Saturday, May 30, 2015

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Alison Tries to Keep Her Life From Falling Apart in 'Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 3.07 "Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate"

Alison must secure a store front in order to take her and Donnie's business to the next level, but her mother proves to be a major hindrance. Cosima is facing familiar health issues and calls upon Alison for a favor. But with Alison working to save Donnie from the merciless hands of a drug lord, it's Cosima who ends up doing a favor. Scott gets closer to the greatest discovery of all, when he sits down with Rachel.

Alison and Donnie as suburban drug dealers has been a fun story even though it stands wildly in contrast to every other story on the show this season. That is a basic part of the show. Alison has always been a part of this satirical portion of the show's universe. But her story this year has stood out more than usual because it feels isolated from what the other characters are up to. Sarah and Helena have been busy fighting for their lives against Castor. Felix and Siobhan have been doing their best to help their family no matter what - despite Siobhan's massive betrayal. Cosima has been in the lab doing research with Scott. The drug dealing story is clearly the big recurring arc opposite the Castor drama for the season. For so much of the year so far though, it has just been Alison and Donnie engaged in it. It has felt like they rarely interact with the other characters. That's not inherently bad when the plot produces wonderful moments - like last week's underwear dance party. But it is more noticeable the deeper into the season the story goes.

Thusly, it seems appropriate that Alison entering into this business is starting to have complications for her family. However, that feels like something that should have happened much sooner in the season. And when it finally did, it ultimately just played as yet another wacky encounter of mistaken identities and the various clones having to impersonate each other - to the frustration of everyone else. The clones being recognized and having to act like someone else has always been a fun highlight for the show. Each one of the Leda clones is distinct. To then see those distinctions pop out during an impersonation is even more satisfying - and a testament to Tatiana Maslany's great acting abilities. However, it is a device that the show has started relying on too much. In the context of this episode, it's played entirely as wacky situational comedy with some dark and tragic comedy happening in the background. That's weird even though it is keeping in tone with the entire Alison portion of the universe.

This episode features the threat of Donnie getting his nose cut off and Cosima possibility facing a health relapse. And yet, those threats never entirely feel genuine because the audience has seen the show utilize these tricks before. Even though Cosima is helpless up on that stage to give a speech on why she should be school trustee, it's apparent early on that a solution will be presented that gets Alison even more support in the long run. So much of the episode is just empty threats. Alison and Donnie entered into this drug business in order to earn voter support. Why they want to expand that to the next level and get in bed with this big drug dealer who could actually do them physical harm is never strongly clarified. That's especially problematic when the drug business increasingly gets in the way of Alison securing this position on the school board. Is it all worth it to Alison? That question is barely asked and the show doesn't seem like it has any intention of answering it - because it's just so amusing watching Alison and Donnie in these extreme circumstances.

Also, what is the big deal with Jason Kellerman? Sure, he's a charmer. But his entire purpose and character is awkwardly flirting with Alison by bringing up all the fun they used to have as high school sweethearts. Now, the show is presenting things as more complicated than that as Jason wants to win Alison back - even though he recognizes that Donnie has marked his territory. He kisses Cosima by mistake which is suppose to be good for a laugh. Instead it's just groan worthy because Jason Kellerman is just not an interesting character. He's an entry point to this whole drug world without any threat of being dangerous. He's harmless. And yet, why do people keep saying that he and Alison are a good couple? That just hasn't been apparent. And now, it seems the show is just going to go deeper with this story which just doesn't seem like a smart idea.

Especially as, once again, the rest of the season is dealing with these incredibly heightened stakes. Sarah and Helena are able to easily escape the Castor base and reunite with Siobhan as a family. They are on their way home just as Cosima's health has taken yet another turn and Rachel will only decode Duncan's book to Sarah. It's a lot of teasing of what's to come in the final three episodes of the season. Perhaps progress will finally be made on deciphering the hidden message that Duncan left for the clones at the start of the season! And perhaps that will help heal Cosima as she declines once more. However, all of their stories are presented in this episode as stationary. It's a big deal that Sarah and Helena forgive Siobhan for what she did to them as well as Cosima coughing a ton again. Instead it's all in the background so that the Alison show can come into better focus. It was a necessary move for Alison - even though it only creates more uncertainties for the future. But did it have to come at the expense of the momentum for the rest of the show?

Some more thoughts:
  • "Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate" was written by Sherry White and directed by Ken Girotti.
  • After being teased since the beginning of the series, Alison's mom finally appears and it's made abundantly clear - perhaps a little too much - why Alison is the way that she is. Her mother constantly needs attention. Even when Alison tells her the truth and shows her Cosima, her mother doesn't want to accept it as reality.
  • Was the woman running the bar where Sarah, Helena and Siobhan were at one of Siobhan's people? Or was she just some random woman who knew way too much about them?
  • It's still great that Helena insists that Jesse is still her boyfriend and will help her take care of her baby. Of course, Sarah and Siobhan are a much more likely family unit for her.
  • Despite all the wacky hijinks of this episode, Felix is the only character to learn that Alison has become a drug dealer. That's tolerable because the Felix-Alison bond is great but there also should be more awareness from the other characters as well.
  • Yes, it's bad that Delphine just randomly shows up at Shay's door in order to get samples from Cosima. But should Cosima really allow that to get in the way of her doing her own job and taking care of herself? It felt that she got hung up on that fact too much for too long.
  • That really was a beautiful speech Alison gave about creating a family though.
  • Alison: "Holy freakin' Christmas cake."