Things get tense when Sarah and Rachel bargain over Kira. Meanwhile, Donnie and Alison bond in unexpected ways.

By Jackson McHenry
Updated June 15, 2014 at 02:01 AM EDT
Orphan Black 03
Credit: BBC America

Why love? What purpose does our attachment to other people have, and why do we become attached to specific other people?

“It would be an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried.”

That’s the Francis Bacon quote that tonight’s Orphan Black, “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done,” references. For those not on speaking terms with Francis right now, he means that unless you commit to trying something fundamentally different, things will continue to happen as they always have. You can’t expect a miracle without miraculous means.

Here’s where I imagine the version of Tatiana Maslany that titles Orphan Black’s episodes cackling in the editing room, because while the quote seems to refer to technological miracles—Henrik’s insemination of Helena, the use of Kira’s bone marrow to (fingers crossed) save Cosima—I’m convinced the show is really interested in human ones. And as if to prove it, Orphan Black slowed just a little this week (there were still huge twists, but that’s kind of required) to give its characters some time to fumble for the connections between themselves, and question why they hold them in the first place.

But enough of this touchy-feely rubbish, as Sarah (or Rachel) would say. Some people just don’t believe in the miraculous (see Marian), or don’t know how to commit (dammit Delphine!). Just because two people say they love each other doesn’t mean they can protect each other. As much as I’d like to live in a world where Cosima suddenly recovers and then co-runs an orphanage with Helena in Northern Saskatchewan, that’s not where this show is going (though if I were to pitch a spinoff…). So let’s pass around the Bedazzled Clone Club Talking (And Also Emotional Therapy) Stick and pronounce the best and worst of tonight’s clones.

1. Helena, good with children

With Henrik’s injection of fertilized eggs into her uterus, Helena’s become the poster child for of things which have never yet been done for the episode. She’s going to be mom, “just as nature intended”–or at least as Henrik intended.

But all is not well on the techno-farm, as Henrik enlists Mark to become Gracie’s husband – “it’s time for her to bear fruit.” Of course, this doesn’t mean that Gracie and Mark will have children, but that Gracie will bear Henrik and Helena’s children. It’s not that much of a shocker, Gracie points out, asking if Helena’s ever listened to what her father says. “Not really.”

But once Helena realizes Henrik’s using her (and Gracie) as broodmares—not puppies—it’s time to strike back. She springs to action (and the Helena riff from season 1’s soundtrack returns!) and puts Henrik in a headlock, buying time for Gracie and Mark—who’s won over by love(?) for his new wife—to flee the farm.

Helena’s storyline also gets points for the little touches. She bonds with a cute girl over her Shakira hair, and even gets to stick her tongue out (the second best non-threatening Helena expression, after her “I’m eating Jell-o” face). We got to see Kathryn Alexandre, the woman who stands in for other copies of Maslany in scenes with more that one clone, as a worker in the techno-farm’s techno-orphanage. Henrik even hinted that Mark was tangled up in the same Afghanistan debacle as Paul. Ok, that’s guesswork on my part: he was in the military at 19 and then he went AWOL (I’m pretty sure every military mission in this show takes place in Afghanistan though).

2. Alison, who knows how to handle a jackhammer

I used to wonder whether Alison’s plot line would run out of fuel once she revealed her secrets to Donnie, but it’s managed to do just the opposite. In fact, they’ve become my favorite murderous married couple since Lord and Lady Macbeth (someone else who would totally be touched by a heart traced in cement).

There’s not a lot of plot to be found in suburbia for the week, but Donnie gets to have fun threatening Vick and later Angela (earning himself guitar riff). And by getting the fuzz of his wife’s case, he’s on his way to realizing that he’s kind of a badass, though not as “perfectly comfortable with manslaughter” as Alison. Still, Donnie with a gun (even with the safety on) remains a force to be reckoned with, esse: “I think I should shoot him, Ali — that’s how I see this ending!” Instead we end with Alison and Donnie doing the nasty. Considering Donnie’s history with firearms, this is a much better ending.

3. Sarah, no not that Sarah

Maybe I’m a sucker for scenes with moms and kids, but I loved that moment, midway through tonight’s episode, where Sarah sat next to Kira, stroked her hair and seemed to pray for her survival (the montage of blood in syringes that followed was harder to take). The writers keep hinting that Kira has superpowers, and that’s made her into a bit of a distant, eerie character. Seeing Kira drugged and totally under Sarah’s protection reminded us how fragile a little girl can be, and how much she needs her mom to fight for her.

To be fair, Sarah didn’t have the best game plan going in. She let her four year old daughter to decide whether or not she wanted to undergo surgery and left Mrs. S. (in Wednesday Addams pigtails, no less) as a guard. So as soon as Delphine arrived (Do you really think Rachel is the kind of person who accidentally leaves her computer open? DAMMIT DELPHINE!), Sarah was easily duped into abandoning her daughter. Well, Felix was there, but Rachel got through him pretty quickly.

4. Cosima, just ignore the tubes

Cosima’s disease has fueled a lot of plot this season, but I’ve only recently come to realize how much her death matters. That is, a lot of characters move around her and fight for her, but it’s only when the brilliant scientist gets to do something more upbeat that she starts to come to life. That’s to say, I don’t want Cosima to die from autoimmune disease (the “least invasive solution” to ensure infertility, thanks Duncan), mostly because I don’t want her to be defined by that disease.

Case in point: the brief exchange early in the episode between her, Scott (“he’s a virgin in case you couldn’t tell”), and Professor Duncan, where Duncan explains how he hid the clones’ gene sequence in a “Vigenère cipher.” Cosima looks up at her father — her maker, rather — and has this awed, almost proud expression, like she’s found someone she can connect with, and is imagining all the crazy gene coding conversations they could have. And then she coughs and turns away. Those conversations might not last long.

5. Rachel, bad with children

Rachel was initially first on this list for being such a player, but then she fell down to the end for being totally evil. We first see her trying to recruit Delphine, as both bluff each other over their supposed attachment to Cosima and the other clones. “I’ve been lied to as well,” she tells Delphine. Delphine wants to believe that Rachel is more human, and more remorseful, than she would ever allow herself to be — and Rachel plays that investment.

The writers toy with our impressions of the proclone in much the same way: hinting that there could be more depth to her intentions, before pulling that human side out away from us. At least that’s how I felt as Rachel put herself in the projection room and threw up some old home videos of herself. We already knew that Maslany could switch between several roles, but watching her flicker between so many emotions (from giggling to tears) was amazing—especially paired the world’s most menacing/mournful bite of a martini olive. This woman is so hurt, so torn between duty and empathy, maybe she’s about to have a breakthrough…

And then Rachel plays her hand. She puts on her Sarah-brand leather jacket (also a Sarah-brand sneer) and, after taking care of Felix, she’s got Kira in her hands and it’s time to head back to her antiseptic kids playroom – which looks like an IKEA showroom based around the concept of Valentine’s day. “Dear child,” she calls Kira, telling her “you may even grow to like it here – just as I did.”

Because calling kids “dear child” always works.

Rachel’s abduction of Kira is a bold move, but it also reveals how much of her character is based on fear. She’s afraid, in some way, of Sarah—“the product of chance.” Marian, who reports to even higher authorities (how many people even work for Dyad?), is fascinated by the success of random results, but Rachel loves control. Rachel plays dirty to get what she wants, but she won’t abandon limits or rules in her emotional life.

But as Sarah and Alison can attest to, we care about other people for illogical reasons. Sometimes we care because about people because prove their value (woo, Donnie!), but other times our reasons are as random as they are powerful—what is it about sharing flesh and blood that bonds Sarah to her daughter, and to her sisters? Rachel wants Kira because she wants a test subject she can control. She has other impulses, but they’ve been repressed so forcefully that they’ve twisted into something unrecognizable.

Sarah wants Kira for a primal, direct reason—one I think Orphan Black wants to explore, even as it rushes through heaps of plot. Sarah wants Kira because she cares for her — because she’s a mom, and that’s a connection that doesn’t need to be justified. Sarah just cares. For people like Rachel, that’s dangerous.

Episode Recaps

Orphan Black

Tatiana Maslany plays half the cast of BBC America’s paranoid clone thriller.

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  • BBC America