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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Orphan Black: The Scandal of Altruism

Darkest Hour. That pretty much sums it up.
It became apparent very quickly that this episode would reveal what Beth got up to on the night she died; which occurred a lot sooner in the season than I expected. In fact, in many ways this felt like a season finale. So what did we learn?

Beth went to a social function in order to shoot Susan Duncan (whose socializing still baffles me considering she faked her own death), but after cornering her in the bathroom, decides to back down. So if she left Susan unscathed, how did she end up with blood on her hands?
Well, as I predicted last week, it was connected to the strange scar on Evie Cho's face. Beth gave her a pounding in the backseat of her car, though I'm still a little unclear as to what was actually going on in these scenes. As Art tells Sarah: "this is what killed Beth", but what exactly did kill Beth? Obviously it was made clear that she stepped in front of that train not out of despair but to protect her sisters, though I'm still not sure how she reached this conclusion.
It sounded as though Evie told her to kill herself in order to save her sisters, and yet why would Beth take her at her word? Was she referring to Helsinki? Is Ferdinand affiliated with Brightborn despite hating Neolution? Would he answer to Evie's order to destroy the Leda clones? Or was Evie implying that Neolution would destroy the clones if they found out how much Beth knew? The plot of this show has always been complex, but I think we've finally tipped into convoluted.  
In the present day, Cosima and Sarah weigh up their options. It seems every time they gain the slightest bit of leverage, it's wrested from them, and in this case Susan has promised help (the removal of Sarah's worm-bot and a cure for Cosima) in return for Kendall's DNA.
Sarah is desperate and Cosima is running out of time, so it seems they have no choice. Impending death seemed to be the theme of this episode, not only in the lead-up to Beth's suicide and the lingering mystery surrounding Delphine, but with Ira and his "glitching." Unfortunately for him and the rest of the Castors, the Leda clones have no desire to put a biological weapon back on the market, and Cosima has come up with a plan that's contingent on Kendall's leukaemia: they'll remove only her red blood cells.
I'll admit all this scientific stuff gets a little away from me sometimes; suffice to say that they'll be saving the Leda clones and leaving the Castors to die. Ira doesn't take it particularly well when Susan agrees to these terms, though his role henceforth is to become the episode's Red Herring.
After debating whether capitulation is a win or a surrender, Cosima downloads all her research onto a hard-drive and (in a speech that reminds me of a similar one Jack Rackham made concerning the treasure in Black Sails) outlines exactly what it's cost her: time, energy and two relationships. She takes it to Brightborn, and stands by as Evie takes the worm-bot out of Sarah's cheek.
Despite giving us all a slight heart attack when it begins leaking toxins, the whole exchange goes way too smoothly.
So it wasn't too surprising that Kendall is kidnapped on her way out of Felix's flat, followed by a phone call from Scott telling Sarah that a virus has infected their computers and wiped their research. Thinking Susan is behind it, Sarah (wrongly as it turns out) destroys the DNA already extracted from Kendall.
A couple of plot holes emerge. First of all, if Sarah hadn't done this, how would Evie have gotten her hands on these samples? If her plan was to completely destroy Leda, then retrieving all of Kendall's DNA was imperative. And are we really meant to believe that Cosima and Scott didn't back up their research? After they were smart enough to make two copies of The Island of Doctor Moreau last season? And surely they've got some extra Kendall samples lying around as well.
Perhaps what we saw was just Scott freaking out that his equipment had been destroyed, but if they're going for a "Leda has lost everything and they're back to square one", then it's a development built on a stunning lack of failsafes on both sides.  
I'll admit that I was temporarily fooled into thinking that Ira had gone off his rocker, but it turns out (despite my musings last week) that Evie is this season's Big Bad. It's a reveal that kind of works, and kind of doesn't work. I can easily buy the character's motivation: that she was extremely sick as a child and so believes that her research is the only way forward. 
It's all about competing technologies, and she's simply eliminating the competition. In the race to create a better human being, she believes cloning is obsolete. (And it's safe to say that a massive profit is also on the line). As such, she's not a moustache-twirling villain – instead she's been very calm, collected and unfailingly polite to everyone around her. It's just business, after all.
But in order for this surprise to be pulled off, the actress and writers were forced to play her as low-key. I mentioned last week that Evie came off a tad ineffective by being confused by the identities of various clones, and though that makes sense considering she has very little interest in them (except as an impediment) she hasn't really had the chance to come across as a threat; even here when she stages her little coup.
That said, she still has the potential to be a great villain. Much like Iago, she's caused all kinds of chaos without getting her own hands dirty, and that's characterization they should continue to work with.
A minor twist is that Duko has been working for her all along – which in hindsight isn't a huge shock considering he was initially seen with Evie's other henchmen: the black woman and the ponytail guy. However, I get the sense he's under duress. Beth's flashback repeated his comment that he's just trying to keep the people he cares about safe, and he offered to get Kendall a blanket after noticing she was cold (of course, that means fuck all given he shoots her minutes later, but I get the sense the writers were trying to humanize him a little).
I'm also left wondering – why didn't they shoot Cosima? Perhaps they assumed she wasn't a threat and was sick anyway, but considering they've just shot a woman in cold blood, why refrain from going the whole nine yards and shooting the single witness to their crime who could very easily go to the police??
In this episode's subplot, Krystal (confirmed: it's definitely with a K – I knew it!) goes to the police for protective custody, only for Art to discreetly save her from Duko's knowledge. After interviewing her, he realizes how truly clueless she is, and calls in Felix to put her off the scent.
Yes, putting aside his biological family troubles for a while, Felix returns to lighten the mood by dressing up as his best idea of a secret agent:
It's no wonder Art goes with Scotland Yard, though Krystal instantly recognizes him as the guy who stole her wallet. "Oh yeah," says Felix, having completely forgotten about it. Okay, it's obvious the writers just really wanted to get these two interacting again, but it actually makes a lot of sense that Felix would completely lose track of what he's done to which clone. If you can't plug a potential plot-hole, turn it into a joke.
In a roundabout way, it leads us back to the Delphine question – and dammit, I'm still hanging onto hope. Krystal apparently saw Delphine on that fateful night, and her exact words are: "I'm so sorry. I saw her get shot. I saw everything." This doesn't contradict what Evie says to Cosima: "Delphine Cormier was shot dead", but it doesn't exactly jive with it either.
Why would they deliberately make sure Krystal abstains from using the word "dead" and then cut her off right before she reveals what she knows? Why would they draw out the possibility of Delphine's survival for this long only to offhandedly reveal she died off-screen? Of course, it leads to further mysteries like why Evie lies to Cosima and how on earth Krystal came to be in that garage as an eyewitness, but I can't help but feel it's setup for a twist.
Come on, universe. We need this win.
Miscellaneous Observations:
There were so many tear-jerking moments here, from Kendall calling Siobhan "chicken", and the clones "my other daughters", to both Sarah and Felix referring to Siobhan as "mum." And in the last moments of her life, Kendall has enough strength to comfort Cosima and send a last message to her daughter.
Somehow I missed the fact that Kendall's biology actually made cloning possible in the first place. I thought her existence as a chimera meant she was simply a quirky way of "mothering" both male and female clones, but apparently she was so unique that the entire experiment is contingent on her DNA? Wow, until this episode that flew right over me.
What exactly was Sarah's worm-bot doing (or not doing)? I missed that too. Something about making her sick in an attempt to find a cure? Only for it to fail because she's immune to diseases? And who actually put it there in the first place?
Siobhan is a tad hypocritical that Sarah would bargain with Kendall's life. Does selling Helena out to the army ring any bells?
I was hoping Susan would comment on Felix's phallus artwork – even just a glance at it would have been hilarious.
I was worried for Benjamin, who's becoming quite an ally despite Sarah treating him like crap. 
We learn that in her cold awful way, Susan is deeply invested in the clones' lives, even saying "I love you all" when Beth has a gun to her head. She apparently went to Beth's graduation, but says something interesting about her father: "We had no idea about your father. We screen for tendencies like that." I'm assuming he was abusive and they were helpless to intervene?
It makes me wonder if perhaps there's one more Beth flashback on its way, just to clarify what went down between herself and Evie – though in saying that, the final shot of her heading from the train station seemed pretty definitive.
That final montage – beautiful. How is this show not raking in awards??

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