“You know, I’m not really your brother.”
“Well, you are. Biology says you are.”
This season of Orphan Black has been exploring what it means to be a family, to feel a strong connection to those you are genetically similar to. Of course, the big idea that then comes into play here is nature vs. nurture: are you the way you are because biology says so, or because of the environment and its molding ability? Are families formed or broken apart merely on the basis of biology? It’s an intriguing question, and although it can sometimes get lost amidst the flurry of plot, it’s at the forefront in this episode.
In fact, for all the previous episodes’ talk of crafting and bringing families together, “Newer Elements of Our Defense” seems to be about what happens when they begin to fall apart, piece by piece. We have three characters who go through some form of abandonment in this hour: 1) Bonnie Johanssen casts out her daughter after a miscarriage, stating that Gracie “ruined the last chance for this family” and that she “will not be welcome back again”, 2) Helena feels as if her family has abandoned her, and 3) Parsons has his head sliced open, and his sole use is as a clone to be experimented on by his mother. The scene in which Helena stabs him with a scalpel and puts him out of his misery is beautifully played Tatiana Maslany, and it’s the emotional high of the episode. “We’ve both been abandoned by our family, left to suffer,” she says. “I will make it go away. No more pain, little one.” As gruesome as it may be to watch, it’s also an extremely poignant and telling moment in the episode, and it says a lot about Helena’s mindset at this point.
There’s also another idea that plays out throughout the hour: attachment with supposed “outsiders”. Mark tells Sarah that he and his brothers “weren’t allowed outside attachments” because “hunting people is what [they] were trained for”. Also, even though Sarah and Mark are technically sister and brother, they also can’t help but view each other as very different. It’s not as simple as Sarah saying “biology says so”, as we know that both nature and nurture play a role in who you become.
It’s key to note that Helena was also once an outsider to Sarah. Mark observes that she’s “trying hard to save someone [she] actually tried to kill earlier”, and she responds with: “…the more reason I’m doing this.” In the end, even if you feel like all hope has been lost–like your family has abandoned you–there’s going to be somewhere out there waiting to get you back home.
– “No one ever expected much from you, anyway.” Interesting to start to piece together the hierarchy within the male clone group.
– “Is everyone else’s life this chaotic?” Alison and Donnie are extremely entertaining, as always. The introduction of Justin Chatwin as Jason Kellerman, Alison’s high school sweetheart, is definitely going to throw a wrinkle into things going forward. Let’s hope that this character is better than the one Jimmy/Jack/Steve turned out to be in Shameless (which, by the way, is a show I highly recommend).
-Nice to see Felix encouraging Cosima to get out there and meet some people. They’ve both been criminally underused this season, so I hope to see more of them moving forward.
-Congrats on the season four renewal, show.
Photo credit: Orphan Black, BBC America