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Friday, June 30, 2017

Orphan Black: Beneath Her Heart

It's the seasonal Alison-centric suburban hijinks episode! However, the show managed to shake up its usual formula, adding plenty of continuity and a little poignancy, thereby reclaiming some of the show's magic.
We get a flashback to the early days of the Clone Club, in which Beth was still around, Sarah not yet on the scene, and Cosima and Alison about to meet for the first time. In fact, this may be the earliest chronological flashback we've had so far, back when Alison's life was first starting to crumble under her feet.

It also means that Aynsley and her husband Chad are still around – and though you may have consigned Aynsley's death to the "irrelevant" bin, I'm glad the writers have taken this last opportunity to give her some post-mortem characterization, even if they can't bring themselves to truly punish Alison. (In the sense that she'll face any sort of jail time for what was arguably the murder of an innocent woman. And no, it's not like I want Alison to go to jail, but ... well let's put it this way: that the story ends with Alison glimpsing a vision of Aynsley smiling her forgiveness in the auditorium is a narrative "get out of jail free" card that brushes dangerously close to an Asspull).
Really? Mmkay.
But this episode very much focused on Alison's self-esteem issues and how they put her at risk: both in her own life and in the greater context of the clone conspiracy. One particularly cutting line was from the Neolution lackey pointing out that Helena and Sarah are "fertile", attacking Alison's insecurity as a woman and mother of adopted children as well as what she contributes to the team dynamic of her sisters.
So I was proud of Alison when she pulled the handbrake on her crazy plan to give Bitchy Neighbour #236 a drugged drink bottle – though naturally it ends up in Donnie's hands right before he goes onstage to perform a highland fling (seriously – has there been any indication he had a Scottish background before this??) 

Despite this, Alison still struggles with self-medication throughout the episode, and the Hendrixes have not yet shaken off the spectre of those slaughtered Porteguese drug-dealers either: the cops come a-knocking and don't much care whether the evidence they find is real or planted.
But just when it seems Donnie will have to give up Helena's location in order to save his wife, Alison comes up with a plan: take Professor Leekie's head to Rachel's desk and point out that all the Hendrixes have to do is go public. If Alison's family goes down, she's taking Rachel with her.
It's poignant to note that the episode precedes this scene with a flashback of Aynsley and Alison together, both high on mushrooms, watching the stars and musing about their place in the universe. That Aynsley unknowingly encourages Alison to explore her newfound relationship with the other clones is an unexpected tribute to a character who was mostly a jokey red herring over the course of season one, and almost justifies her heavenly visitation to Alison in the present day.
And her confrontation with Rachel worked beautifully since it was such an Alison solution to the problem, hitting a perfect note when Rachel's dismissive attitude suddenly dissolved into shock on seeing exactly what was in Alison's tote bag. So was this the first time Rachel has had Leekie's death confirmed to her? It's hard to keep track, and I can't have been the only one surprised when she announced that this was her and Alison's first meeting.
Having won that particular confrontation, Alison primly marches back to the elevator in what might be her finest hour. After fears that this would be another zany comedic filler in the suburbs, it was instead the culmination of Alison's character development.
And I like that not all of Alison's self-esteem issues are perfectly solved by the story's end, even though her decision to leave the neighbourhood and spend time with her kids doubles as a convenient way to temporarily remove her from the storyline. How ironic that an episode touting Alison's importance ends by Putting Her on a Bus, demonstrating the very thing she was worried about in the first place: her irrelevancy. (It also seems odd that Donnie wouldn't go with her, but they've clearly got plans for his character).
But I can forgive that contradiction. As with MK's death last week, this was the show tidying up a little, putting all the characters in place and setting the board for the episodes to come. Have a peaceful sojourn Alison, and we'll see you in the finale!
Miscellaneous Observations:
A memorial is held for MK, which really is the least they could do. But, uh ... what happened to her body?
So was Donnie a monitor to Alison at the point of the first flashback? There was no indication as such, but it makes me wonder how Leekie recruited him.
That Alison first met Cosima when she was high on mushrooms was hilarious but also strangely apt. The cuts between what Cosima was really saying and how Alison was seeing her was a work of genius: both the concept and Tatiana's dual performance as normal!Cosima and Cosima-through-Alison's-eyes.
Poor Donnie, he didn't really deserve to be publicly humiliated to that extent, but at least Felix was there to draw the curtain and literally drag his unconscious body behind it.
Kira and Rachel's meetings continue, but I'm not entirely sure to what end. Is Rachel trying to corrupt Kira? What was the deal with the mouse?
My breath caught in my throat when I saw Art was prepared to kill for the Clone Club. He's in deeper than I realized.  
Aynsley and Chad had kids? Yikes, that makes what Alison did so much worse, and again I'm torn on whether or not she should have legally faced justice. I mean, two kids are growing up without their mother because of what Alison did. And Chad lets her off the hook when she tries to confess, which felt like another narrative cheat. This is what happens when black comedy meets real world consequences: it's an uncomfortable mix.
There was continuity overload in this episode: mention of Kira's car accident, Rachel's choice not to kill Leekie, the multiple of surprises in the Hendrix garage, and even a reappearance from Ramone. I think it's safe to say no one was desperate to know what had become of him, but we can check him off the list!
And our final reveal is that Helena has returned to the convent in which she was raised (presumably). This surprised me as I was under the impression she did not enjoy her time there – heck, there's a reason she's the way she is, and I'm pretty sure it was spelt out clearly in the first season that she was abused by these nuns. Perhaps it's a different convent, perhaps we haven't gotten the whole picture, but I'd welcome a greater understanding of where Helena came from.
In short: Orphan Black is back!


  1. This was the episode where it started to come together for me too, but it always takes me this long with this show. The mythology is so convoluted at this point it takes me that long to get vaguely caught up!

    I haven't looked this up, but I thought Donnie was a monitor pre-marriage? So the whole thing was a set-up? Might be completely wrong here.

    I'm wondering exactly what crime Alison is guilty of with Aynsley, too. I mean, she's definitely guilty of something, but I assume it has to be some form of manslaughter or negligence? Or does the fact that she turned on the garbage disposal tip it over into murder, even though she didn't turn it on with the intent to kill?

    And why do they always send Alison away for a portion of the season? It's the kind of thing you do when you don't have access to an actor, but that clearly isn't the problem here. I've always seen her as one of the Original Three, but sometimes it doesn't seem that the show wants to. Is she really not coming back until the finale?

    1. Not sure about Donnie, but Aynsley's death is a tricky one: her scarf got caught in the garbage disposal and she started to choke. Alison went over to the switch and chose NOT to turn it off, despite Aynsley's gasps for help. So technically Alison didn't "murder" her so much as "didn't try to save her" ... perhaps that would fall under "failure to provide life-saving assistance". Still, it edges very closely to my definition of "murder", especially since Alison feels the same way.

      And why do they always send Alison away for a portion of the season? It's the kind of thing you do when you don't have access to an actor, but that clearly isn't the problem here. I've always seen her as one of the Original Three, but sometimes it doesn't seem that the show wants to. Is she really not coming back until the finale?

      I assume so, though it IS still an assumption. It just felt to me like they gave her an exit so they can focus on the Rachel/Sarah/Cosima (and eventually Helena) drama, though it would be awesome if Alison came back disguised as one of the other clones for one last switcharoo.