Orphan Black season 4 premiere recap: The Collapse of Nature
Beth Childs' backstory gets filled in with the help of a new clone
Welcome back, Clone Clubbers! I’m your new Orphan Black recapper and a card-carrying member of the Club whose favorite sestra changes by the episode, or also the minute (though it often lands on Helena).
This first entry to season 4 serves as both a prequel and a bottle episode of sorts, bringing back the very first clone Sarah Manning met before she knew anything about being a clone: Beth Childs. Beth never got to tell her own story — we knew what Sarah found out after assuming her identity, plus what Art and Paul and the sister clones have told us, but this was the first time we really got to spend time with her ourselves.
And, because there is no limit to the number of people Tatiana Maslany can play in a single show, we also got to meet another new clone. Mika, or M.K., is a character we’ve learned a little about already — she likes animal masks and was described as a “Deep Throat”-type character before the season premiere — but now her connection to the story is made much more clear.
The title of this episode is “The Collapse of Nature.” Past seasons, as I’m sure everyone is well aware, have each taken their episode titles from different works from a famous writer or public figure (season 1 used Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, season 2 came from the works of Sir Francis Bacon, and season 3 was President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address). For Season 4, it appears they’ve chosen to use the works of Donna J. Haraway, a professor emeritus at the University of California Santa Cruz whose published works include titles like “When Species Meet” and “Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature.”
I am going to try to emulate my recapping forbearers’ format of putting our wonderful clones through the Orphan Black Clone Status Hyper-Sequence Generator Calcutron each week (a.k.a. ranking them), but for tonight I want to focus mainly on Beth. She’s the real star of this episode, and almost everything that happens is seen through her eyes.
Oh, Beth. Poor, poor Beth. Based on the circumstances in which we met her, it was obvious she was struggling. But now we’re seeing just how much. She’s addicted to painkillers, aware that Paul is more than just her boyfriend, and about to learn a lot more about the dangers of Neolution.
This glimpse into her final days begins with a late-night tip from M.K., who directs her to a body she witnessed being buried in the woods by a man and a woman wearing EMT uniforms. Art and a CSI team come to the scene, where they find the man buried is wearing a white contact lens, one of his cheeks has been cut away, and he has a “surgically bifurcated penis.” Because I’m a diligent journalist with access to Google, “bifurcated” means “divided into two branches or forks.” I’ll leave you here to think about what that looks like.
Art knows Beth is struggling, but she won’t tell him why. He knows about the pills, and that the department is keeping a close eye on her.
M.K. warns her that the murder is tied to Neolution — the dead guy (who we know is named Edward Capra, per Art’s detective work) was a “tadpole,” someone down low on the food chain. Neolution is everywhere, she tells her: She tracked one to Beth’s bed, there’s someone at the police station. Nowhere seems to be safe.
NEXT: The season 1 callbacks keep on coming
Beth’s detective work leads her to Club Neolution, which brings in two more blasts from the Orphan Black past — Olivier Duval and Dr. Leekie. Duval and his tail are downstairs at the club when Beth starts looking around, and he calls Leekie to tell him Beth’s been there (and to warn that she needs a new monitor, because her relationship with Paul is deteriorating). After speaking with a woman at the club and leaving behind her card, she confronts Leekie at an event (he tells her he never knew Capra and knows nothing about it), where we also meet a bioengineer named Evie Cho, who after Beth leaves reveals she’s aware of the Leda clones and that she realized Beth is one of them.
At home, Beth uses borrowed surveillance equipment to wire up hidden cameras. When Paul gets home, she’s dressed up, high, and drinking. They start to argue (this exchange includes Beth saying she can’t have children, something we knew already of the Leda clones but now know that Beth knew before her death), and she begins to undress and tries to seduce him, but he rebuffs her. “You’re hollow, Paul,” she says, pulling her dress back up and walking away, aiming her gun at him from behind his back. “There’s nothing inside. I filled you in with hunches. All I know for sure is you won’t protect me.” She storms out and goes to Art’s, where she asks him the same thing she asks Paul: “Look at me. See me.” She kisses him, and they have sex.
That night, she’s woken up by a phone call from Trina, the woman she spoke to at Club Neolution. She’s worried about her boyfriend, Aaron, who went off to meet a pair of hardcore Neos who came by the club — a black woman and a white man, exactly the description M.K. gave of the EMS workers who dumped Capra’s body. Apparently the boyfriend let them implant something in his cheek as part of a “biometric study” — a dentist implanted some sort of “tiny grain” and now it’s growing.
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Sarah goes down a staircase out an alleyway and peeks through a hole in the door, hearing Aaron say he wants whatever’s now in his body out of him. The EMTs are there, as is a man we saw earlier in the police station. Both he and Beth watch as they cut out Aaron’s cheek and remove some sort of bug. Horrified, she backs away, making a noise loud enough to startle everyone inside the makeshift operating room. She runs, hides behind a wall, and, startled by something, fires her weapon — at Maggie Chen, killing her, as we knew happened back in season 1. She calls Art, who comes down and manipulates the scene and tells Beth to say she fired because she thought she saw a gun.
The rest of the police show up, and Beth is told she’ll have to give a statement on the shooting. She’s then introduced to Detective Duko from the police union, who would presumably be representing her regarding this case, and… it’s the man who was with the Neolutionists. So M.K. was right about them infiltrating the police force.
NEXT: What the other clones are up to…
This new clone has very uneven bangs and is super paranoid, but not without reason — as she tells Beth, the only reason she’s alive is because Neolution thinks she’s dead. She has an accent (I can’t detect what it is, but if you have a guess, throw it in the comments) and is aware of her sister clones but has not yet met them. Even her meetings with Beth are remote — on the phone or via video chat, with a mask on. “You don’t have to do this alone,” Beth tells her.
And by the episode’s end, she’s not. After leaving the Maggie Chen crime scene, Beth heads to M.K.’s trailer and they talk face to face, without masks. M.K. tries to reassure her, but Beth is despondent. “I’m screwed,” Beth laments. “Who do I trust now? No wonder you live like this.” She should have never told Cosima or Alison, and now Art’s involved, too (“I’ve screwed him two different ways”).
“Is this my life now? I can’t even think anymore,” Beth tells her. “I’ll think now,” her sister clone responds. “I usually think all night.” She takes hold of Beth’s arm, giving her a bit of comfort as she falls asleep.
Note to Alison: Don’t mix wine and firearms. Drinking and playing with guns is a bad idea. (So is giving your daughter’s urine to your clone sister so she can pass a drug test, but I digress.) At least she has illegal substances delivered with handwritten cards and very nice bouquets?
Cosima is switching schools to get closer to her sestras, but she needs Beth to talk to Alison about transferring her money for tuition — and she and her girlfriend just split, so she’s technically homeless, too.
Though she’s only here briefly, Cosima illustrates that Beth knew more than she was sharing with her sisters. “I want answers, Beth. I know there’s a s—load you’re not telling us.”
When the episode ends, we’re back in the future: Art has called Sarah, who’s in bed with Kira, in the late hours of the night. He says there’s someone she needs to talk to and hands the phone over to M.K. “Neolution knows where you are. They’re coming for Kendall Malone,” she warns. “You need to run. Right now.”
Additional genetic material:
- Beth walking past a handcuffed Felix at the police station. He would love a bar where the bartenders wore little matador jackets.
- “I’m looking to have my breasts modified into…corkscrews, or something.” — Beth, trying to feign interest in body-modification at Club Neolution.
- The newbies at Club Neolution had magnets implanted under their fingers, which makes sense as a gateway procedure to other Neolution body-mods since it seems relatively harmless and theoretically reversible). I wonder if we’ll find out someone is an undercover Neo when metal things snap into their hands. Chekov’s magnets, perhaps?