Saturday, June 11, 2016

Orphan Black 4.09 - "The Mitigation of Competition"

Look. It’s tacky to gloat.  I know this. But DAMN if I’m not the slightest bit smug about correctly predicting Delphine’s return in the season’s second to last episode.   Lanky bitch lives? Check. Penultimate episode? Check.  Stepping out of the shadows? Check.  Flat-ironed, steely-eyed, and buttoned-up...?  Okay, 0-for-3 on that front.  Girl is rocking soft curls, a wry smile, and some kind of wilderness tank top.  FINE, I can’t be right about everything.


All jokes aside, let’s dissect the few moments we received of notre dame de cheveux, shall we?  One plea I made to the writers last week was related to Cosima and Delphine’s reunion - as Cosima just choppered off to Moreau Island and away from Delphine, I wanted their long-distance reunion to give me shades of Penny and Desmond’s emotional phone call in “The Constant.”  Well, turns out the writers went full LOST in a completely different way, and I am totally okay with that.

I don’t know about you, but I actually feel a pang of nostalgia when someone says something like “IT’S THE ISLAND” as if this little ocean-bound lump of rock and dirt is not only sentient but also a core component of your destiny.  Call me crazy, but I miss that shit.  Enough time has passed to heal my Lost-related frustrations and I JUST WANT TO GO BACK, KATE.  Whatever.  The Island’s got me.

And perhaps, just perhaps, it has Delphine too, in a batshit plot twist that’s so deliriously off-the-wall that I'm beyond excited for it.  Why else would we plant the map with Cosima? Why else would we cut from Rachel’s “Someone’s trying to show me something” to Delphine herself, sitting with a walkie and a notepad, scribbling to the soundtrack of a twee folksy French song?  Why else would she appear to be in some kind of woodland yurt? Every inch of this is bonkers, and I’m loving it.

So the questions are these: what is Delphine doing?  Is she of sound mind?   Is she acting of her own accord, in protection of the clones, or has Neolution got her in their clutches?  Are her messages to Rachel meant as secret information, or are they an SOS?  The wry smile could go either way, depending if you want to read it as a slick “I GOT THIS, NE T’EN FAIS PAS” or a “THIS IS A CREEPY SMILE BECAUSE I AM NOT THE PETITE CHIOT QUE TU TE SOUVIENS.”

Then, finally: to whom does the shoulder hand belong?  We still don’t even know who shot our dear French doctor nine episodes ago, and they’re already springing us with another “Whodunnit?!”   (Although shoulder touches are far less sinister than, well, gunfire.  The dead lesbians of 2016 know this to be true.)  There aren’t many possible characters that could be believably creeping up behind Wilderness Delphine, and honestly there’s only one character that makes any sense - and yet, none at all.

Come with me on this journey, friends: does the hand belong to Dr. Percival Westmoreland himself?  If any cockeyed old scientist could engineer longevity 100 years beyond natural death, it would be a Victorian-era Neolutionist.  This REEKS of immortality bullshit, right?  Racist blowhards totally have the level of entitlement to stick around past their welcome. T hat being said, questions still remain exactly about how and what for, except for the scientific self-congratulatory nature of it all.  At any rate, Cosima’s got his book, and a map, and it would make complete sense that Delphine is with the man himself, on the very same island.

So I don’t even need a Penny-and-Desmond-style phone call, because these bitches are surely on the same land mass, and Orphan Black served up another shade of Lost homage. Morally questionable scientists living on an island?  Pop music reveals set in shadowy outdoor hovels?  An island sending messages?  As Hurley would say: Dude.

The only thing that worries me about Delphine and Cosima’s eventual reunion - aside from that whole coughing-blood situation in the 4.10 preview - is the fact that WILDERNESS stands between them, and the only people at the Island Dream House who could step out and traverse it are a terminally ill woman who has literally spent all season indoors, a terminally ill child with a deformed leg, and a wispy on-in-years British scientist.  WHERE ARE THE OUTDOORSY CLONES WHEN WE NEED THEM.

Actually, the Outdoorsiest Clone was very much needed elsewhere this week.  It turns out Helena’s got a nice setup away from it all, complete with very fashionable furs, an excellent food supply, and a cozy lil’ shelter.  But when Sarah finally checks in and lets slip that that shit’s still going down, Helena puts on her best fox fur hat (not store-bought!) and trundles back into town to protect her sestras.  In particular: Alison and Donnie Hendrick, whom Helena hears about from Felix.  But before we can talk about the very nice save that Helena provides for House Hendrix, we have to puddle-jump to the intersecting storyline: Alison’s.

Last week, I had vague plans to talk about Alison’s relationship with faith and religion, because it seemed very... complicated.  She was portrayed quite purposefully as a Christian, churchgoing woman of faith, yet her conversation with the Reverend seemed to result in frustration and impatience, and a general lack of positive response.   Here’s this character, who is purposefully scripted as religious, but who is also quite morally adrift, as she barrels through storylines committing adultery, manslaughter, and drug trafficking.

What echoes through all of Alison’s endeavors is this idea that she’s putting on a brave face and refuses to address any of the actual messy self that she’s got hiding underneath.  She’s always a study in coexisting and colliding contrasts, right?  Torture with craft supplies.  Absurdity through tragedy.   Pastel suburbia with drugs, sex, and manslaughter.  Alison remains a buttoned-up facade until something pushes her over the edge, and everything she really is - messy, flawed, and imperfect - comes spilling out in a rush.

Alison’s faith could be seen as lining up with this pattern - a self-identification with organized religion for the purpose of a tidy facade and the neat fulfillment of suburban mom and upright citizen.  Is she actually, then, quite faithless?  Has the world burned her, and she’s only using this image for protection?   Hm.  At the end of this thought spiral, I found myself shelving the discussion, largely because I couldn’t exactly make a point about it, and I also didn’t really want to suggest that Alison’s religion was somehow false or invalid.

What’s interesting, though, is that the writers actually created a faith arc for Alison in the following episode, and swung it in the opposite way.  She’s actually having a crisis of self, negotiating the very contrast that has long defined her character.  How can she be a good Christian, and person, when you consider the laundry list of her sins?  Phew.   It’s not an easy question to ask oneself in the mirror, especially for someone like Alison, who cultivates only the most convenient thoughts about herself, in order to preserve her carefully-constructed outer world.   Is she finally breaking down?

But the answer about what lies at the very essence of Alison goes beyond the concept of faith and “goodness.”  Alison Hendrix is fucking tough.  It is not her exterior that is indestructible, but rather her very core.  She is immovable in ways that the others are not: Evil Toby Keith takes one look at her, with her pink fuzzy sweater, and declares, “You’re the tough one in the family, aren’t you?”  Not only that, but Alison immediately proves it, by completely relinquishing her safety for the protection of Sarah Manning and the Clone Club.  Faced with the violation of her body and the threat of her own life, her decision is instantaneous - without any hesitation, she tells Donnie she loves him, and then begins a prayer.  Yes, she’s afraid, but she is strong, as she keeps her eyes open and skyward, and her resolve turns to iron.

How fitting is it, then, that Alison’s savior in that moment is none other than Helena?  Helena, raised in the church, and fighting for a faith that treats her as a human!  Helena, who came onto this show in the archetype of fallen angel, with bloodied scars where wings should go!!  Helena, who is completely diametrical to Alison in their relationship with chaos and control!!!  In this one moment, a line is drawn between Alison and Helena, as women of faith by their own definition, with sins and faults, but a deep fierceness inside of them borne from that burning mix of love and woundedness.   They are both, after all, clones defined by paradox - soft, though savage; tragic, yet funny; good, but... not.

There’s another clone this week who was also largely defined by the negotiation between two polarities: Rachel Duncan, who has similar goals to both Clone Club and BrightBorn, but is ultimately looking out for her own personal power.  The plot presented in “The Mitigation of Competition” was a perfect avenue for Rachel’s actions to read as completely nebulous.  She was often acting against Sarah, even though they were in pursuit of the same goal.  We were made to think that she was also out to expose Evie Cho, but then that she would betray Sarah and Co. through negotiation, only to actually expose Evie Cho, in the end.

The not-twist was an interesting choice for Rachel’s actions, in that it’s set up from the very beginning that Rachel was gunning for Evie Cho, and in the end, that’s what she does.  The doubt that Rachel might do otherwise only crops up when she threatens Kendra at the end of the second act, and then she only verbalizes it in the last moments before we get the final result anyways.  While I love the extended question of Rachel’s true intentions, I wish there had been more time to let our doubt expand a bit.  As it was, Rachel cornered Evie Cho, recorded the defense of euthanasia, and uploaded it to the internet within a span of about a few minutes.  In the same window of time, we pivoted from uncertainty about Rachel’s intentions to the discovery that she had a trick up her sleeve, which we only learn about because Ira tells us.  So for me, there wasn’t enough space and weight around the reveal to really make it the maximum “OH SHIT” moment it could be.

Regardless, something important is said (by Ira) about Rachel’s actions in this hour: “She’s doing what needs to be done.”  When Sarah was unwilling to blur the lines of morality to achieve their goal, Rachel stepped up and did the job.  This statement is definitely true for Rachel, but in this episode it also extends to both Helena, and Alison.  All three women have had a complicated relationship with “good” over the course of the whole series, and “The Mitigation of Competition” finds all three women making the difficult decision to do what is ultimately necessary for her goals - whether the protection of her family, or her own individual purpose. (Ah, the Rachel Division.)

You could argue that this is a larger central theme of the show, this negotiation of boundaries between what is right and what is necessary. You can also argue that each of the women on this show therefore displays this characteristic at various points in the narrative. Siobhán is the queen of doing what must be done at the potential expense of morality (see: last week). Sarah drinks soap and kicks through walls to achieve her ends. Hell, even Beth’s original sacrifice lines up with this pattern. Ultimately, it’s a fantastic thing that each player in this story has an opportunity to embody the gray area of difficult situations with a messy but noble humanity - all women, at that! But in this particular episode, I love that a connection was made between Rachel, Helena, and Alison - three clones who don’t get a lot of shared space, and whose storylines are often rooted in their differentiation from the sisterhood.

In all, “The Mitigation of Competition” laid out one final mystery hour to wrap up the season-long arc, treated us to some excellent character interaction, and prepped us for some world expansion that will carry us into the next year. With Evie Cho deposed, it looks like our finale episode is going to be a ferryman. We have cures to work on, French exes to find, and new villains to establish. Will Rachel be one of them? Will Evie Cho strike back, or should we anticipate Percival Westmoreland making a crusty corporeal entrance? Most importantly, can someone just go get a Jurassic Park Jeep and take Cosima to Delphine? The Island can’t do everything, you know.


It is truly and astoundingly hilarious just HOW MUCH Rachel and Sarah don’t get along. Okay, yes, Rachel shot Sarah in the brain with a pencil, but I’m pretty sure they were this chemically incompatible long before that. I love all the petulent hanging up and bossing around. Sisters!

Adele leaves, and I still don’t entirely understand what her purpose was, but that’s okay.

The idea of Alison, Helena, and Sarah being triplets is honestly hysterical. Can you imagine raising those three together? It would be a nightmare.

Battle of the bobs: whose haircut more accurately intimates the severity of its wearer, Evie’s or Rachel’s?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Orphan Black 4.08 - "The Redesign of Natural Objects"

After the darkness, comes the light. With Sarah and Cosima emerging anew from their Dark Nights of the Soul, Orphan Black delivers a little bit of hope: a new plan for the Cure, new allies with the Duncans, and a little bit of retribution in the name of family.


Of course, the darkness isn’t entirely vanquished - actually, this episode deftly mixes the two tones at key points for style, comedy, and tension. Much in the way that Donnie’s arrest was set to a cheerful (non-copyrighted, natch) birthday song last week, there were two scenes in this episode underscored by musical contrast. First, there’s the opening sequence of Donnie’s time in prison, set drearily to an upbeat rendition of “I Fought the Law (And the Law Won).” Then, of course, there’s the pinnacle of the episode, weaving Donnie’s torture with Alison’s rehearsal of “Superstar,” using the contrast to build tension and fear for the outcome.

In fact, tension was BIG in “The Redesign of Natural Objects.” There were two main questions propelling the episode, as well as the audience’s emotional trajectory through the plot. We think we know the answers to these questions, but there’s enough doubt and crafted suspense to make us nervous.  Thankfully, the result still fulfills not only our expectations, but also our hopes.

Question #1: Will Siobhán go full Irish Lady of the Darkness and avenge her mother’s murder at the hand of Martin Duko? Our initial response: probably. Look, Mrs. S. has only been peeling potatoes lately, and while she makes everything look good, a necessary part of her position on this show is the swerve on traditional motherhood. This is the primary caretaker of our main character, and she casually struts around with a thermos of tea and a shot gun. Hell, most of Season 2 directed the audience to question her motives, as it defined her as morally gray and potentially untrustworthy.

But lately? Potatoes, and sadness. So it was time for Mrs. S. to stir things up in the narrative, as we know she is capable, and what better way than to avenge her own mother’s death? And even though we were fairly certain that Siobhán was going to pull the trigger on Duko at some point, for better or for worse, the writers did a fine job extending the drama and getting the most out of a seemingly inevitable situation.

For one, it underscored the key theme of the series: family. As Duko desperately tries to earn Siobhán’s mercy at gunpoint, he tells her that he’s protecting his young niece from threats of danger. It’s about family, he says to the woman who is the true familial nucleus on this show. It’s not Sarah. It’s not Kendall. It’s Siobhán, who is sandwiched neatly in the lineage of the clones - born to the Original, custodian to the orphan in the black. Siobhán Sadler is the hub: the anchor, the caregiver, the protector, and now the avenger, to whom all of Clone Club tethers back. She is just as much Chosen as Sarah Manning, in that she was chosen for Sarah Manning.

Beyond the theme, the narrative also allows Siobhán and Sarah to demonstrate quick wit and manipulation through their counterattack - and let’s face it, these two were due for a win.  Siobhán’s desire for vengeance took her in the path of Duko, where she was able to correctly sniff out his ill intentions and take control of the situation behind the scenes. Good stuff, right?

Of course, this directly intersects with the other main question of the hour: Will Alison betray her clone sisters in favor of her husband? Duko, as anticipated, has successfully orchestrated the situation for ransom - Alison must give up the location of Sarah in order to save Donnie from getting stabbed in the brain. It’s fitting, then, that we actually hear Alison swear in this episode. No scheisse, no holy freakin’ Christmas cake. We get a proper, unfettered, and venomous "SHIT!" out of Mrs. Hendrix - and of course, it’s at church, in front of the Reverend. (More good placement by contrast.)

Like with Mrs. S., we think we know what Alison is going to do. We know that she would never betray her sisters, right? Of course! But there’s enough groundwork laid, in conjunction with a truly impossible situation, that gives enough credibility to the extended suspense of Alison’s choice. When you think about it, Alison has always been the outlier. Hell, the writers have long had difficulty bringing Alison organically into the fold, because she’s marooned in suburbia, or rehab, or a drug smuggling plotline.  It's also easy to forget that she agreed to cooperate with DYAD at the end of Season 1: where Sarah rebelliously stood on her message of “UP YOURS, PROCLONE,” Alison completely complied, and signed her family into protection by the company. Add this to the minor squabbling with Sarah that has carried through a few recent episodes, and you could almost believe that Alison would sell out her sister.

And we’d sympathize, right? The episode so clearly delineated the stakes for Donnie, and by extension, Alison - a baseline of getting beaten, and the threat of being killed. While I was at first worried that Donnie’s stint in prison would feel just as relevant as Mr. Bates’ extended time in Downton Abbey’s Department of Corrections (aka, not), we were quickly meant to feel genuine fear and alarm for Donnie’s fate through the question of Alison’s choice. How is Alison supposed to make that call, between family and family, blood and bond? So it’s a lovely dovetail back into Siobhán’s storyline that these two tension-driving questions work together to resolve themselves, and doubly rewarding that of course Alison turned to Sarah and Siobhán for a way out.  Yes, there's relief that Donnie is okay, but I would say it's an even greater relief that Alison would never turn her back on her sisters' safety.

So, finally, fear and hope land on the side of hope. We also get an added bit of optimism with Cosima’s new plan for a Cure: fertilizing a Leda egg with Castor sperm!  Ira is useful at last!  So Cosima is choppering off to Dr. Moreau’s HGTV Dream House, trading places with Rachel in an actual Clone Swap. Gotta say, Charlotte and Susan are getting the better deal in this trade. (Cosima's absence also sets up more extended drama - if Delphine is in fact recovered, she will not be in town for a heartfelt reunion.  In its stead, I humbly request a heartswelling phone call à la Penny and Desmond's in "The Constant.  Thank you and good day.)

In natural contrast to the new possibilities, there are also a few fears to lead us into the season’s final hours. First, MK is back, and she’s definitely sick (and concealing it). This was a great choice for the writers, to keep the threat of illness tangible - especially with a character like Mika, who we are not monumentally attached to, but who still has our sympathy. It’s also another established way to bring Mika in the collective, and unite her goals with Clone Club’s.  Do we think that Mika will actually tell anyone of her illness, or is the gang gonna find out in the worst way, i.e. when Mika is collapsed in front of her computer screen?

Then, of course, there’s Rachel. Last week, I talked (...a lot) about Rachel receiving The Hero’s Call, by having a vision of a swan through her robot eyeball. This week, Rachel gets walloped with an even more overt Chosen One conceit. Not only does she see the swan again, but her eye also presents her with an owlish old man I can only assume is Percival Westmoreland, the founder of Neolution, in his own time period. As mentioned last episode, Rachel is living in his former room, and her visions seems to be connecting his past with her present. Um, hello! The founder of Neolution is communicating with Rachel through digital hallucination?! If it looks like a swan, and sounds like a swan, as they (kind of) say...

So while Rachel claims she wants to restore Susan Duncan to her rightful place as Queen Neolution, it’s impossible not to wonder if Rachel is making a power play to usurp her mother (who prefers Cosima anyways) and take an increasingly less wobbly stand as the head of movement. Villainy! But we can’t discount the fact that Rachel is also standing up for a cure - while she’s a bit macabre about child-sized coffins, the fact remains that she is taking up the crusade to save her sisters, and Charlotte. So Rachel, who slides through the middle with a Hero’s Call but a Villain’s Plan, has the advantage of the gray area. She is both hope and fear, admiration and disgust, disenfranchised and empowered.

There’s also a question of the symbolism behind the severed swan head that Rachel ends up seeing. Of course, the reason it's swans is the mythological story of Leda and the Swan, wherein a woman named Leda is raped by Zeus disguised in the form of a swan. Leda then lays two eggs - one containing twins, Castor and Pollux, and one containing Helen, the kidnapping of whom causes the Trojan War. There are clearly narrative overlaps with these stories, beyond the names: the concept of Leda’s lack of consent; wars being fought over abduction of an innocent. Considering the myth, a severed swan head calls to mind the theme of vengeance, as acted out by Siobhán in this same episode, or the decapitation of an oppressive but alluring figure - perhaps a metaphor of Rachel’s future bid for the top spot of Neolution. And while she may be a villain once she’s ascended the throne, it’s currently hard to not root for her to succeed, especially in her renewed juxtaposition against Sarah.

So “The Redesign of Natural Objects” delivers some hope to balance out the fear, and propels us towards the season finale, with questions across the board. But even with optimism alive, the hour still gets the full value of its suspense and tension, achieved with some well-constructed sequences of contrast. And, too, Mrs. S. put down the potato peeler and got shit done.


  • Listen. We need to talk about Sarah Stubbs. I LOVE Sarah Stubbs. I love that she was introduced as a red herring for a one-off plot point about Sarah Manning’s chase party, and yet she has been brought back, time and again. I love that she is the nicest person on this show, and that Alison actually tries to be a good friend to her. I love that she played Jesus (Christ Superstar), and she totally stole the show with her riffs and runs. I JUST LOVE SARAH STUBBS OKAY.
  • What with Cosima inadvertently offending Scott last week, it was particularly rewarding that she immediately took his conditions about working with Rachel to the negotiating table and stuck with them, no questions or hesitations. Aww.
  • Cosima and Sarah also had some great scenes in this episode, demonstrating further the quiet connection they’ve shared since Season 2. I particularly love that they seem just to get each other, despite not having much in common.  Their interactions always have a lovely sense of peace and warmth... how is it possible that two clones can have more chemistry than others, when they’re all played by the same two people in different permutations?
  • I do want to take a moment to praise the portrayal and performance of Detective Duko in this episode. In the past, he was mostly disturbing in a standard creepy way, through his flattened speech and casual execution of horribly inhuman plans. But this episode fleshed him out into a real human - who is understandable but no less despicable. I love that he was so condescendingly business-like with Alison, and petulant and sarcastic under torture with Siobhán. These layers, added to the reveal of his niece and his D&D knowledge, come together to create a portrait of a man who is evil, yes, but also mundane - a loner nerd who needs an attitude check.
  • In the moments before shooting Duko, a wonderfully heartbreaking expression of pain flashes across Siobhán’s face. In this split second, you get the feeling that killing Martin Duko is not going to help her feel any better about losing her mother. But you also know that she’s still going to do it.  Hopefully we'll see the emotional fallout from this next episode.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Orphan Black 4.07 - "The Antisocialism of Sex"

Despite the fact that last week’s episode skated too closely to emotional torture porn for me, I was still looking forward to this week’s post-trauma outing, since Dark Nights of the Soul are inherently character-heavy, and that is totally my jam as a television viewer. And truly, the hour didn’t disappoint. An in-depth study in grief across the spectrum personalities of Clone Club, “The Antisocialism of Sex” delivered character, catharsis, and fucking phenomenal performances - four of which from Tatiana Maslany alone. I hope they gave her a day off after they filmed this one.


After an ending like last week’s, of course the focus of this episode was largely on the fallout. How are the clones coping? How is Siobhán grieving? What happens now, with Project Leda, Evie Cho, and Susan Duncan? Weirdly, though, the hour begins with Rachel: suddenly freed, still limited in her movement, and tasked with a big-ass flight of stairs to ascend. I guess this is actually an apt allegory for the sisterhood and its own challenges at this juncture - a sisterhood to which, it bears stating, Rachel decidedly does not belong.

It’s fitting, then, that Rachel is the only clone in a position to make a power play (okay, "power play") in the episode. She is still, after all, a proclone, system-raised, and separate from her sisters. With her mother ousted by Evie Cho, Rachel steps up and tries to assert herself... only to be shot down. Not only that, but she’s rebuked on the sole reason of her DNA: “Did you really think Neolution would let a clone take a position of real importance?” Rachel may sport a blond bob and a loathing for her sisters, but she’s still one of them, at the mercy of her own biology. Nature, in this area, will always trump nurture.

Even though Rachel’s bits in this episode are rather unassuming, given the comparative lack of sobbing, punching, and police arrests, it is her storyline that gives us the plot pivot into the season’s final act. Evie Cho lays out the new stakes for the clones: while it’s not necessary for Neolution to go full Helsinki (an extermination effort that took out Mika’s family and friends), all of the self-aware sisters are not safe from its continued efforts to eliminate the remnants of Project Leda. (Krystal Goderitch, therefore, would presumably live on, misguided yet oddly effective as ever.)

We can guess that this pursuit will fill the final hours of the season, but more than that, this story corner also gives us the idea that Rachel Duncan is being... called. Now, if you, as a teenager, weren’t also obsessed with a book comparing Star Wars to the monomyth studied by Joseph Campbell, let me explain: all stories in human history, spanning every time period and culture, share a certain structure - common touchstones along a character’s journey as they are pushed into their true power and purpose. This gave rise to the concept of “the Hero with a Thousand Faces,” which totally has new meaning when applied to the Clone Club.

And, as much as Rachel fights it, she is one of the Thousand Faces. She, too, is a hero, because they have a common goal: she, too, needs a cure - not just for herself, but for Charlotte, whose symptoms aren’t ebbing. And so Rachel, like any hero, receives a call: the moment when a hero is beckoned out of their ordinary world and compelled into the unknown to fulfill a larger goal.

Let’s stop here, for a moment, and jump into another storyline, shall we? Usually, when we talk about the Hero of Orphan Black, there’s one main figure: Sarah Manning. Sarah Manning, however, was never really called. Not exactly. She stumbled, conned, found a family, and started fighting for them. Sarah fell into her circumstances, and has struggled to gain anything resembling an upper hand since the Pilot. This all came to a horrific and tragic low point last week, with the destruction of their research, and the murder of Kendall Malone. And so, Sarah Manning retreats into her shadow self, and tries to refuse the fact that she was ever caught up in this nightmare journey. This is also part of the Hero’s Journey - the Refusal of the Call. Uh-uh. Not me, pal. Pick a different Chosen One and keep moving.

So Sarah tries to drink her reality into oblivion, and pushes away anyone who attempts to tether her in this world of terrors. But the Call persists, as it always does, and Sarah Manning finally, formally, received hers -- and listened. Sarah’s Call is from Beth herself, who appears to her in hallucination throughout the episode, haunting her her until Sarah stops to pay attention. “Bring us together. We need you.” The leadership role that Sarah stumbled into is hers to seize, to accept, in order for her to embody her power and purpose. In order to keep everyone together during this ordeal.

This isn't so unusual, though.  We basically expect Sarah Manning to get a Call, as she’s our primary POV character, and she’s borne the Hero Mantle for much of the series. She’s the glue, as Felix says. But do we expect a Call for Rachel Duncan? On any other show, probably not. But this is Orphan Black, and clone parallels and connections are Lifeblood.

So, two storylines over from Sarah Manning, Rachel Duncan receives her own Call, which also appears to her in a hallucination, as she’s lying on the ground after falling from the stairs. The physical fall is insult to injury - Evie Cho has subsumed Susan Duncan’s work, and removed the Duncans from any possible power. And, from this counterpart low point, Rachel envisions a swan, in an echo of the illustration shown to her from Neolution’s first printed work. Even if the swan is conjured by her robot eye, the Call is still clearly communicated: the leadership role that Rachel was adopted into is hers to take back, to be responsible for, in order for her to assume her power and purpose.

Please allow me to go full capslock on you for a moment: HOW COOL IS IT THAT. I love, love, love that Rachel and Sarah are brought back into parallel, with opposing forces, even though they ultimately have the same goal.  Not only that, but their parallel is devised to embody the central character themes on which this whole show is built: claiming power and purpose, through togetherness.  Developing and positing the clones in conjunction with their own similarities and differences will always be good material, especially when it's directly connected to core themes.

As such, the Orphan Black writers didn't stop there.  Not only were Sarah and Rachel joined in theme and repositioned as foils, but Sarah and Beth were brought to the forefront to facilitate Sarah's call.  What's interesting about their dynamic is that it exists as a paradox, because their connection is that they never coexisted.  The timeline exists as Before Sarah and After Sarah, and the audience holds them distinct in the show's narrative.  Sarah’s connection to Beth is entirely constructed, entirely symbolic, and it’s made even more meaningful when that’s all there is: one instance of locked eyes, crossed paths, and... it's all over.

And yet... and yet... they share so much.  They have the same burden, the same family, the same responsibilities, the same demons, the same path, and the same choices.  So here at the end of trail, back at the beginning, Beth is the one to give Sarah the strength to step forward.

There were many things, big and small, that I loved about Sarah and Beth's spectral interactions in this episode.  Sarah seeing Beth in all the mirrors was a fine conceit, but it was made superb by the match cuts of Sarah and Beth both snorting a line and coming up for air. Of course, this invites the episode’s initial connection between the two, visually linking them, and then allowing the depth of their interaction to come to light in the bridge scene.

You could argue that, in this scene, Sarah is not talking to Beth, but only to a projection of who Sarah perceives Beth to be.  I think this is 100% logical, but I think this idea actually cheapens the moment.  Sarah's Beth hallucinations in Season 3 felt more akin to this construct, because we, as an audience, couldn't verify who Beth really was.  But now?  We've spent time with Beth, and the Beth that appeared to Sarah was the Beth that we got to know this season.  I'll chalk it up to whatever supernatural mojo you want to put forth; for me, that was Beth Childs interacting directly with Sarah Manning, for the first and last time.

The writers, then, get full resonance out of this milestone.  It's Sarah's Call, after all, and the balm that eases her wounded rage and self-hatred.  There was such meaning in every moment, and I found myself fascinated with the way that Beth handled Sarah during their conversation.  The spectrum of emotions that play on Beth's face in the train scene is truly fantastic, and resonant, and heartbreaking.  Beth regards Sarah with love, with pity, with amusement, with longing and loss and compassion and pain.  She teases her, she's stern with her, she's fond yet strict, both warm and cold - it's everything you would expect of a loving yet hard-nosed sister before her final goodbye.  It's definitely the most emotion that we've ever seen from Beth, and this contrast completely fleshes out the tragedy of who she was, and of the connection yet divide between her and Sarah that can never truly be reconciled.

In that this is the culmination of the audience finally allowed to know Beth, beyond what she left behind, the episode’s design spins the Beth-Sarah construct into a new light, which adds another dimension that wasn't there before.  As we originally accepted the story, Sarah rekindled the torch that Beth had found too burdensome to carry. She stepped into Beth’s identity, her life, and her place of leadership in Clone Club - and the question was this: where does Sarah succeed, where Beth failed? What’s so special about Sarah, the Main Character, the Chosen One? Inadvertently, through the narrative construction, the writers posited the idea that Sarah has Something that Beth did not, that would ferry the clones through the end of their journey. Felix even says it: “You’ve got to be stronger than her.”

This season, this episode, we learn that this telling of it isn't exactly true. First of all, Beth never “quit” the investigation because it was too much. She sacrificed herself to bury the investigation and keep her sisters safe. She didn’t see Sarah coming out of the black, and had no intention of passing a torch to anyone. Second, when things hit rock bottom for Sarah, as they did for Beth, Sarah finds herself doing exactly what Beth did - numbing out from reality and hanging her life over the train tracks.

Third of all, the episode wrote in exactly what NEEDS to be different between Sarah and Beth. It doesn’t have anything to do with Sarah’s traits vs. Beth’s traits - because actually, they’re quite similar. As Beth says: there’s more than biology between them. The difference comes from Beth herself, in the form of the Call - Beth’s only failure was disconnection, through bad circumstances and a noble intention. The only thing Sarah can do that Beth could not? Stay. That’s it.

This construct does right by Beth, even in the midst of her inherent tragedy, and also does right by Sarah, in that it connects to the character's individual development.  Wild by nature, one foot out the door, Sarah Manning's arc is defined simply by compelling her to stop running.  To honor her relationships, to be a good mother to Kira, to fight for her sisters and accept that she is not a Lone Wolf in the Night.  The Call works on two levels for Sarah - only by fulfilling her character's core growth can she step into her true power and purpose.

When she finally does, officially accepting the torch from Beth, we are renewed. The dawn comes, and Sarah goes to make peace with Siobhán, after harsh words and reopened wounds. I loved that the beat in that scene was not forgiveness. Tatiana Maslany and Maria Doyle Kennedy played that moment perfectly, because it fulfills Beth’s plea and Sarah's arc. No smiles, no relief; not forgiveness, but togetherness. Not everything is okay, but family stays, and that’s enough. Sing it with me!  WHAT A GREAT ARC OUR SARAH MANNING HAS.

Sarah actually gets two more clone comparisons in the episode, after the plot-based Rachel parallel, and the character-based Beth connection. The two additional ties both serve the drama in-episode - with Cosima, in the inherent stakes of their combined spiral at the end of their tether, and with Alison, in contrast of their coping skills. Where Sarah and Cosima spend the episode backsliding into recklessness and self-sabotage, Alison skids hard in the other direction, white-knuckling her life and every minutiae she can actually control in it. Interestingly, she does have one brief breakdown at episode’s beginning - but in private, and as soon as eyes are on her - her husband’s, it's worth noting - she shuts off all vulnerability and goes full Stepford.

Of course, Alison is followed around by pitying but well-intentioned men asking her in very calm - and perhaps condescending - voices if she’s doing okay. She dodges them comedically each time, but the episode does a fantastic echo when Duko appears at her doorstep after Donnie’s arrest and asks her how she’s “holding up.” The payoff, as the third of three insipid inquiries, with the twist element of danger, makes this moment chillingly good. It also reveals to Alison that he knows, even though she’s never met this man, and ramps up the fear to great effect.

In non-clone-related news, Art gets a very satisfying moment to beat the shit out of Duko, tearing down any pretense of unawareness, and surely putting a big target on his own back. Felix comes through big time for both Cosima and Sarah, pulling them back from the brink, as well as taking care of Siobhán in her grief. Kira probably wished she didn’t have the ability to emotionally connect to all the clones, seeing how all of them were devastated and miserable this episode. But no one fared worse than Donnie, who got arrested after storytime at his daughter’s birthday party.

And perhaps the one who fared the best? Off-screen Delphine, who went from reportedly dead to not-actually-dead-but-carted-off, based on the eye-witness account of Detective Goderitch, Manicurist. Alongside the plot shift and the Calls, add this to the end-of-season quests; there’s finally some hope to balance all the fear. We also have the return of MK - who could magically have backup files for all the research... although that seems like a too-swift Ctrl+Z for a situation given this much gravity in the story. Either way, she’s reaching out to Kira, and almost definitely as a friend, considering that she introduces herself as Mika - the name Beth called her.

So the climax ebbs, the sun rises, and the tortured souls make it through the Dark Night. We’ve been pulled through to the other side, and begin the descent into the season’s final hours with ramped-up stakes, renewed sense of purpose, and that Orphan Black Clone Togetherness that binds and grounds this spinning sci-fi thriller. “The Antisocialism of Sex” made the most of these markers through tried-and-true storytelling touchstones, and wields its characters to full emotional effect in an exploration of grief, desperation, and connection. Seriously, can someone get Tatiana Maslany a blanket and a cup of tea? And like, whale sounds or something.


  • In case you were wondering, the four standout performances for me were Sarah, Cosima, Alison, and Beth. The full range of emotional spill that each of these characters required resulted in a damn fine symphony of acting. Throw in Rachel and her restraint by contrast, and it’s even more impressive.
  • BISEXUAL SARAH MANNING!!! That is all.
  • Rachel may be living in a prison, but at least it’s HGTV’s 2016 Dr. Moreau Dream House.
  • Y’know, leave it to the Victorian era to birth Neolution. This kind of humanly grab for complete control like we’re not all sloppy bags of emotions and blood flow is so totally Victorian it’s not even funny.
  • I am SO ready for the Hendrix-Stubbs musical revue.
  • You get the feeling that Alison isn’t arrested alongside Donnie because Duko has specifically arranged it that way, and if the implications of that are not scary as all get-out, I don’t know what is.
  • A lovely moment with Siobhán thanking Art for sticking with them. As we’ve quickly learned, that kind of investment is usually at the cost of your life, so Art continues to remain a champ.
  • And, finally, as much as Felix might resent his perceived sidekick role... it was gratifying to see him being a stalwart and compassionate righthand dude to basically everyone in this episode. Another solid champ.
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