This week, on Orphan Black: Sarah and Felix rough it, Alison is barely holding on, and Cosima meets Jennifer
Orphan Black picks up this week right where the previous episode left off and builds momentum as it goes. While there’s plenty of new mythology here, what makes the series continue to shine is the character-based approach it takes to these new developments. We open with a less-than-refreshed Sarah and Felix on the lam with Kira, roughing it in the country in their truck, but rather than dive in immediately with schemes or a reminder of the various threats against them, we get a full scene of the two reacting to last week’s revelation of Mrs. S’s utter badassdom. The audience has seen glimpses of her mettle, but to Sarah and Felix, she has always been their boring adoptive mother. We also get a strong sense of Sarah’s con woman history- she has no qualms dropping trou to relieve herself out in the middle of a field, in front of Felix, no less. She’s had to run before, that’s clear, and this is likely far from the most desperate situation in which she’s found herself.
Other than establishing Sarah and Felix’s comfort with petty theft, a sequence which reinforces their need while demonstrating how far Sarah’s come since the pilot (it’s doubtful the Sarah who stole $10k in coke would feel guilty shoplifting some bread and milk), most of their corner of this episode centers on the introduction of Cal, Kira’s biological father. In only his first episode, Michiel Huisman already has great chemistry with Tatiana Maslany and Skyler Wexler, who plays Kira. Huisman’s Cal is by far the best love interest the show has come up with for Sarah (or any of the clones, Cosima excepted) and in a season that has doubled down on Kira’s significance to both the Dyad Institute and the Proletheans, it makes sense that her father would enter the picture.
Even better than this development is Felix’s reaction. As discussed last week, Felix (and by extension, Gavaris) is the heart of Orphan Black, and his anger at Sarah’s betrayal by omission is palpable, providing a logical and relatable reason for him to not be around when things get violent. Just like Sarah and Felix’s discussion of Mrs. S, Felix’s need for space from Sarah humanizes him and puts his relationship with his trouble-making sister in a believable context. Sarah gets little opportunity to play house with Cal before NotDoral (make that Daniel Rosen, Matthew Bennett’s Dyad Institute baddie) shows up to cause trouble, though she does hook up with him. The scene is effective, but it’s a little disappointing, as it either negates some of her supposed connection to Paul or makes her an utter user, eager to sleep with Cal to manipulate him. Whatever her motivation, Sarah and Cal’s reunion works, despite theirs being only a one-month fling eight years prior, and that’s a pill it takes effort for the show to get viewers to swallow. It’s likely all is not as it seems (this is Orphan Black, after all), but for now, Cal and Huisman are very welcome additions to an already cluttered field.
Helena spends most of this episode stuck in the already backpedaled religious branch of the anti-clone conspiracy. The Proletheans, as led by Henrik, do not seem to be any more forward-thinking than Tomas, despite Henrik’s statements last week, and most of Helena’s scenes (the ones where she’s not eating) suffer from being tied to such a familiar and creaky setting. Unlike the Dyad Institute, which also fits nicely into a pre-existing genre trope, Scientists Playing God, the audience has no character within the Proletheans to care about (Delphine stands out among the Neolutionists). It seems likely Gracie is intended to fill this role, but having just met her, the amount of time spent with her, Henrik, and the other Proletheans feels disproportionate. At least Art is tangentially tied to her this week, promising interesting things to come.
As Art is entering Helena’s sphere, Angie enters Alison’s. It’s surprising to see Blood Ties: the Musical wrap up so early in the season (presumably), but Alison’s meltdown/faceplant is appropriately difficult to watch. Her journey this week follows a not-unexpected trajectory, but the touches surrounding it work well. Angie’s second scene with Alison works well, and Maslany’s physicality as Alison walks away is great, and the scoring in moments like the pre-curtain cast pow-wow is more memorable and interesting than it has been in the past.
On the whole, though, this is a light Alison episode, with the bulk of the time split between Sarah, Helena, and Cosima, who arguably has the toughest episode of anyone this week, psychologically speaking (though each of the others has a much more physically painful time of it). Her quick introduction to Jennifer, via her video diaries, is affecting, making Cosima’s autopsy of her particularly traumatizing. Cosima has been diligent in her efforts to avoid dwelling on her condition and her disease’s comparatively slow progression has helped her in this. Looking at Jennifer’s body, she can no longer hide, and this is a powerful moment, Maslany’s best in the episode.
Delphine’s detachment to Jennifer’s weak and ruined body, and her contentedness in her role as Cosima’s monitor, speaks volumes about her and the couple’s relationship. If Delphine can’t see the hypocrisy inherent in her valuing of Cosima’s life and autonomy while being at the very least tacitly complicit with the Dyad Institute’s work, she’s in one hell of a lot of denial. There’s still a lot of story to come, however, and it seems likely the central relationships will zag a few times where we expect them to zig. Perhaps Delphine will be one of these zaggers, forced into a choice when Cosima’s interests no longer align with the Institute’s.
Thanks to its focus on character, the episode’s many cliffhangers, and the successful incorporation of Cal and several other new elements, “Mingling Its Own Nature With It” continues Orphan Black’s entertaining and energetic season. If the series can keep up this pace, viewers are in for a memorable, crazy ride.