Tuesday, April 22, 2014

RECAP: Orphan Black 2x01 - They Keep Mugging Allison

Okay, while I am super excited about the return of Orphan Black, this recap is gonna be pretty fast and dirty. You see, because I am occasionally an overachiever with a very bad sense of time management, I may have kind of forgotten about the deadline for a very important (and very long) article I'm writing for this super cool book and, long story short, I'm up to my eyeballs in work. Also this weekend is our semi-annual youth retreat and I think I'm helping run that or something?

Basically, I love you all, and I love posting on this blog, but I am going to be flaky as hell for the next few days.

Still, some really cool and interesting stuff happened on the new season of Orphan Black so far, and I would very much like to share it with you. Good? Good!

If you didn't catch the first season of the show last year, here's what it's about: clones. Human clones. Human clones who grew up and had perfectly normal lives until the day that they realized they were, in fact, clones, and also that this means someone made them, and then a bunch of them started getting killed off, and it's all very scary and confusing.

Our hero on the show is Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany, who plays all the clones), a rough-and-tumble type who falls into the conspiracy headfirst when she sees a woman who looks exactly like her walk in front of a train. Not one to let a mystery lie, Sarah steals the woman's wallet and identity, and discovers that she was Beth Childs (Maslany), a cop, and that Beth was in contact with two other women, Allison and Cosima, who both happen to look just like her.

Cosima, who is a brilliant scientist, explains to Sarah that they're actually all clones, but that they don't know who created them or where the experiment is supposed to lead. She also suggests that if this were her experiment, she would have people monitoring the clones, because how better to figure out if there are any weird consequences to playing with biology in this way? And of course this leads all of the women on a hunt to find their monitors. Cosima's monitor is Delphine (Evelyne Brochu), another scientist at Cosima's university, and one who is suspiciously eager to gain Cosima's affection and attention. 

Allison suspects that her monitor is her next door neighbor, Aynsley (Natalie Lysinska), and when confronting Aynsley about it, Allison kind of sort of kills her/lets her die. Unfortunately for Allison, who is pretty much the comic relief on the show, an uptight suburban mom dealing with the realization that she's in a science fiction movie and drinking a lot of white wine and complaining mostly, Aynsley isn't her monitor. That honor goes to her husband, Donnie (Kristian Bruun), and also means that she kind of sort of murdered an innocent woman. Whoops?

Sarah doesn't think she has one, or else how would she have been able to hide the existence of her daughter, Kira, from whoever it is that made them? Sarah is the only one of the clones to have a kid, so it's a little bit important. Important enough that at the end of season one, Kira is kidnapped, and with her (probably, maybe, it's not clear) is Sarah's foster mother and Kira's caregiver, the indomitable Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). Beth, however, did have a monitor, and when Sarah takes over her life, she also inherits Paul (Dylan Bruce), Beth's "boyfriend". Throughout the season, Paul comes to find out that Sarah isn't who she says she is, and that there is a lot more going on than he thought. It's unclear whether or not Paul is a good guy now.

Also, there are two other clones who factor into the storyline: Helena, who happens to be Sarah's actual twin (they're clones but also twins because this show is confusing but so so so good), and Rachel, the "pro-clone" who was raised by the scientific organization who created them. Helena is fascinating for her sheer insanity: she believes that the clones are a crime against God, and that the only way to redeem herself is to kill all of the others. She's bound up in a scary religious sect that has seen fit to torture and abuse her into a complete mental breakdown. Also, Sarah shot her at the end of last season. And Rachel is so polished and refined that it kind of hurts, this image of "perfected" biology, who doesn't appear to have much of a soul. Both fascinating characters.

SPOILERS for the new episode from here out.

Mrs. S and Kira have been taken, and Sarah is on the hunt for them. She's on the run from everyone, it seems, and desperate for a clue of where they've gone. Stopping in to a diner for a cup of tea, Sarah is then followed by two men who say they can take her to Kira. 

But Sarah's not going to be fooled. She knows they're from the DYAD Institute (who made the clones), and that Rachel ordered Kira kidnapped in order to gain leverage over Sarah.

She escapes the men and the shootout in the diner, and tracks down Felix (Jordan Gavaris), her foster brother, to demand his help. Felix might be high and completely out of it, but he's always willing to lend a hand, so he goes to Allison for her assistance in getting Sarah a gun. Allison knows a guy, because of course she does, and tells them to meet her tomorrow after her community theater practice, because of course she does.

In the meantime, Rachel is setting up for a giant fundraiser at the DYAD Institute, and Dr. Leekie (Matt Frewer) would love for Cosima to attend. They want her to sign on as a researcher with them, trying to figure out the kinks in her biology, as well as those of her "sisters". Cosima is pretty motivated too, since she seems to have developed a respiratory infection just like several of the other clones, and it's serious. Delphine wants Cosima brought in, but she also wants Cosima to be happy. Feelings!

Since Sarah is positive that Rachel had Kira and Mrs. S kidnapped, she's pretty anxious to get inside that building too. So they come up with a plan. Sarah gets her gun from Allison (with a few kinks along the way, in the shape of Beth's former partner, Art, who wants the truth, now) and goes to the fundraiser, all dressed up as Cosima. She also sics Rachel's security detail on Allison, claiming that she's turning herself in and that she'll be driving a red minivan.

For the record, as traumatic as I'm sure it was for her, seeing Allison getting mugged and viciously pepper spraying her attackers while blowing on a rape whistle was freaking priceless. Allison may not be a stone cold badass like Sarah, but she's definitely not going down easily.

Anyway, Sarah gets into the building by pretending to be Cosima, in yet another of the classic clone-pretending-to-be-other-clone scenes (the pinnacle of which was when Helena pretended to be Sarah pretending to be Beth), and confronts Rachel, who...

Doesn't have Kira. Or actually know who took her. Useless Rachel. Sarah reacts about as gracefully as one would expect, and then reacts equally poorly to the discovery that Paul is now working with Rachel, and that they have no idea where Kira is. Frustrated and with nowhere else to go, Sarah leaves the DYAD Institute and goes to find Art, to finally tell him everything. And Art has something to add to the story: the bodies from the shootout at the beginning of the episode have been identified, and they weren't with the DYAD Institute. They were with a religious group. The same religious group that had Helena.

Aww crap.

Also, as the final scene reveals, Helena is still alive, somehow, barely, and she's probably pissed as hell at her sister.

Dang I love this show. I love this show so much. I'm going to try to keep the raving short, but seriously. It's so good. And if there's one thing that the return of this glorious masterpiece to television has shown me, it's that there really is no substitute for solid storytelling and female characters who don't suck. 

I mean, it seems so basic to say that, but it's so true. Of all of the shows that I love, the prestige shows, that is, this is really the only one that has made a conscious and visible effort to tell the stories of women and people of color and other minorities whose stories don't often get told. It's the show that says, "Having a female protagonist is cool, but you know what's cooler than that? Having four of them." 

And this is the show that decided that the fundamental human relationships it wanted to explore were those between mothers and daughters and sisters.

I just love this so freaking much.

And I'm stoked to see what happens next week.


  1. I was looking at another forum a while back, where viewers were discussing hopes for the second season, and a some of the posters wanted a male clone line. Because of course no show about identity and conspiracy and sci-fi action and investigation is complete without more dudes. At least it was only a couple.

    I hope the showrunners never take that advice.

    1. From the interviews I've read, they seem pretty keen to avoid it. One of the writers (too lazy to look up the exact quote) said that they really wanted to explore "women in their multitudes". I like that.

    2. Good to know. (I'll also take a moment to appreciate that not all the important female characters are among the clones - something I suspect most shows would have done).

    3. I spend a lot of time just kind of wanting to give this show a slow clap.