TV Recap: Orphan Black, ‘Variable and Full of Perturbation’


It’s been a long time since the cold opening of a TV show pulled me in without trying but this week Orphan Black changed that. Opening with a speeding van racing into a hidden garage, a masked robber pulls a wounded man, presumably a partner in crime, from the vehicle. He has a message to relay to one Beth Childs before he dies at which point his partner unmasks revealing another clone, in fact, a male clone. Tatiana Maslany this week adds another persona to her impressive arsenal in the form of Tony, a transgender street crook, with a big secret for the deceased Beth but she delivers it to Art and Felix.

Of all her portrayals Tony is Maslany’s most difficult to take in but she does so, as always, with ease. She takes Tony from being questionable in nature to a skeptic who accepts the things beyond his own identity in life. Of course Felix is left to be the one to look after her and for a while there is an awkward bit of sexual tension between these two that ultimately is dialed back by the obvious relation to his adopted sister. At this point Felix has accepted himself fully into the world of trouble and mystery that follows her sister’s continuous revelations about her existence and this week it was laid out so simply allowing for some of the lighter moments of this episode.

Photo Credit: Jan Thijs
Photo Credit: Jan Thijs

There are several of those moments here and a lot of them play out among Alison and Donnie who are trying to build themselves back to being a happily married couple. She has been rather hush-hush about it beyond her fellow clones but this week it was airing the dirty laundry with Donnie. As odd as the confessions were considering Donnie just killed a person the interactions between him and Alison very much fit into the strange love of their marriage with its usual morbid humor. Alison’s shock at Donnie allowing Leekie’s body to bleed and defecate on the trunk’s upholstery was rather funny and very much what you would expect to happen.

Even Cosima has a nice moment of simplicity playing a board game with Scott and his friends but the dire nature of her research and the life span of her body made this fleeting at best. It’s clear that simply having Kiera’s tooth isn’t going to cure her illness and it seems more likely Kiera is going to become paramount to finding a cure. Having Professor Duncan on board makes the process a little more organic as it comes from his original research and experimentation. It’s with his inclusion that we see once more the faults of playing God and toiling with the emotions and identity of an individual.

When Duncan proclaims that Sarah’s fertility capabilities was a mistake and that they were all designed not to have that you see through Rachel the core of an individual who is as much a person as she is the result of playing God via science. It doesn’t matter if their infertility was designed so that they could be one of a kind they still have souls that want complete control of their own bodies and that means how each part of their body functions. For a brief moment we see inside Rachel’s head which is all anger and rage at this revelation from her father. Without applying to everyone else this is the mind of all the clones looking to be in control of what goes on in their lives.

Photo Credit: © Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA
Photo Credit: © Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA

After so long you have to define what a show is about and this season Orphan Black has really been reaching out to plant in the viewer’s head what the show is about. I had mentioned before the often fluctuating sides of dominance from both the clones and their monitors. This week we focused greatly on the clones being in charge of their own bodies. At the end of the day it’s about taking charge of what you have been possessed with and not allowing anyone to interfere with that. It has the underlying ideals of feminism but it’s individuality among any human being regardless of gender or race. 

With two episodes left we are left to wonder how in charge the clones will be and what will unfold next. While we have people like Cosima, Helena, and even Tony looking to maintain their independence and right to live freely Sarah is still looking for answers. Perhaps Sarah’s path to identity is her taking control of her individuality and with an air of mystery still hanging like a thread there will be much to learn as we head towards the season finale. 

Related Articles:

Review: Orphan Black, ‘Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things’ (Jason Stives)

Review: Orphan Black, ‘To Hold Nature in Her Wanderings’ (Jason Stives)

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Jason Stives is the Music Editor of Pop-Break as well as the resident Anglophile and Pop-Break representative for BBC America conducting weekly reviews of Doctor Who and Orphan Black. He is currently a contributing writer for and a freelance creative consultant for fundraising and marketing campaigns in New Jersey’s various art communities. He is a graduate of Rutgers University’s class of 2010 with a bachelors in Journalism and Media Studies. When he isn’t attending concerts or writing the great American novel he moonlights as lounge crooner J.M Heavyhart turning the works of Dokken and Dio into Sinatra-esque standards (or at least he would like to be). Follow his constant retweets and occasionally witty banter on Twitter at @jaystives.

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