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Before season 3, an 'Orphan Black' season 2 explainer

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Steve Wilkie/BBC AMERICA

Orphan Black returns on Saturday with a new male clone twist, picking up from the events of the crazy, chaotic second season finale.

But what exactly led to the reveal that the Leda clones were not the only ones sharing DNA? So many new characters, clone or otherwise, were introduced and discarded, layer after layer was added to conspiracies, and any number of deaths caused problems for Sarah, Helena, Allison, and Cosima in the drama’s second year.

So before diving into the show’s next chapter, which begins Saturday on BBC America, let’s refresh our memories about what the Clone Club was up to last year—and what that sets up for season three.

A Religious Movement

It’s fitting that Helena, the clone with the oddest behavior, would run into the show’s most peculiar characters. She’s abducted by a Prolethean leader on a farm, Hank Johanssen, in season 2. Hank is working to bring a new, more positive view of science to the bizarre religious cult.

Chief among his efforts is Helena, whom he looks at as a miracle from on high—and he wants to find a way to create more people with her incredible genes. So… he removes eggs from Helena, fertilizes them with his own sperm (because crazy religious leaders just have to do everything themselves), and puts eggs back into Helena and into his own daughter, Gracie.

Helena is seemingly safe—after she burns Hank’s farm down, of course—when she comes together with the other clones at the season’s end. That is, until she’s kidnapped by the military, leaving her future up in the air. She really cannot catch a break.

Oh, and Gracie has been wed to Ari Millen’s Mark Rollins, who kills in the name of Prolethean good. But he’ll become even more important in a bit.

Flaws in the Design

A key to understanding Orphan Black’s second season is to realize that much of what happened came a result of a flaw (or two) in the Project Leda clone design. The clones have been falling ill, an unintentional side effect of whatever science created them. We see it with Cosima and other clones, but a cure seems out of reach.

Kira may hold the answer to saving them, however, and that’s largely because Kira shouldn’t exist. It’s revealed by Ethan Duncan, one of the clones’ main creators, that the clones were purposefully made not to be able to have children.

That’s a problem, however, as Rachel, the clone who was raised self-aware and actually works for Dyad, wants kids. She kidnaps Kira, forcing Sarah, who is willing to do anything to defend her daughter, to surrender to the Dyad group. There, plans are made to have Sarah’s eggs removed. She and Rachel have a confrontation during her stay at Dyad, but through the help of Cosima, Mrs. S., Scott (Kira’s recently revealed father), and a woman named Marion, Sarah and her daughter are able to escape. To make matters worse for Rachel, Ethan commits suicide while locked up in Dyad, preventing her from learning more about the clone DNA.

While on the inside, Kira stole a book with some important science that includes the clones’ genetic sequencing, which could be key to understanding why some are becoming sick and how Sarah could have have a baby.

The Leader of the Leader

But Sarah’s stay leads her to an even more startling discovery. All along, we’ve been under the impression that Dyad was behind the cloning operations—but the season two finale revealed that a new company, Topside, was actually the mysterious organization in charge of it all. We’re introduced to them by way of Marion Bowles, a woman who helps in the plan to break Sarah out of Dyad. (She’s somehow connected to Mrs. S., but how exactly remains to be seen.)

She’s also taking care of a young Project Leda clone—but she has plenty more to reveal than just a budding clone.  Marion also shows off to Sarah that the military has been hard at work on a brother program to Leda: Project Castor, complete with a new set of male clones. And they do not look like a pleasant group.

With this season-ending twist, Mark Rollins is shown to be one of these clones, alongside a few other versions of actor Ari Millen.

And despite all this insanity, somehow the show had time for the wacky slapstick comedy that is Allison’s life. In season two, she took the lead in the community play from her dead neighbor (whom she watched die), went to rehab after falling off the stage at a performance, then rekindled her faltering marriage with Donnie while helping him to hide the body of Dr. Leekie. 

For more on season 3, hear from Ari Millen about what to expect from the new male clones and what co-creator Grame Manson promises in the season to come.

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