Orphan Black, Season 2, Episode 9, “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done”
Written by Alex Levine
Directed by TJ Scott
Airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on BBCA
This week, on Orphan Black: Helena bonds with Grace, Alison and Donnie do some remodeling, and Rachel makes a big move
It’s been a strong, if scattered sophomore season for Orphan Black thus far, with the series doubling down on character while it addresses some of its lingering problems, chief among them the lack of a compelling antagonist. Despite the introduction of Michelle Forbes as the vaguely ominous Marion Bowles, this still remains an issue for the show two episodes after Leekie’s death. Donnie’s accidental homicide was a step in the right direction (Leekie was never a particularly successful villain), but the series seems unwilling to commit to Rachel as their Big Bad and it hasn’t put in enough time to make any other character a legitimate threat.
Rachel’s attack on Felix was enough to make her a capital V villain for this critic, but the show pulled back from this the very next episode by highlighting Sarah’s empathy towards Rachel and blaming Leekie and the Dyad Group for their twisting of a once happy child into someone so cold and withdrawn. Her kidnapping of Kira could do the trick, but after Felix, viewers can’t really trust that the writers won’t backpedal once again. They won’t commit to Delphine as Bad Guy either, having her overreach and then immediately confess and seek absolution from Cosima. Orphan Black is a pulpy conspiracy serial, a nighttime soap with layers of intrigue and melodrama, and its embracing of its genre and B-movie elements are a big part of why fans love the show. However, conspiracy serials and nighttime soaps need villains, and without one, without a bad guy the audience is allowed to legitimately hate (and hopefully, love to hate), the series continues to feel incomplete.
The other elements of the series, however, continue to succeed and this week the highlight is Donnie. Once a disappointing side character, Alison’s underwhelming hubby comes into his own in this episode, learning from his mistakes and working with Alison to take control of their lives. Kristian Bruun is downright delightful here, letting Donnie be a small-scale badass as he confronts Angela and Vic, who wishes he were anywhere else. “Have a shitty day” is the best laugh/victory line the series has had in a long time and hopefully with this scene, the Angela and Vic subplot is wrapped up, allowing the characters to move on to address more pressing concerns.
Similarly, Helena takes care of the Prolethean subplot this week when she burns down the compound. As unsuccessful as the Neolutionists have been, the Proletheans have been even less compelling and it’s good to know they won’t be back, at least not for a while. The side benefit of Helena’s scenes this week is that they establish the character’s dramatic viability when paired with someone besides Sarah. Helena works well with Grace—it’s nice to see her reach out to another young woman traumatized by her fundamentalist upbringing. Two more clone babies could easily shake up the status quo, but the notion of Helena successfully and healthfully bringing a baby to term and then caring for it is hard to imagine. The writers will have fun with Helena as baby mama, should they decide to go down that path, but they’ll have their work cut out for them making any competent long-term parenting from Helena believable.
With Angela and the Proletheans taken care of, the episode ends with only one lingering plotline, promising a focused and intense finale next week. Unsurprisingly, in the end season two comes down to Kira, just as season one did. Skyler Wexler continues to work well in the role, making Kira adorable, but not precious, and her interactions this week with Sarah show Kira to have her mother’s empathy. Not only is she worried about Cosima, she asks after Helena. Sarah’s answer may not be particularly believable (her abandonment of Helena out of plot necessity is one of the season’s more frustrating twists), but it’s nice to be reminded that Kira does care for her Cl-aunts.
Capping the episode with one more clone-as-clone subterfuge, our first look at Rachel’s accent work, is exciting and while Kira doesn’t feel like she’s in any danger, either physically or of being kept from her mother for very long, Rachel’s kidnapping of her is an entertaining way to raise the stakes for the finale. How Sarah will get Kira back and how the likely to resurface Cal and Paul will play into this remains to be seen, but with Alison and Donnie in fighting form and Helena headed back to town, anything is possible. It’s been a fun, if flawed season two so far. Bring on the finale!