“Now we are even, sestra.”
When Orphan Black centers an episode around a certain plot and commits to it with aplomb, it can be some of the most thrilling television on right now. As much as I love Alison and Donnie, them not being in this episode helps the hour maintain more of a focused, propulsive nature, and it’s fun to watch it all unfold. It’s the Tatiana Maslany show once again–this time for her Sarah and Helena performances–and it’s a great way to end the first half of the season.
The idea of confinement is a big one in this episode, as after all, Helena and Sarah are both in jail cells at the Castor compound. Of course, we’re not just talking about physical confinement; we’re also talking about emotional confinement, confinement that creates everlasting scars of past frustrations (heh). “Helena’s been confined her whole life” is said early on in the hour, and later on, Sarah states about her past: “I was too young, and I felt tied down and trapped.” Feeling like you’re being trapped has a powerful influence on what your actions are in life, whether that be rebelling against an institution, rebelling against other people, or simply accepting your situation and feeling the effects of learned helplessness.
We see that idea with Gracie as well, who seeks out Mrs. S and Felix after getting kicked out of the Prolethean group. “All my life, I’ve had doubts, and I just let my parents tell me what to think and do,” she laments. “I was always taught they were less than human…abominations,” she later says about the clones. It’s this kind of narrow-minded “us vs. them” mentality that seems to prevail for various groups in this show, and that, in turn, inspires fierce protectiveness and in-group unity. “All I’m doing for these men is exactly what you do for your sisters: protect them,” Paul tells Sarah.
At the same time, we’re starting to see these group bonds begin to break. There’s tension between Paul and Dr. Coady, for example, and most notably, Helena ends up leaving Sarah at the compound after breaking out. The entire breakout sequence is tense and extremely well-done, and Helena’s decision packs a pretty large emotional wallop….especially coming after a beautifully acted scene in which Sarah tells Helena about her past. Helena’s interactions with her sestras are some of the most fascinating in the show, and that fact doesn’t change one bit in this episode. Now that she’s out of the compound, it’s time to see how the two react to switching positions.
– “Oh, shit.” “Yes, much shit.”
– “I’ve never smoked anything, or been to a rock concert, or gone skinny dipping…” None of these things appeal to me.
-The scars on Helena’s back parallel the emotional scars explored.
-So apparently, the Castor defect is some kind of STD that causes immense pain and bloodshot eyes.
-Some important discussions about characters’ pasts in this one, as to be expected with the title. Most notably, we learn about the death of Mrs. S’s love, John.
– “Fertile, infertile…they’re all just people, love.” An important idea.
-Ksenia Solo shows up as Shay, Cosima’s new date. It remains to be seen what her character’s purpose is, although I don’t really want Cosima’s purpose for the rest of the season to be a romantic plot; I like seeing her happy, but still. Also, Solo looks damn good as a blonde.
-Alison and Donnie are still out there, taking over the world. I know I wrote above that it’s better they aren’t in this episode, but at the same time, I really hope they tie into the main plot somehow this season. They’re entertaining to watch, but they should be more integral parts of the plot moving forward. We’re already halfway done with the season, after all.
Photo credit: BBC America, Orphan Black