Saturday, April 18, 2015

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Sarah and Delphine Work Together to Fool a Topside Investigator in 'The Weight of This Combination'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 3.01 "The Weight of This Combination"

Sarah pursues the missing Helena who is held in a faraway compound. Sarah must use her wiles to deter a Topside investigator who threatens the Leda sisters' lives. Cosima appears to be rebounding from her illness. Alison and Donnie face newfound financial woes. When the menace of Castor rears its head once more, Sarah and her entire family must come together to survive.

The power of family has been the strongest character through line of Orphan Black. All of the various Leda clones were created and allowed to live their own lives - with constant monitoring. The conspiracies of the show keep piling up higher and higher. It's hard to keep track of who is aligned with whom. Allegiances shift so often amongst the supporting cast while not always adding anything more compelling to the growing conspiracies. Despite all of that though, the show is able to keep things stable at its core because of the family that has formed between Sarah, Allison, Helena, Cosima, Felix and Kira. They all have their own stories going on but they can always rely on each other. As things get more and more complicated, they simply have to stand even stronger together.

The third season gets started shrouded in mystery over what the show's latest twist - the reveal of the Castor clones - actually means to the core family. None of the Leda clones or the people at Dyad know what the military and the Castor clones want. They are a dangerous and unknown quantity. They have knowledge about the Leda clones and Dyad. They are just starting to act though and it's almost all action without any meaning. The Castor clones don't appear as distinct as the Leda clones are. It's a very daunting prospect for the show to hope that Ari Millen can pull off what Tatiana Maslany does - albeit under different circumstances. The distinctions amongst the Castor clones aren't overly accentuated. That's the point to. They are meant to be a mystery to both the regular characters and the audience.

"The Weight of This Combination" really is about Sarah dealing with the fallout of all the action and revelations of the second season finale. She wants things to calm down and be simple for Kira and her sisters. And yet, she isn't allowed that peace because she has to keep dealing with the various mysteries of the show. Siobhan made a deal with Castor and Topside to get Sarah and Kira released from Rachel and Dyad's control. That then lead to Helena's kidnapping. But no one else at Topside seems to know about that deal. Ferdinand is a Topside investigator/cleaner who pops up in town to survey the company. He operates under the impression that Rachel is fine and Sarah is still in their custody recovering from the surgery that removed one of her ovaries.

It once again leads to the various clones having to imitate one another. That has always been one of the most fantastic things about Maslany's performance. She gives all of the clones their own personalities that are distant while still making their imitations of each other believable. Rachel is a calm, calculated and shrewd businesswoman. She has been plotting to kill all the other clones. That information was suppose to be kept from the Leda clones. Delphine is let in on that knowledge due to her taking over for Rachel at Dyad. She's learning just as much information as the rest of the clones are. And yet, she has to have a different reaction because she has to think about the whole clone family and not just certain individuals. She has to embrace a different managing style which at times is abrupt while also being very effective. Her torturing the real Rachel for information is so unlike her. She does so in order to protect all of the clones. But she's still working for Topside and the agenda she has worked out with Marion.

Sarah is allowed to step into Rachel's wardrobe and precariously try to fool and seduce Ferdinand. And yet, it's a very reactionary performance. The tension is elevated because they don't know if Ferdinand will see through this charade. The audience recognizes that Sarah is playing Rachel and Allison is playing Rachel. But it's suppose to be unsure if Ferdinand can tell based solely on his numerous interactions with Rachel. He and Rachel did have an intimate relationship. He enjoys the dominance she brings out in the bedroom. He has a very kinky side that possibly gets him to reveal more information than he should. Sarah is able to take control of this situation. But throughout all of it, the audience is suppose to be wondering what she'll do in order to protect her cover. A moment of suspense that doesn't entirely feel earned because Ferdinand is just another one-note character connected to the vague conspiracies of the show.

Several of the sisters are put into harm's way in the premiere. And yet, none of the encounters feel all that suspenseful. Sarah is afraid for both her and Allison's lives. She's ready to kill Ferdinand but able to seduce him long enough to almost kill him again before Delphine walks through the door throwing multiple accusations his way. He's a character that causes so much of the plot of this episode but it feels just like an unnecessary part of the grand conspiracy. His man is stalking Allison outside of her house ready to kill her whole family. Allison picks up on his presence but does nothing except vaguely looking around her property which didn't entirely feel like how Allison would react in that situation.

Meanwhile, Helena is trapped in a box for the duration of the episode. She's dreaming about the baby she will have in a couple of months surrounded by her sisters, Kira and Felix. She's happy because she finally found a family. And yet, it's all transparent of being nothing more than a dream. Helena has been taken once again. The new threat of the military is just so vague even with the Castor clones running around causing problems. This premiere doesn't do a whole lot to satisfy questions while keeping the storytelling complex. It feels like things are just getting too complicated while loosing the thread of the core family. Sarah eventually realizes that Helena has been taken. And now, she's actually doing something to get her sister back - which is more than she did last season when Helena disappeared on her.

It's a lot of complicated emotions. Sarah doesn't know what to think of Siobhan and Delphine at the moment while Allison and Cosima are keeping secrets and trying to live their own lives again. Not all of the events of the premiere came together in an exciting way. The characters themselves are still wildly compelling. Tatiana Maslany still plays all of the clones wonderfully. That's enough to keep the show entertaining. But the story may be spinning too wildly out of control at the moment without enough justifiable payoff.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Weight of This Combination" was written by Graeme Manson and directed by David Frazee.
  • With Delphine taking over, she has to end things with Cosima for the betterment of the entire clone family. It's heartbreaking for both of them. They do have genuine love for each other. But it's also important that things are happening with them outside of that relationship.
  • Cosima shared Professor Duncan's hidden notes with Scott but is keeping it a secret from the rest of the clones until she knows it will have results for her research and a possible cure for her.
  • Also, Cosima appears to be healthier and the only thing that can be attributed to is her being around Kira all the time.
  • Donnie quit his job which means he will be a bigger factor this season. Kristian Brunn was upped to a series regular. Plus, Allison now wants to run for school trustee which could potentially be great as long as it doesn't contrast too much with the dire conspiracy tone of the rest of the show.
  • A new Leda clone also debuted: Crystal. She was seduced by a pair of Castor clones and has likely been taken by the military.
  • Neither Paul nor Art appeared in the premiere and their absences weren't noticeable at all.