Orphan Black: Variable and Full of Perturbation, review

Orphan Black introduces a new character for Tatiana Maslany to explore in the episode Variable and Full of Perturbation

So you thought that the makers of Orphan Black couldn’t find any more ways to test Tatiana Maslany’s acting chops, right? As Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Rachel, Helena, Beth, Jennifer, that one German clone that appeared for five minutes, and Alison, you think we’ve seen the entirety of Maslany’s range, right?

Boy, would you have been wrong, as this week’s installment of the smartest and most daring sci-fi show on television perhaps made its ballsiest move yet, and I mean that literally and figuratively. More on that in a minute.

First, let us discuss Cosima, the primary focus of this episode. Poor Cosima who is slowly dying from the genetic breakdown built into her genes. Cosima, the purest of the clones, the most human and good hearted. A nerdy girl who is as comfortable tabletop wargaming as she is cracking advanced genetic code.

Poor Cosima is dying, and her lover Delphine would do anything to stop it, and we want Delphine to stop it, because losing Cosima might be too much to bear. Sarah may be the protagonist, but Cosima is the spirit of the narrative, and her loss would hurt profoundly. That’s why when Cosima falls, blood pouring from her gasping lips, the image cuts deep. Now Sarah and Delphine must decide if they will make the bone marrow of Sarah’s daughter available for experimentation. Essentially, to save Cosima, Sarah must trust Dyad Industries with the life of her daughter. Not an easy decision to make now that clone Rachel is in charge, a clone who seemingly is suffering as much mental damage as Cosima is suffering physically.

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Rachel and her situation are intriguing. After bone headed Donnie accidently Pulp Fictioned Dr. Leekie, Rachel is now in charge of Dyad. After a deal with Mrs. S and Sarah, the man who invented the clone process and the man who was once Rachel’s father, Ethan Duncan, formerly known as Dr. Swann, is back working for Dyad. Ethan certainly spells hope for Cosima, but there seems to be some serious damage done to Rachel’s psyche in regards to her former family. With Leekie gone and Ethan back in the fold, how will Rachel react? These are all barriers to Cosima getting well and not being a victim of her own tragic genetics.

Ethan is seemingly not one to play patsy and may have gifted Sarah and Kira with the secrets that he won’t give to Dyad in the form of a copy of The Island of Dr. Moreau, filled with his theories and formula inked on the pages and in the margins, a ironic choice of literature that may hold the help that Cosima needs. Let’s hope so, because the image of the spectacled scientist convulsing on the ground is going to disturb my waking thoughts until next week.

That being said, with all the drama caused by poor Cosima’s condition, this wasn’t even close to the most shocking and daring thing to happen this week. We here at the Orphan Black control center at Den of Geek would like to welcome Tony (or is it Toni) into our lives. Now, as we said above, Maslany has to constantly flex her acting muscles in her myriad parts. As all her clones, she has to walk differently, talk differently, stand differently, and even breath differently, but things don’t get much different than Tony/i.

This week, Maslany has to play this newest clone, a transgendered clone who, through hormone treatments, adopts the gender identity of a man complete with top knotted mullet and goatee. Somehow the completely feminine Maslany pulls it off and pulls off an utterly convincing performance as Tony/i.

Where does Tony/i fit into the plot? It seems that Tony/i ran with a former friend of the long deceased cop clone Beth. Tony/i came to find Beth to deliver a message from Tony/i’s fallen friend and finds himself entering the lives of Art and Felix. Now Felix is not the type of person that would blink at the transgendered, not at all, that is, until a transgendered version of his sister shows up. Tony/i is everything Felix likes in a man. Tony/i is brash, sensual, rebellious, and takes no shit. Even though he looks like Sarah, Tony/i is really more of a reflection of Felix. At first, the two are repelled by each other, but as the truth of the clones come out, Felix and Tony/i are drawn together, creating the most complex potential romance in television history. A gay man falling for a transgendered clone of his step sister? Yeah, this show rules.

But, it would be too easy just to limit Felix and Tony/i to a mere physical relationship. By the time Felix and the clone of his sister part, they have formed a deep bond bred out of the insanity of their situation. Hopefully we will see this newest clone again because Tony/i epitomizes the levels of daring this show will go to. The character also all but insured the Maslany should get an Emmy nomination as she changes genders with the same ease other actresses change shoes. 

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Dare we forget Alison in the excitement of welcoming Tony/i to the fold? Alison and her dunderheaded husband Donnie find out they have something in common after all. Alison and Donnie are both complicit in murders! Donnie in his accidental shooting of Aldus Leekie and Alison as she stood by and watched a garbage disposal strangle her former BFF Aynsley. After their relationship has been all but torn apart, Donnie and Alison bond over their sins and finally find a strength and unity in their partnership.

Too bad Donnie left Leekie’s body in their car. Too bad Leekie pooped himself before he died, and too bad that even though he gained sympathy points this episode, Donnie is still a buffoon. Line of the episode goes to Alison when she reprimands her idiot husband for doing a poor job of wrapping Leekie in plastic. Someone call Winston Wolf because Alison and Donnie are going to need to hide themselves a body.

So as we spend a week perseverating over Cosima’s fate, we doff our caps to Orphan Black, the most audacious show on television that just took things to the next level with the introduction of Tony/i. And oh, by the way, Tony/i’s message for Beth concerned something about the conspicuous by his absence Paul who may be much more than he seems. Is Rachel’s newest boy toy more than just a bottom for her amusement?

The good

– Tony/i and everything about him.

– Cosima kicking ass at tabletop

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– The intrigue set up regarding Paul

– Felix and his new sister/brother/lover/friend

The bad

– Still no Helena.

The Ugly

– The image of the dying Cosima.

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– Leekie’s poopie pants.

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5 out of 5