Thursday, June 2, 2016

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Alison Feels the Pressure From Neolution While Donnie is in Jail in 'The Redesign of Natural Objects'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 4.08 "The Redesign of Natural Objects"

As Alison is terrified by Neolution threats made against Donnie, Sarah and Mrs. S question her loyalty. While Sarah is distracted, Mrs. S sneaks out to seek vengeance. Cosima and Susan work together in a final attempt to discover a cure.

"The Redesign of Natural Objects" shows just how strong the Leda clones can be when they are all united for the same cause. They've had their time to mourn the loss of Kendall and Evie's coup of Neolution. They've all had the ability to react to their depressing realities. And now, they are all motivated to do something about it. They all are dying from the same defect. They are still no closer to solving this mysterious illness than they were at the start of the series. Cosima has made some advances with her research. But she's no where close to a cure. Susan Duncan has devoted her entire life to protecting the clone experiment. And now, they have all been cast aside by Evie. She has much bigger plans for Neolution than the clones. But she also has to take them seriously as a threat. Neolution is still causing the clones a lot of pain right now. Alison is the one mostly feeling that. Now, it's her turn to be isolated for a little bit and be a little reckless to the detriment of the group. But again, everything starts working wonderfully well when it's revealed that everyone is working together for their common goal.

It's very amusing to see Donnie in prison. That's not an environment he is well-equipped to be in. He can act tough. He is a criminal and wants to boast about that in order to survive. But there is so much pressing danger in this place as well. It's danger that has clear stakes in the overall narrative as well. All of this is happening right now because Duko needs to find Sarah. He doesn't care about Alison and Donnie. As far as Neolution is concerned, they don't pose a threat to their operation. They can continue living their happy lives in the suburbs with their family. They get pulled into this mess because of their connection to the rest of the clones. They are self-aware of the clone experiment. They've been very crucial in helping the team understand what's going on at Neolution this season. But now, they are being painted as the weak links of the family. Something the audience knows they're not. And yet, it's still compelling to watch Alison have to make a choice between Donnie and Sarah.

In order to save Donnie from being killed in prison, Alison needs to tell Duko where to find Sarah. It's an agonizing choice for her. She has to choose between two people she loves without being able to talk about it with anyone. She purposefully keeps the other characters in the dark about what's happening with her. They are made aware of it solely because of Mrs. S' desire to kill Duko for killing her mother. But it's also very manipulative on the show's part as well. It wants the audience to believe that Alison is choosing not to tell the rest of her family about what's going. The only one who goes to see where her head is at is Felix. And he does nothing but offer generic pleasantries that hint that he knows something is going on without explicitly saying it. It's all building to the moment where Alison tells Duko about the comic book store. But it's hardly a surprise that he walks into a trap. Sarah, Art and Mrs. S corner him and force him to call off the hit on Donnie and tell them everything they know about Evie's plans. It's a sequence that also produces an over-the-top moment with Alison at practice for the church's rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar while Donnie is being beat up in prison. Again, it's great to see Alison's confidence light up the stage after Felix tells her Donnie is okay. But it's a highly stylized sequence that builds tension by having the audience believe that the characters didn't talk with one another - something that's a little too problematic to work.

This is also an important episode for Mrs. S. She is still spiraling because of the sudden death of her mother. Kendall was violently taken away from her because Sarah and Cosima's plan went horribly awry. And now, she wants her vengeance against the people truly responsible. She no longer blames Sarah for what happened. After what Sarah almost did last week, Mrs. S welcomed her back to the safe house with open arms. But she still needed to take action against Duko. She was willing to do that herself. She walked out of the safe house with a gun and a plan. The clones got in the way of that revenge. Again, she's the reason why everyone learns about Alison and Duko. There really isn't a whole lot of time to react to Mrs. S going down this dark path by herself. In fact, it's something that Sarah and Art understand and allow to happen once they catch Duko. They know what she is going to do to him. All they need is the information about what Evie is planning next. He tells them some vague thing about the bots getting an expansion on the global scale. But he doesn't know everything about what Evie is up to. He tries to appeal to Mrs. S' heart and connection to family. He claims he did all of this to protect his niece who has no one else to look out for her. But that doesn't deter Mrs. S from doing what she wants to do. So, she kills him. Again, it's a very dark moment. She has gotten her revenge. But now what? Her mother is still gone and the threat against the clones is still present. What is she going to do next to handle all of these complex emotions?

This episode also has a very transitional story to it as well. Kendall's death marked the end of any potential research into a cure for the clones. That loss was so devastating to everyone. But now, the various parties are still searching for a way to survive. The clones all know the grim fate that's awaiting all of them. So they need a new strategy to move forward with. One presents itself when Cosima and Susan start communicating again. It's something that happens because M.K. decides to be a part of the family again. She and Sarah were in a rocky place the last time they were together. And yet, M.K. proves that she wants to be a part of this family by helping Sarah with Duko and getting Cosima in contact with Susan. She still has an ulterior motive. It appears that she has started showing symptoms of the defect as well. She's not reaching now because she had an epiphany about the importance of family. She's doing it out of self-preservation. Though a family connection could be very meaningful to her later on. Plus, Cosima and Susan's dialogue presents a new theory for a cure - mixing a Leda egg with Castor sperm in order to produce both sides of Kendall's original DNA. Again, that sounds very incestuous because the show frequently reminds the audience that Leda and Castor are siblings. But it also has purpose too. It's a story that brings Cosima to Susan's private island. But more importantly, it allows Rachel to head back to town to take on Neolution with Sarah. That's going to be an interesting reunion next week. And one I can't wait to see.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Redesign of Natural Objects" was written by Peter Mohan and directed by Aaron Morton.
  • It seems Adele's purpose is to serve as Donnie's lawyer during his time in jail. But that also leads to Adele meeting more than one Leda clone which again is played for humor. That's a story that has the potential to build into something amusing to watch. But it's also a dynamic the show has played before.
  • Alison has shown off her theatrical chops before. But her performance here in Jesus Christ Superstar largely just left me confused. Just like her priest talking about how important religion has been in her and Donnie's lives - even though that has never been a real fixture of their time on the show.
  • So why did Sarah and Mrs. S need to be fighting over what Felix could wear to his big meeting with Alison to pump her for information? That was a really weird moment that largely happened so Jordan Gavaris could be shirtless for a scene.
  • After trapping Duko in the comic book store and then killing him, couldn't Sarah, Art and Mrs. S have helped with the clean up? Instead that falls onto Scott for no reason whatsoever. Also, how did they dispose of Duko's body? That seems like something major they would have to do that could have big consequences considering he was still a cop.
  • Rachel continues to get visions in her new robotic eye. None of it means anything yet. It's just weird swan imagery that can pop up at any time to confuse and distract Rachel. But she also sees a man too. So something weird is definitely going on. Perhaps it's setting up the mystery for next season (should there be one) after the Neolution threat from Evie is taken care of.
  • Felix stopped Cosima from doing something potentially stupid and dangerous with the reveal that Delphine was probably still alive. Here, it's important that she wants to search for her again. And yet, she then gets too distracted by the cure to really do anything about that.