Orphan Black / Screen

Orphan Black Starts Off Strong With “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed”

Trapped in a tiny bathroom with only one exit and a gun-toting Ari Millen on the other side of it, Sarah smashed through a weak and water-damaged wall into the street and escaped. It reminded me of the pilot when Sarah retreated into the police station’s bathroom and drank soap to induce vomiting. That scene was the one that hooked me on Orphan Black and Sarah Manning, and the season two premiere “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed”, showed us the resourcefulness of our heroine (just in case we forgot about it) as she searched for the missing Kira and Mrs. S. But while the Sarah of the pilot was relatively cool and certain of what she had in mind, this Sarah was frazzled and on edge, desperately looking for answers to Kira and Mrs. S’s whereabouts, answers she was certain Pro-Clone Rachel Duncan would have. 

In her search for Kira and Mrs. S, we finally got to see Sarah put her grifter past to work. Aside from picking up Beth’s identity and doing a decent job (far better than I would have) at pretending to be her, Sarah’s past as a thief and a conwoman hasn’t been one the show’s been able to play with much. But the premiere had her casually stealing a phone from a club patron and nabbing an unsuspecting Leekie’s key card at a Dyad invent, all necessary acts to get her face-to-face with Rachel who she planned to threaten into giving Kira back.

Though Tatiana Maslany’s brilliance in her roles as multiple clones is well-established (though not necessarily well-rewarded), it’s still surprising sometimes how well she does. When Sarah, pretending to be Cosima, crashed a posh Dyad party Maslany’s excellence was more than obvious. Though Sarah’s a physically identical copy even donning the winged eyeliner Cosima favors (though unable to replicate Cosima’s dreadlocks which really should have been a red flag to Delphine), her mannerisms and even her language shifted with Sarah attempting to present a solid illusion of being Cosima. For the most part it was fine aside from some momentary slips of Sarah’s accent and her voice sounding a bit too low, but it fooled Leekie.

While “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” belonged to Sarah, other characters got plenty to do. After watching Aynsley be strangled to death by a garbage disposal and perhaps (unknowingly) signing away some of her rights, Alison’s given up drinking and pills and is now performing the lead role (formerly Aynsley’s) in the community production of Blood Ties. Though she’s decided to withdraw from the struggle with Leekie and the Dyad by signing their contract, she offered her help to Sarah by hooking her up with an unregistered gun from her drug dealer, Ramon. While Sarah’s story is hurtling ahead, Alison’s has always been comparatively muted with only the lingering and constant threat of things coming to head plus some comic relief. Donnie only made a brief appearance, but he’s there and monitoring her, and she still doesn’t know about the institute having patented them. While Sarah’s right in the middle of danger, and Cosima’s now suffering from the disease that killed Katja (and another yet-to-be-named clone), Alison may be at the biggest risk because she’s trying so hard to put it all behind her.

While Sarah turned to a gun and an impulsive plan to solve her problems, Cosima remained conflicted about the Dyad. Continuing Orphan Black‘s trend of having the seemingly straitlaced Alison being of a more like mind with Sarah than Cosima (whose initial appearance indicated it would be her and Sarah agreeing on things) Cosima was constantly uncomfortable with Sarah’s plan to confront Rachel with violence rather than trying for negotiation. Cosima’s comfort with proper, even legal, channels is in direct contrast with Sarah’s natural distrust of authority and people in power. If it was Sarah who was caught up with Delphine, she wouldn’t be nearly as willing to believe in her innocence. Sarah’s relationship with the monotone and blandsome Paul isn’t anywhere near Cosima’s with Delphine’s as it’s being impeded by her knowledge of his own stakes. Though Delphine’s motives seem to be pure, and her continued partnership with Leekie only for show, there was still something disturbing about her referring to Cosima by an identification number.

Newest clone Rachel Duncan is a compelling character so far, all the better to rest the Dyad’s storyline on.  Most of the show’s secondary, non-clone characters hardly hold interest, and the big groups warring over the clones are hard to latch onto without interesting characters at the forefront. And in Orphan Black those interesting characters are usually the clones so Rachel and Sarah’s conflict is already shaping up to be fun. Since Rachel’s vast underestimation of Sarah and her willingness to kill her indicates there’s still a lot for them to learn about each other, and us about them, especially if they’re going to eventually be thrown together to fight against the Proletheans, still targeting the clones and taking it a step further by kidnapping Kira.

Since the Proletheans are back in the game, Helena’s surprising survival works both practically and narratively since caring about Ari Millen’s creepy dude is hard to do just yet. Knowing he’s working on behalf of the same people who raised Helena wouldn’t feel as cohesive without the clone who introduced us to this world of anti-science, religious fanaticism. So the screeching music that’s become Helena’s theme revealing her to be alive long before the showing of her bleached hair and bloody face, was a great move as well as creepy man’s quiet observing in the hallway. The big question about Helena is how she survived after Sarah shot her, and recalling Kira’s miraculous recovery after being hit by a car, it sounds like something connected to the clones and their genetics.

Stray Observations

  • Not much for Felix this episode, but his being high during a surprise emergency was some nice comic relief. As were his ass-less chaps.
  • Here’s hoping Ramon comes back to make eyes at Alison and Felix some more.

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