Saturday, July 22, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Rachel Makes a Major Decision After Learning More About P.T. in 'Gag or Throttle'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 5.07 "Gag or Throttle"

As P.T. demands a more aggressive action on Kira and Sarah fights to save her daughter, Rachel discovers a dark secret that makes her question her place within Neolution. Cosima has returned with a vital clue to P.T.'s true identity, and with a bit more digging Sarah believes they'll have enough leverage to force Rachel's hand. A guilt-ridden Mrs. S is ready to storm the gates of Dyad to retrieve her granddaughter.

Rachel has been such a compelling and flawed character throughout the run of the show. She has frequently been an antagonist. One of the clones who sees it as a scientific experiment instead of a family that needs to bond together. She was just as in the dark about the true nature of cloning as everyone else. But she always felt like she was in control. She always believed that she had the answers and was running things. She took pride out of being the one in charge. And yet, every step of the conspiracy only further revealed that she truly didn't know what was going on at all. She has the power to influence the experiment and harm the other clones. But she's not the one at the top making all of the decisions. This season she truly believed that she was enlightened. She saw the face of her creator and was forever changed. She had finally proved her worth to him and could now just be herself. She has proven just how far she's willing to go to further this experiment across the generations. She has put her trust blindly into this man. And now, it is absolutely devastating to see that rug pulled out from underneath her once more.

This season has especially shown some new shades to Rachel. Yes, she's still a very intimidating and unnerving presence. She's still the woman who would casually kill anyone who stands in her way. But the year opened with her at peace with everything. She got everything she ever wanted. Her agenda and attitude changed in an instant. She wanted to keep the clones alive. She was no longer willing to kill anyone who stood in her way of getting answers. No, it wasn't suddenly comforting that she wanted to spend time with Kira. She wanted that relationship in order to continue the scientific study. She wanted answers for why Kira is so special. Kira yearning for those answers is what allowed it to occur in the first place. And now, it's striking to see the parallels between Kira and Rachel. They were both young children whose lives were completely defined by this experiment. Rachel grew up fully aware of being a clone. Kira has known about her family for awhile now too - if not the full details of their always chaotic lives. They have both found some clarity this season. But that has only made it more apparent just how sinister and horrifying all of this truly is.

Rachel is still willing to go along with everything though. This is a pivotal episode for her. One that proves she may never feel fully satisfied because she gave up her humanity in order to be a part of Neolution. She has given her life to this organization only for the leaders to always disregard her or belittle her. She believes she has her independence now. She believes she is no longer patented. She is her own being. No one can claim ownership of her. She is free unlike the rest of the clones. But that's not true at all. A part of her is still synthetic that can be used to control her and manipulate the situation to someone else's benefit. P.T. presented himself as a benevolent being who trusted Rachel and saw the strength in her that her mother failed to have up until the day she died. But now, it's clear that that was all a ruse. He was just telling Rachel what she wanted to hear in order to control her. He is the man sitting comfortably at the top. He is becoming more visible to the world now that he's getting closer to achieving his ultimate goals. But he still needs Rachel. The discovery of him constantly spying on her through the eye implanted in her head is absolutely destructive. It's a crushing realization for Rachel as she sees that nothing she does has truly been of her own free will.

The story then pivots to what happens next now that Rachel is aware of this information. Is it motivation for her to strike against P.T.? Or will she continue to carry out his plans because she feels trapped and has no alternate solution? It's an intense struggle for her. One that she drowns in a lot of alcohol. That could be the rationalization for what she ultimately does as well. Could she have broken free of P.T.'s control and given Kira back over to Sarah if she wasn't drunk to the point of hallucinating? At first, that seems like her coping mechanism for all of this. Her realizing that P.T. is just like all the other men she has worked with. She's still willing to keep Sarah away from Kira and drug Kira so that her eggs can be harvested. But all of this also comes with the revelation of P.T.'s true identity. Cosima has actually found his real name. He's not 170-years-old. That's a completely false story too. He's just a man at the top of this nefarious organization. He's a monster who exerts as much control as possible. But he's not immortal. He's not special in the way that Rachel and Kira are. He just wants to exploit them for his own personal benefit. Learning all of this is what motivates Rachel into taking action.

As such, it's a thrilling sequence to watch. Rachel's motivations are always shifting. She has worked with Sarah in the past. But they've also fought many more times. Rachel lost her eye in the first place because of Sarah. And now, Rachel needs to do the selfless thing and save Kira from all of this monstrosity. She stages the jailbreak and ensures that P.T. doesn't figure it out until it is too late. Of course, he has his suspicions and seems to send shock waves to Rachel's robotic eye that cause a ton of pain. But it's not enough to actually stop Rachel. She succeeds in being able to get Kira out of Dyad. This act of rebellion is her showing her independence. It humanizes her in such a strong way. Even Mrs. S is very appreciative of what Rachel has done - and she just threatened to hurt her in the previous episode too! But the final action Rachel does is even more empowering while also quite disturbing. Again, it seems unlikely that she would have done it without the liquid courage. She actually cuts the eye out of her head. This time it's her choosing to go without the eyesight. The first time it was Sarah attacking her with the intention of killing her. This time it's an act of rebellion that signals just how much control Rachel needs over her life. It has pushed her to the brink of death. She may die from the amount of blood loss. Of course, the show never presents death as that simple. She's been brought back before. She'll likely have to face some kind of punishment for this behavior. But this is just a strong way to close this hour while showing just how far Rachel has come throughout the entire series.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Gag or Throttle" was written by Renée St. Cyr and directed by David Frazee.
  • Okay, it's definitely weird that Felix has been missing for a ton of this final season. He's been missing from the last three episodes I believe? That's just too much time away with only occasional pieces of dialogue saying that whatever he is doing with Adele in Europe is helping. But he's definitely missed. 
  • Speaking of long absent characters, Alison returns home this week as well. She returns with a completely new attitude towards life. It's surprising and really funny too. It gives this episode its moments of levity. It's just fun to see her with purple hair, throwing away all of her crafts and no longer wanting to control Donnie's life. Will this new mindset actually stick? It seems unlikely.
  • Moreover, Mark and Gracie return as well. Those returns are a little less exciting - largely because I had forgotten that both were still alive. It just wasn't that exciting to keep track of which Castor clones were still out there. When they're onscreen, it's easy to track them. But once they leave, it's hard to really care. But these two return largely so P.T. and Virginia have a way of discovering Helena.
  • When Rachel texts someone that she's planning on releasing Kira, it's apparently Art. That seems like it happens just to include Art in this episode somehow. He's not even that important. He pops up briefly but is never the true focus of the escape. He's just there to provide some kind of backup for Sarah and Mrs. S.
  • Last week, the villagers on the island were revolting against P.T. because Cosima exposed him as a fraud. They were burning the place and rioting. But here, Rachel shows up on the island and everything is fine again. There's no panic or cause for alarm at all. That's weird.
  • The travel times getting to and from the island are just getting shorter and shorter. It's important that Cosima reunites with Scott and is able to figure out P.T.'s true identity here. But she just escaped the island by boat last week. And now, she's already returned home and ditched the boat. Plus, Rachel travels to and from the island once more with relative ease.