Orphan Black: “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” Season 2 Episode 5 Review

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At the halfway point of the season, Orphan Black struggles a bit with the complexity of its characters.

I should start by saying that a mediocre episode of Orphan Black is still a wildly compelling hour of television. The sheer thrill of watching Tatiana Maslany outdo herself week after week never wears thin, and the show’s diverse cast of characters is so interesting that I’d watch them do even the most mundane activities. Still, I can’t help but hold this series to incredibly high standards. When in nails it, it REALLY nails it. This season in particular has pretty much been flawless, so when the plotting or characterization hits a low point, it’s much easier to notice. There’s no such thing as a perfect TV show, but when it comes to Orphan Black, it’s difficult not to hope that each week will bring newfound excellence.

Translated from Latin, this week’s episode is titled “Knowledge Itself is Power.” This turns out to be both true and untrue. In a way, Helena turns out to have power over both Sarah and Art the cop because she has information they need. She may be put in a hapless position when she’s handcuffed in Art’s apartment, but you never really doubt that she has the upper hand. When push comes to shove, she’s the one with a sniper rifle aimed at Rachel’s apartment, and Sarah’s the one making a desperate plea for her to disarm it.

I don’t know if I totally bought Sarah’s confession about needing her “sestra,” I think it had more to do with the urgency of the situation than a real compassion for the woman who killed their birth mother. Still, a potential bond between these two is intriguing. Watching Helena back in action again is exciting–I especially enjoyed her averseness to the nickname “Meathead”–and I think she’d make a great addition to the Clone Club.

Before the sniper rifle incident, Rachel shows us that sometimes power can be attained merely through ruthlessness. She doesn’t have the intimate knowledge of the clones that Dr. Leekie does, and yet it quickly becomes clear that she has much more of a command at the Dyad.

This is probably the first episode where we get a real sense of who Rachel is, and just like the other clones, she’s got some interesting quirks. She admits that she’s been a self-aware clone since she was little, and knows that she’s not immune to the rules of the study, which is why she makes Paul her monitor. Yet, unlike in the other clone-monitor relationships, Paul is never the one pulling the strings. Rachel orders him around like an errand boy and, in one scene, dominates him sexually. It’s a stark contrast from the positions of power the other clones have found themselves in, and one that makes me think she’s not as okay with being part of an experiment as she leads everyone to believe.

Speaking of Paul, this episode marks his return after his trip to Thailand. I remarked before that his absence hasn’t been entirely significant, and unfortunately his renewed presence only further muddled his character. In the premiere, Paul was working for the Dyad out of necessity, but still remained loyal to Sarah. Now, he’s Rachel’s lapdog and has seemingly cut all ties to his season 1 past.

In a shocking scene, he pins Felix down and puts Daniel’s gun in his hand, framing him for the murder of the cop Daniel shot. Perhaps this is because of Dylan Bruce’s supremely vacant performance, but it’s hard to tell where his motives lie. Paul was a major player in the show’s first season, and I’d hate to see him simply become another grimacing Dyad henchmen. Hopefully more of his endgame will be revealed next week.

Another way in which Rachel asserts her power is through Cosima. Early on in the episode, we learn that Dr. Leekie has been working on a line of stem cells compatible with her DNA. Rachel forces him to stop with any further testing until Sarah is brought in to the institute. Maslany plays most of Rachel’s scenes with icy intensity, but we get glimpses vulnerability this week as she discusses her plans for Sarah. Clearly Daniel was more than just a casual hookup. Clearly, this is personal.

Luckily for Cosima, Dr. Leekie is a science nerd who just won’t quit. He goes behind Rachel’s back–which should make for a gripping internal power struggle when she find out–and decides to treat Cosima anyway. Cosima’s been given the short end of the stick this season, often being relegated to expository plotlines that explain the science and the reasoning behind everything that’s going on. It was nice to see the intimately shot scene when she gets her first injection; a real moment of hope for her constantly ailing character.

Of course, there was still some backstory to be had, because a mystery like this one deserves some answers. As it turns out, the lab fire that killed Rachel’s adoptive parents also destroyed the clones original genome sequence. Also, Rachel’s adoptive father might still be alive. The most interesting thing about this–aside from the upcoming Helena-Sarah road trip–is who’s side he could be on. With so many groups trying to control the clones, it would be nice for them to have another ally.

I wasn’t really sure where to put this, but we also had a brief visit with the Prolethians this week that continued to prove what disturbing people they are. It involved stitching someone’s mouth shut (Gracie), and threatening someone with having to carry Helena’s baby (also Gracie). So, pretty much, life is not good for Gracie right now.

I think this was easily the weakest episode of season 2 so far, but as I said before, there was still a lot of exciting things to take in. We finally have a better sense of Rachel’s psyche, which will give a greater drive to all her actions going forward. If the writers can figure out what to do with Paul, and give Cosima a bit more to do than look at microscope slides, than I think everything will be back on track. Grade: B

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

One Response to Orphan Black: “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” Season 2 Episode 5 Review

  1. Eric L says:

    Hmmm… Good points. I am glad you are holding it to a high standard. But I must admit that I still loved that episode. I am not sure it’s clear that Sarah was intending to be completely genuine, as you suggest. Paul’s behavior has shown himself only to behave in his own self interest and lacks depth. Leekie’s character is becoming way more interesting, I must say, and I am excited to see what happens with him and Rachel.

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