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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Orphan Black S2E8: Variable and Full of Perturbation.

Orphan Black
Variable and Full of Perturbation. 

[Trigger warning for mentions of alcoholism.]

This episode opens on a rather dramatic note, as we encounter a dying man and his companion. The dying man tells his younger friend to find Beth Childs – the detective who Sarah stole the identity of way back last series – and the theme tune kicks off.

Since this is another episode with mostly divided viewpoints, I'm going to split it up by viewpoint again – or mostly, at least. Apart from Alison's segments, which I start with, all the different viewpoints interweave with each other at least somewhat.

Alison's segment is pretty bare-bones, being about three scenes in total. Donnie, as we know, murdered Leekie last episode, in rather bloody fashion. Alison finds him the next day, having just come back from rehab, and discovers that he's been drinking. Donnie tries to protest, and Alison understandably has none of it, being less than impressed that on the day that she comes out of the rehab program that he put her into, he's bringing alchol into the house and getting drunk, thus endangering her recovery. She ushers the children off to her mother's house to 'let Donnie recover'.

Really, those poor children. They are going to be screwed up when they're older: Their father is controlling, their mother is – also quite controlling, to be honest, although nobody can doubt for a second that Alison cares for them, and they've seen their parents repeatedly at loggerheads with their father sending their mother to rehab after she collapsed in front of them from an overdose of drugs and alcohol.

I've had a parent with an alcohol problem. I can still remember vividly when they fell into a ditch on the way home from visiting a family friend, and just lay there without trying to get up, and I was so used to seeing them too drunk to function that I just shrugged, finished walking back home by myself and let myself in through the back door.

Parents with substance abuse problems mess you up, man, and in my early twenties my relationship with alcohol is far from a healthy one, marked by long periods of sobriety where the thought of alcohol makes me physically nauseous, punctuated by occasionally getting so drunk that I literally can't see.

Well, this review turned dark quickly.



Anyway, Donnie and Alison eventually have a discussion on what's been going on, and she's supportive, listening to him explain that he feels like he's terrible and his life has been turned upside down. Then he admits to killing Leekie. They go look at his body, and Alison is critical of how he wrapped up the corpse, but only really snaps when he says he used her gun and didn't dispose of it afterwards.

Ah, well. The family that slays together stays together, I suppose. It works for them. Nobody's mourning Leekie – well, except Rachel and Delphine.

Speaking of Delphine, she discovers that Cosima has revoked her access to the lab, and while she points out she could override the lock, Cosima replies that she knows, she just doesn't want Delphine anywhere near her.

Delphine meets with Rachel, who informs her that Leekie has died of a heart attack, and that Delphine now works for her. Delphine is – less than pleased with this. Rachel tells her that they have a line of communication with Sarah now, and that this may yield the key to saving Cosima, which is pretty much Delphine's 'I'll do anything' switch. Much as I don't trust Delphine – and this episode made me trust her even less – there's no denying that she genuinely cares for Cosima. 

You are the third wheel on this team, Dude With Face.

Delphine visits Sarah and Mrs. S, now holed up in a well-guarded house with Duncan as their hostage. Duncan appears to have dropped the 'doddering madman' act entirely now, and is quite content to cheerfully reveal that he knows exactly why he's there, which doesn't seem to surprise either Mrs. S or Sarah. He also has an eerie interest in Kira. This should come as no surprise to anyone, as everyone has some kind of interest in Kira, and as a non-clone-person, it was inevitable that Duncan should be a) Absolutely untrustworthy, and b) Possessed of his own agenda.

Delphine gives them Rachel's offer: Duncan needs to come back to Dyad, where he can work on a cure for Cosima's illness that wouldn't involve samples from Kira, and in return Rachel would relinquish her interest in Kira. Sarah is reluctant, but Mrs. S cautions her not to dismiss it.

Back at the lab, Cosima demonstrates her Geek Powers by trouncing four guys at war games, and everyone rejoices, because it is awesome. The fun comes to an end as she starts coughing up blood, and then comes even more to an end as Delphine arrives. The two of them, somewhat reconciled, get high, take helium, and then curl up together. Delphine confesses she loves Cosima, and Cosima confesses it back, but also notes that if Delphine betrays the clones, she will destroy her career.

Cosima is badass. 

As all this is going on, Felix and Art have to deal with the arrival of the companion from the episode's cold open. He's another clone, Tony, a trans man who seems to have a criminal background, and Felix and Art quickly figure out that Sammy, the man who was shot, was probably his monitor. Felix and Tony have a romance which is alternately very sweet and also kinda weird to me, because dude, Felix, Tony is a clone of your foster sister. That's – a couple degrees away from incest, but not that far off.

As a side note, is this Tatiana Maslany? It's either Tatiana Maslany doing a stunning job acting a man, or it's a man who looks a lot like Tatiana Maslany doing a stunning job playing a Tatiana Maslany character, and I genuinely couldn't tell which was the case. Either way, major props to whoever played Tony. 

He needs a shave, though, that beard is awful.

Also, major props to how the writers treat him. While I think a character does misgender him at one point, it's treated as an error, with the show as a whole being very respectful of his trans identity. He's not treated as a curiosity, or as grotesque, or as somehow 'confused', as many shows would. It's a major part of his character, but next to his being a clone and his being a criminal, is almost incidental. His romance with Felix not seeing fruition has less to do with his being trans and more to do with his being cunning and clearly trying to get information.

It's lovely to see a show include a trans character and treat that character well, and it really shouldn't be so rare that it's noteworthy.

Tony eventually reveals, after a lot of flirtatious back-and-forth with Felix, that the message he was told to give to Beth was to trust Paul, because he was a 'ghost', and thus it's revealed that Sammy the Monitor knew Paul somehow.

Sarah arrives eventually, and explains the whole clone thing to Tony, who takes it all rather well. He eyes up the paintings Felix has of each of the clones and notes that he'd probably get along with Cosima, and probably not with Alison, which to be honest sounds about right. Art insists on bundling Tony off on a bus somewhere else, and he shares a brief moment with Felix before leaving. He'll almost certainly be back before this series is done – as I recall, this was about the time last series that Rachel was introduced.

(He's right about Paul being a 'ghost' incidentally, as apparently he's vanished completely.)

There's also a nice moment between Sarah and Felix where she notes that he's 'the best of them', which is true – if there's any character trait that defines Felix more than anyone else, it's that he's overwhelmingly compassionate while still having enormous strength of character. 

Also, surrounded by sulphur, apparently.

Back at the safe house, Duncan reads The Island of Doctor Moreau to Kira, before Mrs. S and Sarah bundle him off to return to Dyad, having decided that if it could save Cosima, they have no choice.

He arrives at Dyad, where Rachel has apparently recovered from her initial shock enough to be angry with him. Duncan is positively diabolical from this point in the episode on: At first he cheerfully remarks that he's happy Leekie's dead, which seemed fair enough, given everything Leekie did to him. What I really mean, though, is during his conversation with Rachel just after this. She asks why Sarah is the one who can reproduce, and why she's the success, and Duncan's response? “She's a failure. You are barren by design.”

We are shown in – I think – flash forwards, that this enrages Rachel deeply, and why wouldn't it? The full extent of what her father is like is starting to sink in. Perhaps it would be different if he had seemed less – happy about it, but he seems rather self-satisfied with it all.

Worse, if we're to take what Cosima and Delphine think about the Mysterious Clone Uterine Disease at face value, it means he's responsible for it - possibly by accident, but equally possibly by design.

Delphine takes him to the lab, where he's introduced to Cosima. The introductions are caught woefully short, as Cosima collapses and starts spasming, leaving us all wondering if she's going to survive past the next episode.

As the episode closes, we see Kira with Duncan's copy of The Island of Doctor Moreau – it's filled, it seems, with Duncan's research, and he intentionally left it with her for reasons as-yet-unclear but probably nefarious.

I'm intrigued to see more of Tony, and of Duncan, who seems to be developing into the series' replacement affable villain now that Leekie has bitten the car boot. But right now, what I'm most worried about is Cosima: If she dies, I'll genuinely be pretty heartbroken, I think. Cosima's great.

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