BBC America’s Orphan Black must be one of the best …
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.
Well then. Looks like the writers shared this critic’s concerns about Leekie as a viable villain. This week’s Pulp Fiction-inspired conclusion may be a bit pat and predictable, but it resolves the show’s Leekie problem while moving Donnie in a new and promising direction (and making fabulous use of “Love Is All Around”). Alison’s relationship with her monitor husband has been a confusing blind spot for the show for most of its run—do they care for each other or has Donnie been playing Alison from the start? The show has tried to have it both ways and while the answer given this week is far more interesting than Paul-and-Beth-take-two, it requires some selective forgetfulness from the audience.
After the previous two episode’s pulse-pounding intensity and emotional rawness, “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings” could easily feel slight. While we get action, it’s comparatively toned down, and for the most part, our heroes spend the episode peril-free. However, this episode works well as a breather, offering the audience an emotional respite before the undoubtedly charged push to the finale. Along with a few positive, adorable scenes between Sarah and Helena (whose time together this season has been fraught with drama, to say the very least), we see forward movement on each front, checking in with Alison, progressing Cosima’s treatment, and refocusing the central struggle on Leekie and the Neolutionists.
All season long, Orphan Black has focused on character moments and the tremendous and personal stakes for each of our leads. This week, the show hits that home even further as it, for the first time, threatens the heart of the series. We like Kira- she’s an adorable little moppet who’s smart enough to ward off the cops and intuitive enough to see through the clones’ impersonations. We like the Mrs. S, particularly when she’s getting her badass on, we like Art, and we definitely like Cal, but honestly, any one of these characters could go if the story demanded it. They’re entertaining, well-written, and ultimately, disposable. The one who isn’t, at least at this point, is Felix and this week, Rachel crosses a line when she goes after him.
Orphan Black has had a solid second season so far, bringing interesting new developments for most of the characters (and enough fun with Alison to make up for her somewhat lackluster arc). This week, things kick up a notch, with more action and suspense and serious legwork done to prop up the less successful corners of the show. A key element of what works here is the focus of the episode- unlike in previous weeks, “Governed as It Were by Chance” is very much the Sarah show. We spend memorable moments with the other clones, but Sarah is our throughline, digging into the mysteries of Mrs. S and pulling the audience along for the ride.
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.