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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Orphan Black S2E10: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried.

Well, I'm going to be using exclusively pens from now on.

Orphan Black
By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried.

 So, finale. Yes. Right.

We ended the ninth episode of this series on Kira having been kidnapped by Rachel, Helena on her way to find Sarah, Cosima drastically sick and in the process of working with Ethan Duncan to have her illness cured, and – and Alison and Donnie doing the … doing the thing.

This episode opens on a disorienting note, cutting between Felix's confused recollection of an argument between Sarah and Mrs. S, and Sarah receiving an examination from Dyad scientists, along with a string of invasive questions, a lot of which are about her reproductive history. Sarah is then seen giving her unconditional surrender to Dyad, and the credits start.


We saw that in the previews, but I had kind of assumed the episode would end on that, not start.

In a dark room, Sarah is met by Doctor Nielen, who is so creepy he's practically incapacitated by the slime pouring out of every one of his orifices. As he's rather too eager to note, this is not the first time he's encountered her, as he examined her in her sleep. He brushes off her desire to see Kira, as well.

As it turns out, Kira is having samples taken by a rather over-nice researcher. Over-nice and unobservant, as Kira pockets her phone and gives Cal a call.

Meanwhile, Cosima finds out much to her and everybody else's chagrin that Doctor Nielen is her new physician – Delphine, it turns out, is being shipped off to Frankfurt unwillingly, but she has a vague parting threat for Rachel. Oh, Delphine, I'm sorry I ever thought you were evil. You are amazing, and you and Cosima must enjoy a long life together doing science and having scarves knitted for you by a small army.

Many scarves. Many jumpers.

Cosima receives an e-mail from Delphine containing Rachel's itinerary, and butters Martin – who I genuinely thought I recognised, but IMDB informs me that I've not seen the actor in anything, he just looks unnervingly like Tom Mison – up, getting him to leave and pushing to see Kira, as she's beginning to formulate a plan.

Using the possibility of seeing Kira as a kind of crude emotional cudgel, Nielen compels Sarah to sign consent for a medical procedure, and then takes her to see Kira. It's through a one way window, though, so all she can do is watch Rachel speak to Kira. 

Still not liking the pastels.

Meanwhile, at Mrs. S's safehouse, she's arranging for a car bomb with the manner of someone who specifically ordered a pizza with extra mozzarella, and jalapenos and a firm, yet moist hot dog stuffed crust. This pizza has no extra mozzarella, and habanero peppers, and a flimsy and dry sausage and mustard stuffed crust. This is unacceptable.

A moment later, Cal arrives, with all the awkwardness you'd expect from a man meeting his girlfriend's mother and his daughter's grandmother for the first time.

You can sympathise with Cal in this scene. Meeting his girlfriend's mother. Seeing an argument between said mother and his girlfriend's brother. His girlfriend's mother has a gun. Having to explain that you figured out that your girlfriend is a clone. It's awkward.

Art calls, as Helena has arrived at his flat, and Felix heads off to meet her, with strict instructions not to let her know about Kira or Sarah.

(Back at Dyad, Sarah encounters Duncan, who is also a prisoner and tells her not to despair.)

When Felix reaches Art's place, Helena is talking about what happened to her, and it's a mix of truths (there was a man called Jesse who she had some kind of romantic connection to) and fantasies (he had to go to war). She denies burning down the Prolethean ranch, although she's clearly quite happy about it (as are we all) and Felix doesn't believe her. 

Note well: Their body language does not suggest credulity.

Cal and Mrs. S are, meanwhile, talking shop, with the shop in question being the Spy Shop that sells espionage, lies and secrets, and I am feeling completely justified in not trusting Cal. He reveals that he has an insider, and Mrs. S instructs him to tell him that she's there. The insider immediately tells him to ask about 'Castor'.

Since Mrs. S makes a mythology comment here, let's talk about mythology.

Leda, as we discussed in a previous review, was a Spartan queen who was seduced by Zeus in the guise of a swan and on the same night slept with her husband Tyndareus, giving birth to two eggs which hatched into four children – two divine and two mortal. The children were Helen (of Troy), Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux.

Castor and Pollux were twins, the Dioskouri. Pollux, however, was the divine son of Zeus, while Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus. They were both Argonauts – the Argonauts being essentially a Massive Ancient Greek Mythology Crossover Fic – and Castor would later ask Zeus to share in his brother's immortality, a request Zeus would grant. Some traditions held that after they died, they would switch being dead, with one dwelling in the underworld while the other stayed living.

Anyway, Mrs. S also has an inside man, Paul. She meets with him – although he seems to have rejoined either the military or some kind of military-oid group.

Ethan Duncan, in Rachel's Evil Home Cinema, is watching some of her home films of Duncan reading to her. Rachel arrives with tea, but he insists on just hot water, as he has his own teabag. She tries to convince him to give her the key to the non-repeating Vigenere cipher, and he refuses.

Another history lesson! A Vigenere cipher, so named after Blaise de Vigenere, is a set of multiple Caesar ciphers – ciphers which shift the letters slightly further along in the alphabet – dictated by a key. For instance, I code 'SARAH' with the very simple key 'FELIX' and get 'YFDJF', as each letter has been shifted along the alphabet by as many letters as its key letter is from a hypothetical zeroth letter. Similarly, I can obfuscate it further by adding random gaps into the output, making it 'YF DJF'.

If the cipher is non-repeating (as in, it's at least as long as the information it's encrypting) and random, being just a string of randomly generated letters instead of being a word, poem, etc, then it essentially becomes impossible to decode without the key. Doubly so if you then obfuscate it with randomised gaps.

Anyway, Duncan doesn't approve of Rachel's plans to make more clones, especially as nobody seems to know why they're being made. He informs her coolly that he didn't write the key down – he can recite Pi to six-thousand places, he can easily memorise a cipher key. He asks her if she remembers the emotions of the events in question, and Rachel tells him she can't, before realising that he's poisoned himself. This scene really affected me, actually, as Rachel's breakdown, and her pleading with him not to leave her, shows that despite everything that's happened to her, she did genuinely love her father. 

My eyes are sweating.

Back with Mrs. S and Paul, Cal arrives. The two of them measure roosters for a while, before Paul meets Cal's insider – and it's Evil Team Rocket Boss! She wants information on Castor, and in exchange she'll get Sarah and Kira out.

Cosima finally gets her meeting with Kira, where they discuss The Science – specifically, the science of force, wherein force exerted is determined by surface area and speed. Cosima uses a pencil to demonstrate this, first having Kira sharpen a pencil to reduce surface area and increase pressure, and then having it driven through a piece of paper at great speed.

This is intercut with Cosima and her Science Buddy rigging up a device using a fire extinguisher. Eventually, Kira wins science, and Cosima draws a picture. Man, Cosima makes such a good aunt when she's being moderately diabolical. 

Like Einstein before them, Cosima and Kira have subjugated The Science.

Sarah is awoken by orderlies tying her down and taking her to an operating theatre, where Cosima's Science Buddy meets her, Nielen informs her that she will be undergoing an oophorectomy, a surgical procedure to remove an ovary. Creepily, he also adds that he hopes Sarah looks forward to another pregnancy. Rachel arrives and clears everyone out of the room to speak to Sarah, giving her the drawing Kira made.

Rachel then demonstrates that she has Kira's bone marrow, intended to treat Cosima, and informs Sarah of Duncan's suicide, before accusing her of having the key. As Sarah repeatedly says she doesn't know what Rachel is talking about, Rachel smashes the bone marrow samples, effectively dooming Cosima. Rachel starts to storm out, but Sarah calls her back, claiming that she'll give her the key.

As Rachel approaches, Sarah activates the fire extinguisher device and shoots a pencil into Rachel's eye, before fleeing. As it turns out, she didn't have to: Evil Team Rocket Boss is waiting for her in Kira's room, and says she's free to go. ETRB says she's impressed with Sarah and Mrs. S, and would like to meet her tomorrow, saying that Cal can arrange it.

Sarah flees, and all the clones (and Felix) gather at Felix's attic-flat – even Helena, who finally meets Cosima (who is ridiculously sweet towards her) and Alison (who is more reserved).

The party scene is long, and to be honest doesn't really develop the plot any, but since I've managed to fit an thirty minutes worth of plot recapping into the space I would usually use for an entire episode, because the plotting in this episode is even denser than normal, I'm not going to harp on about that.

Besides, it's character development, and Orphan Black is nothing if not character focused. 

Also, dancing!

The next morning, Helena leaves early, leaving behind the nitrogen tank that I think contains her embryos. On the bright side, this probably meant she didn't pump liquid nitrogen into a man's urethra, so those – those sites can stop sending me pictures now. They can do that. On her way out, she is grabbed, tased, and taken away by several men.

Later that day, Sarah goes to visit ETRB at her shiny mansion. I feel it is important to remember that people with shiny mansions should never be trusted. Never be trusted.

(While this is happening, Cosima, who I genuinely feared was going to die in this scene, is woken up by Kira to read to her. They eventually end up reading The Island of Doctor Moreau, the copy that Duncan gave her. It, of course, as most people probably figured out a while ago, contains many of his notes – and quite possibly the key to the cipher.)

In the mansion, Sarah encounters a little girl, Charlotte, who she swiftly realises is another clone of her, despite the fact that apparently no more were made. ETRB explains that Charlotte was the only survivor of the attempts. ETRB seems genuinely invested in Charlotte's welfare, and tells Sarah about Topside, the cabal she's a part of that funds, invests in and profits from genetic engineering, and that controls Dyad.

She explains that Project Leda was never shut down, it was just compartmentalised, with Dyad working with the female clones and a military faction – who we see now have Helena, and who have Mrs. S working with them - working with the male ones – which is what Project Castor is. She shows Sarah one of the clones, a man working out in a cell.

Sarah realises that she's met one of the male clones – the clonebros, or brones, if you will – before. Creepy-Eyed Prolethean is a brone, and we see the one in the cell lean in close and give a very creepy, not entirely sane grin. 

What a charming young man.

Phew. Another series done, and with it, another ongoing series of reviews. It's been a great series, and series 3 should be really good as well, although I don't know yet if I'll be doing reviews of it. Orphan Black has a density of plot that overwhelmed me at first, and although I think I got the hang of it by the end, it was often quite a struggle fitting everything into one review.

I do adore the series, though, so I'll be counting down the days to the next one.  

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