Wednesday, May 13, 2015

RECAP: Orphan Black 3x02 - What Will You Leave Behind?

It's sort of interesting to me to contemplate why exactly I like Orphan Black so much. Because recently I've been watching through the second season with a friend, and even though she likes it, she finds it troublesome and likes pointing out the logical flaws in the character arcs. So we'll be watching along, and she'll point out, "Why don't they all just go public with the clones thing? Why not go on Oprah? Oprah would show it, and then DYAD wouldn't be able to do anything. Oprah's scary."

And all of a sudden I find myself trying to figure out why they don't go on Oprah. Because they don't want their lives made public, I guess? But that seems a small price to pay for getting to actually live the rest of their lives without disappearing into a mad scientist's lab for a forced oophorectomy. And the more my friend points out plotholes like this, the more I find myself wondering, "Have I just tricked myself into liking this show? Is Orphan Black secretly...bad?"

The answer, I have decided is no. Obviously I've decided that because I'm still recapping it and my head hasn't exploded. But it's also worth understanding that Orphan Black isn't the super smart, super sophisticated drama we like pretending it is either. I mean, it's basically a soap opera with really good production values and the best acting in the world. 

And that's completely fine. I love how ridiculous and dramatic everything is, how everyone is always getting kidnapped and held for ransom by increasingly obscure villains, how S magically has a network of spies so vast they can get her a car bomb in under a day, how we all just seem to accept that your average soccer mom is a good enough actor to convincingly play her own clone sister and fool her mother

This is all stuff that actually happens on the show, and that's awesome. I love all of those things. But I feel like because there's such a dearth of genuinely good female lead dramas on show, especially prestige shows like Orphan Black, that we demand it be flawless. We want it to be as intellectually rigorous as it is entertaining, and when it isn't, we get disappointed. I mean, as I have been reminded many times, nothing about the portrayal of patent law on this show is even remotely accurate. But I don't care, because the show is so dramatic and wonderful. 

Basically, Orphan Black is an amazing show, but it's not a show without flaws. No show is without flaws, and just because Orphan Black is one of the only shows we've actually got that represents women this fully and well is no reason to force it to stand for every possible drama about women. It's not perfect, and it doesn't have to be. Hopefully, as more prestige shows with female leads, like Outlander and Homeland and Orange Is the New Black, come out, we'll no longer be forced to rationalize away the many, many plotholes in Orphan Black and can just enjoy it as the weird, dramatic, ridiculous show that it is.

Here's hoping.

Anyway, this week in terrifying science fiction sadness it felt like everyone was being asked to figure out what they're willing to do, or willing to sacrifice, in order to "win." What "winning" means to all of our heroines is clearly up for debate, but each of them was at a crossroads. What do I have to lose in order to get where I need to go?

Sarah was the clone with the most plot this episode. She tends to stand for the arc-plot in her episodes, as the main character and holder of the exposition and dramatic action. Where Sarah goes, the main plot goes, and this episode was no different. 

Still reeling from Helena's disappearance and likely kidnapping by the terrible Castor clones, Sarah is using all of her contacts to hunt them down. This includes keeping Art on a tight leash as he's let back onto the force (his suspension is apparently up), as well as keeping her little family as close as she can. Cal and Kira are her number one priority at the moment, with finding Helena a very close second.

But Mrs. S has been cut completely out of the loop, and Felix isn't too much in her good graces either. Felix has always been closer with Mrs. S, and this week finds him caring for his mum. She got roughed up by Castor Clone Seth last episode, and has sustained three cracked ribs, a mild concussion, and a whole hell of a lot of bruises. Sarah, unfortunately, isn't feeling all that generous, but she does go to S for information. Who took Helena? Mrs. S doesn't know. Why? Also a mystery. And where's Paul in all of this? S doesn't know, which makes her useless to Sarah.

So while Cal and Kira set up Cal's new house in Toronto - he's sticking around so that they can give "being a family" a go - Sarah follows up on Art's lead. He brings in a woman who claims she was assaulted and raped by a pair of twins. The photos match the ones Sarah has already seen of Seth and Rudy, so she knows that these were Castor clones, doing something or other intentional. Which leads to the important question of why they took a tissue sample and some of the woman's hair from her. Blegh.

This episode also marked the first time that we really got to see the male clones on their turf, and it meant that to a large degree, they were the ones driving the story. So while Sarah was off playing floor hockey and being adorable with her baby and baby daddy, Seth and Rudy were recovering from their wild night of rape and assault. We see them in their hotel room, littered with empty booze bottles, and unthrilled to get a knock at the door. Of course it's not the police or anything, it's just our own dear Paul Dierden.

Paul's shown up to do something he seems to think is perfectly routine: giving the boys a series of logic tests while a computer scans their retinas. Rudy passes his tests with flying colors, but poor Seth really doesn't. I mean, he passes, but there's a long pause in there where it seems like he's having a seizure. Afterwards, Rudy refers to this as "glitching out" and asks how long Seth has been doing it. Upon the revelation that Seth has apparently been suffering mild seizures and neurological problems for at least a few weeks, Rudy goes bonkers, and decides to take drastic measures.

Those measures bring us back in line with Sarah, who has taken Kira back to Felix's apartment while Cal continues to set up his new place. Rudy grabs Kira and takes her hostage while he demands of Sarah the location of Professor Duncan's genetic research. But Rudy isn't just talking about the decoded genome (which is hidden on the bookshelf, not that Sarah knows that), but rather about genuine tissue samples taken from the Castor original. They need the tissue samples in order to stop whatever is happening to Seth.

Except it doesn't work. Sarah knows nothing of these samples, and while Rudy is upstairs with her, Seth is downstairs, apparently having a fatal seizure while Cal watches. It's not until Seth collapses and starts screaming that Rudy gives up and goes down, only to find that his brother is too far gone, and all that's left to do is shoot him in the chest and hold him while he dies. Ugh.

Sarah is, of course, incredibly shaken by these events. While Kira has been kidnapped before in the series (like, so much), this is the first time she's really seemed to be in genuine physical danger. Because before her kidnapping has always been about Kira herself. So and so wants Kira's genetic material, so they take her. Someone else wants to keep her safe, so they take her. Helena wants to go get ice cream, so she takes her. You get the point. It's always been about Kira before. This time it was actually about Sarah, and Kira's life was in danger as collateral damage.

So Sarah makes the absolute hardest choice she can, and she sends Kira and Cal away. It's in parallel with something Mrs. S tells her earlier in the episode, that sometimes the best thing you can do as a mother is run. 

Sarah clearly wants to protect her child, but she's also committed to helping her sister. Helena has become someone Sarah loves dearly and wants to protect, so she will send her child away and stay behind to save her sister. It's amazing to think of how far Sarah's come as a character since the pilot episode.

Cal and Kira get on a plane to Iceland, and Sarah, Felix, and Mrs. S go back to work.

Meanwhile, Helena is still stuck in the creepy black-ops site of creepiness. This time she's not trapped in a tiny box, she's being waterboarded.* It's unclear what the purpose of this is, but at any rate it's stopped once the woman in charge appears and reveals that Helena's blood test results are back. She's pregnant, so the torture will have to wait.

The woman then tries to use Psych 101 on Helena to get her to side with Castor against Sarah and her sisters, but Helena's not having any of it. I mean, please, she survived a cult last season. You really think she's going to turn to your side because you got her a salad and said "Sarah sold you out"? No way.

But this means that Helena is going to have to keep going through tests with only her imaginary friend, the scorpion Pupok, to keep her company. These tests include the logic puzzles Paul used on the male clones. It's a funny scene, because Helena doesn't do human logic, but also really interesting. See, the Castor line clearly takes a tactic of evaluating their clones like they a computer. You run a diagnostics test to make sure the hard drive is still functioning. The Leda clones, on the other hand, are maintained remotely, and monitored like zoo animals.

It's interesting. Both versions involve a form of dehumanization, but they're such different dehumanizing strategies.

Anyway, the scene is funny because Helena refuses to answer logically, and when asked to answer a question about mangoes, all she wants to know is if she can see the mangoes and maybe probably eat some of them. Priorities. And while it's clear that in order to survive, Sarah is going to have to give up her child and her lover, it's less exactly obvious what Helena is giving up. Still, I do think she's leaving something behind. In this case, it's her fierce desire for a family. 

Because while she still refuses to believe that Sarah would sell her out, it's clear Helena doesn't have much confidence in Sarah rescuing her either. So she's going to have to rely on herself to get out of this mess. Helena is leaving her childhood behind, in a sense, and being forced to be the kind of woman who grits her teeth and bears it for her child. Or at least that's what it looks like right now.

Of course, speaking of people giving things up, some of the characters give those things up more easily than others. In the case of Alison and Donnie, they give up their positions as law-abiding citizens really freaking easily. It's not a hard choice for them at all.

As we recall from last week, Alison has decided to run for School Trustee while Donnie has quit his job. They have almost no money in the bank, bills are piling up, and their ambition looks like it's going to get the best of them. Until, that is, Alison discovers that her pills and guns man, Ramon, is closing up his business to go off to college. 

Alison and Donnie need cash. Ramon needs to liquidate his stock. So after some considering, and a couple of hilarious Donnie malapropisms, Donnie and Alison strike a deal with Ramon to dip into their retirement savings and buy his stock of pills as well as his client list and good reputation. 

Alison and Donnie have gone from murderers to drug dealers without so much as blinking, and they seem really comfortable with it. Like I said, sometimes it's not a very hard choice to figure out what you're going to leave behind. Basic morality? Apparently overrated.

And finally there's Cosima, still getting the short shrift here. She and Scott continue to conspire about the encoded genome they found in Duncan's book, but they really need their lab back to go any further. Delphine did appoint a new head of DYAD, Dr. Nealon. You may remember him as the incredibly unethical doctor who interrogated Sarah and then happily helped Delphine screw over Rachel. We do not trust him one bit.

But he does meet with Cosima and Scott and give them some much needed backstory on Castor and Leda. Specifically, on the breakup. See, the Duncan's didn't actually end up arranging for the Castor clones to be brought to term. When they left the military and went over to DYAD, they did so with most of the research on the Castor line, but without the synthetic sequences themselves. So the military did some tweaking and brought Castor to term. Then presumably they were handed over to Dr. Virginia Coady, the woman we saw speaking with Helena earlier. DYAD literally never even knew they existed, until now.

And Cosima relates all of this back to Sarah, who decides she really only has one option here. She has to track down the runaway Castor clone, Mark, and get the whole story from him.

Which, for once, seems like it might work for her. We check in on Mark and his new wife Gracie to find Mark up in the middle of the night, burning a tattoo off his arm. Since that tattoo was a matching one with all of his clone brothers, I think we can take this as a sign that Mark is pretty seriously off the reservation.

The plots might be ridiculous, but the lighting is sublime.
*Apparently Tatiana Maslany and her stunt double consented to actually being waterboarded during this scene, which is very literally insane. Pretty sure we could have faked this, guys.


  1. Which leads to the important question of why they took a tissue sample and some of the woman's hair from her. Blegh.

    Blegh indeed. So this poor woman joins Gracie as another reminder that just because most of the victims on the show are clones, that doesn't mean the issues aren't real.

    So Sarah makes the absolute hardest choice she can, and she sends Kira and Cal away.

    I was afraid it would come to that. Poor Sarah. But at the same time, what a change from every other time she left Kira - back then it was all about Sarah - now it's about everyone but her.

    It's interesting. Both versions involve a form of dehumanization, but they're such different dehumanizing strategies.

    And it ties into expectations: men are expected to be rational and the military wants tools; women are reduced to their bodies and DYAD wants data. The men are pretty much what Castor wants, while the women are the means for DYAD to get what it wants. Nothing about either isn't gross.

    Alison and Donnie need cash. Ramon needs to liquidate his stock. So after some considering, and a couple of hilarious Donnie malapropisms, Donnie and Alison strike a deal with Ramon to dip into their retirement savings and buy his stock of pills as well as his client list and good reputation.

    So they're adding Weeds to their Desperate Housewives? Heh.

    Delphine did appoint a new head of DYAD, Dr. Nealon.

    Ugh. I reiterate what I said before, that if and when someone does this guy in, I really hope it's one of the Leda clones.

    Apparently Tatiana Maslany and her stunt double consented to actually being waterboarded during this scene, which is very literally insane.

    That... is hard core.

    1. Poor nice lady. But yeah, I do really love how the show is branching out and including the cause of all women in their story.

      Heck yes! This is such a huge example of how Sarah has grown as a mother. And I love that I can barely imagine the Sarah from season one making a choice like this. That's wonderful writing.

      As stereotypical as it is, I do love that we look at two different organizations (three, if you count the Proletheans) who dehumanize the people in their care. How corporations and the military and religious organizations are so easily capable of mistreating the very people they're supposed to be serving and protecting. I like that element of social commentary.

      Well, it's not like we're going to see Alison and Donnie in an episode of The Wire. Except in my award-winning fanfic.

      I am so down for a Leda clone killing Dr. Nealon. I vote Crystal or Rachel. But statistically, it's most likely to be Helena or Alison. Murder twins.

      Tatiana Maslany scares me, but I love her.

  2. Are you forgetting that they are patented by the military? What good would it do if they go on Oprah, make their lives public and probably still be in the same place they are now?

    1. Right, but this brings up a couple of points. First off, their patenting is a really big buy-in. You have to buy that it is legal for corporations to patent living creatures, and also living sentient creatures. Which is not actually legal. Second, yes, they are patented, but in a way that is obviously morally wrong. Were they to go public, the public would inevitably be on their side and should something happen to them immediately afterwards everyone would know exactly who to blame.

      I'm not saying the show is crap. Obviously I love the show. But you do have to suspend your disbelief a bit to get into the details.

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