Returning to the Orphan Black makes me question what happened last season, namely because I’m not totally certain what did happen. The mythology became so convoluted that I’m not 100% about what we know/don’t know going into season three. Revisiting old reviews helped. My worries about the new season are the same as they’ve been for all of them, less focus on the Clone Club and more on secondary, and even tertiary, characters that aren’t as interesting. That’s been a staple of the show since season one, which introduced us to Paul and has only persisted in keeping him around. The season three premiere has no Paul in it, though he’s mentioned, and is a decent introduction to what’s coming for us. It promises a more communal season going forward, rather than the distance between Sarah and her fellow clones from season two.
The difference is apparent in the very first scene, a dream sequence that has a pregnant Helena at a sunny baby shower surrounded by the rest of the family, including Kira and Felix. It’s obviously false, there’s no reason to think that Helena, last seen being handed over to Paul and Castor by Siobhan, would now be hugely pregnant and reunited with everyone. But it’s a nice scene, if only because of what it could be, an idyllic vision that’s probably never going to exist for Helena, since she’s been the show’s recurring victim since season two began. When she awakens, she’s alone with only an imaginary scorpion for company, a talking scorpion (voiced by Tatiana Maslany), who provides the comfort and insight that she can’t get from anyone else. It’s a scorpion Helena’s familiar with which is a sad indicator of the state of her life thus far. She’s forced to comfort herself, as she always had. Season two stuck her on that farm until she could finally break herself free, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening this time around since the Clone Club is working on a way to get her back.
Protecting the family is at the forefront as Sarah allies herself with Delphine in the hopes of finding Helena. The nature of the Clone Club, and the familial bonds formed among them, is at the center of the premiere. When Sarah learns of Siobhan’s betrayal of handing Helena over, she lashes out. Tatiana Maslany encapsulates Sarah’s rage at this new development, at Siobhan deciding for them what’s going to happen to her family. The recurring mantra is that they can’t trust anyone but themselves, but even that is a risky move. Being one of Leda’s clones isn’t enough for membership in the Clone Club, proven by Rachel. And the list of the Leda clone’s enemies is only growing longer and longer with the introduction of the Castor clones.
The Castor clones have the same bond we’ve seen among their Leda counterparts, formed over years of living together. Now they’ve allied together in their fight against Leda, the reasons for which are unknown and are acting in tandem. They team up in their attempts to abduct another Leda clone, Crystal, and later break out their imprisoned brother. The premiere is loaded with Castor clones, but Ari Millen doesn’t get to extend himself to the lengths Maslany does in this episode. He gets to play his part in introducing us to the clones, even if they are all painted in broad strokes at the moment, who are mostly physically similar (which makes it pretty hard to distinguish them from one another). Whatever they have against the Leda clones is unknown but they’re very interested in hurting them and those close to them.
Until the motives of the Castor clones are determined, it’s all hands on deck to fight against them. Whatever reprieve Sarah had after being freed from Dyad is shortlived, as Marian Bowles runs off to Europe and Sarah has only Delphine to turn to for help. Delphine’s arc as the new Rachel is more promising than what the show was trying to do with her and Cosima. Glossing over the less romantic pieces of their romance did neither of them any favors, and the darker facets of Delphine’s personality were ignored in favor of progressing hers and Cosima’s relationship. Their breakup scene, as Delphine ends things so she can keep her promise of loving all of the clones equally, is well done however. Both are devastated by the choice, but neither protests, aware of the necessity for the greater good. But as Rachel’s replacement, Delphine gets to shine. Rocking a new ‘do (and a new wardrobe maybe?), Delphine slips easily into Rachel’s vacated role. She doesn’t hesitate to react firmly and even violently, pressing on Rachel’s bandaged eye to get valuable information out of her and promising to erase her if she steps out of line. Delphine’s always been morally grey, though the show’s seemed to have little understanding that they portray her this way, but season three is tapping into parts of the character Orphan Black‘s been determined to pretend don’t exist.
Rachel’s confined to a hospital bed for the premiere’s duration, and with Delphine in charge there’s no indication of when she may or may not escape. In the meantime, Sarah poses as Rachel to placate Ferdinand (James Frain), sent by Topside to asses the situation at Dyad with Leda. And Alison pose as a captive Sarah. There’s nothing better than watching clones pretending to be other clones, and this episode doesn’t disappoint. Sarah’s got more practice slipping into the roles of others, but Alison’s shaky acting as Sarah adequately displays Alison’s fear and discomfort, only compounded by Ferdinand’s molesting of Alison-as-Sarah. It’s shocking but also not quite. Topside and Dyad have already proven themselves to have little concern for the autonomy of the Leda clones whether it be emotional, physical or mental. But Ferdinand’s casual grasping of Alison-as-Sarah’s breast beneath her shirt is still horrifying and disturbing. Delphine and Sarah are equally flustered, unsure of what to do without alerting Ferdinand to their ruse, so Sarah-as-Rachel slaps Alison-as-Sarah a few times to stop the moment from escalating any further.
Ferdinand dominates the latter half of the episode. His and Rachel’s relationship is murky from the start, both combative and sexual, which plays itself out in such a fashion once Sarah finds out what he and Rachel had planned for the clones. Operation Helsinki left several clones dead as well as over twenty people in collateral damage, but was still seen as a success, and Rachel planned on repeating the process with our Leda clones. It’s not surprising that Rachel would kill off her own sister clones. She’s proven herself to have little interest in them and she’s especially antagonistic toward Sarah, but suggesting a systematic execution of them feels harsh even for her. With Alison (and her family) at the top of the list to be killed, Sarah rushes to put a stop to it. When she can’t reach Alison on the phone, she turns on Ferdinand instead. Their sexual relationship is of the BDSM variety, Ferdinand unsuspecting when Sarah-as-Rachel chokes him with a belt, at least until she starts choking him to death. It’s Sarah’s only line of defense against her sisters, but its’ interrupted by Delphine, who bargains with Ferdinand instead.
Delphine says they all have their parts to play, but Alison’s is the most murky. She’s not constantly being abducted and held like Helena, or the most active like Sarah. She doesn’t have the science background that leaves her with something to investigate like Cosima, and she’s not the former Dyad head like Rachel. This episode brings Alison in by having her pose as Sarah, held in captivity in Dyad and later, as she’s targeted in Helsinki, but otherwise what role does Alison play in the larger arc? She and Donnie have always been off in their own world in suburbia, and now that Alison’s running for School Trustee, and she Donnie are coping with financial issues, it’s easy to see that becoming her seasonal arc in favor of lighter fare that can still dip back into the show’s main arc when necessary, like last season’s rehab plotline. But Alison’s way more fun in the thick of things, and she doesn’t mind being there. Donnie’s worried about her, telling her to tell Sarah she’s not going to be taking part anymore, but Alison just waves him off.
Orphan Black usually gets off to a good start, but it’s later that we’ll see if the seams start to burst. Hopefully that’s not the case this time around. There’s a lot of good things that could come from a season focused on renewing and strengthening the bonds between the clones.
- Donnie lost his Taurus, and Alison’s mother owns a store called Bubbles. Alison said she’d never go back to work there, but I would love that.
- Felix seems a little more over the Leda/Castor/Dyad shenanigans than usual. He still jumps in when it comes to giving Sarah her Rachel makeover, but with things now also tense between Sarah and Siobhan, Felix is going to be having some bridgemaking to do.