We interrupt this week’s scheduled airing of Orphan Black to bring you an epic screwball comedy set in a rehab center.
Let’s bitch it out…During the break between S1 and the start of S2, I spent a fair amount of time considering how to describe Orphan Black to someone who doesn’t watch the show (say, for example, my mother). It’s actually a bit of a difficult process because the logline “a clone conspiracy” doesn’t exactly evoke a tone that’s appropriate considering what the show actually delivers. It makes Orphan Black sound like a silly, escapist, mindless bit of entertainment instead of the challenging, adventurous, amazingly well-acted hybrid-drama that it is (consider this challenge: watch the Helena scenes out of context. Boom! Suddenly this show is an European female-driven revenge film). It’s amusing then, that ‘Knowledge Of Causes, And Secret Motion Of Things’ is such an obviously comedic episode. Series creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett clearly like to use the show to deliver little mini-movies. Last week: sestra road trip. This week: screwball comedy at rehab.
We should have expected nothing less with Vic (Michael Mando) and Alison (Tatiana Maslany) steering the ship. Throw in an aggravated Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and it’s hardly surprising that we end up with a body (unconscious, not dead), a glitter explosion and another traumatic episode for Sarah’s ex. I’ll admit that I wary of Vic’s return last week – it felt like an unnecessary return to S1 for a series that has already grown in scope and scale this season and I didn’t want to backtrack. In hindsight I was probably jumping the gun, but I wouldn’t be too upset if we never see Vic the Dick again, either. With the battle lines established between Dyad, the Proletheans and the Clone Club, I don’t think we need the small-time antics of Vic any more.
What I did really like about this episode is its confirmation and denial of expectations. We know that things are going to get crazy as soon as Felix, Vic, Sarah and Angela (Inga Cadranel) all descend on “family day” – or public flagellation holiday (as Felix calls it). And while the expected shenanigans occur (Sarah has to impersonate another clone and she proves to be much less adept at role-playing Alison than Cosima), the resulting developments unexpectedly zig when I expect them to zag. We’ve assumed Donnie (Kristian Bruun) is Alison’s monitor for so long that the moment they realize he has no idea about the clones is a complete shock. And while it turns out he is indeed her monitor, but in an unwitting sense, and it leads to the accidental death of Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer) that’s another shocking development.
Now I’m curious to know how others felt about the various subplots interspersed between Felix and Alison smacking Vic’s unconscious head against various walls. Tonally it is difficult to shift from high comedy to something as serious as Sarah and Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) “blowing shit up” between Rachel and Leekie or Cosima learning that Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) knowingly implanted Kira’s (Skyler Wexler) DNA in her. And yet…it mostly works, particularly the final confrontation between Rachel and Leekie and its comedic denouement with Donnie. We expect Rachel (or Dylan Bruce’s Hot Paul) to be the one who puts Leekie down, so when Donnie rolls up and accidentally blows Leekie’s head off, it’s a lovely “gotcha” moment that calls back to the earlier comedy bits while still eliminating the disgraced doctor, just as we expected.
As far as cleaning up storylines and blurring genres, it’s kinda genius.
- We learn that Cal’s (Michiel Huisman) computer has been compromised (presumably by Dyad, but it’s not confirmed) and it marks an end to his involvement. It’s probably for the best considering he was asking too many questions about Kira’s “aunts”
- Mrs. S is such a badass. I love her interactions with both Rachel and Leekie – she’s completely in control of both conversations. I’m curious, though, did anyone else actually think she was throwing Sarah under the bus for a deal to get away with Kira? I was ready to go back to mistrusting her all over again until she called Sarah to plot their next move.
- I don’t care too much about the details, but can we all agree that simply because Vic is unconscious and covered in glitter doesn’t mean he won’t talk to Angela? Or are we supposed to assume that she mistakes his behaviour for an addict who has fallen off the wagon? A touch more clarity would have been appreciated.
- Finally, this episode marks the introduction of one of my favourite character actors, Michelle Forbes, who shows up as Marian Bowles, a mysterious Dyad member known to both Leekie and Rachel. As usual her appearance is accompanied by a dramatic upheaval (see also: True Blood and BSG S2). It is Marian who grants Rachel permission to eliminate Leekie, thereby ushering in a new power dynamic at Dyad as the series moves into its final few episodes of the season.
- Alison (explaining to Felix why she can’t go to jail): “In the shower, if they touch me, I will cut them.”
- Paul (when Leekie talks about developing an artificial womb as a hobby): “I like pottery.” Cue fan-fiction of Paul re-enacting the pottery scene from Ghost…
- Alison (compelling Sarah to help her with Vic): “I need you to come here and clean up your doo-doo.”
- Sarah (trying to understand her role-playing exercise with Donnie): “Oh he’s being Alison. And I’m being Alison being Donnie.”
What are your thoughts on this screwball version of Orphan Black? Did you miss Helena and the Proletheans? Were you surprised that Leekie died or simply that Donnie was the one who (accidentally) pulled the trigger? Can Cosima really by saved by Kira’s DNA? Have we seen the last of Cal? And who is Marian Bowles and how much should we be scared of her? Spin your theories in the comments below.
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on BBC America. Next week Rachel breaks shit and Cosima falls down (but seriously, Orphan Black, don’t you mess with Cosima or I will cut you).