Orphan Black recap: Certain Agony of the Battlefield
We should have known things would be different this week once Helena downed her beloved scorpion in the middle of the desert. Yes, she was starving and dehydrated but perhaps she became as tired of talking to an arachnid as we were of watching it. Once her crazy-whisperer was spoken for, the show was destined to pick up the pace. We got more action—and resolution—than we’ve seen all season. We lost Paul, we learned about Dr. Coady’s super unethical, and rather Dr. Evil-like, agenda for the Castors and the government, and we saw Allison and Donny go completely bonkers in a money and undie orgy in their suburban bedroom. Really? You don’t lock the door before you decided to blast the rap music? Hasn’t Weeds taught you anything? And we got clones, acting with other clones, both alive—and dead. Plus, the return of Delphine, the resurgence of Felix as an active human being and no longer the phone handler, tea maker he had turned into. So much to talk about… Clearly the “The Many Past Frustrations” Orphan Black referenced from Eisenhower’s farewell address in its episode 5 title has resulted in exactly what the former President predicted: “Certain Agony of the Battlefield,” a perfectly apt title for episode 6, where it looks like the isolated battles may turn into a full-fledged war, especially now that Paul is gone. Let’s put our very active clones through the Orphan Black Clone Status Hyper-Sequence Generator Calcutron and move this story along.
Sarah and the fever dream: What was real and what wasn’t? Yes, first she was chasing Kira, and then she was strapped to a hospital bed and infused with Rudy’s creepy blood. (It may make her sterile, but will it turn her into a raving lunatic too?) But part two of the dream was far more interesting when she followed that little girl (the little girl we realize later is Rachel as a child) into the tunnel (was it to clone heaven?) only to meet up with Beth on the other side. The first dream turned out to be mostly real. But the second? Was that her confronting death only to step back from the brink by Beth’s encouragement to find out WHO is responsible for this mess? “We do terrible things for the people we love,” says Beth. I could flow with the dream sequence. My one gripe was the portrayal of Beth. Granted, Tatiana Maslany hasn’t played her for a very long time and when she did, it was rather brief, but this was the first of her clones that didn’t feel to me like her own person. Beth had a lot of Allison’s rigidness coupled with Sarah’s anger and I felt like we could see Maslany trying to put it all together. It was the first time I’ve felt that, and maybe I was judging too hard. But even so, having that feeling just once after some 20-odd episodes of brilliant acting is something of a minor miracle.
Still, Sarah soldiered on, and after receiving a very abrupt profession of love by Paul is sent into the safety of a tunnel while Paul finishes his suicide mission with some point blank shots to the chest by the extra evil Dr. Coady and a graceful unfurling of a grenade. Tragic? Most definitely. Heroic? Of course. But now the Ledas have no ally in the military, and an operation that while seemingly destroyed may wind up feeling much bigger than what we originally perceived as a ragtag group of scientists and look-alikes stuck holed up in a Mexican desert.
Let’s stop for a moment and talk about Dr. Coady and her seriously demented field study work on all of the Castor’s conquests: sterilization as the ultimate form of occupation. “We could end wars in a single generation,” she says. “Without a drop of blood.” Thanks to the guinea pig of Sarah we know the pathogen can be transferred via blood and semen and if wildly dispersed would destroy male brains and female ovaries. And what would be left? No men and a generation of sterile women? Sounds like you’d just create a new army of angry soldiers, albeit one with a much shorter shelf life. Sounds like the premise of a new post-apocalpytic society.
So herbalist Shay isn’t part of an evil plot—nice fake-out, Orphan Black. Turns out the one stalking Cosima is straight-haired Delphine, who’s using her powers to track ex-girlfriends while simultaneously deride them for their distracted-by-love work ethic. Cosima isn’t taking Delphine’s “I miss you” bait yet—and she really shouldn’t—but staying the course with Shay. She’s also charging ahead with re-examining Gracie, “Felix’s little urchin” whose ovaries are shriveling as we speak. Cosima’s story gives us time for a Felix shout-out, one of the best and most under-utilized characters this season, who finally stopped waiting for Mrs. S. to act and did his own reconnaissance to find missing Sarah. “Nut up and lead me to Cyclops,” Felix insists to Scott, who brings him to the still-cognitively damaged Rachel. While Felix’s methods of humiliation (Really? Painting on her bandage?) weren’t very sophisticated, it at least showed some new levels of agency we haven’t seen in a while.
Donny pimping in a four-door sedan; Donny and Allison having a wild dance party in their suburban bedroom; the rap soundtrack. It’s all working as the show’s most ridiculous plot line continues to unfold with profound lunacy. And you’ve gotta love that the high-school boyfriend-turned-drug dealer Jason Kellerman is the one who provides the reason to this unlikely trio when Donny shows up rocking his new Subaru sedan. “Cars aren’t conspicuous Allison, they are everywhere.” And it’s Kellerman’s notion that Allison and Donny need a drug front to launder money that brings us to the moment we’ve all been waiting for: meeting Allison’s mom. I’m sorry it didn’t happen this episode but at least we got to see inside the famed Bubbles, right down to its men’s lines of soaps. Next week should provide us with all we need when it comes to resolutions about where Allison came from. I hope you all are as excited as I am.
Okay, who else thinks Rachel’s bandage looks like Michael Palin’s from A Fish Called Wanda? I kept thinking Felix was going to stuff French fries in her nose as he urged her to talk. “K-k-k-k-ken is coming to kill me.” Alas, no such luck. We did get some abstract images that are likely to provide the keys needed to unlock Duncan’s mystery journal. And the Rachel in that chair is not the same stiletto-heeled monster we knew. This clone has been damaged, perhaps for the better, and is pining for her family, specifically her dearly-deceased father.
There wasn’t much of our favorite heathen child but what we did get was so good. Thankfully she finally gave up on the scorpion. “I regret nothing!” and then she did the right thing and came back to save Sarah. I just can’t wait for the next episode when she dons a cowboy hat and is let back into civilization. This show loves to capture Helena but she’s really at her best when she can let the crazy fly around regular people.
Until that time, may your dreams be fever-free, your sexual escapades disease-free, and your skivy-wearing, rap-thumping, money-filled dance parties kid-free. Happy Memorial Day, Clone Club.
Tatiana Maslany plays half the cast of BBC America’s paranoid clone thriller.