Thursday, May 5, 2016

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Sarah Learns More About M.K. as Felix & Donnie Pose as a Couple in 'From Instinct to Rational Control'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 4.04 "From Instinct to Rational Control"

Sarah realizes her goals have aligned with her once enemy and forms a precarious alliance in hopes of getting to the head of Neolution. Alison dispatches Felix and Donnie to infiltrate a Neolution fertility clinic that Beth investigated. Cosima and Scott receive a revolting delivery from Alison. As Rachel grows closer to Charlotte, Susan Duncan leaves a devastating decision in her hands.

M.K. has really proven herself to be a fantastic addition to the narrative this season. Whenever the show adds a new clone for Tatiana Maslany to play, it has to be with purpose. Over four seasons, the show has genuinely been good about that with only a few misfires. And yet, M.K. has really helped redefine the stakes of this season while also streamlining the tension in very engaging ways that help connect all the disparate parts of the show. That's significant. The show needed this season to work and get the main story back on track. With renewed interest in Neolution, M.K. helps provide mystery and an unsettling presence. She is a reluctant ally to Sarah and the team. In "From Instinct to Rational Control," her reasoning for her actions is showcased to devastating effect.

M.K. has been very helpful to her sisters. She has helped protect them from afar without them noticing it. She only revealed herself to them because there was no other option. But now, everything seems to revolve around the search for her and the answers she can provide. She has been deep in the investigation of Neolution longer than anyone else. Beth didn't tell her everything that she discovered about the nefarious organization. But M.K. has still been committed to the mission. And now, everyone else is as well. They are all desperately searching for answers in the hope of getting the bot out of Sarah's cheek. That sets them on a collision course with Neolution. Ferdinand provides them with a lead - finding Rachel and Susan since they likely know more than anyone else. But Ferdinand's presence only intensifies the stakes throughout this episode because of a tragedy in M.K.'s past.

Ferdinand hasn't always been a great or interesting character. It's surprising that he's back at all this season considering James Frain's regular role on FOX's Gotham. But he's here nevertheless. He saves Sarah from falling into the hands of Neolution. And now, he helps serve as an entry point into M.K.'s backstory. It turns out that she was at Helsinki - the place where one of the conspiracy elements rounded up a bunch of the clones to kill them because of the defect. That was a brutal chapter in this clone saga. M.K. was the sole survivor of that mass execution. It's not explained how she escaped. It's just important that she did. She has spent every day since then looking for Ferdinand in order to have her vengeance. M.K. is so reluctant to get close to any of her sisters because they have a pattern of being taken away from her. She was close to Beth a few months ago but wasn't able to keep her from committing suicide. At Helsinki, she was best friends with another one named Niki who was executed - along with her entire family. Ferdinand is a part of a brutal business. Sarah is only indulging him right now because he holds a connection to Rachel and possible answers.

It's intense when M.K. manipulates Sarah in order to flesh Ferdinand out of the safe house. It was clearly a trap the moment that Mrs. S got that text from "Sarah." But it was also very meaningful in exploring who this new clone is and why she has such a difficult time connecting with her sisters. She's willing to kill Ferdinand for all that he has done to her. Of course, Sarah intervenes and tries to connect with M.K. She's not like any of the previous clones. She has no plans of abandoning M.K. or not being tough enough to handle the brutal details of her past. Sarah has survived so much in her life. Even right now, her life is very uncertain because of the bot in her cheek. But M.K. is fueled by one thing at the moment. She wants Ferdinand dead. That makes it a little surprising that he doesn't die by the end of the episode though. She leaves the house believing him to be trapped there for the rest of his brief existence in this world. But Sarah gets Mrs. S to disarm the bomb. That was unexpected. The show is leaving Ferdinand alive for some reason - though it's difficult to understand what his importance to the narrative could possibly be moving forward.

Ferdinand serves as a link between Rachel and the rest of the team. Most of the team don't care for Rachel at all. They aren't really concerned about her well-being or where she has vanished to. But now, they need to care because Susan Duncan is alive and can provide answers. She is a peak into the top layers of Neolution. Sure, Rachel isn't getting a ton of valuable information out of her so far. Her story has largely been relegated to her care and Charlotte's weakening condition. Rachel has formed a bond with the young girl. That is making her a somewhat more sympathetic figure this season. Her arc on the show has been very engaging. She's important to the story once more because of her connection to Susan Duncan. But she's largely concerned about what to do when Charlotte starts showing symptoms of the defect. Because Neolution doesn't have Kendal, there is nothing they can do to save her. So, Rachel has to decide what course of treatment to take - one that has failed in the past with older subjects or do nothing and learn from the experience. It's a harsh decision that once again puts Rachel in an unflattering light. She decides not to do anything and let Charlotte continue to suffer. But it's not as ruthless or cruel as Rachel used to be. She makes it in order to keep things stable in her relationship with Susan. That's a bond that will need to be good and sturdy later on this season.

And finally, it's so amusing and ultimately very satisfying to see everyone working towards a collective goal right now - trying to save Sarah from the bot. Each clone represents a unique tone and style for the show. At times, it can be hard to juggle all of those various elements. The narrative is often at its best when the sisters are relying on each other and helping out in the only way they know how. That is a very rewarding feeling throughout this episode. Cosima and Scott are still working on a cure for the defect. But they are also caught up in Sarah's dilemma as they study the bot they pull out of Dr. Leekie's head. It points them to the answer of genetic modification which can only spell further doom for anyone carrying the bot. Alison, Donnie and Felix also get a glimpse of just how far-reaching Neolution's plans are right now. They get pointed in the direction of a fertility clinic that Beth was investigating. It's a story completely worth it for Donnie and Felix going undercover as a couple and Donnie being completely clueless about that kind of a relationship. Sure, it goes for broad laughs but it still works. Plus, it means Felix isn't moping around trying to have his own story. It's just fun. But it also builds to the chilling final twist of Neolution already implementing their plans for the next generation of humanity. So, it looks like things are only going to get more complicated moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "From Instinct to Rational Control" was written by Alex Levine and directed by Peter Stebbings.
  • It's surprising that the sisters don't get recognized as someone else more often in public. So, it's a nice change of place that Alison gets recognized as Beth and she does her best to play along - but only gets very little information.
  • At first, Alison is very hesitant to get involved with Sarah's drama. And then, she just magically pulls out a ton of research she was able to collect about the clinic Donnie and Felix would be infiltrating. Hopefully, that intel will come in handy soon.
  • Sarah is extremely trusting of Dizzy. Is she perhaps foolish for involving him in her life without really knowing who he is? He's a way to get to M.K. But Sarah's been betrayed in the past many times. So it's weird to see her so open with someone new.
  • What is Helena's purpose this season? She really doesn't seem to have any. It's weird. She was such a vital part of the show. And now, she's like an afterthought. Donnie talks to her about Alison's fertility struggles. Then, she decides to runaway. That journey could be interesting. Or it could be a tangent the season really doesn't need right now. Whatever it is, it's simply hard to care about her anymore because she's not doing anything.
  • It's also hard to get a read on Ira and whether or not he's more important than any of the previous Castor clones. So far, he's just another body to show up in that story with Rachel who doesn't contribute a whole lot.
  • The show is purposefully not addressing the fate of Delphine, right? Throughout four episodes, she has barely been mentioned at all. Her life was up in the air at the end of the third season. The lack of discussion basically guarantees she's going to show up in an unexpected way down the line as a very different person.