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Orphan Black recap: 'Governed As It Were By Chance'

Helena breaks out, Sarah breaks in, and Alison breaks down. Big week for Clone Club!

Posted on

Steve Wilkie

Orphan Black

TV Show
Action, Drama, Sci-fi
run date:
Taitana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris
BBC America
Current Status:
In Season

God pops up frequently on Orphan Black. God is the deity worshipped by the Proletheans. For Tomas, God was the reason to purge the earth of all synthetic life; for Henrik, God is more like William Paley’s Watchmaker, tinkering with His creation and using the clones to guide mankind to a new stage of evolution. But God is also the concept that drives the less spiritually inclined forces that populate Orphan Black‘s universe. Although Dr. Leekie and his followers are draped in the fineries of upper-level corporate science — the Dyad Institute basically being a bizarro-world Apple where Steve Jobs was actually Dr. Frankenstein — they are motivated by the possibility of becoming as unto God, of creating something out of nothing.

Of course, the invocation of God implies a divine plan, and the problem with divine plans is that humans aren’t divine enough to understand them. The fourth episode of Orphan Black‘s second season is titled “Governed As It Were By Chance,” which is taken from Francis Bacon’s popular kindergarten textbook Novum Organum. It comes from a much longer quotation which deals with how even the smartest humans can get something wrong. Bacon writes:

For everyone (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of nature, owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature; or to his education and conversation with others; or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires; or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled; or the like.

Translated into the non-genius: Everyone has a perspective on the world around them, but that perspective is colored by everyone’s unique, particular experiences. Everyone has a bias. When someone starts talking about God and “divine plans,” they are at least partially talking about themselves, and what they would like those divine plans to be. “The spirit of man,” Bacon concludes, “Is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance.”

The first season of Orphan Black portrayed the myriad Maslianys as the victims of higher forces, created by mysterious powers for mysterious purposes. What’s interesting about the second season is how we’re slowly learning how those mysterious higher powers are themselves governed by people with their own problems — people whose master plans can get upset by a momentary impulse, or who can’t see the wolves lurking in their own metaphorical cave. Even Rachel Duncan — gene-fascist pro-clone and apparent sophomore season Big Bad — is being watched, her destiny not quite her own.

New data like that requires new experiments, new conclusions, and new theories. Which means it’s once again time for us to feed the latest findings into the Orphan Black Clone Status Variable Invasive Hyper-Sequence Generator Calcutron and rank the known clones on a scale from “Cool” to “Coolest” to “Coolest-er” to “Insane Crazy-Haired Blood-Soaked Guardian Angel.”

1. Helena, The Renegade Amish Butterfly That Hell Coughed Back Up

Helena’s head hurts. She was injured. She’s under sedatives. She remembers being surrounded by people. She remembers some kind of ceremony. She remembers pain; all life has been pain for our Helena. “We’re not like Tomas,” says the kindly middle-aged man who looks like what aliens think a country music star looks like. “We love you for who you are. Your life is here now, with us.”

Did Helena believe him? If so, it wasn’t long before the eternal cruelty of human existence once again reared its ugly head. Good Ol’ Gracie has been making noise all season about how little she thinks of Helena. Finally, she took matters into her own hands. And by “matters” I mean “a pillow.” Helena writhed, asphyxiating; she stopped moving. “Go back to hell where you belong,” said Gracie, not realizing that Helena has more lives than Catwoman in Batman Returns.

So it was that Helena raced through the Prolethean compound, dressed in an outfit that suggested Miss Havisham in an All-Amish performance of Great Expectations. And so it was that she found herself in a laboratory, suddenly flashbacking to some kind of terrifying operation that the Proletheans performed on her. (It looked to me like an impregnation; the implications from the episode’s climax are much, much scarier.) And so it was that she raced out of the compound, running right past number one top cop Art, who summed up the occasion with an incredibly apt “Holy s—.”

Where would Helena run to? Is there no place safe in this world for a Ukrainian assassin/reformed zealot? Turns out there is. Helena reappeared at the end of the episode, having sliced Daniel’s neck wide open. How did she find her way to Rachel Duncan’s apartment? Was it pure instinct? Did she know that her twin sister was in danger? I’ve been a bit skeptical about the decision to keep Helena alive this season, but this episode seemed to suggest that the show has fascinating plans for her. We all thought she was the season-1 Level Boss; perhaps, in her own horrifically messed up way, she’s the bruised heart of the show, struggling against her programming, attempting to find some peace. “You were dead,” said her sister. “I shot you.” “Yes, you did,” Helena responded. “It’s a miracle.”

2. Alison Would Like To Take A Break From All Her Worries

No doubt about it, Alison Hendrix had a tough morning. She regurgitated several bottles of wine and a couple shots of tequila into the toilet, before noticing that the toilet was located inside an apartment she didn’t recognize. Then she noticed that her arm was in a sling. Then she realized that she couldn’t even remember when the curtain came up on opening night. Opening Night! Did she hit her marks? Was there a standing ovation? What did Isherwood say?

So many questions, no time for answers! Alison informed the orderly that she would not stand for this — this imprisonment in a room with the feng shui of a David Lynch movie. This wasn’t the agreement! She signed a contract with the Dyad Institute! Alas, this was not a Dyad Institute house: As Amy Winehouse informed us on the soundtrack, this was rehab.

Rehab! Oh dear me, rehab! Drunks and drug addicts and someone shaving her armpits! No, no, no, no, no. Alison told Felix that she wanted out. Felix said that, all considering, it might be a good idea to stay inside. Stay away for a week. Rest up. Stay away from suspected monitor husband Donnie. “We’ll celebrate with brunch and mimosas!” said Felix. “Or, er, just brunch.”

There’s another reason to stay inside of rehab, too. Donnie — spying Donnie, leeching Donnie, Donnie the Judas in her bedroom — paid her a visit. He told her that he didn’t want her around the children; he told her that, if she leaves before her rehab program is finished, she won’t get to see them; and he told her this, all according to his lawyer.

A lawyer! Rehab! Her kids! A future without mimosas! All this, and no relations allowed with the other residents — a rule which strongly implies that “relations with the other residents” is exactly what Alison will soon be getting up to. Oh, the suffering!

3. Sarah Manning, Fugitive

Just what’s going on with Sarah, the nominal star of Orphan Black? Ever since her Cosima-cosplaying, Rachel-smacking badassery in the premiere, she’s been on a perpetual road trip to various countrysides that all look like a Fincherized version of Christina’s World. Last night she took action. Awaking from her cliffhanger car crash, she grabbed a gun off the apparently-dead Daniel and seemed about ready to turn the gun on the attacking policeman.

“You’re holding a murder weapon!” said Nice Guy Cal, handling things pretty well considering that a woman he hasn’t seen in a decade just popped up on his doorstep with a heretofore-unrevealed daughter and a psychopath from a megacorporation. Cal continued to polish his World’s Best Surprise Dad trophy, carrying Sarah and Kira away in a lovely RV (with a laptop!). Cal even agreed to take care of Kira for a few hours, which seemed like a fine idea to Sarah — although I’m calling dark-horse odds that this season ends with Kira kidnapped by multiple clones of Michiel Huisman.

Sarah returned to Mrs S’s house and even managed to slightly mend fences with her brother Felix. Neither of them have heard from Siobhan since The Incident a couple episodes ago. We, however, saw a decidedly different side of Siobhan, engaging in some PDA with newcomer ex-con Carlton. Carlton, recall, is the guy who brought Sarah to Siobhan lo those many years ago. Not much was revealed in their chat, although Siobhan concluded darkly: “If Sarah digs any deeper into this, a whole world of s— is going to unravel.”

And dig deeper Sarah did, vocally impersonating Rachel Duncan and visiting her apartment at One King West. And indeed, a whole world of s— did unravel, when Daniel arrived in the apartment, got the drop on Sarah, and tied her up in the shower with every conceivable bad intention implied. (“Easier to clean up after” is my personal pick for Scariest Quote of the Year.) He asked her questions about the Project LEDA photo, and when she didn’t respond, he started slicing her head open. Helena took him down, but what stuck with me was the look on Sarah’s face. The final few minutes of this episode were horror atop horror — climaxing with Helena hugging Sarah, her bloodstained white dress clashing madly with Sarah’s business-black, the two of them so close together they might have almost been back in the womb.

4. Sherlock Cosima, Who Is Actually Trying To Figure All This Stuff Out

Cosima’s cough is getting worse. She’s watching videos of deceased clone sister Jennifer Fitzsimmons, working long nights in the laboratory. She’s a double agent, but neither of her respective agencies seem particularly promising: Aldous Leekie thinks she’s a particularly clever lab rat, and her clone sisters are crazy.

Perhaps because of her precarious position, Cosima is the most on-point when it comes to decoding the elaborate labyrinthine mysterious surrounding the characters. Project LEDA? She offered up a quick rundown of the myth of LEDA and the Swan: How Zeus impregnated a human woman, how her twins were half human and half god. It was military-speak, she decided — and she noticed a soldier in the background of Sarah’s picture. Could the military have created the clones? Were they supposed to be an army?

Inspector Cosima dug deeper, discovering the identity of the people in the LEDA picture thanks to some helpful news clippings discovered by Sarah. Susan and Ethan Duncan were British geneticisists, Cambridge-educated; they wrote papers on recombinant DNA, until they stopped doing that and began doing top-secret work, until they stopped doing that and died mysteriously. (ASIDE: For some reason, I had it in my head that the woman in the LEDA picture was a much younger Siobhan. Apologies for the confusion; clearly I’m suffering from face blindness, since Susan Duncan looks nothing at all like Mrs. S. END OF ASIDE.)

Admittedly, not all Cosima’s deductions were correct. She unleashed a lengthy character-study about Rachel Duncan: How being self-aware must have given her a profound sense elf narcissism, how she was raised without any emotional attachments to be the corporate leader. She sounded an awful lot like us Orphan Black fans, actually, who’ve been treating Rachel like she’s a hybrid between Jodie Foster in Elysium and Christian Bale in American Psycho.

Cosima was wrong, and so were we.

5. The Spirit of Rachel Is In Fact A Thing Variable

Yes, her apartment is straight out of Cold Bitch Digest. Yes, she’s the kind of person who calls up the doorman in her tony apartment building and demands that her suite be heated to a perfect 68 degrees before she arrives. (Sarah did that, pretending to be Rachel, but the implication was that that was not far outside Rachel’s usual behavior.)

But perhaps there is more to Rachel than we know. The proclone didn’t technically appear in the episode, but her presence was everywhere. Sarah saw an old home video of young Rachel playing with her mum and pop. Sample line: “I love you too, Daddy!” What happened to that happy little girl? What happened to her parents? Is she on a vengeance kick for some long-ago transgression against the Duncans and LEDA? And what are we to make of the revelation that she was sleeping with Daniel…and that he was her monitor, possibly unbeknownst to her? Is Rachel just another puppet?

6. Jennifer Fitzsimmons

Still dying.

7. Beth Childs

Still dead, although she’d be proud of her partner Art, who right-place-right-timed himself for Helena’s escape and Big Timed the Proletheans. (You always gotta have the long gun permits!)

The Season So Far, Recapped By Felix: “Alison’s in recovery. Cosima and Delphine are locked in some kind of transgressive lesbian geek spiral bound to end in tears.”

Fellow viewers, what did you think of the latest episode? What do you make of the final reveal that Henrik has, apparently, begun the processing of building new life? I couldn’t quite figure out whether the implication was that he was creating more Masliany-clones, or if he was mixing their DNA with human DNA to make a new race of superbeings, Zeus-Leda style.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich