Sunday, April 27, 2014

Orphan Black 2.02 - "Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion"

For as much as the first season kept accelerating to the finale, it was a bit disappointing to note that the second episode of season 2 lost some of the wind in its sails. I suppose it was inevitable, and certainly not a glaring misstep - but by comparison, this episode didn’t quite keep the same pace we’re used to. With massive world expansions, new characters, and the settlement into a new status quo, “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” kept its events carefully paced and under control - until of course, the final act, when things went spinning again in a new direction.


Truly, the thing that astounded me most about “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” was the sheer amount of WORLD EXPANSION happening.  This episode doled out information and exposition, without really answering any questions.  We learned that the Proletheans actually have a division amongst them, an Old Order - comprising Tomas and Helena - and a New Order - comprising Bomb Girl’s Bob Corbett and Alien Insect Joaquin Phoenix.   (Okay, fine, I’ll use character names. Henrik and Mark it is.)  Turns out these New Order folk live on a kind of rural compound, and they’ve taken in Helena and Tomas.  Henrik and Tomas have a nice conversation about the role of science in religion, and then Mark shoots him with a nail gun.  That's about the sum of it.

The other world we’re introduced to also happens to take place on a kind of rural compound.  Turns out Kira’s kidnapping was actually done by Mrs. S, as we feared, but in actuality, she staged the ransack and fled for safety.  Which is I guess what we’d hoped, but I won’t deny that a small part of me was disappointed that the element of danger in Kira’s kidnapping deflated so quickly.  I mean, obviously I don’t WANT Kira to get hurt, but I also want to be on the edge of my seat, and the “reveal” that Kira was kidnapped by the Proletheans was tantalizingly stakes-upping.  The bait-and-switch on Sarah’s “kidnapping” from the motel to the woods worked well enough.  But going to hang out at Happy Orphan Compound in the wake of that was a definite lull.

Even so, the lull was likely intentional, because Mrs. S’s past allies turned on her quickly - as a result of a payoff by the Proletheans.  And it’s for this reason that I can’t be too fussed about the lengthy lull of worldbuilding through most of this episode - the scenes of Sarah escaping and Mrs. S realizing the betrayal were a roar of horror that was even more jarring when set against innocuous plotting that came before it.  Indeed, it was protracted even further by the almost pastoral rendering of that environment earlier in the episode.  Sarah and Mrs. S returned to a safe place, a home and a family - only to have that family splintered and violent.  The image of the darkened house, with the sudden flash of Mrs. S’s gunshot, was in sickening constrast to the images OB made a point for us to see earlier on - Felix and Sarah’s names carved into a headboard, a family dinner around a homemade meal, memories and fond reminiscences of happier times.  That house, and those memories, won’t ever quite be the same now.

Particularly intriguing about this series of events too is the role that Mrs. S is playing in them.   Of the “trust issues” characters deployed into OB’s narrative, I personally find Mrs. S the most compelling.   The question of her loyalty runs much deeper than Delphine’s, Paul’s, or Donnie’s. Her alliance with Sarah and Kira connects to the emotional core of the show: motherhood, protection, and humanity - and while we want to trust her, perhaps even more than we want to trust Delphine or Paul, it remains that most of her history is obscured from us.  We don’t have all the facts when it comes to Mrs. S.

Of course, neither does Sarah.  Which is why she withholds information about Amelia and Helena, confronts her with the photo Amelia showed her, and steals away with Kira in the night.  More interesting still is Kira’s agreement that Mrs. S has bad secrets.  We, the audience, learn that Mrs. S clearly knows something about Project Leda - but we also see her step aside to let Sarah leave, and exact vengeance on Brenda for her betrayal.  And more powerful than anything, for me, was the hurt in her eyes as she stood in the headlights of Sarah’s escape and fully processed what Sarah had done.  Oh, it wounded, and Maria Doyle Kennedy deserves props for that bit of subtle acting.  How many times in Siobhán’s life do you think Sarah has disappointed her?  And we want so badly for Mrs. S’s permanence in Sarah’s life to be a sign of unconditional support, and not a contractual obligation.  Maybe more than anything, it's penance.

But it’s likely neither black nor white, if we’ve learned anything from the exploration of loyalty on this show.  The only constant loyalty I trust is amongst the clones themselves - and that’s being tested as well.  DYAD goes to great (okay, fine, conversational) lengths to ensure that Cosima has no alliance with Sarah, then asks her to sequence her DNA and figure out what’s different about her.   Apparently neither Leekie nor Rachel picked up on Cosima’s subtle delight in Sarah stealing Leekie’s swipe card and kicking Rachel’s ass.

Truthfully, “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” did little to make Leekie and Rachel the sinister villains they’ve appeared to be in the past.  It was a bit jarring, actually, how close they bordered on… buffoonery, maybe?  Leekie’s scenes with Cosima felt like an overeager grandpa trying to buy his surly granddaughter’s approval, and his scenes with Donnie spying on Alison were straight out of a sitcom.  Then there’s Rachel, who can’t think of anything else to say to the woman who decoded her own genome than, “So, you’re gay?”  Smooth, grandma.  So, DYAD & Co. weren’t very threatening this episode, and I’m curious to see if that’s going to affect any believability in raising the stakes later on.   I suspect this situation between Cosima and DYAD is meant to be a tense and fragile landscape where the war is waged intellectually… but it would help if Rachel and Leekie didn’t skew Ma and Pa Science.

Ma and Pa Science, (un)naturally

Meanwhile, Alison’s corner starts to crumble, and it’s happening sooner than I would have expected.  Which is certainly not a complaint.  Alison realizes very quickly that Donnie is her monitor, and the fact that the terms of her contract have been breached sends her spiralling.   Actually, it’s important to note that the whispers of her snotty peers weren’t enough to turn her back to drinking - but mysterious text messages implicating Donnie as her monitor were.   She confirms it through some clever trap-setting with her conveniently-named theatre friend Sarah, and catches Donnie - without revealing herself.

The idea that Donnie is Alison’s monitor does have a sinister element to it.  Beth and Cosima were given monitors that are super hot and super specialized - Delphine is a brilliant scientist, Paul has a military background.  They entered Beth and Cosima’s lives fairly late in the game.  But Alison has known Donnie since high school. Has he been her monitor since then?   Or did he turn on her at some point in their marriage? Either way you shake it, it’s terrible.  Alison has been nearly has family-centric as Sarah, and the fact that her partner either a) doesn’t love her anymore, or b) never did, is heartbreaking.  And just how incompetent is Donnie?   He’s no scientist or military guy, but he’s awfully good at lying.  Way better than Delphine, that’s for sure.  Even though he fumbled the cemetery stakeout, he covered it up damn well, and damn quickly.  The unassuming Nice Guy shtick makes it easy for Donnie to pretend that he cares, throwing Alison off his track and making him the Good Husband.

So Alison’s turned back to drugs and pills, and the second most heartbreaking scene in the episode came when she melts down at the news that Felix is leaving. Their dynamic is one of the show’s surprising standouts, and the fact that Alison clearly can’t cope without Felix in her support system just means she’s going to hit rock bottom even harder.  The death of Aynsley, the spousal betrayal, and the continued threat of observation are going to undo Alison.  Not only that, but she’s got the musical to pay attention to, and it’s a classic Alison construct.   She will fracture under the weight of performing. Because that’s what Alison does - she pretends, until she can’t pretend anymore.  And then it gets ugly.

In the end, Sarah takes Kira and Felix on the run, the New Order Proletheans take out the Old, Alison must face the truth about her carefully-designed life, and Mrs. S is left with a shotgun and the bodies of two former friends.  As Henrik says in the episode’s last moments, “it’s a brand new day.”  With the shocks of the premiere behind us, and eight episodes left to go, “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” seemed to echo that sentiment, heralding new sects and shifting situations, introducing us to a new normal and all the mysteries therein.

  • “How’s Auntie Alison making out?” “Don’t tell Sarah, please!”  This bulletpoint has been brought to you by my undying appreciation for Sarah and Alison’s delightful dynamic.
  • Apparently Helena was born as a mirror to Sarah, which means that a) her heart is on the opposite side, hence her apparent invincibility, and b) she possibly also could birth children.  The thought is terrifying for multiple reasons.
  • I like that the new clone phones are bright green.  No real reason.
  • Art went from being very involved to being very not-involved.  It honestly felt like a plot hole that Sarah would get whisked away at the hotel and Art wouldn’t try to contact her afterwards.  But maybe he doesn’t have her new number.
  • Angie continues to be a delightful hardass.  I got a good chortle out of her reassuring Art she wasn’t going to go to the hospital, only to cut away to… her at the hospital.  What a lil Sarah Manning she is.  I am super nervous about her popping up in Alison’s storyline next week, though, because, well, Alison kind of murdered somebody.   Or at least, Aynsley wore a scarf in the kitchen.


  1. Great review! (I was taken aback by that last joke about Helena being good around children considering what they're heavily implying and how they seem neither willing to get consent nor Helena able to give it.)
    "Truthfully, “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” did little to make Leekie and Rachel the sinister villains they’ve appeared to be in the past. It was a bit jarring, actually, how close they bordered on… buffoonery, maybe?" So true. Along with Donnie, they seem to be going the sympathetic villain route, by showing them as almost hapless, but I don't know if that's the ideal way to go.

    1. Thank you! Apologies - I didn't mean for the joke to come off so cavalier; mainly I was stretching for a way to mention the bit about Helena carrying around lollipops in her pockets. I definitely see what you mean, though. I'll change it!


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