Ulterior motives lurk in Orphan Black (Season 2, Episode 2 Recap)


Nothing is what it seems to be in the world of Orphan Black. Public and private goals are seldom the same, and behind every welcoming smile lurks an ulterior motive. The clones spent the first season learning that the hard way—especially with the reveal of their monitors—and yet in a world filled with so much danger, it’s natural to yearn for safety. After going through hell wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to trust? Several times tonight our heroes find a sanctuary, only to have the rug pulled out from under them once more. “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” peels away at various pristine exteriors to expose what’s lurking underneath. And what’s there ain’t too pretty.

Last week the Clone Club reunited in a fantastic scene that brought Sarah, Alison, Cosima, and Felix together to plan Kira’s rescue. This week those relationships start to unravel as the clones move further and further away from one another. Sarah heads off with Art to find Kira and stumbles into Mrs. S instead; Alison turns to Felix for emotional support; Cosima shacks up with the Dyad Institute; and Helena falls into the hands of the new branch of Proletheans. These four disparate stories and tones are a lot for Orphan Black to juggle, but it does so with aplomb, letting the stories speak to each other thematically rather than trying to intersect the plots.

After her suspicious absence from the premiere, Mrs. S makes her glorious, gun-totting return as she uses some complicated theatrics to reunite with Sarah. As usual, nothing is what it appears to be. That desperate phone call from Kira that opens the episode was staged and the scary looking man holding her hostage is a nice guy named Benjamin. It turns out neither the Neolutionists nor the Proletheans were responsible for Kira’s kidnapping; Mrs. S staged the whole thing to sneak Kira into a safe house. It’s understandable that after all the manipulation Sarah doesn’t know whom to believe. “Whose side are you on, S?” she asks. “Yours love. It’s always been yours.” Maria Doyle Kennedy delivers the line with such kindness, it’s hard not to believe her. On the other hand, trust is dangerous on this show.

Mrs. S takes Sarah to the Bird Watchers, a rebel network she’s worked with since her good old days as a rebellious Irish youth selling guns to fund labor strikes. (I would totally watch that prequel, by the way). The organization runs a North American safe house and that’s where Mrs. S took Sarah and Felix when they first fled England. In other words, the Bird Watchers are practically family. Sarah remembers their names the way you might a distant relative you haven’t seen in a while. Motherly Brenda makes up beds, cooks dinner, and plays temporary grandmother to Kira.

I must say it’s nice to have Sarah and Kira reunited so soon. I expected Orphan Black to string along Kira’s kidnapping plot for the majority of the season, and, as usual, the show surprised me. But Mrs. S claims their reunion can only be a temporary one; she and the Bird Watchers have a plan to smuggle Kira out of the country. To Sarah’s credit she doesn’t trust what she sees. Having grown up in world of disappointment, Sarah’s well aware of the danger of situations that look too good to be true. She senses Mrs. S is lying when she claims to know nothing about Project Leda, and she doesn’t like the cloak-and-danger protocol of the Bird Watchers.

In one of my favorite scenes, Sarah turns to Kira for a second opinion. She knows her daughter well enough to sense when something’s wrong and—more importantly—she wants to give Kira a say in her future. It’s a fantastic moment of a mother giving her young daughter agency. Kira shares her mother’s fears that something is off, and given that Kira’s intuitions are almost always right, the duo decide to make a beak for it. They steal a truck just in time for the Bird Watchers to reveal their true allegiance; tired of being righteous but broke, they were seduced by the deep pockets of the Proletheans.

Although we barely get to know the Bird Watchers, there’s a palpable sense of betrayal when Brenda shows her true colors, and Kennedy plays it beautifully. These used to be the people Mrs. S trusted most in the world. If even they can be corrupted, what hope is there?

In an action sequence that rivals last week’s cold open, Mrs. S attacks her friends with the icy determination of someone who’s learned violence is too often the only answer. As with the Brenda, Mrs. S’s stern maternal act hides a woman capable of much more than babysitting. She’s not a villain—she lets Kira and Sarah escape—but after watching her use a butcher knife to pin a friend’s hands to the table and then shoot her at point blank range, it’s hard to consider Mrs. S a “good guy” either. The Bird Watchers reveal their corruption, but Mrs. S is still playing her secrets close to the chest.

Alison also has a secret that lurks beneath the surface: She murdered Aynsley. It’s a remarkably unpleasant reality, one Alison herself tries to suppress behind time steps and high notes. A court of law could quibble about the exact name for her actions—showrunner Graeme Manson has called it “negligible homicide”—but she had every opportunity to save a life and actively decided not to. Not only that, she killed a mother with young children. It’s a deplorable act, arguably worse than anything this show’s “villains” have done so far. Is there a road back from murder? Should we even be rooting for a murderer to find redemption? I honestly don’t know, and the fact that Alison’s plot is the most overtly comedic adds another wrinkle to the proceedings. It will be interesting to see if Orphan Black can stick the landing on this one.

Alison finally starts to confront Aynsley’s death—and her role in it—as she attends her former friend’s funeral. Thanks to Donnie’s sudden incompetence she spots some incriminating monitor-ish texts on his phone and any sense of moral righteousness instantly falls away. Donnie is her monitor after all, which means Aynsley died for absolutely no reason. As quick as you can say “craft room,” Alison is back to downing glasses of wine and tiny bottles of vodka. She turns to Felix both for support (“I killed Aynsley,” she weeps. “I mean not really, just hardly,” he replies, unconvincingly) and to help her come up with a plan. Their scheme to entrap Donnie works, but rather than blow up her perfect suburban life, Alison pretends to go along with his terrible cover story (he followed Alison because she hasn’t cried yet and he was worried). So long as Alison “Queen of Repression” Hendrix pretends she doesn’t know about Donnie’s double life, she can ignore her secret as well. She’s keeping it together on the outside, but that can’t last long, especially with the musical’s opening night just days away.

Most of this week’s stories focus on exposing the darkness beneath the surface, but the Neolutionists are on the opposite path, putting their best foot forward to impress Cosima. With all of Leekie’s talk of curing diseases, promising transparency, and offering to build a dream lab, it’s easy to forget these are the people who used to kidnap the clones in their sleep and run experiments on them. Delphine plays translator between Leekie’s corporate jargon and Cosima’s sardonic sense of humor, and in some ways she’s serving as a peacekeeper between an eccentric father and his rebellious daughter. It’s downright charming! As long as you don’t think about the fact that Leekie regularly blackmails people into spying on his “children.”

Cosima’s seen the Dyad’s evil side but now she glimpses how the Institute has sold itself for the past century: as a group of progressive scientists trying to make the world a better place. She knows it’s not entirely true, but the promise of a dream lab, free access to research materials, and Delphine nearby are too good to pass up.

While season one positioned the Dyad Institute and the Proletheans as opposing forces, season two juxtaposes the religious order against itself. After briefly meeting stone-faced Mark in the diner last week, we get a proper introduction to the Proletheans 2.0 tonight. Tomas turned up in dark alleys and shadowy rooms, but this new order live on a bright airy farm full of freshly laundered clothes and healthy livestock. Their soft-spoken leader Henrik is the perfect fatherly answer to Tomas’ abusive figurehead. Henrik steered his faith through science (at MIT no less!) and he dispatches welcoming platitudes as he artificially inseminates cows. What’s not to love? He sends Mark to collect Helena and Tomas, presumably to peacefully welcome the old order into the fold.

As with the Bird Watchers, the Prolethean compound at first appears to be an oasis of safety. They commune with nature, believe in science, and skip the self-mutilation. Henrik isn’t even concerned about the fact that Helena’s organs are reversed—a natural byproduct of being a twin, he says. But then Henrik casually mentions that he likes Helena so much he wants to make her part of the “family” and starts asking questions about her fertility—all of which should set off about a million red flags.

Whereas Tomas’ old order represented the insidious menace that lurks in the basements of big institutions—and called to mind abuses of the Catholic Church—the Proletheans 2.0 explore a different kind of institutionalized danger. They fit neatly into the mold of a religious cult that hides in plain sight. Everything might look bright and sunny on the surface, but turn the log over and there are just as many horrors underneath.

And just to remove any room for doubt about his true motives, Henrik has Tomas killed with a cattle gun. “It’s a brand new day,” he announces cheerfully with a tip of his cowboy hat. It’s equal parts gruesome and awesome, another sign that Orphan Black isn’t afraid to change the status quo at a moment’s notice. Goodbye Tomas. Hello Henrik.

We’re only two episodes in and the bodies are already racking up—that’s three dead tonight and two in last week’s premiere. The episode ends with the Clone Club more splintered than ever. Sarah, Kira, and Felix are headed out of town in a pickup truck for places unknown; Cosima officially throws her hat in with the Dyad Institute; Helena’s at the mercy of the Proletheans; Art and Mrs. S are both going lone wolf; and Alison has no one to turn to as her world comes crashing down around her. There’s relative peace for the moment and none of our heroes are directly in harm’s way. But something is rotten in the state of Orphan Black and it probably won’t be long before it all comes bubbling to the surface.

Clone Club Conversations

• Art is officially in the Clone Club! He doesn’t get much to do this week besides have a brief run in with Daniel, but it will be nice to have him working with the clones rather than trying to solve a mystery we already know the answer to.
• No Paul tonight! Have the creators been listening to me?
• This Week in Clone Fashion: Sarah wears leather pants to investigate her daughter’s disappearance; Alison cosplays as Betty Draper for Aynsley’s funeral; and Cosima wears a skin-tight dress to a business meeting.
• Clones Meeting Clones: Cosima meets Rachel! They discuss the idea of “the original” clone, which seems to indicate we’ll find out more about her this season. Could Rachel be the original? She would be the type to describe her own DNA as “robust.”
• Alison’s musical has shades of Slings And Arrows, another Canadian television masterpiece. I love the idea that someone named Carter is constantly sobbing through these rehearsals.
• The first thing Cosima asks for in her fantasy lab is a “chill zone” with a leather couch. In related news, I love Cosima.
• Last week’s prolonged, high-octane cold open (Sarah being attacked in a diner) and this week’s short, suspenseful one (Kira making a scared phone call) were equally griping and yet entirely different. I love Orphan Black’s willingness to play around with tone and style from week to week.
• Nice to catch a glimpse of Alison’s children—her motherhood is one of her defining characteristics and yet we seldom see her interacting with her kids
• “My sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me.” And a million Clonesbians cheered.