Orphan Black: Variations Under Domestication, Review
Proving they're willing to shake things up in unusual ways, Orphan Black continues to shine.
Ok, Alison’s time to shine. Last week, the show revealed that each Orphan has a watcher, someone tasked with watching over them and to insure late night medical exams occur for purposes unknown. It was assumed that these watchers were the lovers of each Orphan as it was revealed that Paul, dead Orphan cop’s Beth’s ex, was her watcher. Soccer mom Orphan Alison assumes her watcher is her nebbish husband Donnie, and she proceeds to knock him out with a golf club and torture him with a hot glue gun during a pot luck dinner.
The show gets points every week, but setting a pot luck suburban dinner party in the middle of a vast sci-fi conspiracy is pure genius. Juxtaposing the mundane anxieties of hosting a dinner party with the vast questions of manipulation and identity that the show constantly poses is equal parts genius and madness. Alison’s paranoia and uncertainty drive her to take action and take out her watcher before he can act. Unfortunately, she does so before her guests arrive creating an equally parts hilarious and intense situation as Alison becomes desperate in finding out the truth about her husband while maintaining her integrity as suburban super wife. It was particularly cool how Alison’s objects of interrogation were so mundanely suburban. Of course, as things get out of hand, Alison calls Sarah. Sarah then is tasked with interrogating Donnie while Alison plays host. In typical Sarah fashion, Sarah intimidates the hell out of Donnie till he breaks down, revealing his love for Alison and proving irrevocably that he is not the watcher, leaving the Orphans and the audience with the question, if not Donnie than whom?
The desecration of the suburban household has long been a staple of modern horror fiction. This episode plays that angle up perfectly, as every act of fear or violence that takes place in this episode is played against an idyllic setting. Alison is almost as afraid of losing favor with her pack of hens or being seen as unappealing by their husbands as she is in the clone conspiracy. Sarah, an urban girl to her core, is unfazed by suburban fears and is the perfect person to find out the truth from Donnie because she could give a shit what some valium fueled housewives think of her.
The party becomes the center for the characters to converge as Vic shows up looking for Sarah and causing headaches for all and sundry. Of course, when Sarah needs help she calls on Felix, who takes an almost evil delight in penetrating suburbia. Vic gets taken out by Paul, who conducts an interrogation of his own to find out all he can about Sarah. Everyone at the party needs to find out something about someone else while trying to hide the truth about themselves. It’s all a complex study of identity and perception, particularly in the mundane world that exists away from the sci- fi elements of the series.
Meanwhile, Cosima must overcome her own paranoia as her romance with French science prodigy Delphine. Delphine’s appearance in Cosima’s life is frighteningly convenient when seen in the light of Sarah’s discovery of the existence of the watchers. Cosima is wary, but she cannot resist Delphine’s sultry charms. In episodes past, Sarah had to put aside her own appetites in order to survive the Orphan conspiracy, and now, Cosima is tasked with doing the same. Cosima is seen as the brains by Alison and Sarah, a ”science monkey” as Cosima herself put it, but now she is following her own desires in an attempt to find contentment and normalcy in a world where she is trying to be more than just a clone. Cosima is quickly drawn into the new science of Nugenics as Delphine takes her into a lecture (ugh, story exposition through classroom lecture, I guess every sci-fi show has to do it at least once). At the lecture, Cosima meets the founder of Nugenics, a charismatic man who seems to have a connection to the conspiracy and to Delphine.
Back in the ‘burbs, Alison’s pals delight in the idea of Felix filling the role of trendy gay bartender while Alison must face the consequences of her hot gluing her innocent husband. Sarah and Paul find a new level of trust as Paul dispatches Vic, but not before finding out some truths about his own role as a watcher and about Sarah. After the party blessfully ends, the episode concludes with Donnie tearfully confessing all his secrets, secrets so mundanely ordinary that they are almost tragic. It seems Donnie once had an affair with a girl who died, and he hid this from Alison to maintain the integrity of her memory. Alison is left with the thought that she tortured this painfully ordinary shlub and is nowhere closer to finding out the answers to her own creation and the identity of her watcher.
Orphan Black usually jumps around frenetically from place to place, identity to identity, but allowing the action to stay isolated in the unlikely local of a pot luck dinner shows that this show is willing to take unexpected twists in order to allow its story to go into unexpected places.