Orphan Black: Effects of External Conditions, Review
Orphan Black continues its inaugural season and continues to amaze
Ok, this is the last time I will rant about how awesome Tatiana Maslany is to begin an Orphan Black review, I promise. This week, Maslany plays Sarah, Sarah pretending to be Beth, Soccer mom Alison, Soccer mom Alison pretending to be Sarah, hottie dreadlocked scientist Cosima, bat-shit-crazy-ass serial-killer assassin Russian clone, and bat-shit-crazy-ass serial-killer assassin Russian clone pretending to be Sarah pretending to be Beth… Whew, can an actress be nominated for more than one Emmy if she plays different characters? (Let’s Hope!)This week’s episode centers on Sarah trying to hunt down the clone assassin revealed to be the aforementioned squirrely Russian. Last week, Sarah stabs Russian nutjob with a rebar. This week’s episode opens with a truly frightening moment, as crazy Russian busts into a house to clean her wound. The bloody self-surgery is interrupted by an angelic little boy. This combination of grisly violence and innocence establishes an intense anything goes tone for the episode.Meanwhile, Sarah as Beth is called to the scene with her perpetually lemon faced partner, Art. The little boy ID’s Sarah as the wounded girl and tells Sarah the wounded Russian called herself an “angry angel.” This is where the show takes a new and unexpected turn. It seems the Russian is a devout creationist who sees mankind as God���s creations, and sees the clones as the ultimate abominations in the eyes of God. She seemingly takes it upon herself to purge the Earth of the clones. This religious angle brings a new area of depth for an already daring show. The Russian is a terrifying character. Maslany plays her as if she hasn’t slept in weeks. Red eyed and unraveling, the Russian tries to punish herself for being a creature born through means other than God. She slices herself with broken glass and feels almost overloaded with self-loathing. This episode presents a delicious scene, as the Russian wanders the police station pretending to be Sarah/Beth, she consumes pieces of Beth’s life. She calls Beth’s estranged lover, and in a brilliantly executed halting Russian accent begs him to come get her, she gently caresses the photos and pieces of Beth’s life, and even chows down on Beth’s discarded muffin. The sense of violation of this sequence is palpable, the effectiveness added by the fact that the Russian is figuratively consuming a life that is completely false. When Sarah finds the remnants of the Russian’s visit, the viewer can sense the feeling of trespass, yet this violation is a sin Sarah herself committed when she hijacked the late Beth’s life and loves. The muffin wasn’t Sarah’s to begin with, nor was Beth’s lover, Beth’s desk, or Beth’s life, yet Sarah feels violated by having someone else step into it, even for a moment.The show jumps from cop drama, as Sarah tries to track the Russian while hiding from her colleagues the fact that their murdered is her identical twin, to a smart sci-fi pot boiler, as Sarah and Felix try to unravel the truth of the clones’ creation. The show does an awesome job weaving the more fantastic elements into a grounded police setting, as well as a gritty urban setting of graffiti and the punk scene. Despite herself, it seems Sarah is becoming more altruistic, as she seems to be motivated by protecting those around her, even if they are Beth’s personal connections and not her own. Sarah’s core motivation continues to be the eventual reunification with her estranged daughter. A reunion that is hampered by Sarah and Felix’s foster mom, Mrs. S. Mrs. S does not believe that the Sarah, the eternal grifter, has changed. Mrs. S gives Sarah one more chance to meet with her daughter, but of course, in true super-hero fashion, Sarah cannot make the meeting because of her responsibilities as Beth. Enter, Alison and the episode’s most entertaining scene.Felix asks Alison to stand in for Sarah. Being a super mom, and not being able to argue with Felix’s shockingly precise viewpoints on parental responsibility, Alison agrees. Sarah’s little girl, Kira, immediately recognizes that Alison is not her mom, but Alison, in her most pivotal scene so far, explains that Kira needs to trust her and Sarah. Kira shows her loyalty by agreeing and not ratting Alison and Felix out. So, it was Kira’s loyalty to a mom she had not seen in over a year that saved Sarah’s chances of reunification.Loyalty continues to be a central theme of the show. Sarah is loyal to all, even to Beth’s people. Felix is loyal to Sarah, Kira is loyal to her mom, Art is loyal to Beth, and the Russian is loyal to God. Sarah is also sympathetic to victims, and when she sees the Russian as just another victim to this huge conspiracy, the entire dynamic, and the audience’s perception of the Russian changes. As the Russian escapes she is picked up by a stranger connected to the larger conspiracy.
Sarah also discovers that Beth’s accidental shooting of a bystander might not have been so accidental, as the bystander seems to be connected to the cloning conspiracy. The shows unwraps layers upon layers every week revealing new aspects that will continue to stand in the way of Sarah and her personal salvation.