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'Orphan Black' Season 2, Episode 4 Recap: Family Ties

'Orphan Black' Recap: Best Episode So Far

*** SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read on unless you've seen "Orphan Black" Season 2, Episode 4, titled "Effects Of External Conditions." (Unless you like spoilers, then go right ahead.) ***

Bold statement time: This was the best episode of "Orphan Black" so far. What we've been witnessing up until now is the accumulation of everything, of people and of histories, different backstories interweaving with one another. In tonight's episode we finally saw the culmination of it all, as different characters literally crashed into each other -- some for the greater good (Cal and Sarah), some for the greater harm (Daniel and Sarah), some for ... we're not sure yet (Helena and Sarah).

I'm not just talking excellence in terms of acting and script (though both of those tonight were stellar), but also of visuals. At times the cinematography was just breathtaking. Frequent juxtaposed shots of each of the clones waking up, their eyes first opening, and scenes where a clone is watching screens with other clones' faces on them; these shots are not accidental. In a way, it's almost like the crew behind "Orphan Black" is saying, "Yep, we're that good. Check this out." To them I say: I love it. Please continue.

So of course Sarah survives the car crash, and we're led to believe that Cylon Daniel is dead, but again, of course, we know he's going to crawl out of the wreckage later on. As one does when one is the evil nemesis. Or when he's a Cylon -- they don't die, you know. But anyway, it was Cal who crashed into the car to save Sarah, so he pulls her out of the driver's seat and they attempt to hide the car with ... leaves and branches? OK. I haven't had much experience covering up car wrecks, but that doesn't seem very effective. Cal has the same genius idea with children too; when they go to pick up Kira she's hiding in some very sparse bushes, upon his direction. His parenting skills thus far seem rather weak.

He comes through in a big way, however, when he shows Kira and Sarah to his handy-dandy camper that happens to be fully stocked and ready to roll. Up next, working internet! This Cal guy is literally perfect. He doesn't even care that Sarah's not telling him why she's doing all of this, despite him asking at least three times this episode. More like pleading, actually. Sarah chats with Cosima on Skype (this is one of those beautiful scenes I was talking about: while the clones Skype in the camper, Kira and Cal sit outside on a picnic table) about Leda And The Swan, that poem from college about the swan that rapes a woman. They're close, but no cigar, so Sarah concludes she has to find Mrs. S. to find out what's really going on. She offloads Kira onto Cal, who accepts with barely a hesitation.

(Here's where my mind went to this fascinating, wonderful article on Slate I read recently about the flat male characters on "Orphan Black." According to the writer, it's deliberate. After seeing this episode, I feel compelled to agree. Imagine if the gender roles were reversed: Cal was a woman and Sarah was a man. We wouldn't even think twice about the man dropping the kid off with the woman, who would just blindly accept the child so the man could go on his adventures. On "Orphan Black," those traditional roles are reversed, and the woman is off to experience things and be dangerous, along with her female counterparts and adversaries. Again, I just love it.)

Meanwhile, the other clones are dealing with problems of their own. Cosima is torturing herself watching videos of the slowly dying Jennifer Fitzsimmons. She's also hiding her cough, which is getting much, much worse. Great acting by Maslany here, who not only acts the entire range of sickness: getting worse--hair falling out--dying in bed--corpse, but spends her entire Skype session with Sarah clearing her throat, getting hoarse, and swallowing a lot. Maslany pays attention to details, which I suppose is crucial to her success in these gazillion roles.

Alison wakes up and starts puking, and notices her arm is in a sling. I thought they may have thrown her in a psych ward, but nope, it's rehab. I haven't decided if it's a good thing or a bad thing yet. It's good because she's pretty safe in a rehab facility, both from herself and the stupid things she does when drunk, not to mention Donnie and Dyad. It's bad because she's captive. An Alison cornered is a dangerous Alison. She agrees with Felix to stay for at least a week. We'll see.

Helena has the worst of it, though. It seems that Henrik and his freaky cult have removed something from Helena's body (I'm thinking an egg or two?) and were successful. Stupid Gracie tries to kill Helena in her recovery bed by smothering her with a pillow. When Helena's body stops fighting, Gracie starts walking away. I'm just going to ask for a show of hands: how many "Orphan Black" viewers thought she was really dead? Nobody? OK, then, glad we're all in agreement. Helena chokes Gracie and runs off the farm, passing Art as he snaps photos of the Prolethian compound.

While Mrs. S. is busy having sex with that guy Carlton in a random bar basement (stay classy, Mrs. S. -- didn't see that one coming! More gender role reversals), both Felix and Sarah break into her house to find out what she knows. They discover that the two scientists in the Project LEDA picture are Rachel's mother and father. Sarah heads to Rachel's suite at One King West (which, in real life, are a bunch of cookie-cutter hotel-room condos that never sell), and sneaks in. Conveniently, she finds a videotape labelled "Cambridge 1991" and ... a working VCR? Who owns one of those? It shows a young Rachel smiling and frolicking but not much else. All of a sudden the not-dead Daniel is in the condo, and Sarah gets caught.

In my favourite "Orphan Black" scene ever (which I watched three times because I loved it so much), Helena comes to Sarah's rescue. From Helena's "Hello sistra" to the coming together of their two bodies like twins in the womb, this was just a masterpiece. And I wrote "two bodies." There are not two, only one. One actress is playing both of these women, and so many others, and I forget almost all the time. In all caps, I wrote in my notes "GIVE HER ALL THE F**KING AWARDS." For this scene alone, Maslany should take home all the TV hardware. Hell, even the Oscar. She's a talent beyond description.

As for the clones, I think I might like a universe where Helena and Sarah work together rather than against each other. It remains to be seen if they'll ever truly be able to trust each other.

The Golden Clone:(I'll be awarding the best clone of the week) Helena. Helena. Helena. She killed someone, escaped religious zealots and then killed someone else. All in a day's work.

Random Thoughts:

  • BOLO: Be on the lookout. Now you know.
  • Felix on Cosima and Delphine: "They're on a transgressive lesbian geek spiral bound to end in tears."
  • We can all agree that Art is the worst cop on Earth, right? Between him and Angie, it's a shock they're capable of doing anything. Seriously, Art just took photos this entire episode, and Helena ran right past him. All he did was stand there. And then the Prolethians come down and he just shows his cop licence. Wow Art, do you want them to put on their own handcuffs? P.S. - I think you have enough photos.
  • I hope you all noticed Felix's burglary outfit. So posh.
  • I've figured out who Gracie looks like: Elijah Wood, with a wig.
  • Sarah on Rachel's apartment: "Straight outta Cold Bitch Digest."
  • Helena to Gracie: "You sleep now."
  • So Mrs. S. Using sex ... shudder ... to get what she wants (I think). Anyone else shocked/disturbed/bothered?
  • They also showed Mrs. S.'s Toronto driver's licence. So much for this show being set in Ambiguousville. It's Toronto.

"Orphan Black"

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