Friday, June 26, 2015

Orphan Black 3.09-3.10: “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow," "History Yet to be Written"

Even though the last two episodes of Orphan Black’s Season 3 play independently, they really could be considered Part 1 and Part 2 - halves of the same whole, setup and payoff, plot and character, in a final expression of a bisected season focused on duality.

(But then we couldn’t get two cool titles, and I can’t argue with that.)

ORPHAN BLACK 3.09-3.10: “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow,” “History Yet To Be Written”

Truthfully, I have little to say about 3.09 independent of the finale.  The events of “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow” play largely for plot and setup, and individually the episode doesn’t carry much emotional weight.  I spent most of the hour squirming in my seat under the duress of suspense and the conviction that everyone was making the dumbest decisions possible in their situation.  Yes, they were hard decisions, as Cosima pointed out in the finale, but as they were happening, there was a bewildering sense that no one had the right information and everyone was pushing forward without hesitation.  STRESS.

There were markedly fewer character moments in the penultimate episode, as the hour was overtaken by reveals, plot twists, and the natural culmination of the Delphine-Cosima-Shay love triangle - Delphine threatening to stage Shay’s suicide and leave her bleeding out in the bathtub.  Ah, l’amour.  We also got the Big News that Siobhán Sadler’s mother is the Original - of both Castor and Leda, thanks to some fun science I know cursory-Google-search-levels about.  Then there’s the convenient expiry of Alison and Donnie’s time as Drug Dealers, thanks to a well-placed threat against Alison’s kids that triggers Helena’s murder button.

But none of this really lands in any emotional resonance until the episode after, which is all I really want to talk about.  “History Yet to be Written” makes the most of its emotional moments, and succeeds in wrapping up a scattered and inflated season in a grounded way that makes me excited for Season 4.

The main difference in Season 3 was borne of the fact that this is really no longer a chase show, after two breakneck seasons of pushing our heroes into a corner.  This worked!  This was wonderful!  It was a fitting expression of its main character: a young woman who was a little too good at running.  But as the villains have shifted, Sarah is not back on her heels.  She’s gained some power.  And it took the first half of this season to figure out what to do with a main character whose instinct to fight has overtaken her instinct to flee.  This is no longer a chase show.  Now what?

The key, of course, still lies with Sarah Manning.  The second half of Season 3 has proven that the show’s structure changes best with the natural evolution of its main character.  Yes, this isn’t a chase show anymore because logistically, there aren’t as many pursuants.  But also, this is not a chase show anymore because Sarah Manning isn’t running.  Sarah Manning is choosing to stay, and fight, and protect her family.  This is now a show where Sarah Manning calls the shots and negotiates with enemies - and allies - and has to make sacrifices because she wants to keep her family safe.

Much like “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method,” “History Yet to be Written” exhibited this new structure to great effect: Sarah & Co. hatch Plan, everyone in Clone Club contributes to Plan, Plan goes awry with new information, Sarah & Co. live to fight a new enemy.  It’s a solid structure because it allows our heroes to do things, with the added bonus of involving everyone, building in natural tension and opportunities for twists.  Emotionally, this has evolved organically into the Family Show it has intended to be, and it’s now operating logistically as a Teamwork Show.  It’s like the Partridge Family!  If the Partridges were all genetic identicals and their music career were a concerted effort to protect their bodies and minds from scientific corruption.

Regardless, this is the word of the season: taking information we already knew and bringing it back in new situations, with new interpretations.  Season 3 has shone when it grounds new situations in familiarity with its original premise and characters.  We need a lifeline in the rabbit hole, after all.  “History Yet to be Written” continues this exercise, in ways both big and small.  There’s Sarah’s toast to Beth, as well as sly visual throwbacks - a standalone shot is dedicated to Delphine putting down her briefcase before meeting her untimely end, much like Beth’s in the pilot, and we see Virginia Coady react to a driver’s seat murder - through the windshield, with a violent blood splatter - much like Sarah, in the pilot.

But narratively, the biggest grounding device is the return of two symbiotic elements: 1) the Neolutionists, and 2) the subsequent reminder that HEY YOU’RE WATCHING A SCIENCE FICTION SHOW.  I think we forget all too often that a character in the first season HAD A TAIL.  (And we’re not talking about a monitor.)  Looking back, it’s easy to see that Orphan Black perhaps dissolved Neolutionism as a potential villan too soon, as it killed off Leekie and focused instead of DYAD, Topside, and the military.

But this is not to say that that decision was a mistake, because the revival of Neolutionism is well-crafted in a way that suggests that was the plan all along.  It refreshes the stakes, revives the villains, and reminds us that we are, in fact, in a science fiction show that lands moments of off-kilter body-horror like nobody’s business.  There’s now an instant lightning rod to the first season, and it twists our previous information into fresh story fodder.  Until now, Orphan Black has traded largely in systems - the group vs. the individual.  There’s the corporation, the military, the church, science, the private sector, the public system; we have characters that represent each outpost, and lines are divided and crossed very purposefully.

But Castor and Topside and DYAD are under attack from within: Neolutionists do not act as a group, but rather as a parasite.  They are everywhere, infiltrating every system from within to destroy it.  They shapeshift as necessary to achieve their goals, in an echo of their eugenic purposes.  The enemy is no longer identifiable by group, the Goliath villains of seasons past.  Nah, we have individuals to worry about now, and the secret affiliations that define their agendas.  This gives us new paranoia, new villains, and a new set of bedfellows - like Ferdinand.  (Who, by the way, has the most hilariously disturbing reaction to the Neolutionist reveal.  He’s like a mad Jeff Goldblum character who’s not above murder by bludgeoning and sulfuric acid bath.)

The Neolutionist poison provides a new interpretation on everything we’ve already learned: Rachel’s own mother turned away from science in favor of neolutionism; Rachel was raised by a man who was operating on neolutionist agenda; Delphine skirted awfully close to the cause while working for the same man, and again while working with Nealon; Rachel’s new eye is the product of hi-tech bionic retrofitting typical of neolutionism; Rachel herself is at the hands of the neolutionists now.  (Okay, a lot of these are about Rachel.  Can you tell I’m excited for her arc next season?  I’m delighted the writers have succeeded in finding ways to keep her in the narrative.)

Beyond the logistical plotting, “History Yet to be Written” also dealt some solid emotional work in the episode - in both cases, as payoff to the bombs dropped in “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow,” and relationships that have been developing since Day 1.  Of course, we have the dinner party, where the World’s Best People sit together to celebrate Alison’s school trustee win.  Clone Club in harmony is the happiest, most wonderful thing this show can put forth, and “History Yet to be Written” finds countless tiny moments to do this.  From Alison and Donnie’s inclusion of Helena in the family - finding Jesse Towing!  letting her make Babka Cake! - to Mrs. S’s soft “we’re so proud of you” to Alison, I repeatedly want to curl up in a ball and cry about how much I love these people being a family.  (SOMEBODY GO GET KRYSTAL GODERITCH AND PUT HER AT THE TABLE.)

There’s also the emotional grounding of last week’s big reveal: it’s no coincidence that Sarah Manning, Kendall Malone’s female genetic identical, went into the custody of Kendall’s own daughter.  Kendall chose for the lost clone to be sent to her daughter, as a last vestige of herself to give her daughter, who wanted out of her life.  Written out, it seems like a fairly logical conclusion, but major props to Maria Doyle Kennedy - a continuing MVP - and Alison Steadman for selling this to full emotional capacity.  Never did the words “Jesus, Ma” ever make me so verklempt.

Then, of course, there’s the whole other TIDAL WAVE OF EMOTIONS this episode brought about.  Aren’t you proud of me for waiting FOURTEEN PARAGRAPHS to talk about Delphine?  Sweet Delphine, brave Delphine, BADASS DELPHINE.  In her potential curtain call, Delphine worked with Sarah, passed on crucial information for the clones’ survival, got punched in the face, gave her blessing for a new relationship, tried to atone for her mistakes, killed a man, kissed the girl, and got shot in a parking garage.  THIS IS THE KIND OF CONTENT I WANTED FOR DELPHINE.

Finally, finally, we got more from Delphine’s point of view than just moody scotch drinking and words left unsaid.  She was deployed into the narrative in full embodiment of her position, negotiating her role as DYAD’s New Rachel (is there a title for this job?  Would I even use it if there were?) and her care for Cosima.  That’s been constant tension in Delphine’s worldview, as a “double agent” - can she do what is best for the Leda sisters, on their terms?  Can she respect their right to make their own decisions?  Can she protect them without abusing her avantage in power?  Delphine has long struggled with this gray area, a writing choice executed to excellent effect.  There’s never any question that Delphine loves Cosima.  She’s not a mystery.  Instead, she’s a tough choice.  Can she love Cosima in the right way?  She went against Cosima’s wishes in S2 to deliver her DNA to DYAD, in an effort to find a cure.  And in S3, with the crisp emotionless exterior of New Rachel on her shoulders, she went full-fledged monitor - tailing, investigating, and ultimately threatening torture to Shay in an effort to keep Cosima safe.

“History Yet to be Written” allows Delphine to live in these sins, and demonstrate that she has done terrible things for the one she loves - and still sells it, flaws and all, as the genuine peak of Romance this show will likely ever ascend.  She atones for her sins with Shay, and gives Shay and Cosima the foundation that Cosima and Delphine were never able to have: honesty, on Cosima’s terms.  Delphine and Cosima began their relationship tangled up in a lie, and never quite succeeded in maintaining a relationship that didn’t hinder Cosima’s personal power, because of Delphine’s affiliation with DYAD.  Delphine’s sins were lying, and making decisions for Cosima - and here she is, offering the truth, and giving complete power to Cosima over the choice to tell it.

It’s difficult, in retrospect, not to compare Delphine’s potential exit with Paul’s earlier this season.  Here we have two monitors who continued to work with their respective groups despite having developed personal relationships with their subjects.  Here we have two people who revealed themselves to be squarely Team Leda in the episode leading up to their demise.  Yes, there are many similarities between Paul and Delphine.  But Paul was a mystery.  Delphine is a tough choice.

This difference is manifested in clear, sharp focus: Paul’s last words to Sarah: “It was never Beth I loved.”  Delphine’s to Cosima: “Give your sisters all my love.”  Paul’s moment played like a reveal, and isolates Sarah as the recipient of his love.  Delphine’s, however, plays as a payoff - to the conversation in Season 2, where she first tells Cosima she loves her.  And when Cosima replies that she comes with a small army of clone sisters, Delphine says, “Then I love all of you.”  On a Family Show, with a table of World’s Best People sitting in solidarity with the sisters they’re fighting to protect, this is the only declaration of romantic love that has any weight.  This is not a show about boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, or husbands.  Remember, Kendall Malone took away her daughter’s husband and gave her a little girl.  This is a show about moms and daughters.  Delphine loves all of them.

It’s incredibly sad, then, that Delphine could very easily be dead.  My first instinct - if it’s not a shot to the head, then anything’s possible.  At the same time, her narrative was very neatly wrapped up, with a balls-out heroic ending.  It could be a question of, “Is there any story left?”  Even so, getting shot certainly would provide new material, and I still want to see Delphine operating in the narrative, in her point of view and complicated position.  Sure, you can’t sustain a mystery, but tough choices are always the stuff of good story.  You just need to let the audience see her do more than drink scotch and brood.

Of course, this all leads to the question: who shot Delphine?  Given the focus on neolutionists hiding in plain view, it is likely that the person who pulled the trigger has ties to the movement, making it fairly full-circle for Delphine as well.  It is also probable that we already know this person.  Shay, perhaps?  Who knows.

Because, truly, I’m not in it for the mysteries.  The third season ends on Sarah’s reunion with Kira, as they take Kendall Malone to hide in Iceland.  Four generations of moms and daughters defying the odds, and a little girl with her mom in the snow - not unlike little Rachel Duncan and her mom at the start of the hour.  It’s choices like this that set Orphan Black apart - yes, this is a chase show, a mystery show, and don’t forget, a science fiction show.  But at its heart, this has always been, and will always be, a show about family.


  • I really love Sarah teaching the Castor boys a lil’ somethin’ about clone swap.  Castor may have been trained for strength and power, but Leda knows how to use what they’ve got to get themselves out of a sticky situation.  And even though they’re much more varied than Castor, they stick together, and work together.
  • I mentioned nothing about Helena shepherding Rudy through his death, but it’s a lovely moment in that plays in both genuine sadness and honest truth - Rudy is to be both pitied and loathed, and that’s okay.  That’s human, sometimes.
  • God bless Jesse Towing.  Neolutionism couldn’t reach a simple country truck driver, right?  RIGHT???
  • I really love the little detail of Donnie saying “we” found Jesse for Helena, like he and Alison did it together.
  • Kudos to Ksenia Solo for rocking what could otherwise be a thankless, one-dimensional role.  Shay has the narrative misfortune of being the unpopular leg of a love triangle, as well as the mystery of POSSIBLE THREAT or POOR UNSUSPECTING GIRL WHO JUST GOT EMOTIONALLY ABUSED BY HER NEW GIRLFRIEND’S EX.  It’s a tough hand to get, and I think she makes a great choice playing the seeming reality of the situation with 100% honesty, and letting the narrative work the audience’s suspicion.  
  • Helena and Sarah exchange exactly two words in the episode and they’re perfectly delivered.  The way Sarah says “Sugar?” is both fond and strict - perfectly older-sister.
  • The only moment from 3.09 that I really want to talk about is Delphine’s face when Cosima calls mid-torture with important information and opens with “Hey, how’s it going?”

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Orphan Black 3.08 - "Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method"

The structure of Orphan Black’s third season is, fittingly, a story of two halves - a first and a second, paired together to complete a whole. Where the first half was Castor, the second half has been Leda - perhaps too literally, as the focus shift from one to the other has only served to highlight the audience’s greater investment in our lady clones than their (creepy-ass) brothers.

As such, the second half of Season 3 has delivered three great episodes in a row. 3.06 accelerated quickly and explosively, 3.07 featured all the Leda clones in an Alison-centric ‘burbscape, and 3.08 combines the the best elements of its two predecessors and spins a fantastic hour grounded in characters and relationships we care about, with the quick twists and turns of a classic OB outing. For me, it easily dethrones 3.06 as the best episode of the season thus far.


A major reason this episode works well is the continued focus on the Leda clones - not just on the sisterhood as a whole, but equally distributed on its individual members, and the relationships they have with each other. Every clone is deployed in this episode, and they co-exist in the same space in a way that makes the world feel more intimate, instead of spiraling out of control. Even as the show reveals yet another layer of power by episode’s end, we, as an audience, still feel tight to the core group of clones under pressure from outside forces.

Yes, the group is as together as ever. Helena and Gracie move in with Alison to help with the soap front, Cosima and Sarah devise a plan to reclaim Duncan’s code, and Felix and Sarah carry out morally grey errands at the behest of Rachel - who’s with everyone, until she isn’t. All three of these aspects are wonderful choices, for different reasons.

First, it’s lovely to see Alison’s previous declaration of “mother hen” being taken seriously in an effort to move these characters around in believable ways. Alison graciously bringing Helena and Gracie under House Hendrix also allows her story sphere more relevant screentime, by sheer force of numbers. Not only that, but it allows Helena the opportunity to demonstrate her mom skills, simultaneously letting us actually see the Hendrix kids, a clamor I may as well tattoo on my forehead. Cherry on top: it’s a comedy goldmine.

Cosima and Sarah also have a sweet Skype conversation, in a fond callback to their main communication of seasons past. This scene was a lovely way to deploy some exposition and outline Clone Club’s intentions for the situation, and the writers sweeten it with Cosima opening up a bit to Sarah about her relationship with Shay. Later, these two are the brains behind the plan to trick Delphine and Rachel into getting Duncan’s book back. Altogether, this dynamic is one of my unexpected favorites - while relationships like Sarah and Felix and Sarah and Helena are more outwardly meaningful, the interactions between Sarah and Cosima are quietly poignant. They’ve grown to love each other at a distance, with mutual admiration for both the traits they share and the traits that distinguish them. Some of my favorite scenes in the second season belong to Cosima and Sarah interacting (the phone call in “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings,” and their conversation in “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” both come to mind). It’s always nice to see their dynamic deployed in another quiet moment of unity, and even used to position them as two strategic brains of the operation.

Sarah and Felix’s task in the episode also provided a lot of material, refracting into a spectrum of well-developed threads and choices. On a base level, it’s lovely to give Felix something to do, especially when it involves the trappings of a Sarah con - deceit, theft, identity swap. It’s also fundamentally delightful to see these characters play different versions of themselves, reiterating the same face in a range of dynamics. With this notion, “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method” gives us a glorious gift: we meet a new clone, and she interacts not only with Felix, but also Delphine.

Krystal Goderich is perhaps the episode’s greatest success, simply because of the redirect that happens with limited screen time. Here is a character purposefully introduced as a somewhat vapid Leda clone - she works in a nail salon, talks with a Valley-ish affectation, and spills her scandals to anyone who will listen. She is designed to be poked fun of, a study in contrast - this woman has the same DNA as Sarah the Grifter, Cosima the Scientist, Alison the Mom, Rachel the Ice Queen, and Helena the Feral Assassin. What a world! Krystal is little more than a show pony to emphasize the power of nurture over nature.

But in less than seven minutes of relevant screentime, the OB writers pivot Krystal Goderich, and make her perhaps the most sympathetic character this series has ever developed. Not only is she actually smart, but she’s confused, and alone, and destined for a life of disappointment without understanding. She’s fully aware of her bizarre life, but unable to identify what exactly is conspiring around her. Not only this, but she has no idea that her DNA has fated her to fall victim to Rachel’s growling bid to leave the country and assume a new identity. And despite these horrible things in her life, she’s rationalized everything with a tragically optimistic motto: You can’t crush the human spirit. Um, how is this not the most heartbreaking character? The writers do a beautiful job not only dimensionalizing Krystal, but also affirming her through Felix’s fond encouragement for her, and his revulsion at doing something so horrible to a good person in order to appease Rachel, of all people.

Maybe the Mexican cantina owner can swoop in and save Krystal Goderich from her fate. ¿Por favor? La Camarera: ¡Salvando a las clones Leda, una a la vez!

Beyond the character work, “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method” employed a classic Orphan Black plot structure: the world spins madly underfoot as Sarah & Co. make difficult decisions trying to keep their power when it’s under direct threat of DYAD. It’s difficult to go wrong with this outline, although I have to imagine it’s probably challenging to reiterate it in fresh ways. That being said, this episode used the structure to great effect. The stakes were both comedic and horrific at once, even more so than Alison’s disturbed suburbia. Through Rudy’s threat to Scott’s cat, OB created a really low-level danger that actually operated in a huge, frightening way. I was screechingly terrified for poor Scott and his cat in that moment, even through the slight absurdity of the situation. The fact that we have a clear, consolidated villain in Rudy and Coady is also welcome, and the focus helps immensely.

The levels of manipulation also worked well in the episode. For one, it was interesting to see Rachel squirm through the hour as both an unempowered victim, and a powerful woman who still holds all the cards - and uses that to her advantage. Rachel’s place this season has been nothing short of fascinating in that she has been both heartbreaking and fearsome, not a shadow of who she was but of the security she was privileged with. She is still the same coiled snake, ready to strike at anyone who gets too close. The fact that she is in many ways trapped by her own body is a tragic manifestation of her own emotional restrictions and her discomfort with a lack of personal power.

The manipulation of the hour also brought us another layer of DYAD to fear - Dr. Nealon, and whoever the hell oversaw Rachel’s surgery at episode’s end. This is certainly welcome, from a plot standpoint, but I’m more concerned with the third result of manipulation: the scene with Cosima and Delphine. These two are playing a fucked-up game of chicken that is unfortunately quite grounded in real feelings. It’s more and more evident that their circumstances are destroying their relationship, slowly, certainly, and incontrovertibly. The show has done such a good job believably breaking them apart, without it feeling like an unmotivated romantic obstacle as story fodder for an ultimate endgame.

Cosima and Delphine have very real issues, and at the same time, very real love. That Cosima confessed her near-death experience as a way to distract Delphine from her plan is a perfect embodiment of their complicated relationship. The core sentiment is nothing less than true, and perhaps the most romantic thing any human could say to another - and yet circumstances conspire to wield that moment in complete deceit. The question with these two is always this: is their situation insidious enough to nullify their true feelings? Can they survive the amount of mistrust that’s permanently wearing against their relationship? Or are they doomed to their consequences, where their power imbalance will tear them apart?

Thankfully, Cosima lives another week to perhaps answer these questions in future. But, we have much before us in the last two episodes. Rachel is now in a coma, Shay is perhaps a Castor mole (for some reason), and the team is little closer to breaking Duncan’s code, which is not only encoded, but also in RIDDLE FORM. Goddammit, Duncan. I don’t know why I expected anything different.

Regardless - after three solid episodes in a row, and with a homecoming field trip to London in front of us, I am altogether excited for the last two episodes of Season 3. Though it was slow going at the beginning, the Leda half of this Janus season has turned towards great character work, plot development, and unique expansions of the world we’re in.


  • “Identical twins are so creepy,” says Krystal. Tell me about it, Delphine thinks. One time I totally made out with my girlfriend’s genetical identical and that was really weird. And this coming from someone who enjoys lovers!
  • Donnie continues to be an unsung hero used perfectly in relation to Alison. “I may be a bitch, but I’m Alison’s bitch!” Bless you, Mr. Hendrix.
  • “How are you gonna know without me?” Cosima and Delphine’s relationship flirts with toxicity again through this vaguely threatening imposition of Delphine’s power in Cosima’s life. I mean, we’re pretty sure you mean DYAD, Delphine, not you… but… this just reiterates Cosima’s restricted access to treatment and knowledge in a totally unsettling, fuck-you-Delphine kind of way.
  • Half an episode later it’s impossible not to feel all fluttery and emotional about their kiss. FINE, Orphan Black. You win!
  • Scott’s cat is named Denise. Internet, I love animals with very human names.
  • Speaking of, shout out to Josh Vokey, who plays Scott. He’s already done a great job playing small but impacting moments as a tertiary character, but this episode cemented some fine work as he becomes more integral to the story, as well as Cosima and Rachel.
  • Gracie wears Alison’s checked pajamas from the house party in Season 1. Hopefully no one told her Alison tortured Donnie in them.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Orphan Black 3.07 - "Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate"

Step right up, folks, it’s time to review Orphan Black’s annual circus event! Mundane situations contrasting dangerously high stakes! Wacky clone swaps! Pastels! Yes, it’s our traditional return to Planet Alison, and the only thing missing on this year’s carousel was glitter torture.


Given the episode title and the fact that this is an Alison-centric endeavor, I was expecting something far more sinister than what actually transpired. Alison’s storylines are usually marked with high absurdity and tragedy, as she’s completely disenfranchised and struggling to exert her independence. A control freak in a uncontrollable world, Alison is frequently the narrative’s fool - to great comedic and empathic effect.

Yes, the hallmarks of Hendrixica are there - at its most basic, this is a sidecar episode set in a domestic environment, where high-stakes dangers threaten the picture-perfect suburban normalcy, rendered broadly in hijinks and clone swap. And of course, in traditional OB absurdist fashion, a lot of ridiculata is mined from Donnie - the fact that his name is Donnie Chubbs, the reveal that Alison’s mother is poetically named Connie, and, naturally, Donnie’s basic fluency in Portuguese.

But this episode balances these little choices with two very weighty reminders, that are grounded very purposefully in theme and character.  Number one: Alison chose Donnie.  Number two: Alison is capable as... well, holy freakin' Christmas cake. “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate” stays put and stays sentimental where previous episodes have swerved into tragedy: it allows Alison a moment to defend her choices not only verbally, but in action. She sticks up for Donnie, she stands up to her mother, she gives Cosima advice not out of ego but compassion, and she nails her school trustee speech and gets a standing ovation. Not a bad episode for ol’ Ali, eh?

From all angles, Alison doesn’t just provide the setpiece for the hour, this time she’s actually the hero of it. Sarah doesn’t swoop in and save the day; Cosima doesn’t take over and hold down the fort. Alison keeps everything together, meeting her own needs and extending herself to the people around her. She is finally the main character. As such, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase her character in a way the show hasn’t yet tackled - and generally, the episode did exactly that.

First - back story. This arrives in the form of her mother, the woman who raised her, and we quickly realize that Alison was brought up in a tightly compressed childhood of unachievable expectations and constant negative commentary. Alison is very much the product of her upbringing - nurture prevails - both in propagation and reaction. However, with Sarah and Cosima - her “cooler” sisters - out of the way, we are shown that Alison’s weaknesses can be her strengths. She can meet demands; she can check boxes; she can organize and command and prepare and succeed. Not only this, but the episode goes out of its way to portray these characteristics as not only fundamental skills, through compliant medical reporting to DYAD, but also attractive, through her potential romance with Jason Kellerman.

So we get a new light on Alison’s pre-established characteristics, and on top of that there’s a huge sign of character development, one I wish were underlined, highlighted, and circled in the episode. Point an enormous flashing arrow at three little words: “My clone, mother.” This is spoken by a woman who refused to use to use “the ‘c’ word” at the beginning of the show, and lived in deep denial about the reality of their situation.

It's true that Alison’s choice to introduce Cosima is motivated by defiance, given that it follows another attempt by Connie to belittle and control her daughter's life. But I don’t think that makes the choice any less earnest, or important for Alison. If anything, infusing that moment with a defiant act of rebellion only serves to show us what Alison is truly made of: moxie. Remind us of anyone else? For all the disparate characteristics of our Leda Ladies, there’s at least one thing they all share: nerve. Ali gave her mom a test, and her mom failed by refusing to acknowledge her daughter’s point of view. It’s almost as if the moment cements Alison’s place firmly in Clone Family - she didn’t choose them, but they’re hers.

Considering the layering triumphs in this moment, I do wish the episode emphasized just how big this was for Alison. Yes, she got a standing ovation, saved her man, stuck it to her mom, and even technically got another guy to kiss her - but there was one important element of Alison’s involvement in the episode that I would have liked to seen punched up and made more noticeable: her level of empathy.

Alison’s behavior in the episode is hallmarked at every turn by a fairly uncharacteristic level of outward compassion. This is not to say that Alison hasn’t been a compassionate person, but she’s thus far been shown as largely uptight, discerning, and manslaughter-y. Yet, in “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate,” Alison really does live up to her self-bequeathed title of “mother hen” - particularly towards Cosima. She’s downright nurturing to her, most notably after Cosima completely effed up her trustee speech. Alison’s a mom too, everybody! Welcome reminder!

I found myself wanting “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate” to take a pink highlighter to these moments, to draw particular attention to this development for Alison. Perhaps if Ali were a bit impatient with Cosima before understanding the situation, or less willing to talk about Clone Club goings-on at the venue; perhaps if she and Cosima had a longer conversation about Cosima’s health, or if her kids actually made a meaningful appearance in the episode - these little things could have served to punch up her genuine care for her family.

It’s a minor quibble, but of particular importance, because not only is this - family - the theme of the episode, it’s also delivered directly through Alison’s trustee speech, in a rather sweeping grandiose moment. It would have been nice to see that theme more clearly embodied in her actions, not just her words. Even so, it’s a very sweet theme, and it’s always lovely to see a unified front between the Clone Club. Mrs. S. is gonna be a granny! May she be added to the guest list of Helena’s fantasy baby shower.

Of course, “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate” also dealt with Cosima’s trust issues, and the renewed seriousness of her condition. I’m still wanting more straightforward insight into Cosima’s emotional state this year, although it makes sense that Cosima would hold back her true feelings. Her trajectory is interesting; in the first two seasons, she was entirely complicit with DYAD, submitting herself not only to testing but also the monitor system. She knowingly began a relationship with her monitor, and has largely been okay with that, because her feelings for Delphine were real. Cosima the Scientist has always let discovery and passion guide her open heart.

Now, though, she stubbornly refuses to even submit to a urinalysis. This begs the question: does Cosima’s change of heart correlate to any new information about shady DYAD, or is it exactly that - a change of heart? Delphine’s clearly attempting to exert her power over Cosima not only at DYAD but in their relationship, and the two spheres remain as overlapped as ever. Cosima still can’t separate her emotions from the relationship with DYAD, even with a differently-defined situation. If Delphine thought anything about her position would be easier without dating Cosima, this is looking entirely naive in retrospect. The anticipation that comes with waiting for this to blow up is one of the more deliciously tense aspects of the season.

But, there were no meltdowns or blow-ups in the episode, as “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate” honored the traditional hallmarks of an “Alison episode,” yet added the rather genuine and grounding elements of theme and character development for the most-fringed clone. Alison’s success in the hour is welcome, given Cosima’s worsening condition, and the inevitable messiness of Rachel, Sarah, and Delphine coming together to decode Duncan’s sequence. With only three episodes left, we should be ramping up nicely for the end of the season.

  • Admittedly, it felt a bit odd to focus on Helena’s forgiveness of Mrs. S. when this season has thus far made a point of Sarah’s grudge against her. I would have loved a beat of forgiveness before the “I’m so tired, mum.” Nothing fancy, just a lil somethin’.
  • We talked about mundane situations with dangerous stakes, but were the obstacles also a touch mundane? The “wrong briefcase” trope is pretty tired, especially given that they devoted a specific shot to “grabbing the wrong envelope.” We all saw it coming. Other obstacles: nebulously faked panic attack, and the time necessary to count money. Hm.
  • I am ENDLESSLY FASCINATED by the role the cantina owner plays in this episode. Surely this was foreshadowing, right? Surely she’s going to bust out with something awesome in a future episode, right? There was so much attention paid to her understanding of and involvement in Helena and Sarah’s situation… but why?
  • I want to meet Cosima’s family now too. I’m guessing they don’t know she’s dying. They could also be halfway across the world doing research projects to benefit developing countries, and therefore with limited internet access. Still. Cosima could totally send an e-mail.
  • “There are not two Pouchies, darling.” Line delivery of the season? Also, Felix + Alison 4-ever.
  • Sarah Stubbs loves Alison so much. What an angel.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...