While the air schedule of Orphan Black’s Series 3 is as questionable as some of the Prolethian’s parenting choices, the massive dollop of Maslany on iPlayer all in one go should ensure that any grumblings will be gone faster than Helena’s bowl of jelly. The important thing is Orphan Black came piling back all at once and the opening two episodes instantly justified why the wait was worth it.
If you haven’t yet seen Series 1 & 2 yet, you can find them on Netflix or check the recap on iPlayer. I’ll be picking up here straight from Episode 3.1, so if you want to just dive in then feel free but there will be spoilers beyond this point!
Episode 1 – The Weight of This Combination
Cue new series, cue obligatory extended recap. We find out that the show is about clones, there’s another Big Organisation to deal with and Tatiana Maslany is now not the only actor with a multi-character paycheck. In that vein, we immediately get thrown right into the kind of scene every fan loves: one full of Tatiana. If the gleeful soundtrack of Wouldn’t It Be Nice wasn’t enough of a give-away for the opening being a dream sequence, the smiling faces and apparently trouble-free life of not one but all main clones was a happy delusion but never anything more. Soon enough, the inevitable spiral downwards was revealed and we were reunited with a much more believable scene – Helena trapped in a box with a talking scorpion…because who but Helena would have an imaginary pet scorpion? It’s this kind of touch that reminds how happy I am to be back in Cloneland.
The main events of the episode dealt with the fall out from Sarah’s eye popping (sorry) escape and the revelations that the finale brought us. We settle into the episode with Kira running around freely (as she always seems to do despite how many people like to kidnap her) and Sarah and Felix are giving us a nice helping of exposition on the eloquently named “Shit Beach”. This was a sweet callback to the early days of the show and set the tone for what really did end up a heavy Sarah episode (which is never a downside). The calm Sarah and Felix opening was especially nostalgic seeing as they rarely get this level of alone time these days. Much like the opening scene, however, the illusion of normality didn’t last long. Before I had time to exclaim “Keep an eye on your damn kid!” a car pulls up and for the first time in the show’s history, Sarah does actually keep an eye on her damn kid and calls Kira back. As it turns out, the only threat is Delphine in a swanky looking car who has been sent by Marion Bowles to protect Leda. Rachel is not an eye-patch wearing supervillain (as I had hoped) but is actually suffering unknown mental damage and in no state to be convincing Slimy Topside Executives coming to investigate Dyad’s security that they don’t need to annihilate 6 clones like they did the last time they felt Leda was a liability.
This storyline really carried most of the episode with many on-screen who-knows-what about Helisinki which, although it took a couple of watches for me to keep up with, I loved the complexity of. Another prominent feature, and almost the most deviant from the norm, was the strong Delphine presence with an obviously more determined purpose and frankly, a much more badass attitude. We don’t just see how Rachel’s scheming has changed her, but we see a very deliberate severing of her past spurred by the promise she made to Cosima in the finale. With Cosima’s main focus this episode being the processing of her Delphine dream and subsequent defiance of her own mortality, the impact of the break up being the first time they had seen each other since packs even more of a punch and is delivered beautifully by both Evelyne Brochu and Maslany. It is such a painful realisation of the reality of Delphine’s commitment to protect all of the clones above her love for her girlfriend and both actresses are so desperate, heartbroken and yet determined to follow through that it makes up for any hint of anti-climax that could otherwise have been the case for such an abrupt end to their relationship.
Delphine gets straight back to work in this role as new no-nonsense head of the Dyad but proves she may not be handling the break up so well as she tortures Rachel in the most cringeworthy way possible (apparently I can squirm even more than seeing a pencil crash into someone’s eye…). The puppy-eyed researcher has gone and Badass Delphine is born.
The introduction of the Castor boys was a good teaser to the kind of madmen we’re dealing with and already a very clear distinction is drawn between them and our Leda girls. While Seth is physically torturing Mrs S, Rudy is emotionally torturing Sarah by telling her she needs to count her sisters just in case any are trapped in a box with a talking scorpion. Unlike her French counterpart, the attitude Sarah shows in this episode is nothing new but a nice touch is seeing for the first time her passion is to protect Helena. For me, the evolution of this relationship has been the best in the series and it’s turned up a notch here evidenced by Sarah’s fury with her mother for betraying her sister.
As livid Sarah will happily play any clone to get Helena back, we are treated to the best clone-playing-clone masterpiece since Sarah tackled Donnie at Alison’s rehab. The show boasts its skills at contrasting darkness and comedy as we flip from the lighthearted, undercover scolding and awkwardness of Alison’s awful Sarah impression suddenly flipping to “Rachel” having to prevent her sister being sexually abused by Slimy Ferdinand, slapping “Sarah” across the face. The build-up of Ferdinand’s despicable demeanour and the tension, subtle panic and disgust shared between the three women lays the path perfectly for the revenge scene to follow. You can feel the anguish that the already terrified and furious Sarah goes through as she balance a cool, inquisitive head with her blind rage at dealing with the man threatening to kill everyone she loves. Using Rachel and Ferdinand’s perverse relationship was an even nicer touch. As always, the Orphan Black mastery is using its Clone Card, in this case forcing their villain to willingly spill his guts to his worst nightmare while she literally has his private parts under her shoe. Delphine bursting in and saving both the clones and Ferdinand from certain death was a good tie up for her part in the episode and I’d be happy to see more of this line of action as long as we get more clone balance across the series.
Other plots were mainly starter uppers and included Cosima recruiting Scott to help her with Duncan’s puzzle in Kira’s book, Kira finding Helena’s embryo canister (and apparently not telling anyone) and Alison deciding to join the battle to be Queen of Suburbia as school trustee. The most exciting of all the starters however sealed off the quality of the episode with Moustache Seth breaking his brother Rudy out in brutal fashion. For me, the groundwork is laid for a good series!
Episode 2: Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis
As if their introduction hadn’t been seedy enough, the opening to Episode 2 left no doubt about the angle the show wants to paint the Castor boys from. We see Rudy coaxing a girl into bed with him, ending up with the poor girl being reduced to a toy shared between him and his brother.
As this situation sets up to drag Sarah into more murkiness, Cal has bought a house and hoping settle free from Military Operations or experiments; somewhere they can play hockey in the house without Kira being kidnapped by evil aunties with mother issues. In other words, it’s another another forlorn dream, but Sarah wants nothing more than to believe it could be possible. Before long their glimpse of what could be is interrupted by a knock at the door and reality comes crashing back in the shape of Art informing her of the rape the night before.
Art wasn’t the only familiar face interrupting our characters’ freedom this episode. We also had the return of Paul who gatecrashes the Super Murder-o Brothers’s to give them some routine Internet IQ tests and new orders. Seth seems to be having difficulties processing the questions and the look of fear on Rudy’s face implies these tests are more important than whether “some doctors are rich or not”. We also saw the return of Beth Childs, or rather Sarah as Beth, paying Art back for his uninvited appearance that morning. She wants to find out what she can from the victim of the assault and much to Art’s annoyance, hijacks her exit from the station. The brothers not only assaulted her but they took some of her hair and wrote down all of her details before leaving her upset and confused. Cosima thinks it could be for DNA but Sarah’s only option is to try and reconcile with Mrs S tying us nicely back into Sarah’s dilemma of the episode. S can’t help them, but she knows about Cal and if Sarah wants to protect Kira she needs to give up on her dreams of the life she craves here and pack up and move away. As mothers always do, it’s clear she’s telling Sarah what she already knows deep down but Sarah isn’t interested in advice from her right now.
The intersection of these storylines is a tense ambush. It’s packed with emotion from both sides, not just from another acting masterclass from Maslany about showing limitless, abject terror (similar to that of the shower scene in Series 2) but also from a new depth of Castor boldly delivered by Ari Millen. As Sarah desperately pleads for her daughter’s life while still trying to hold it together to comfort her, Rudy hears the cries of a glitching Seth who is cornering Cal downstairs. As deranged as the Castor’s have so far been portrayed, they are far from one-dimensional and in a dramatic act of fear and sadness we see a softer side manifesting in Rudy, freeing his hostage and dashing off to protect his brother the only way he knows how, by killing him and ending his pain. It’s dark but effective and somehow heartbreaking and suddenly this parallel clones idea just got a whole lot more intriguing.
Helena meanwhile is showing us the HQ of Camp Castor, first of all experiencing waterboarding and stress tests and we understand where the brutal side of the Castor boys comes from. Sarah would be strangling many with belts right now were she there, but luckily the tests are halted regardless on the orders of Desert HQ’s Big Boss, the chain smoking Dr Virginia Cody. The blood tests are back and Helena’s pregnant – at least one good thing came out of the creepy Prolethian Religioscience. After the pregnancy revelation, Helena has graduated to the less aggressive riddle tests with her pet scorpion giving us wonderful commentary mainly revolving around mangoes (can we find out if Tatiana is also playing the scorpion because I wouldn’t put it past her…). Realising they are not get any sensible answers from Helena and as Pet Scorpion realises they are not going to get any mangoes, Cody takes Helena for a heart to heart. She tries to win her cooperation by targeting her weakness for family. She understands family, having effectively adopted all of the “Mark faced babies”, unlike Helena’s seestras who were the ones to sell her out. Helena isn’t bought, yet, but I imagine even she will soon be swayed, especially if they keep feeding that scorpion.
The episode also saw some movement in Cloneland Suburbia. Alison and Donnie are facing problems of their own – Marci Coates, the incumbent school trustee is moving the school boundaries meaning they can either move their children to the “ghetto” with nothing but “playgrounds from the 70s” or they can leave their house and face the dilemma of whether or not to leave Leekie’s body there with the kitchen sink. Neither option appeals to Alison, but after Donnie’s failed attempt at “fisting” she sees a solution in the fresh faced eyes of her favourite neighbourhood contraband dealer, Ramon. Just as I think “No…they wouldn’t…” I remember the garbage disposal, Blood Ties and Dr Leekie and remember that anything is possible when the Hendrixes are involved. Before reaching the afore-detailed climax of the episode, we get a chance to see Alison’s plan in motion (and more importantly, what Hip Donnie sounds like) and faster than you can ask who is looking after their kids, Suburban Cloneland’s Accidental Killers become Suburban Cloneland’s Incidental Drug Dealers. This season’s Hendrix subplot just reached a whole new level of bonkers – and I doubt anyone is complaining.
Whereas Episode 1 set up lots of journeys for characters, the ending of Episode 2 nicely waved them off at the airport – almost literally in Kira and Cal’s case (which I must admit I always prefer so I can’t get frustrated at Kira’s lack of supervision). As the finale teased Mark and Gracie’s return as well, it looks as if his graphic burning off of his tattoo is an indicator that some character journeys can’t take them far enough away.