Thursday, June 9, 2016

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Sarah and Rachel Team Up to Take Down Evie in 'The Mitigation of Competition'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 4.09 "The Mitigation of Competition"

With Susan deposed, Sarah finds herself in the same position as Rachel - causing the archenemies to come together for the greater good. Cosima and Susan butt heads on the ethical implications of human experiments. When Adele further investigates Donnie's case, she begins to suspect Felix is keeping deep secrets. Helena's arrival forces Felix to make a difficult decision.

The wheels are definitely turning throughout "The Mitigation of Competition" in order to set up another truly exciting and twisted season finale of the show. Because of that, a few of the twists and turns that happen in this episode felt formulaic and predictable. But that didn't make the hour any less enjoyable. It's great to see Sarah and Rachel forced into working with each other and how they have different ways of doing things. It's great to see Helena return with a renewed sense of purpose. It's heartbreaking to see Felix lose his new personal connection because of the craziness in his life. Of course, not everything works in this penultimate episode of the season. But the stakes have been admirably raised for the finale. The tension is clear while also setting up even bigger twists for the future. It's also satisfying that this hour isn't just plot setup. A lot of meaningful confrontations happen here as well.

Evie Cho made her swift turn into the villain of the season around the halfway point when she had Kendall killed and took over Neolution. That character worked immensely when she was presented as a threat to Sarah and the rest of the family. But that was largely just a hassle for Evie to deal with. It's cleaning up a mess that could complicate her ultimate goals. And her big goals for the future of Neolution just really aren't that gripping to watch. It's not closely connected to what's happening to the clones. It's just vague and general talk about curing genetic disorders. The bots and the deformed babies have been crucial plot points earlier in the season - as well as some seriously creepy imagery. But here, their inclusion largely feels lackluster and plot-driven. They are a part of Evie's nefarious plans for the future. But she is mostly a nefarious character void of any kind of nuance. She wants to help change the world and is starting it in her hometown. She's on a press tour to build excitement for her work. But that's really not that compelling to watch.

More importantly, Sarah, Rachel, Art and Ira quickly get caught up in the mess with Evie. Again, that's a very significant and tense character dynamic. Sarah and Rachel have a very violent past with one another. Sarah jammed that pencil into Rachel's eye - which took her two full seasons to recover from. And yet, Rachel continues to prove just how ruthless and power hungry she really is. She's not afraid to do anything in order to get close to Evie and manipulate her into getting some power in her life again. The story that builds to that moment is just a little too weird and manufactured in order to work all that well. Apparently, two pregnant women from Brightborn have escaped with a video of the organization killing a deformed baby. That's a plot contrivance created for this episode so that everyone has something to fight over. They all want to get to these women first. Brightborn is successful in killing one. Sarah and Art find the other but struggle trying to protect her. Rachel and Ira are the ones who are successfully able to manipulate her in order to hurt Evie. But it definitely takes awhile for the specifics of this story to get interesting. However, it's only building to a big reveal that Rachel wants to survive just as badly as the rest of the Leda clones.

Rachel and Evie's confrontation is filled with mysterious intrigue and doubt over whether or not Rachel will stand with the rest of the family or turn against them so she can have power once more. It's a dynamic she has been in before. So, the stakes are genuine. It's just a weird moment too because it does treat the audience a little too naively. Just last week, Rachel was talking about how Susan gave up and everyone should be planning for their deaths sooner rather than later. They had no cure and the clones were all going to die. That's why she agreed to trade positions with Cosima. Rachel would reunite with Sarah in order to take down Neolution while Cosima would go to the island in order to help develop a cure with Susan. Not a whole lot of meaningful progress is made on the cure. They largely just fertilize the egg and just wait for stuff to happen. Cosima reads more about the founder of Neolution than Rachel ever did. But that doesn't lead to anything worthwhile. Instead, all of the tension is back with Rachel as she is bargaining a woman and her child's lives in order to get what she wants from Evie. But it's not surprising when it's revealed Rachel is just doing this to get Evie on tape talking about all the evil things her business has done as a part of their genetic research. It essentially takes down the corporation during her big press confidence. It is a major victory for the team. But it hardly feels like one. It mostly just feels like the show getting this out of the way so it can focus on the more meaningful characters during the finale.

"The Mitigation of Competition" also features two big returns from characters who have largely been absent this season. The end of the hour confirms that Delphine is in fact still alive. She survived being shot. The mysterious person who saved her is likely the same person transmitting all of those weird images to Rachel. Again, those images don't make any sense at all. It just shows that Rachel isn't in complete control of her body yet despite all of her hard work this season. This reveal did feel like something the show was building to. These images Rachel is seeing were a pretty late development in the season. They had to be connected to the big mystery somehow. So now, she is aware that there are more people living on Susan's island. One of them happens to be Delphine. She has joined this community of mysterious people who's agenda will be made known in next week's finale. But it's also not surprising that Delphine winds up on the island because that's where Cosima is. The show needed to provide some kind of resolution to that mystery this season. Cosima has been mourning her disappearance. She needed some kind of clarification as to what happened to her. And now, both of them are in the same place. They just have to find each other again.

But Delphine's return is just a brief tease for what's going to happen in the finale. It's much more important in this episode that Helena makes her way back to town to help her seestras when they need it the most. It was a smart decision on the show's part to have her leave for the majority of the season. She simply had no purpose in the early going. She's a character who works best when she's at the center of some action story beat or in a heartfelt moment with her seestras. But the start of the year was just her lounging around at Alison and Donnie's house being pregnant. That wasn't too terribly exciting and the show really needed to ramp up the action and tension. Helena wasn't a necessary part of that then. But her return here is very welcome. First, she complicates Felix's relationship with Adele. That has been a problematic storyline all season long. But it's still moving when the chaos of Sarah's world infects Felix's happiness. He doesn't want to pull Adele into all of this. That's getting increasingly harder to do after she meets Alison and Helena. So she leaves town to try and make sense of it all and whether she wants Felix in her life. That's an emotional moment that is rushed a little bit but is oddly still satisfying despite the issues with the overall story. Plus, that moment between Adele and Helena needed to happen so that Helena would have to return to Alison and Donnie. Their little story about Alison losing her faith and wanting to run away to Niagara Falls isn't that great. But once the Neolution henchman shows up at their door, it's a very tense sequence that only Helena can get them out of. Plus, she takes down the guy with a homemade bow and arrow. How awesome is that!

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Mitigation of Competition" was written by Alex Levine and directed by David Frazee.
  • There are some nice parallels between Sarah and Felix's bond and Rachel and Ira's. But the later has been very rushed this season. It's gotten to the point where it's still hard to care about Ira as the sole face of Castor.
  • Rachel had to wait months before seeing the full facility on the island and the book of Neolution's founder. Cosima is just able to walk in, impress Susan with science and be gifted with the book. It's easy to see that Susan has favorites.
  • It's suppose to be significant that Trina is at the scene of the one pregnant girl's "suicide." But she isn't a character the show has given importance to at all. She was a part of Beth's brief investigation into Neolution as a pregnant girl and then she freaked out at Alison at a cafe shop. But that's honestly all that she has done. So why is she so important now?
  • When Sarah is trying to convince Kendra to trust her and Art, she mentions that they both have daughters who need protection from Neolution as well. And yet, where is Art's daughter? She was seen in the Beth-centric premiere. But can someone remind me of what has happened to her in the present day?
  • As soon as Donnie gets out of jail, all he wants to do is have sex with Alison. The show follows through on that as well. It's definitely a weird sex scene that largely focuses on Alison's crisis of religion. But it's still pretty amusing to watch.
  • Art really is the only good cop on the police force. Everyone is worried about Duko but it's not an important part of the story either. One corrupt cop falls and another one takes his place. It's just really lame.
  • I really hope next week's finale actually kills a main character. Death has been a major part of every previous finale. So that seems like a good assumption to make about this one. But will the death actually stick? That's less certain because all the previous character deaths - Helena, Rachel and Delphine - were quickly undone in the following seasons. It's a pattern the show should really break out of now.