Saturday, July 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Sarah and Mrs. S Meet a Familiar Face in 'Let the Children and Childbearers Toil'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 5.04 "Let the Children and Childbearers Toil"

Following up on intel from a mysterious source, Mrs. S heads on the road with Sarah to investigate a lead on a Neolution defector. An unexpected reunion takes place on the island, while Cosima's research leads her to a terrible discovery.

The final season of Orphan Black overall has been fairly strong so far. Last week's Alison spotlight hour was terrific while the previous two episodes did a compelling job introducing the new stories for the season while still making things even more intense for the clones. "Let the Children and Childbearers Toil" is a bit weaker in comparison. There are still some strong moments. This is pretty great episode for Mrs. S as she proves just how active she is going to be in the story for this season. She's the one leading the charge and everyone just has to accept that and trust that she's protecting all of their best interests. But overall, this episode is bit too expositional. It's re-introducing some characters and trying to make them relevant in the story once more. It's trying to connect everything that has happened on the show up to this point and have it all make sense. It's not all that necessary. Yes, it makes it seem like it was all connected and the creative team had it planned all along. But whenever the series does callbacks to Season 3, it's just not all that effective. This episode has to remember those events in order to build to a shocking reveal. It's just not the most exciting thing that the show could be doing at the moment.

So, Virginia Coady makes her surprising return to the story here. She shows up locked away in a psychiatric facility. She was imprisoned there and pumped full of drugs by Susan who didn't want her revealing any of Neolution's secrets to the public. She returns in order to bring better context to the rest of the important characters in this story. So, she shares the story of how she used to work with PT Westmorland and Susan Duncan. They were a team but Susan frequently disagreed with the other two regarding the means of the scientific experiments. That tracks because underneath all of Susan's manipulations is a love for her creations. Meanwhile, Coady was literally seen running a mad experiment with the Castor boys. Again, the story of the third season was a mess. So, I don't entirely remember what the purpose of all of that was. What was Coady trying to accomplish? I don't even remember how that season left things with her. It's almost a complete blank in my mind. So, that's a serious problem. It's nice to see Sarah not be able to control her temper around Coady. But they ultimately need each other as well.

Coady needs to escape because she's being held against her will. Meanwhile, Sarah and Mrs. S need her because she holds crucial information about PT that could prove beneficial in their fight against him and Neolution. She does shed some light on the early days of this grand genetic experiment. Of course, that also dovetails into the ongoing mystery of the beast that is currently roaming the island just outside the village. That was a shocking development from the season premiere. It attacked Sarah but she managed to survive. And now, Coady reveals that he was their first test subject. The science was more crude back in those days and the scientists were more vicious and reckless. That's what led to the falling out between Coady and Susan. They disagreed on everything. So, they split control of the project with Susan getting Leda and Coady getting Castor. Meanwhile, the creature in the forest of the island is more beast than man now. The experiments done on him caused him to change in rapid and surprising ways that they couldn't always control. It's not a surprising development. But it still plays as this big, shocking reveal that should leave the audience very worried about the characters currently on the island.

Of course, Cosima is mounting her own investigation into the creature that roams the island. The show does some cheap thrills and scares at the top of the hour with Charlotte and her new friend venturing into the woods in search of their missing pig. They only hear the creature but it's enough to scare them to go back to the village. Meanwhile, Cosima is more curious and wants to explore. She knows it's not a bear like Mud claims. But this investigation largely plays as Cosima just barely being able to covertly follow people and overhear just enough details about what's actually going on. Mud refuses to give up any details. She's working with PT and Cosima is able to break into his house during one of his treatments. It's then that she sees the brutality on display in a cage in the basement of the building. The imagery is intense. But the show is still loving the mystery of it all too much. Mud doesn't reveal anything new to Cosima that the audience doesn't already know through the conversations happening elsewhere. Sure, it's this part of the story where the audience actually gets a glimpse of the creature to reveal that it isn't as deformed as everyone said but still pretty monstrous. Cosima's presence seems to be putting Mud in danger as well because this creature spooks easily. But none of this really seems all that important in the grand scheme of things. It largely just gives these characters something to do this week while amping up the crazy twists for the final season.

Unsurprisingly, the most moving and significant part of this episode comes when Sarah goes to visit Helena in the convent. It's very convenient that the convent happens to be close to where the hotel bar and psychiatric facility are. But it's also just so rewarding to see these characters back together addressing the things that only they understand. They have a special connection because they are twins in addition to being clones. They have a special bond. It's a relationship that Sarah has been distant from even though she does want to protect Helena throughout all of this. But now, she is forced to address the fact that she has this special connection with Helena and Kira. They are different from the rest. Their genes are slightly altered. Kira remains the key that will unlock whatever it is PT and Rachel are planning next. Everyone is forced to cooperate with that plan while knowing just how dangerous that can be. Mrs. S is doing something about it by trying to find leverage to use against them. Meanwhile, Susan is willing to continue working with PT because the science is just too important to walk away from. But all of this actually means something when it comes to Sarah and Helena sitting down to talk about it. Sarah is forced to accept that she felt Kira's strength when she was half-dead on the island. That's what got her to survive. She understands that feeling now in a way that Helena and Kira have seemingly always had. It's a bonding moment. One that leads to more understanding. And that's something that Sarah needs right now. She and Kira are fighting over how much independence Kira should have. She's growing up and has more questions about what makes her so special. But she'll only understand and appreciate why everyone is worried about her being with Rachel once she knows everything that is going on in this crazy world.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Let the Children and Childbearers Toil" was written by Greg Nelson and directed by David Wellington.
  • Mrs. S is keeping secrets from the family. They need to trust her. She's only telling people what they need to know. So, it's a lot to keep track of. Her contact near PT is obviously Delphine. She's providing all of this information. But Mrs. S is also relying on Scott to find clues throughout history while giving orders to Sarah and Felix that don't make sense right away.
  • The show has always had such a fascination with the relationship between mothers and daughters. They have all been fraught at one point or another. They are perhaps defined by past patterns that inform how crazy one of them used to act all those years ago. But it's also treated as a punchline here too because Mrs. S doesn't believe in the therapy advice she gets from Dr. Emily Perkins.
  • Coady manages to steal a visitor's pass from Sarah during their big altercation once it's clear she won't be getting out of this facility tonight. After that, Sarah and Mrs. S return home. That's strange. They can't continue these cover identities forever. But they also are responsible for Coady getting out of this place should she ever be successful with that.
  • Mrs. S told Felix to accept a visitor late at night. But that visitor being Adele was pretty surprising. He purposefully kept the truth about clones away from her. He didn't want her to be a part of this crazy family. And now, Mrs. S reveals the truth to her because she needs her expertise as a lawyer. M.K. is gone so they have no easy way to look at the bank accounts in Switzerland that tie back to Neolution somehow.
  • Ira learns about what Susan did to Coady as well. She seems to confess everything to him offscreen so that he's in the know on all of this too. He's surprised that Susan did this to the woman who was in charge of Castor. But he's different from his brothers. So, it doesn't make much sense. He just needs to be suspicious of everything that is happening on the island right now.