Orphan Black: “Variable And Full Of Perturbation” Season 2 Episode 8 Review

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Um, what just happened?

On the whole, Orphan Black‘s sophomore season has been very extraordinary. For a show with such a complex narrative, it’s incredibly impressive how it’s held up against the weight of its several intertwining storylines. Still, it’s nearly impossible for a TV show to sustain itself on such a high level of success for this long, and this week the plot unfortunately caved in.

I think the biggest problem with “Variable and Full of Perturbation” is the fact that each of the clones’ plotlines felt so disjointed that I almost thought I was watching four different shows at once. Two weeks ago, Cosima mentioned that Clone Club is much stronger when its fully intact, and I couldn’t agree more. Seeing every one of Tatiana Maslany’s iterations in such distant places this week was grating, and the advancements made in the season’s overall arc felt buried underneath all the attempts to explain the separation.

I’ll start with Tony, who represents  a very interesting, yet flawed attempt in the show’s storytelling methods. Orphan Black is a series that tackles gender issues not often discussed in the media, so the fact that they would introduce a transgender clone only further proves their progressiveness. The problem is, I can’t really see where he fits in with the overall scheme of things. It feels as though his character has come out of the blue with a connection to Beth, someone who hasn’t been brought up all season. I like the show’s attempts to expand the universe of these clones—and watching Maslany play a male character was as exciting as you could expect—but I’m very confused as to why the writers decided to wait until there were three episodes left to create this totally new person. His creepy flirtation with Felix aside, Tony is a goldmine of opportunity to discuss possible new genetic issues facing the clones. Yet he was brought in to deliver a cryptic message about Paul working only for himself, and then just as quickly shunted out the door. I’m not sure what the show plans to do with him for the final two episodes, but I certainly hope this wasn’t just a one-off appearance.

Then there was Cosima, whose storyline had some very important moments. She’s a character who’s been enduring a private struggle all season, so it was nice to finally see her stand up for herself. When she tells Scott that she’s the person whose blood samples they’ve been studying all this time, it feel powerful, just as when she closes the lab door on Delphine. That’s why it was so disappointing to see her immediately run back into her arms a few scenes later. Don’t get me wrong, I like them as a couple very much, but there seems to be so much tension brewing from Delphine’s multiple betrayals that I’m surprised at the speed with which things were dealt. One strange stoner session does not undo all the problems in a relationship. Perhaps the fact that Cosima has a seizure at the end of the episode will force her to take a hard look at her life and her loved ones (I’m also hoping it means the Clone Club will get together to visit her while she’s healing.)

Off in her own corner this week was Allison, who probably had the strongest plotline of the episode. From everything we know about her, it’s clear that Allie isn’t a quitter, and I love just how much she was willing to work on her marriage despite all that’s happened. The fact that both she and Donny now have these pretty literal skeletons in their closets makes for a compelling dynamic, and I’m excited to see where things go from here. Allison’s been trapped in her own private hell for a while, so now that she’s back in the real world I can’t wait to see what she does with Dr. Leekie’s corpse.

Finally, there was Rachel, whose plot delivered one of the series’ biggest reveals in a very frustrating way. As she meets with her adoptive father—now back to being all business after last week’s emotional affair—she learns that the clones were all designed to be barren, and Sarah’s ability to conceive a child is actually a mistake. For a show that deals a lot with women’s bodies and their functionality, this is huge. Still, it was disheartening to see this moment put against very weird cuts of Rachel smashing things in her office. The whole sequence was very vague. First of all, since they never cut back to a scene of wreckage, did she actually destroy her workplace or was that happening in her head? Also, why exactly is she so upset? Is it because she’s secretly always wanted children? Is Ethan’s presence at the Dyad making it hard for her to remain professional? What’s going on? I’m hoping her motives get cleared up next week, but I’m perturbed by this lapse in an otherwise fascinating character.

Because Orphan Black is such a triumphant show, I think it’s easy to say that this was the weakest episode in the series. I have a lot of confidence that the show will bounce back in its final two episodes, but I won’t deny the fact that week made me nervous. As amazing as Maslany is, even she can’t hold up a story that doesn’t really know where it wants to go. Grade: C+

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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