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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Orphan Black S2E1: Nature Under Constraint and Vexed.

Orphan Black S2E1: Nature Under Constraint and Vexed.

Things I don't love: When I write an entire review and then the file gets corrupted.

So. As much as I loved the first series of Orphan Black, or Tatiana Maslany Is Everyone Oh God She's In My House With A Knife Wait The Police Are Tati - … as it's known in Canada and some parts of Yorkshire, this second series rather crept up on me. I didn't know it was going to be airing until, well, the day it aired, and I was a bit taken aback. I wondered whether I would enjoy it, as my relationship with Orphan Black has always been characterised by really, really loving it while at the same time being hyper-aware that it's very far outside what I usually like.

But I dived in anyway, and the series was kind enough to jog my memory as to what happened last series, although it only took a light nudge before everything came back. When we left Sarah and her clone buddies, Sarah had murdered Helena the Religious Assassin Clone, they had been offered a deal by Evil Corporate Execuclone Rachel – a deal Sarah and Cosima had discovered was complete crock – and Sarah's daughter and foster mother had been abducted.

We join Sarah again almost immediately after this, as she plays a game of cat and mouse with Rachel and the Dyad Institute. The episode lays down the stakes early: Rachel, and Sarah's morally conflicted boyfriend Paul, have Sarah's daughter, Kira, and they want Sarah. Two rather creepy gentlemen are sent to retrieve Sarah from the dining establishment of a pleasant if gun-toting bald man, resulting in a shoot-out and daring escape.

Goddammit, America.

The plot spirals out from there, as Cosima learns through her own morally conflicted romantic interest, Delphine, that the Dyad Institute are holding a lavish party that will be the perfect chance to get close to Rachel. Opinion is divided on how best to take advantage of this: Cosima thinks that as an invitee with a girlfriend in the Institute, she should go and talk to Rachel, and they can work it out like civilised women; Sarah thinks that she should acquire a gun and take a more direct, if slightly less cordial, route.

It's Sarah who wins out, in no small part because Cosima has her own problems to deal with: She has developed the Mysterious Clone Respiratory Disease, and is both attempting to figure out what it is and if there's a cure, and fending off employment offers from Delphine and the Dyad Institute. Not that she wouldn't love employment from them, I'm sure, but Cosima's a smart girl and realises that they are pure evil.

The task of acquiring a gun then falls naturally to football-mum (that – does not sound the same in an English dialect) Alison. Why? Well, they know that Alison has guns, they've discussed it before, but if we're being honest, it's because Sarah and Felix are both British people raised by an Irish woman, and Alison is so American she's practically incapacitated.

The inside of Alison's mind. Always.

Which is odd, I'm fairly sure she's Canadian.

Actually, that's a point of a slightly odd lack of realism there. Neither Sarah nor Felix seem at all unnerved by the idea of a gun, and as a British person, I can say that we pretty much uniformly hate guns. It's not fear, as such, just a really quite intense loathing. Sarah has an excuse here – I think if it meant rescuing Kira she'd wander into the Dyad Institute with the entire nuclear payload of China stapped to her back – Felix less so, especially as he's never been shy to voice his opinions even at the most inopportune of times

But either way, a gun is acquired from the delightfully skeezy Ramone, a young drug dealer/gun salesman operating out of his car boot. Actually, the scenes with Alison acquiring and then passing off the gun form most of the humour in the episode. It's not laugh-out-loud humour, that would just feel strange, but it's a wry, dark chuckle type humour: A moment that immediately springs to mind is Alison's rehearsal for the unnamed musical, in which the first song they practice is about cleaning up a dead body from a kitchen, neatly paralleling Alison standing by and doing nothing while her best friend died a gruesome death in her kitchen last series. 

I'm not sure what musical it is, but I know what it's not.

(The fact that the character Alison is playing has asthma does not bode well at all.)

Eventually, the big party arrives, and Sarah sneaks into the Dyad Institute disguised as Cosima, a disguise that fools Leekie but not Delphine, although the latter helps out anyway. Sort of. Either way, Sarah has found Rachel before long, and a tense stand-off ensues in which Rachel reveals that she lied: She doesn't have Kira. She doesn't even know who does. She only said she did to draw Sarah in.

It's a nice scene, contrasting Rachel's clipped and icy nature with Sarah's rage, and one that highlights that Rachel might not be as stable as she seems when, after being tackled to the floor by a woman with a gun, her response is to scream that nobody touches her. Sarah escapes, though, Kira-less and even angrier than before.

Who kidnapped Kira, then? Well, Art, Kira's once-partner-on-the-police back when Kira was pretending to be a police officer, has the answer: The Proletheans, the religious extremists who raised Helena to be an assassin, have her, and the creepy man from the diner was working for them, not the Dyad Institute.

As the episode closes, we get a glance of someone dragging themselves through a hospital? Who can it be? Is this a – okay, no, it's Helena, of course it's Helena, we saw in the first series that the woman practically has 'not dying from fatal wounds' as her superpower, frankly Sarah should have realised that if you don't burn Helena's body and fire the ashes into the sun, she will return in two episodes or less. She's like - she's like ... who am I thinking of?

Actually, I was thinking of Deadpool.
But nice try, me. 

I'm glad Orphan Black is back – partly because it is nice to see a show that breezily passes the Bechdel Test and has both numerous and varied female characters and multiple LGBT characters, and partly because it's a well-written show with excellent cinematography and excellent acting from everyone, but especially from Tatiana Maslany.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but Maslany is not only playing five very different characters, often in conversation with each other, but also, quite frequently, those characters impersonating other characters that she's playing. In this episode, we had Sarah impersonating Cosima, with just the right amount of Cosima-yness and just the right amount of shifty Sarah-ishness, but previously we've also had Sarah impersonating Beth, Alison impersonating Sarah, and Helena impersonating Sarah.

It's a fairly titanic feat of acting, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it, and more on where the plot takes us. I'm invested now, and I rather want the clones to all just turn out fine and go on with their lives and occasionally meet up at holidays.

Rachel has joined Margaery Tyrell in the 'Women In Gifs I Will
Use Frequently' group.

I know, Rachel. I know. It's a pipe dream.

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