Orphan Black turns into a high-stakes comedy of errors this week [S2E7]

Caroleine Siede reviews the latest episode of the BBC's clone drama

“I say we divide and conquer. That’s a good enough strategy, isn’t it?” Sarah’s suggestion doubles as Orphan Black’s motto this week. This show is always segmented, but never before have things felt this disparate and expansive. “Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things” jumps back and forth between plots with wildly different tones: Alison is stuck in a high-stakes comedy of errors; Cosima is in a medical melodrama; and Leekie and Rachel are playing out a corporate thriller. What ties everything together tonight are themes of trust and allegiance. When pushes come to shove, to whom are these clones loyal?

The centerpiece of this episode is Alison, and it’s nice to see her in the spotlight after taking a backseat to Sarah, Rachel, and Helena this season. She admits to Vic that she murdered Aynsley, only to discover he's working for Detective Angie Deangelis. Alison’s objective is clear: Convince Vic not to get her arrested and pull off a flawless Family Day at rehab.

Interestingly, Alison’s emotional journey this season has centered on Donnie’s betrayal of her trust, while the fact that she murdered someone has been turned into a comedic subplot. I’m not rooting for Alison to be arrested, but on the other hand, shouldn’t she be punished for murdering an innocent woman? I’m still not sure whether the show wants make me to feel bad that Alison left two young children motherless or whether I’m supposed to treat the whole thing as a dark joke.

Thankfully, this episode does a fantastic job of distracting me from those larger moral questions by being so damn funny. The scenes in rehab are easily the best comedic set-pieces Orphan Black has ever done. In her time of trouble Alison turns to the closest thing she has to a best friend: Felix. While her trust in Vic was misplaced, her faith in Felix is rewarded. He enlists Sarah as emotional blackmail, but drugs Vic's tea as well just to be safe. Family Day turns into a brilliantly executed madcap comedy that includes Vic’s metaphor-filled atonement, Felix and Alison’s farcical body hiding, and the return of Sarah-as-Alison (and then Sarah-as-Alison-as-Donnie in a bizarre role playing game).

Alison—having been pushed too far—confronts Donnie about his monitor status (and inadvertently admits she’s a clone). She finally says the words she’s been repressing all season: “You destroyed us, Donnie, with the spying and the lies. I love you so much. And you ruined our family and you’re so stupid you don’t even know why.” It’s a big step forward for Alison Hendrix and it’s exciting to see her finally take it after stalling for so long. Maybe Vic’s encouragement to let things out actually did a little good after all.

Cosima is also having trouble with a monitor who’s keeping secrets from her. Delphine lied about the fact that Cosima’s treatment relies on Kira’s DNA and that they’ll need more samples from the little girl. On the surface Cosima and Alison couldn’t be more different, but they both reach the same breaking point tonight. Cosima won’t be lied to by the woman she loves, and she refuses to accept that Delphine’s secrecy was justified. Instead she orders Delphine out and reasserts her agency, “This is my lab. My body.” Yet Cosima's also a pragmatist, and she’s knows the only way to get better is with Kira’s DNA. But instead of stealing it as Dyad might, she humbles herself and asks for Sarah’s help.

The best way to track Sarah’s character growth is through her shifting allegiances. At the start of season one her master plan was to disappear with Kira and Felix. Tonight she’s given the opportunity to basically do just that. Cal’s got people in Iceland (of course he does), and he’s ready to flee to the safety of Reykjavik with Sarah and Kira in tow. It’s easy to imagine the Sarah of the premiere leaping at that opportunity, but after a season and half of clone conspiracies, Sarah is a very different person. Tonight alone she puts aside her differences with Mrs. S to become the sleuthing duo they were always meant to be; comes running to rehab to help Alison out of a sticky situation; and ultimately decides to stay and help Cosima rather than flee to safety. Sarah’s allegiance has always been to her family. The biggest change is that she now sees Mrs. S, Alison, and Cosima as a part of it.

If Sarah’s loyalty is familial, then Rachel’s is professional. Growing up as a self-aware clone, she built her identity around her loyalty to the Dyad Institute. That commitment is tested tonight when Mrs. S and Paul help reunite her with her adoptive father (and creator) Ethan Duncan. To which of her two father figures does Rachel owe allegiance? Duncan or Leekie?

It turns out that dichotomy is a red herring. Rachel’s loyalty lies not with any one person, but with the larger organization that created her. She leapfrogs Leekie’s position and makes a deal to overthrow him with his newly introduced superior Marian (Michelle Forbes).

Yet while Rachel likes to pretend her corporate loyalties overpower her human emotions, her façade drops a few times tonight. She breaks down in tears when she’s reunited with Duncan. And instead of letting Dyad murder Leekie, she gives him a head start—a final parting gift to the man who helped raise her. “Nurture prevails,” she explains as she tells Leekie to run for his life—asserting power over him and hinting at her humanity in one fell swoop.

But Leekie doesn’t get off that easily. Rachel betrayed his trust by going to his superior, but Leekie has plenty of betrayal to account for as well. He enlisted Donnie’s spying skills through an innocuous sociology study, but refused to tell him the true nature and extent of the testing. Donnie’s used to doing the lying, and he doesn’t like how it feels to be on this side of the table. He firmly announces he wants out of the study and then accidentally blows Leekie’s head off.

Now that’s the kind of black comedy that works much better than Aynsley’s murder. Bumbling Donnie—who was apparently just in over his head with this whole monitoring thing—accidentally murders the man he was slave to for years while trying to meekly declare his independence. It’s an unexpected turn for Donnie and a bittersweet exit for Leekie. Ever the scientist, Leekie assumed he could control Donnie and Rachel the way he controls variables in an experiment. In pretending that his subjects had no agency, Leekie wrote his own downfall. Now it’s time for Dyad to learn the same lesson.

Clone Club Conversations

Published 7:00 pm Sat, May 31, 2014

About the Author

Caroline Siede is a freelance writer living in Chicago where the cold never bothers her anyway. She frequently contributes to The A.V. Club and documents her experiences in the city on her blog Introverted Chicago. When not contemplating time travel paradoxes, she often tweets sarcastic things @CarolineSiede.

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