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Orphan Black, Ep. 3.07, “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate” shines the spotlight on Alison

Orphan Black, Ep. 3.07, “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate” shines the spotlight on Alison

Orphan Black S03E07Orphan Black, Season 3, Episode 7, “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”
Written by Sherry White
Directed by Ken Girotti
Airs Saturdays at 8pm (ET) on BBC America

So far this season, Alison’s subplot has struggled, partitioned off from the rest of Clone Club and driven by one out of character move after another. Thankfully this changes with “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”, which folds Felix and Cosima into Alison’s story, making it instantly more relevant. It’s great to see Felix helping out with a more mundane problem than usual and in one of the episode’s best moments, we finally get to see Cosima try to pass as one of her sisters. Cosima is the last of the main clones to do so, posing as Alison here and being delightfully terrible at it. This is a well the show goes back to frequently and fun as it is to see Sarah, Alison, or Helena pull off impersonating one another in dramatic moments, it’s nice to discover that not all of the clones are gifted actors. The theme of family is at the center of Alison’s campaign and seeing Clone Club come together to support each other is always a touching reinforcement of this core tenet of the series.

Cosima and Felix’s attempts to save Alison’s day are countered with the introduction of Alison’s horrible mother. Sheila McCarthy is fabulous as the self-centered Connie Hendrix, making her recognizable and entertainingly terrible, rather than insufferable or irritating. It’s easy to see where Alison gets her more controlling tendencies and more than anything, meeting Connie underlines how fortunate Alison is to have built such a warm and supportive relationship with Donnie—there but for Mr. Chubbs goes Alison, potentially. Rather than focus on the more preposterous elements of Alison’s season arc, this episode goes for the personal, finding humor and pathos in her strained relationship with her mom, and unsurprisingly, this thread of humanity elevates every part of Alison’s story this week, from Felix’s frustration with her to Jason’s conversation with Connie to Donnie’s scenes with Ponchy.

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Just as affecting is Helena’s conversation with Mrs. S. After the events of the previous episode, Sarah and Helena are back on good terms, but for Helena to be reincorporated into the main action of the season, she needs to have things out with Mrs. S, and the episode wastes little time in doing so. It was essential for the series to respect and honor Helena’s trauma this week, to not gloss over her imprisonment or the experimentation upon her by Project Castor with a tidy Band-Aid of an apology from Mrs. S. Helena’s conviction is palpable throughout the scene, as is her anger; with all the fun of Helena and her scorpion over the past few weeks, it’s easy to forget she started the season locked a box so small she couldn’t turn over, plus we have no idea how many different kinds of tests Dr. Coady ran on her. Tatiana Maslany commits to Helena’s fury but crucially, also sells the turn that comes surprisingly quickly. Mrs. S approaches Helena the best way she could, as a future mother, connecting to her intellectually before taking her lumps and wrapping Helena in what may legitimately be one of the most sincere hugs of Helena’s life. It seems likely Mrs. S would make the exact same choice again, if she had to, but Maria Doyle Kennedy’s performance in this scene gives the audience our first sense that Mrs. S does feel the weight of Helena’s imprisonment. Helena’s officially part of the family now and hopefully before too long, we’ll get to see Helena and Mrs. S fighting side by side—a fearsome prospect, to say the least.

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Elsewhere this episode, Ksenia Solo continues to intrigue as Cosima’s new girlfriend Shay. It’s unlikely she’s unrelated to the larger plots surrounding Cosima, and it would be nice to hear Cosima remark upon that (she did see Delphine coming a mile away, after all), but for now, it’s just great to see something positive happening in her life. Scott also gets a bit more screen time and pairing him with Rachel is an interesting move. It’s neat to see Scott’s enjoyment of board games come back; hopefully there’s plenty of Agricola in our future. The highlight of the episode, though, is Alison, who in one episode goes from being stuck in the worst storyline of the season to being (one of) the emotional heart(s) of the season. When the writers at Orphan Black focus in on their characters instead of the increasingly complicated events surrounding them, the show sings, and this episode is no exception.