickname of “Meathead.” While camping in his RV with Kira, it is revealed that Cal keeps a hidden stash of fake identification as well as a handgun. Rachel and Leekie recruit Paul to become Rachel’s new monitor. So that she can hold Cosima’s sickness over Sarah’s head, Rachel orders Leekie to halt his stem cell research into Cosima’s treatment. Delphine shows Cosima data on the stem cell cultures that Leekie had kept hidden from them. While having a Skype chat with Kira, Sarah learns that her daughter has taken to calling Cal “Daddy.” Felix brings Helena to Art and has him keep an eye on her. Henrik and Bonnie Johanssen sew Gracie’s mouth shut and imprison her when she refuses to tell the truth about what happened with Helena. Rachel clarifies for Paul that even though he reports to Leekie as Rachel’s monitor, she still controls Paul. Rachel gives Daniel’s weapon to Paul and asks for a show of loyalty.
Mark comforts Gracie in her cell, giving her a kiss before resuming his search for Helena. Art tries questioning Helena. Helena makes cryptic references to someone named “Swan Man” and to a locker that Art assumes belonged to Maggie Chen. While Felix hosts Colin the morgue attendant at his apartment, the police interrupt to search the premises. Paul enters and forces Felix to clutch the gun that murdered Officer Bowman. Paul then calls Sarah and tells her that he will turn over the weapon to the police unless Sarah turns over herself, Kira, and the other clones to Rachel.
Sarah calls Art and tells him what happened. Meanwhile, Helena picks her handcuffs and escapes after holding Art at gunpoint. Gracie confesses to her parents. Bonnie threatens that Gracie will be the one to carry the child they are creating if they cannot retrieve Helena. Leekie finds Cosima and Delphine looking for the stem cell cultures in his office. Leekie tells them that Rachel is actually the one obstructing the testing in order to blackmail Sarah. Leekie shows Cosima the Project LEDA photograph. Leekie reveals that the lab fire that killed the Duncans also destroyed the original genome for the clones, which is why Dyad’s project is missing the clones’ prehistory and records of several synthetic sequences embedded in their DNA. Leekie asks Cosima if Sarah has a lead on anything related to Project LEDA. Cosima claims she has no idea. As a gesture of good faith, Leekie tells Cosima that he is willing to disregard Rachel’s order and continue with her treatment. Kira helps Cal role play in order to dismiss a curious cop attempting to search their RV. Sarah and Art start searching for Helena by following a riddle she left for them.
Art and Sarah search Maggie Chen’s old storage shed and find a current photograph of an elderly man labeled “Swan Man” along with an old photo of Ethan Duncan. Sarah realizes that Dr. Duncan did not die in the lab explosion and is actually still alive. She and Art also find an empty sniper rifle case and a decapitated Barbie doll made to look like Rachel. Rachel seduces Paul into having sex with her while Helena sets up a sniper’s nest across the street from Rachel’s apartment. Art and Sarah arrive just as Helena targets Rachel in her crosshairs. Sarah explains that she needs Rachel alive so that she can free Felix. Sarah ultimately compels Helena not to fire by appealing to her as a sister. Sarah and Helena leave with their arms around each other as Art looks on in bewilderment.
Leekie administers a treatment to Cosima. She then arranges for him to meet Sarah at a bar. Sarah tells Leekie than Ethan Duncan is still alive and implies that she will find him if the charges against Felix are dropped. Leekie tells Sarah that if she finds Duncan, he will countermand Rachel in order to ensure that Cosima’s treatment continues. Leekie then discovers that Sarah did not know about Cosima’s illness. Sarah threatens to unleash Helena on anyone who tries following her. After Sarah leaves, Paul has his own meeting with Leekie. Sarah and Helena start their search for “Swan Man” by setting off for “Cold River,” which Helena identifies as “a place of screams.”
“Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” includes a small pop quiz for longtime viewers who may have to reach far back in their memory banks to make the season one connections coming into play. Maggie Chen, Colin the morgue attendant, and the long-absent phantom otherwise known as Paul comprise a handful of forgotten names and half-remembered faces returning as “Orphan Black” strides into season two’s halfway hump. While the mention of Maggie’s relationship to Helena and the reappearance of Felix’s corpse-handling beau are “oh yeah” moments used slyly to move threads forward, Paul’s return heralds a meatier focus shift as the series starts down the other side of its sophomore arc.
Much like Agent Coulson and Tahiti, whatever happened to Paul while spending the last three episodes offscreen in Taiwan left him with a gap in his history, while bringing him back seemingly stronger than before. I’m guilty of grumbling about needing to keep Paul in deep freeze until the show could find something meaningful for him to do, what with his already lukewarm subplot with Sarah/Beth cooling into ice. Initial appearances suggest that the writers did exactly that.
Virtually everyone on “Orphan Black” has kept a secret from someone or told a lie at least a half dozen times, except perhaps for Daniel. Daniel was designed from the beginning to be a pure man-in-black antagonist without a notable hidden agenda or an important subplot of his own. In that regard, he was actually quite unique. But Daniel was more or less merely the go-to guy whenever Dyad needed dirty work done or the script needed someone with an evil intent to stir up trouble. In that regard, he was flatly one-dimensional.
Filling his shoes with Paul adds significantly more plot turn potential to the role of Rachel’s monitor and possible paramour. People in the world of “Orphan Black” switch team jerseys at lightning speed, or just come onto the field already wearing various shades of grey. Given his complicated pasts with Beth, Sarah, Leekie, and Rachel, Paul can at last suit up in the Big Leagues with everyone else who has hidden motives, unknown schemes, and a tendency for duplicitous behavior.
Putting him in Daniel’s former position is a smart way to make Paul interesting again, if he ever was in the first place. At the very least, it makes him relevant to the primary plotline while injecting some much-needed intrigue into his backstory.
Paul is not the only person in episode five who feasts on a heaping portion of renewed purpose. After continuing to fill his comic relief quota and even wondering out loud where his place was, Felix now has critical checkboxes on his “to do” list, too. Dropping Fe in the jackpot with Officer Bowman’s murder weapon is, for the moment, still using him as a dangled prop to propel Sarah’s motivation forward. Yet with luck, Felix can now having something to do that doesn’t involve bringing Alison clothes, dropping Helena off at Art’s, or couriering Sarah’s clues to Cosima. When did Felix turn into the clones’ resident errand boy?
Flipping over to the B side, Chekhov might be mildly puzzled as to why the camera went out of its way to tickle the viewer’s nose with Cal’s not-so-hidden handgun when he never even fired it. Was it meant to install a back of the mind possibility that he might drop the cop snooping around his RV? It’s not like he would ever risk plugging anybody, let alone a police officer, with innocent little Kira coloring her clone family just a few feet away. Or would he? Judging by the rest of the items stashed in his secret drawer, there is still quite a lot not yet known about Cal.
Not that it stops Kira from rechristening him as “Daddy,” though. Kira’s uncanny intuitiveness now comes with magnetism towards the new father figure in her life. And who can blame her? She doesn’t need her clone child sixth sense to see that the bird in the hand is better than the one who is never around. Kira remains Sarah’s driving force, but that is a goal not yet providing any tangible results for their two-person family. Poor little Kira sees only an absentee parent, and Sarah is going to see a continually widening gap in their relationship if she cannot get her ducks in a row in time.
With a character roster that only deepens with each episode, “Orphan Black” is cautious about not overwhelming its audience with too many concurrent developments. For every player it puts on the board, another one is returned to the box. So while Paul and Felix swing the spotlight in their directions, Alison and Siobhan take their turns in the dark this time around.
But if “Orphan Black” doesn’t do something big with the Prolethean subplot sooner rather than later, a threat that has been shaped to be particularly devilish runs the risk of ripening before the fruit is picked. Drips and drabs and sewn-shut mouths only pass for so long. The creators have done a terrific job of keeping everything even as they leapfrog between the side stories. They need to stay vigilant over that oven before any of their carefully baked goods end up burned.
Episode 6 - To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings
Director: Brett Sullivan
Writer: Chris Roberts
Summary: Sarah and Helena become separated during their search for Swan Man while an old acquaintance forges an unlikely alliance with Alison.
While camping outdoors on their road trip, Helena asks Sarah if she thinks Helena would be able to bear children. Sarah tries pressing Helena for information on what happened at the Prolethean farm. Outside their tent, Paul rifles through the glove box of their car and finds the “Swan Man” photo.
Delphine and Cosima discuss Cosima’s stem cell treatment that uses the exfoliated dental pulp of baby teeth. Cosima is distressed to discover that the Dyad Institute has recruited fellow University of Minnesota student Scott as their new sequencing technician. When Cosima tries to dismiss Scott, he reveals that he knows they are researching clones. At the New Path Wellness Center, Alison is surprised to see Sarah’s ex-boyfriend Vic join her group therapy session. Helena leads Sarah to the church where Ethan Duncan was last seen. Sarah tells Helena to stay in the car while she goes inside. Paul arrives and observes Sarah and Helena from his car parked across the street. Sarah shows the Swan Man photo to a woman who works at the church. She identifies the man as Andrew Peckham. Sarah poses as a student of Peckham’s in order to see the church’s records on the Cold River Institute, which was closed down in the 1970’s. Helena goes into The Round-Up Bar and Grill across from the church. After she breaks the finger of a man named Carl, Carl’s friend Jesse intervenes and strikes up a conversation with Helena. Henrik’s henchman Mark then walks through the door.
Alison argues with Donnie about not being able to see her children when Donnie comes for a visit. Vic interjects with Buddhist philosophy as he continues working to win Alison’s favor. Art tries taking Felix’s mind off his troubles by recruiting him to help piece together the clues uncovered in Maggie Chen and Helena’s storage locker. In the basement of the church, Sarah finds disturbing records regarding a controversial breeding study conducted at Cold River and learns that Ethan Duncan was a key member of the research team. While the attraction grows between Helena and Jesse, Paul enters the bar and has a confrontation with Mark. After both men lob veiled threats at one another, Mark agrees to let Paul have Sarah while Paul concedes Helena to Mark. Playful arm wrestling between Helena and Jesse leads to slow dancing and then to making out. When Carl cuts in, Helena smashes Carl’s face with a billiard ball and a bar brawl ensues. Sarah asks the woman at the church about files missing from the Cold River records and learns that they were pilfered by Maggie Chen. As Sarah leaves the church, she spots the Halloran County Police taking Helena away from the bar in handcuffs.
Gracie Johanssen is sent to the police station to collect Helena. Gracie tells her that Henrik took Helena’s eggs and “made them whole.” Lured by the prospect of bearing her own children, Helena willing leaves for the Johanssen farmin Mark’s custody. Scott uncovers that the stem cells used to treat Cosima do not come from a clone, but from a female relative of the clone, possibly a niece or a daughter. Delphine asks Scott not to tell Cosima about his discovery. Alison forges a new friendship with Vic. Vic then secretly meets with Art’s partner Angie, who made a deal to expunge criminal charges against Vic in exchange for dirt on Alison. In Maggie Chen’s files, Felix finds a patient medical record for a deceased orphan named Andrew Peckham. Felix, Art, and Sarah realize that Ethan Duncan stole Andrew Peckham’s identity. Art finds an address listing for an Andrew Peckham in the town of Brockville. When Sarah arrives there, Siobhan answers the door.
Siobhan explains that when Peckham came to her underground group 20 years earlier, they agreed to keep him hidden in exchange for information regarding experiments performed on unborn children and the whereabouts of Amelia, who ran away while acting as Sarah’s surrogate mother. Siobhan goes outside while Sarah meets with Peckham. Peckham explains that Project LEDA was intended as proof of concept to create baby girl clones. He and his wife Susan were recruited by the military in 1976. When their experiment was successful, an oversight committee declared the project an ethical failure and shut it down. Dyad was a contractor that persuaded the team to continue with the project privately. Meanwhile, Siobhan finds Paul staking out the house from his car outside.
Siobhan threatens that Paul will have to kill her if he intends to take in either Sarah or Ethan. Siobhan also makes a cloaked reference to Paul’s past in Afghanistan. Peckham tells Sarah that Project LEDA was corrupted by the neolutionists inside Dyad. In order to prevent the Duncans from publicly exposing the experiment and raising Rachel on their own, Aldous Leekie caused the lab explosion that killed Susan Duncan and forced Ethan into hiding.
“To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings” marks the episode that puts to rest any lingering doubts about “Orphan Black” being steered by capably attentive hands that do not take a single aspect for granted. The solitary snippet of dialogue proving this fact comes when Felix points out that he has “been demoted from babysitter to bargaining chip.”
It is only a few words that could easily be overlooked, but it echoes the same sentiment I expressed over the previous episode while noting Felix’s evolution from errand boy to human prop serving no greater purpose than pushing someone else’s plot forward. This is like a wink from the writers that says, “we noticed too, and we have it covered.” It also confirms that “Orphan Black” is thinking through even the subtlest ramifications that any action has on character development, overall impact, and groundwork for future side stories.
Scripting is now concerned with much more than solving immediate problems about moving from one beat to the next. The series has matured from a concept realized episode-by-episode to a meticulously plotted meta-arc whose stewards are firmly entrenched in a groove that takes every detail to heart.
Case in point: By hook or by crook, “Orphan Black” is eternally willing to do whatever it takes to make even the most ancillary character somehow pivotal to the overall plot. Not content to rest on their laurels of having successfully resuscitated Paul with creative characterization CPR in episode six, episode seven takes another run at the forgotten face revival trick by working its magic on Vic the Dick.
Season one title card star Michael Mando makes an unexpected return in “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings,” after first siphoning him into the same filter everyone else was funneled through to grant extraordinary new powers in cloak and dagger subterfuge. Not only is Vic now relevant as something more than a literal punching bag, but teaming him with Art’s partner Angie doubles down on renewing her value as well. In addition to granting the actors ample opportunity to perform real roles with genuine complexities, virtually no one is left standing in the toybox of superfluous characters with little to offer aside from minor burs beneath more important people’s saddles.
Then again, the devil on the other shoulder warns not to stray too far ahead with a presumption that Vic and Angie’s deepening involvement in the clone wars will bear significant fruit. Given the revelation of what Aldous Leekie has been up to regarding the Duncans’ lab explosion and his personal hand in Project LEDA, Angie’s dirt digging tabloid tactics are downright catty compared to the serious life and death stakes going on at Dyad.
It isn’t just old friends and foes stepping front and center in episode six. Actor Andrew Gillies is terrific as Andrew Peckham né Ethan Duncan. Peckham/Duncan could have been a clichéd mix of sympathetic codger and convenient Alzheimer’s addling that prevents him from dispensing too much revealing information. But behind those thick plastic eyeglass frames, Gillies puts peeks of remorse, fear, heartbreak, and possible maliciousness into his eyes. That is a lot of layers to pour into a singular screen presence and Gillies captures them all.
Structurally, there are some odd editing choices in the way this episode bounces from thread to thread. If viewing the episode again, pay attention to how Felix and Art’s storyline is developed as an example. Episode six has a weird way of playing through its subplots in pieces that are scattered across each commercial break-separated segment. More than just time condensation, the flow appears broken down this way to make the pace feel frenetic in light of the fact that only a few punches are thrown and no one is murdered during this particular hour. The technique is not confusing, but it is noticeably different stylistically from how previous hours have been organized.
From camping tent Dutch ovens to roadhouse bar brawls, and car karaoke in between, the Sarah/Helena road trip sideshow meets every entertainment expectation despite being sadly short-lived. And sure, it’s humorous to hear Helena assert that she is “good with children,” when the last time we saw her with one, Kira kissed a car’s front fender. But the real takeaway is how committed she is to bearing a child of her own. “Orphan Black” wouldn’t take the fun out of the clones’ greatest ally/adversary by locking up Helena in pregnancy mode for nine months, would they? If so, one can only wish that such a development would take place in between seasons.
By the way, “Orphan Black” is still playing coy about officially declaring its setting as Toronto. Despite text hints on driver’s licenses and signage that virtually confirm as much, the show still plays tricks like having the “Halloran County” police arrest Helena, which is a county that exists in neither Ontario nor New York, both of which have been speculated as the show’s fictional location. Congratulations “Orphan Black.” Your continued refusal to specify a setting is now more maddening than The Simpsons’ 25-year mind game over the true location of Springfield.
Episode 7 - Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things
Director: Ken Girotti
Writer: Aubrey Nealon
Summary: Cosima learns the origin of her stem cell treatment, Leekie’s involvement in Susan Duncan’s death is revealed, and Donnie discovers a secret about Alison.
While preparing decorations together for Family Day at the wellness centre, Alison confides in Vic that she watched her neighbor Aynsley die and did nothing to help. Alison later learns about Vic’s duplicity when she overhears him on the phone arranging a meeting with Angie.
Cal discovers that Dyad hacked his computer and had been using its webcam to spy on Kira in his RV. After ditching the laptop, Cal goes back on the run with Kira and calls Sarah to tell her what happened. Delphine comforts Cosima as she undergoes her stem cell treatment in the Dyad lab. Alison calls Felix for help with taking care of Vic before he can report to Angie about her involvement in Aynsley’s death. Before leaving the safehouse, Ethan insists that Sarah and Siobhan first help him find a red box hidden amongst his clutter. Sarah eventually finds it before she returns to Cal and Kira. Cal asks Sarah about the drawing Kira made of Alison, Cosima, and Helena, but Sarah says nothing about being a clone. Paul reports to Leekie that Prolethean Mark Rollins separated Sarah and Helena. Paul also reports that he was unable to locate Ethan Duncan. After Paul leaves, Leekie arranges an emergency meeting with Dr. Marian Bowles of Dyad. Ethan collects floppy disks hidden inside a secret compartment in his red tin box. He reveals to Siobhan that the disks contain his Project LEDA research, which was presumed destroyed in the lab explosion.
Cosima overhears a conversation between Scott and Delphine and learns that the stem cells in her treatment came from Kira. Furious that the information was withheld from her, Cosima confronts Delphine. Delphine confesses that the stem cells were taken from a tooth retrieved after Kira’s accident, but that it was a finite source and they need more of Kira’s genetic material to continue treatment. Cosima angrily dismisses Delphine. Alison has Felix bargain with Vic, but Vic is not persuaded until Felix agrees to arrange a meeting with Vic’s ex-girlfriend Sarah. Leekie tells Marian that Ethan Duncan is alive. Marian asks for an assessment on how Rachel might react to the news before expressing her displeasure in Leekie’s inability to control Sarah Manning. Sarah continues dodging Cal’s questions about what is really going on with Dyad. Alison and Felix then summon Sarah to the wellness centre to help them placate Vic.
While trying to talk his way back into Sarah’s life, Vic falls unconscious and crashes face first into a table. Felix admits that he drugged Vic’s tea. Donnie and the Hendrix children arrive for Family Day with Alison. Siobhan goes to Dyad to meet with Leekie. She tells him that she has Ethan’s research and offers to hand it over along with Ethan in exchange for Leekie leaving Kira alone. Siobhan learns that Rachel is unaware of Leekie’s involvement in her mother’s death. Siobhan tells Sarah and the two of them agree to tell Rachel. Sarah is forced to impersonate Alison when the wellness centre director confuses her identity.
As Sarah performs a role-play session with Donnie in front of everyone gathered for Family Day, Alison and Felix move Vic to make it appear as if he had a relapse while also successfully diverting Angie. Afterwards, Sarah reunites with Alison and Felix when Donnie unexpectedly interrupts. Everyone comes to realize that even though Donnie is Alison’s monitor, he never knew it was because she was a clone. Siobhan arranges for Paul to tearfully reunite Rachel with her father. Sarah and Felix sneak out as Alison and Donnie bare all to each other. Donnie explains that he thought he was participating in a long-term social metrics study after being recruited in college. Alison blames Donnie for ruining their marriage. With Marian’s approval, Rachel dismisses Leekie from Dyad with the threat that if he does not get in his car or go home, he might stay alive. Leekie remorsefully kisses Rachel on her forehead before hurriedly fleeing the building in fear.
Cosima calls Sarah and reveals that the stem cells for her treatment came from Kira’s tooth and that another one is needed to continue. Kira overhears Sarah and Cal discussing the situation and uses a string and doorknob to pull out an already loose tooth for Cosima. Sarah and Kira then separate from Cal. Donnie follows Leekie and forces the doctor into his car at gunpoint. Leekie insults him as Donnie blames Leekie for causing the collapse of his marriage. While angrily expressing his resolve to quit the monitor program, Donnie slams his gun on the steering wheel in frustration and accidentally shoots Dr. Leekie in the head.
“Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things” completes a hat trick that gives my last trio of reviews/recaps a broken record for an intro. First it was Paul Dierden. Then it was Victor Schmidt. Now for the third consecutive episode, “Orphan Black” proves there is nothing it cannot do when it comes to pumping helium into a deflated character by giving Donnie Hendrix his turn at the refilling station. Alison’s affable, yet often momentum-killing, patsy of a paramour has gone from pathetic to energetic with one simple revelation and one single gunshot.
The downside to Donnie’s newfound plot importance is that Matt Frewer has to lay down his character in order to renew Donnie’s. Although the upside to losing Matt Frewer is that “Orphan Black” gains Michelle Forbes in an even exchange. If any talent can match Frewer’s in terms of arched-eyebrow menace that can be both seductively charming and alarmingly suspicious concurrently, it is Forbes.
“Homicide,” “24,” “Battlestar Galactica,” and “True Blood” are just a few of the already terrific series that were made even better by adding Michelle Forbes to their cast lists, and “Orphan Black” is certain to see a similar benefit from including yet another reliable talent. Story-wise, it also makes perfect sense to replace Dr. Leekie with a formidable female foe that isn’t played by Tatiana Maslany for a change.
“Orphan Black” has no weak links in either its main cast or supporting character chains. Cal Morrison could have been a boring person as portrayed until this point because frankly, he doesn’t have a whole lot to do aside from assuming Mrs. Sadler’s former role as Kira’s babysitter and asking questions that Sarah never answers. But what someone like actor Michiel Huisman brings to the part is a subtlety that packs the same style of charm Daario Naharis had when giving Khaleesi a wink before throwing a blade into a charging horse.
Huisman’s smiles are disarming and uneasy in the same moment. It’s never clear if Cal might be withholding more information from Sarah than she is keeping from him. Keep in mind that Siobhan meets Leekie for the first time in this episode, which should confirm that she has not been previously aligned with Dyad. Now remember that “Orphan Black” has not yet revealed the identity of Sarah’s monitor. Before getting too wooed by Cal’s handsome likability, it’s worth bearing the possibility in mind that the secrets hidden in his gun drawer likely contain something more sinister than falsified passports.
And as far as secrets meant to stay hidden are concerned, people in the world of “Orphan Black” really need to be more careful about when they open their mouths, where, to whom, and how loud. Episode seven features three critical instances of accidentally overheard conversations that significantly alter the course of main events.
Alison listens in when Vic phones Angie, which clues Alison into the secret plot of digging up her dirty deeds. Cosima eavesdrops on a hallway conversation between Scott and Delphine, leading to an infuriating revelation now driving a serious wedge between the two lovers. And Kira can’t help but hear Cal and Sarah arguing about using Kira’s baby teeth in Cosima’s treatment, inspiring the little girl to end the debate before it really begins by just yanking out the damn thing herself. Personally, I fail to find why it is even a matter of consternation for anyone at all. It’s not like Kira doesn’t have an entire mouth full of fangs completely ripe for falling out on their own anyway.
Regardless, that is still a hell of a lot of plot development to come from overheard information. Either everyone needs to pay closer attention to flies on nearby walls, or perhaps the writers should arm their sleeves with a few more tricks. Or maybe just avoid pulling the same card three times in an hour.
Of course, if overusing serendipitous timing to move the story along is the biggest complaint leveled against an episode, then it is safe to deem “Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things” a success. Like clockwork, the show still responsibly rotates out one storyline (Helena goes to the box this time) while rotating in another (Alison’s arc returns from its one-hour hiatus) to keep thread juggling at the minimum required for intrigue maintenance without overwhelming viewers with too much to follow at once. Yet given the fact that everyone is now knee-deep in a subplot of some consequence, “Orphan Black” has its work cut out for it in deciding which of the featured storylines should be rotated in next.
Episode 8 - Variable and Full of Perturbation
Director: John Fawcett
Writer: Karen Walton
Summary: Ethan Duncan returns to the Dyad Institute while Art, Felix, and Sarah uncover the existence of another clone.
Fleeing from a shootout, wounded thief Sammy Dean escapes to a garage in a bullet-riddled van. His partner in crime undoes a bandana mask and reveals that he is a transgender clone named Tony. Before dying, Sammy asks Tony to relay a message to Beth Childs.
Ben escorts Felix and Kira to Mrs. Sadler’s new safehouse where Ethan and Sarah wait to see how the gambit with Rachel and Leekie plays out. Delphine discovers that Cosima has locked her out of their lab at Dyad when she delivers a package that came from Sarah. Scott and Cosima begin extracting pulp from the tooth provided in the package. Alison finds Donnie sulking in their bed while surrounded by hidden bottles of alcohol. Because he still has Beth’s phone, Art arranges a meeting when Tony tries contacting Beth. Delphine finds Rachel sitting in Leekie’s office. Rachel tells her that Leekie died of a heart attack while aboard one of their private planes. Rachel tasks her aide Martin to find Paul, who has gone missing and is not answering his phone. She then recruits Delphine to open a line of communication with Sarah under the pretense of uncovering a breakthrough in Cosima’s treatment. Upon discovering that Tony is a transgender clone, Art brings him to Felix’s loft.
Tony reveals that he never met Beth in person, but that she claimed they were related. Tony refuses to disclose Sammy’s message for Beth until Felix and Art tell him what is going on. Art tells Felix that Tony’s accomplice Sammy was “whacked by suits,” presumed to be Dyad, and that Tony will likely be their next target. Art leaves while Felix tries to glean more information from Tony. Delphine arrives at the safehouse on Rachel’s request. Delphine tells Siobhan and Sarah about Leekie’s death. She relays that the key to a gene therapy cure, which does not require Kira’s stem cells, lies in Duncan’s synthetic sequences. Delphine tells the two women that they need Duncan at Dyad in order to conduct the research. Siobhan tells Delphine that they will consider Rachel’s proposal. Cosima finds Scott and his friends playing a game of Rune Wars in the lab and joins them. Delphine confronts Cosima and tells her that Duncan holds the key to her cure. They also begin reconciling with each other. Back in the loft, Felix’s encounter with Tony grows more flirtatious.
Sarah agrees to give Duncan to Dyad. Art returns to Felix and tells him that Tony was born Antoinette Zwickey. His partner Sammy’s body turned up in a Cincinnati garage. Felix assumes Sammy was Tony’s monitor. Ethan reads H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau” to Kira and then gives her the book. Felix tells Sarah about Tony over the phone and asks her to come to the loft. Felix gives in to a kiss when Tony tries seducing him, but Felix then pulls back. Tony reveals that he found Felix’s paintings of the other clones while snooping and demands to know what they mean. Cosima and Delphine get high together as they rekindle their relationship. Alison confesses her role in Aynsley’s death to Donnie and Donnie tells her that he shot Leekie. Frustrated that Felix will not reveal anything, Tony leaves the loft and bumps into Sarah in the hallway.
Tony learns that he is a clone. He tells Sarah that Sammy was ex-military and that their heist jobs often came from Sammy’s Army contacts. Sammy’s message for Beth was, “keep the faith. Paul is like me. He’s on it. He’s a ghost.” Meanwhile, Rachel is still unable to find Paul. Ethan arrives at Dyad and meets with Rachel. Alison discovers that Donnie still has Leekie’s body in his car and that he put the murder weapon back in Alison’s gun locker. Rachel hides her fury when she discovers that Sarah was an anomaly and that the clones were intentionally engineered to be barren. After introducing Ethan to Delphine, Rachel trashes her office.
Felix says goodbye to Tony before Art puts Tony on a bus out of town to hide from Dyad. Cosima admits to Scott that she is the clone. Ethan arrives in the lab to begin working with Cosima, Delphine, and Scott. Cosima suddenly starts coughing up blood and collapses on the floor during a seizure. At the safehouse, Kira pulls out the book given to her by Ethan. In the margins of the pages are Ethan’s handwritten Project LEDA notes.
Hank Aaron didn’t hit a home run every time he stepped up to the plate, right? Season one of “Orphan Black” had its neolutionist nightclub hiccup and now season two pops a tire in its own pothole with episode eight. Enough zaniness exists in “Variable and Full of Perturbation” that the hour should be a lot more fun, but it instead comes off as really, really weird.
Let’s not beat around the bush and simply cut straight to the elephant in the loft. Tony the transgender clone is a terrific idea on paper, and a logical step for a story defined by taking risks on unpredictable twists. But come on. I nearly always buy whatever “Orphan Black” is selling. Except this time, the character flat out does not work.
From the moment Tony steps from the van in the very first scene, the eyes, the long brown hair, and the shapely thighs are a dead giveaway that it is Tatiana Maslany under the bandana. Why even hide the face like the reveal is going to be a jaw-dropper? Hey, the hair and makeup departments have an impossible task in trying to make Maslany appear even the least bit masculine. However, chin hair and eyebrow penciling are underachieving cheats no matter how you rationalize it. Maybe they tried a full Van Dyke or a bald cap and that was even more ridiculous. But that longhaired mullet/pompadour combo? They should have gone for a straight Dave Navarro and left it at that.
Part of the perception problem is that the trans clarification does not come until after Tony’s introduction. Initial appearances leave the impression that Maslany is attempting to pull off a strict male, and that only induces winces. I’ll be first in line to campaign for Maslany’s overdue Emmy nomination, but Tony does not enhance those chances. Good on you for giving it a go “Orphan Black,” but I believe Tony was put on the bus at the end of the hour to gauge fan reaction and to see how he might play before rotating him into being a real player.
And what to make of the awkward kiss between Felix and Tony? Felix sees the sisterly resemblance. Tony knows something is up with Felix because of the clone paintings discovered in his loft. So what is behind the attraction here? Does Felix have some Freudian sexual frustration towards his foster sister? Is he just turned on by the sight of Sarah with a beard? I don’t know which angle of this flirty pseudo-romance is creepier, but all of the possibilities are equally uncomfortable.
Joining in on the “anything goes” theme of episode eight, Cosima and Delphine find themselves in a strange laughing gas party missing only glow sticks and Mickey Mouse gloves. I always assumed “getting baked” involved a bong or a bowl, but helium apparently qualifies too. It seems like “Orphan Black” felt the laboratory lovers’ storyline was getting too “Brian’s Song” and opted to liven it up with a trippy montage, although the unexpected abruptness of its inclusion made for a “huh?” moment. Or they just wanted C and D to do something fun before collapsing Cosima to the floor in a puddle of her own vomited blood.
Cosima cannot die anyway. Not because she is so critical to the show, but because that would mean more time focused on weakly depicted clones like Rachel and Tony. The chief square of Sarah, Alison, Cosima, and Helena is balanced perfectly and Maslany has all of those personalities down cold. Rachel is a fairly flat ice princess and I’ve already had my say on Tony. As the most recent additions to Clone Club, Rachel and Tony don’t inspire much confidence that Maslany and the creators can conjure another clone on the same level as the core four. They aren’t getting better, and they aren’t very interesting.
It is odd that reliable series co-creator John Fawcett directed “Variable and Full of Perturbation” and yet the episode feels so confused. In addition to Felix’s quandary over Tony and Cosima’s two-person rave with Delphine, there is another muddled meaning in the show’s final scene. What is the intended significance of Duncan’s notes existing in the margins of the Dr. Moreau novel? The sequence is shot to make it a cliffhanger reveal, but it is unclear if the takeaway is that Duncan’s actual notes are in the book and not on the floppy disks, or that Kira seems very interested in what she has and may even understand the content?
What I know for certain is that “Variable and Full of Perturbation” left me uncertain about what in the world the creators were thinking when they plotted how it would play out. Sorry to say it, but episode eight is a really rickety hour, and not in the usually satisfying way that “Orphan Black” has excelled at in the past.
P.S. – Why does Rachel tell Delphine that Leekie had a heart attack? Given the way episode seven ended, for all Rachel seemingly knows, Leekie successfully went underground after disappearing from Dyad. Unless Rachel actually knows that Donnie shot him, then it seems a risky assumption to put forth when he could theoretically pop back up at any time.
Episode 9 - Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done
Director: T.J. Scott
Writer: Alex Levine
Summary: The clones face a difficult decision regarding Kira’s role in Cosima’s treatment, Alison and Donnie deal with Leekie, and Helena makes a move at Henrik’s farm.
Donnie and Alison clean up the mess made by Leekie’s body and hide his corpse in the freezer in their garage. At the Prolethean farm, Helena willingly allows Henrik to inseminate her with her fertilized embryos.
Rachel makes Delphine the new interim director of Dyad’s clone project. She also recruits Delphine to convince Sarah that Kira’s bone marrow is an essential part of saving Cosima’s life. Delphine delivers Rachel’s message to Sarah, who mulls over Rachel’s possible motives with Siobhan. Sarah, Cosima, and Alison have a Skype chat with each other to discuss what they should do. At Donnie’s prodding, Alison nervously asks if there is any news about Dr. Leekie’s death. Donnie wonders why Dyad created a cover story to say that Leekie died of a heart attack on one of their planes. He and Alison then decide to bury the body under concrete in their garage. The Proletheans’ resident midwife Alexis shows Helena the farm’s nursery and preschool, which are populated by numerous children. Henrik confronts Mark about Mark’s interest in his daughter and asks if he is ready to be Gracie’s husband. Siobhan and Sarah reason that it should be Kira’s decision whether or not she donates her bone marrow to Cosima. Kira says yes.
Mrs. S arranges for the bone marrow withdrawal to take place at a private pediatric clinic through one of her contacts. Delphine oversees the procedure. At the Dyad lab, Scott runs Ethan’s floppy disks against the cipher Ethan provided and begins decrypting the Project LEDA data. Vic interrupts Alison and Donnie as they prepare to bury Leekie, but they dismiss him quickly. Gracie observes as Helena threatens Alexis when the midwife becomes physical with one of the Prolethean children. Sarah questions her decision to use Kira as she watches the needle go into her daughter.
Donnie pulls a gun on Vic when he catches him snooping around the Hendrix garage. Donnie threatens to shoot Vic and to bury him in the hole until Vic admits that he is working with Angie to acquire dirt on Alison. Realizing that she is working outside of her capacity as a police detective, Donnie confronts Angie in her surveillance van outside and threatens to expose her if the harassment continues. Henrik inseminates Gracie with embryos from Helena that he has fertilized himself. Helena later learns from Gracie and Mark that all of the Prolethean children are bred by Henrik and that he is using her eggs to create children in other surrogate mothers as well. Scott decodes the first of Ethan’s genetic sequences. Ethan points out that the sequences are in pieces to prevent Dyad from stealing the research and recreating the experiment. Rachel and Marion discuss Leekie, Delphine, and Sarah. Rachel assures Marion that she has Sarah under control. Rachel then retires to a private room where she watches home movies of her as a child with the Duncans. Rachel then looks enviously at picture of Sarah with Kira before making a cryptic phone call to a Dr. Nealon. Afterwards, Rachel thanks Delphine for allowing her to use Dr. Cormier’s office. On the computer screen, Delphine notices a file Rachel left indicating that Siobhan’s associate Benjamin R. Kertland is a Dyad agent.
Helena decides to escape the Prolethean farm and Gracie asks to go with her. However, Henrik stops them by pistol-whipping Helena with the butt of a shotgun and locking Gracie in a cell. Mark arrives and asks for Gracie to be released, but Henrik refuses. Mark allows Helena to recover and when she begins strangling Henrik, Mark uses the opportunity to flee the farm with Gracie. Alison becomes so aroused after the experience of burying Leekie’s body with Donnie that she and her husband spontaneously have sex on top of the garage’s freezer. Helena straps Henrik to an operating table and tortures him with his own insemination tools before setting fire to the farmhouse. Sarah and Felix watch over Kira as she recovers in her hospital room overnight. Siobhan tells Sarah that Delphine has asked to speak with her in a car outside. Delphine tells Sarah that Ben is actually a Dyad plant. Sarah rushes back to Kira’s room and prepares to escape with Kira. Felix is confused when he receives a phone call from Sarah. Sarah turns around and gives Felix an injection that renders him unconscious, revealing that she is actually Rachel in disguise.
The real Sarah returns to Kira’s room to find Felix drugged and Kira missing. Ben professes that he is not in league with Dyad and everyone realizes that Rachel engineered the ruse in order to kidnap Kira. Heartbroken, Delphine admits to Cosima that she played right into Rachel’s scheme. Meanwhile, Kira wakes to find herself in a little girl’s bedroom. Rachel explains that it is the same room where she grew up.
With only one more hour remaining in the season, “Orphan Black” still has a lot of balls in the air, although it brings some of them back to the ground in season two’s penultimate episode. The two themes featured most prominently in “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done” are regret and renewal, as nearly everyone involved in the episode features in a storyline involving one, the other, or both.
Donnie certainly regrets killing Leekie. And Alison regrets the mess it made almost as much as the fact that she has to help her husband clean it up. Unexpectedly for the eternally frustrated couple, collaborating on a clandestine body burial has the surprise side effect of stimulating their sex life. Supercharged libidos aren’t the only refresh seen in the Hendrix household, either. Still sipping on the inebriating effects of being an unwitting assassin, Donnie takes his newfound villainy to another level with death threat coercion and police extortion. That “Orphan Black” can turn Donnie’s character around to one of genuine provocative potential in only two episodes is a positive omen that the series can pick itself up from any creative stumble it might encounter.
Which is assuring, because Rachel may need to be next on the lift for a creative tune-up. Since her introduction, Rachel has struggled to equal the other clones in both allure and characterization. The reason for this is that Rachel is currently the one clone who does not allow Tatiana Maslany to perform to her full capabilities. Individuality in the clones has always come from Maslany first and foremost. Writing, wigs, and wardrobe, in that order, come second, third, and fourth in bringing her personalities to life.
Except Rachel is fleshed out in the reverse order. Episode nine has Rachel often clutching something in her hand, particularly beverages, whether it is sipping tea while verbally disarming Delphine or swigging a martini like a stereotypical Bond villain during a weird personal viewing of home movies on a big screen. Forget about why she would engage in such a private emotional affair at the office. Why is there such an overreliance on props to define who Rachel is?
The fullness of her emotional arc exposed, Rachel is now presumably on a quest for motherhood, which seems to be the same purpose for all of the clones except Cosima, even Helena. For Rachel, the solution to a barren womb is to kidnap Kira, which unfortunately is not as fulfilling story-wise for the audience as it is for Rachel’s personal motivations.
Kidnapping Kira is seemingly the go-to cliffhanger for “Orphan Black,” though it has happened often enough by this point that it has lost its luster as a shocking plot development. Helena already absconded with the poor girl once, resulting in a notable car collision, and a follow-up abduction was the season one finale. This third kidnapping appears to be building towards a much bigger deal than the previous two perhaps, but maybe it is time to make Kira more than a tool for inspiring someone else’s plotline.
None of these criticisms are to say that “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done” is a poor episode, because it isn’t. As the second to last hour in the season, it serves the purpose it should. Enough of the various storylines are given full or temporary resolutions that the stage is cleared for a focused season finale that does not need to sew as many loose ends. More debatable is how satisfying the resolutions are as payoffs to all of the themes, subplots, and characters that were introduced and developed throughout the course of the season.
Strapping Helena down to a bed for nine onscreen months is not the most exciting use of her character, although at least the show wisely has the sense to time her pregnant period for the after hours once the season concludes. As a different point to quibble over, if the last of Peter Outerbridge has been seen, and it certainly looks like it has, then quite frankly a very talented actor was sadly underused. I expected more from his addition to the supporting players and while he gave the Proletheans a renewed dose of menace, I wonder how memorable his villainy will ultimately be in the grand scheme should “Orphan Black” last five seasons or more.
More than that, I just hope that similarly underplayed guest starring roles are not in the cards for Michiel Huisman or Michelle Forbes, who have been terrific presences despite not having as much on air time as the headliners. Although with all due respect to Dylan Bruce, Paul can continue to be M.I.A. for as long as anyone wants. Unless of course there is a Donnie-style reboot waiting in the wings for him too. In that case, by all means, bring it on.
Episode 10 - By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried
Director: John Fawcett
Writer: Graeme Manson
Summary: Sarah turns herself over to Dyad in order to reunite with Kira, prompting the clones and their contacts to devise a rescue plan.
Sarah, Siobhan, and Felix sort through their confusion in the wake of Kira’s kidnapping. In order to reunite with her daughter, Sarah voluntarily surrenders herself to Dyad.
Dr. Nealon and Dyad scientists interview Sarah, uncovering the revelation that Sarah previously had an abortion. Nealon bargains visitation with Kira to persuade Sarah to sign consent forms for a medical procedure. While being examined by a Dyad nurse, Kira pickpockets the woman’s phone and secretly uses it to call Cal. Rachel’s aide Martin shuts down Cosima’s lab and transfers her physical care to Dr. Nealon. Meanwhile, Rachel dismisses Delphine by transferring her to Frankfurt and forcing her to leave without seeing Cosima. Delphine is still able to email Rachel’s itinerary to Cosima, giving her a head’s up regarding the procedure planned for Sarah. Cosima recruits Scott to help her foil Rachel’s plan. Sarah signs Nealon’s consent form. She is then brought to a monitoring room where she observes Rachel interacting with Kira in the children’s bedroom that is actually part of the lab.
Prompted by Kira’s phone call, Cal arrives at Mrs. S’ house and meets Siobhan. Art calls Felix and tells him that Helena showed up at his apartment. Siobhan tasks Felix with collecting Helena and keeping an eye on her. While being led through the Dyad building in handcuffs, Sarah is escorted past Ethan Duncan, who is also in cuffs. He tells Sarah not to despair. Art and Felix ask Helena about the Prolethean farm. She tells them about Gracie. Elsewhere, Mark and Gracie take to the road. Cal informs Siobhan that he made contact with a mole inside Dyad through darknet. Cal connects with his anonymous contact, who tells him to ask Siobhan about “Castor.” Siobhan reveals that she too has an inside man. She then arranges a meeting with Paul, revealed to be a major in the military. Rachel has tea with her father, who produces his own teabag from his pocket. Rachel has Ethan watch home movies of their family from when she was a child while demanding that he reveal the genetic sequence that will unlock the procedure to create new clones. Ethan instead commits suicide with his poisoned teabag. Rachel cries as he dies in her arms while tearfully expressing his disappointment in who she has become.
Siobhan introduces Paul to Cal, and Cal in turn introduces Paul to his Dyad contact, who turns out to be Marion Bowles. In exchange for Marion promising to get Sarah and Kira out of Dyad, Paul hands over a file on Project Castor. Cosima gives Kira a science lesson on the principles of force. Separately, Cosima and Scott prepare a booby trap based on what Kira is taught. Scott shows Cosima that he has a security keycard and offers to risk himself as part of Sarah’s escape plan. Sarah is forcibly taken into an operating room for her procedure, which Dr. Nealon reveals is an oophorectomy that will remove one of Sarah’s ovaries. Disguised as a doctor, Scott undoes one of Sarah’s restraints and places a fire extinguisher contraption next to her gurney. Rachel asks to speak to Sarah alone and clears the room. She gives Sarah a picture drawn by Kira and Sarah notices that a fire extinguisher is included in the image. Assuming that Ethan told her, Rachel demands that Sarah reveal Duncan’s secret genetic sequence. When Sarah says she does not know, Rachel smashes the vials of Kira’s bone marrow on the floor. Sarah sees the word “squeeze” written on the fire extinguisher’s tag. She triggers the trap and it launches a pencil into Rachel’s eye. Sarah escapes to find Marion with Kira. Marion lets them both go and tells Sarah to meet her the following day if she wants to stop running and learn what is really going on.
After meeting the other clones at Felix’s apartment, Cal says goodbye to Sarah. Felix arrives with Helena, introducing her to Cosima and Alison for the first time. Accompanied by Felix and Kira, the four clones celebrate their reunion with an impromptu dance party. In the morning, Helena leaves a tank of liquid nitrogen in Felix’s apartment before slipping out while fondling Jesse’s tow truck cap. Two men then forcibly abduct Helena in the hallway.
Kira asks Cosima to read to her from The Island of Dr. Moreau book given to her by Ethan. Cosima discovers that the notes for Duncan’s genetic sequences are coded within the book. Sarah arrives at Marion’s mansion and meets an eight-year-old clone named Charlotte, who Marion adopted. Marion reveals that Charlotte was the only successful clone out of 400 attempts made since the original experiment, although Charlotte wears a leg brace. Marion explains that she works for Topside, a secret cabal that steers Dyad in collaboration with other multinational corporations. She also reveals that the military never shut down Project LEDA. While Dyad carried female clones to term, a military faction carried the males under a project codenamed Castor. Mark and Gracie are married in a church. Siobhan and Paul observe as Helena is escorted to a military transport plane, where she walks past a soldier who looks exactly like Mark. At the same time, Marion shows Sarah a clone from Project Castor, confirming that Mark is the male template for the experiment.
What could be freakier than stepping onto a train platform only to watch a mirror image of yourself step off that same platform and into an oncoming train? Inexplicably confronting an eight-year-old version of yourself, that’s what. Although as odd as such an inconceivable encounter might be, it isn’t even a squirt in the tsunami featuring in an overstuffed hour of revelatory conundrums, tearjerking melodrama, and uniquely clonetastic action.
“By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” is the “Empire Strikes Back” episode of “Orphan Black” in that it has the illusion of being a fully realized chapter until you come out the other side saying, “hey wait a minute…” Several storylines come to permanent or placeholder pauses, and then the episode continues on anyway, ensuring that the final act is devoted to overturning the apple cart once again. There are plenty of eye-rolling contrivances and instances of eyebrow-raising to be sure, but the overall experience is highly satisfying in the areas where it matters most.
The plot to extract Sarah and Kira from Dyad is simply one of the best sequences ever conceived on the series. This is chiefly because it involves every primary player as a moving part in a somewhat intricate plan without anyone knowing how it all folds together. Not only does it work everyone from Scott to Cosima to Mrs. S and even an unwitting Rachel into a key collaborative role in a significant development, but it also highlights the trust that the core group has in one another to play his/her part with full faith and confidence. It is fantastic how this indirect interplay tightens everyone together as a unit without all of them being together at the same time.
Serving a different purpose to the same fulfilling effect is the midpoint plateau of Clone Club’s impromptu dance party. This is a two for one scene functioning first as smile-inducing fan service for everyone delighted to see the band put back together at last. Yet the scene works foremost as a well-deserved respite for the main foursome as they finally enjoy a breather involving fun, instead of their usual diet of frustration. Come to think of it, maybe episode ten is more “Return of the Jedi” than “Empire Strikes Back,” and this stands in for a premature Endor forest Ewok celebration.
Easily overlooked in the clone-related chaos is a short, but absolutely gutwrenching scene between Rachel and her adoptive father. Actor Andrew Gillies will be missed as a necessary result of Ethan Duncan’s demise, although the way he goes out with such heart-ripping emotion for both himself and his daughter is well worth the exchange.
Getting back to that earlier mention of eye-rolling contrivances, I would be remiss in not properly balancing my praise with putting the writer’s room on notice for a fairly greedy hand swiping from the deus ex machina bowl. “Orphan Black” has never been above cheats before. And while their use is not a huge distraction in light of how much more this episode does right, it still makes for more than a few “oh come on” moments.
One of Kira’s clone progeny powers is an apparent ability to lift a cell phone from her attending nurse’s pocket without the woman noticing. Luckily for Kira, this phone also happens to be the only iPhone in the world not protected by a passcode. The luck doesn’t stop there, either. Kira then uses it to call Cal, which is somehow the one event not picked up by the security camera and microphones in her monitoring room. I’m willing to let this one not be that big of a deal, though. Aside from mother and daughter, Cal hasn’t met anyone else in the cast except Felix. I suppose this is the only way to connect that dot back into the big picture in a way that makes any sense.
The Dyad building needs a complete security makeover anyway. Episode ten is not even close to the first time someone swipes an electronic keycard to gain access s/he shouldn’t have. The rate at which pockets are picked in that lab rivals inner city Chicago’s. Not only that, Rachel transfers Delphine to another country and has her escorted out of the building, yet someone in IT neglects to disable her email account. This allows her to send a head’s up to Cosima in the form of Rachel’s itinerary, which conveniently lists Sarah’s secret surgery, while an oblivious Dyad agent stands behind her doing nothing.
Dyad guards seriously suck at their job. Who transfers prisoners in a manner that allows them to pass each other in the hallway and exchange a quip, no matter how brief? For a secretive organization involved in large-scale coverups and brilliant scientific research, they sure are Bush League with the details of keeping basic perimeters secure. Ethan is refitted in hospital scrubs and handcuffs, but no one confiscates the tin in his pocket containing a poisoned teabag? Military moles are everywhere one turns in this building and still no one knows how to conduct a proper strip search.
They should just be trained by Paul’s soldiers. Those guys have the impressively uncanny ability to know when Helena is going to spontaneously slip out of Felix’s apartment in the night so that they can silently abduct her in the hallway. What exactly was their plan going to be if that hadn’t fortuitously happened?
I’m only gently ribbing “Orphan Black.” Sure, these minor record skips are mild pests, but the full symphony is too pleasing for the miscues to significantly stand in the way.
More important is how the episode makes you believe for a split instant that they could go through with the unthinkable and actually kill Cosima. Of course they wouldn’t. But for a moment there with that extended stop and bright white vision, it seemed possible. That’s when you fully realize how unpredictable “Orphan Black” can be, even when it is being predictable.
I do confess that given the revelation regarding Project Castor, I was hoping that the mohawked man doing pull-ups was going to turn around wearing Jordan Gavaris’ face. If the show is going to introduce a male parallel to the force of nature that is Tatiana Maslany, it is a ballsy move to place that burden on an actor who fans have not yet had time to become completely accustomed. A set of Felix clones would have been cause for immediate speculative joy. Instead, the ball is not so enviously in Ari Millen’s court to see how successful this turn may or may not be once season three is underway.
For the time being, “Orphan Black” comes to rest on a promising pause of interesting “what if’s” ahead and rewarding revelations behind. “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” is everything the show needs to deliver as a season capper that is immensely entertaining above all else. And isn’t that the primary reason to watch “Orphan Black” in the first place? I mean, besides Tatiana Maslany, obviously. I for one can’t wait to see her rocking an eyepatch in season three.