Saturday, June 17, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Rachel Has a Deal for Sarah as Kira Adjusts to a New Life in 'Clutch of Greed'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 5.02 "Clutch of Greed"

Captured by Neolution, Sarah receives a damning ultimatum from Rachel: come into the ford or lose your family. Her decision causes a clash with Kira who begins exploring her own maturity. Felix brings an old ally into the mix to help his family get Kira.

Orphan Black has a weird relationship with death. The narrative has always had life-or-death stakes to it. Sarah has frequently been on the run and asked her loved ones to go into hiding while she figures out the next layer of the central conspiracy. But none of the major clones have been killed across the series run. There are a couple of one-offs who popped up in order to establish the threat against all of the clones. Beth is the sole exception but it was through death that the audience and the other characters came to understand her. But the show hasn't killed off a clone who has been a part of the narrative for a long time. One who has an emotional connection with the audience. The show had the ability to do this because it didn't have the risk of losing a great actress giving a great performance. Tatiana Maslany would still be on the show doing incredible work. She just wouldn't be playing one more character. That never really happened in the previous four seasons. It would tease major deaths amongst the cast. But it would always eventually back out and find a way to keep them alive. It's become a formulaic and expected twist of the show. This being the final season sets up the expectation that this will change. Now is the time for the show to really be brutal and start killing off a bunch of clones. It's not a surprising twist but it does help redefine the stakes for the final year and make it clear that the show is operating with some sense of finality to it. It knows that the story is ending and these characters can die because things don't need to be set up for another season. This is it.

So, I am curious how many times a clone is going to die this season. It wouldn't be surprising if most of them go. It may take until the end of the season. But death could reign down on this family. It all starts in "Clutch of Greed" with M.K. She was only introduced last season but she formed an instant connection to the seestras and the audience. She was different. She chose not to be an active part of the family. She would rather be in hiding. She would look out for the others. But she did so from afar. She wasn't a part of their every day lives. The premiere established that they needed her help in order to deal with this new threat from Rachel. She shows up here willing to help get Sarah and her family to safety. She's willing to break them out of Dyad. But she's also dying. She's started getting sick. It could be very lackluster that she decides to stop running now because that's all she has ever done in her life. The decision and reveal do come very quickly. But it's still a very effective final moment for her. She is stomped to death by Ferdinand. Those two have such a rich and complicated backstory. Her torturing him and stealing his money was a highlight of last season. But now, it comes back to hurt her. She is killed and that puts so many of the pieces into motion for the story of this final season.

Of course, Ferdinand is taking more of his aggressions out on M.K. than just his feelings towards her. Yes, when he realizes that it's her, he's happy to get his revenge for stealing his money. He sees it as an opportunity to finish what was started in Helsinki. But it also comes when he's at a crossroads in his life. He loves Rachel but she has officially joined Neolution. She has returned to Dyad as a changed person. Seeing that in the premiere was very unsettling but no less terrifying. She has clarity and purpose. She no longer needs to let her rage out on anyone. That's how she's existed for the first four seasons. And now, she's different. She's no longer the woman Ferdinand fell in love with. She will no longer hit him. She's now a part of the organization that he hates. He has killed people from Neolution before. He's now being asked to work for them. He's willing to do so because he still loves Rachel. But with her no longer being the same, he's wondering if he should continue this relationship? He's unsure. He lets his rage out on M.K. It's him acting the same way he always has. That has major consequences for Rachel. She has one less clone to control. She wanted all of them alive for further testing. And now, she needs to take action against Ferdinand.

Plus, it seems that M.K. did all of this for nothing. She exposed herself to the world because she wanted to get Sarah and her family out of this potentially dangerous situation. Sarah came back to get her because she deserved a better life as well. Sarah only survived because of M.K. Her sacrifice needs to mean something. They need to move on in honor of her. But that's not exactly the case. They don't ultimately get into the vehicle that will take them away from this life. Instead, Kira wants a chance to be normal. It's the show hinging all of this around a child. That's a precarious plot twist because it forces a lot of responsibility on the young actor. Children have ruined a number of great shows over the years because they are more easily annoying and unnecessary than adult characters. Kira has been important in the past. The show has been very ambiguous about her connection to the clones. She's had special abilities but they've so far been undefined. She's special and that's it. Helena's babies are that way as well. Meanwhile, Sarah and Helena are special because they were able to get pregnant in the first place. They are different from the rest of the clones. And that's why they are being studied more than the others. It's why they've always been running. And now, Kira wants to stop because she wants answers. It's a moment that is a little frustrating. It's the show forcing itself to stop and not do the twist it always does. It won't run away to avoid these questions. It plans on addressing them heads on.

Of course, that will lead to stories of relative normalcy for these characters. Things will never be completely normal until the clones get out from under the control of Neolution. They will always be special. People will always want to control and study them because they are a scientific revolution. Life will always be dangerous for them. But this twist will allow the show to once again return to its normal storytelling structure with its characters. The main clones will all be off in their own worlds dealing with their problems which range in severity. They will clash in compelling ways as well. But Cosima will be in the lab studying, Alison will be in suburbia worrying about community functions, Helena will be off in parts unknown, and Sarah and Rachel will be clashing over this entire experiment. It's the show re-establishing the status quo. But it doesn't really feel like a betrayal for the narrative or the characters. Sarah is willing to go along with all of this right now because it's what Kira wants. Kira wants to understand who she is and Rachel can seemingly provide those answers because she herself has found such clarity. That relationship could deepen this season and that would really unnerve Sarah. But it's clear that more is happening as well because PT is being cagey with his responses to Cosima while Delphine shows up at Siobhan's house with information that must be kept from the clones. So, things are always going to be intense even though the show is settling into itself by the end of the episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Clutch of Greed" was written by Jeremy Boxen and directed by John Fawcett.
  • The premiere kept the mystery of whether PT Westmorland was real or not. Was he actually 170 years old? Or was he just a myth? This episode confirms his existence though. He shows up and is played by Stephen McHattie. It's an effective casting. But again, his presence doesn't really reveal anything new. Cosima is still very cautious about this new environment she's in.
  • There's the brief fear that the treatment isn't working for Cosima. She's still coughing and Charlotte is worried about her. But then, everything is revealed to be working during her meeting with PT. So, she will be able to save her sisters from this disease. Perhaps not from the other dangers in this world though.
  • Travel between the Island and the city with the rest of the clones is getting shorter and shorter. More characters are making that journey. Here, Rachel and Sarah show back up in the city for the entire episode. And then, the episode ends with Delphine back as well leaving Cosima alone on the Island.
  • Perhaps traveling to the Island will give Ira some more agency this season. Right now, he's just there. He's in the background of a number of scenes but he's not really important yet. He's just reacting to the news of what has happened to Susan. Reuniting with her will give him purpose again. But it wouldn't be surprising if he's killed at some point this season.
  • Helena escapes from the hospital after it's revealed her babies' injuries are healing themselves. The doctors want to run more tests and she doesn't trust them. The sight of her sticking the needle into the doctor is horrifying because she's just trying to do her job. She didn't have nefarious intentions. But now, Helena's on the run and only Donnie knows where she'll go. He'll only tell Sarah as well.
  • Alison continues to grow frustrated because people keep telling her to just sit back and do nothing. That's not something that she does well. She can't provide Neolution with answers as to where Helena and Donnie are. Nor can she escape to go take back her position of power in the community. Perhaps when Donnie returns, she'll have more freedom again.