Orphan Black / Screen

Orphan Black: “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”

I don’t mind spoilers. I love spoilers, actually. There are few times that I won’t turn away a juicy tidbit of information about an upcoming episode, even far down the line, and I certainly won’t back away from a post-mortem interview that promises that something wild happened on Orphan Black‘s latest episode. Unfortunately for me, my schedule doesn’t always make it possible for me watch the episodes as they air, so I’m more likely to encounter news about the episdoe after it comes on than to watch it firsthand. And honestly, a lot of my enthusiasm for the show has waned recently, but the interview I read tonight featured that knowledge that a certain character kicks the bucket.

Paul dies!

Despite the fact that this interview pretends that losing Paul was an emotional blow and a big game changer for the show, but it’s not. First of all, Paul is such a sporadic presence that it’s not as if his death is going to mean less of Dylan Bruce or anything. This episode certainly buckles down and pretends that Paul’s been a vital presence since the start, but even though this episode almost makes me like him it can’t make up for seasons worth of blah characterization. And nothing can really make up for Dylan Bruce’s wooden performance, though his more action-oriented script this week does him more favors.

When Sarah becomes ill after being given some of Rudy’s blood, Paul takes a closer look at the little black books. It leads him to Cody’s experiments, exposing various women to the Castor’s sexually transmitted defect in some sort of twisted trial. Sarah joins the list of those women now, though she doesn’t have the same fate. She survives due to her unique genetic code, and her relation to the Castors. Orphan Black‘s been explicit in science’s lack of empathy for other people in the name of research, the clones ending up as guinea pigs most of the time. The clones were denied their fertility because their creators wanted it. Those same creators continue to demand ownership of their bodies, and now even other women are being threatened and exposed in the name of science. It’s fitting that Beth returns this episode, albeit via a vision from a delirious Sarah as she was the first casualty of the clone club.

Sarah spends time with some version of Beth, though it’s impossible to know (and is probably unlikely) that this is the real Beth or even an accurate representation of what she was like before her suicide. But simply seeing her is a nice step for the show. Killing Beth off was what introduced us to the show and began Sarah’s story with the clones, but as the show goes on it’s become clear what a missed opportunity Beth was. The Beth Sarah envisions is indignant about Sarah taking over her life and now feeling regret, and she recalls her relationship with Paul with some fondness, though there’s no indication of what Beth felt for Paul once she realized who he was.

“Certain Agony of the Battlfield” finally makes a good case for Paul’s usefulness as a character. With proof of Cody’s action, her confession that she spread the disease to understand it better and that she even intended on turning it into a weapon makes her into an insta-villain, and Paul standing against her gives him a heroic bent. A Paul with a clear purpose is a Paul that’s exceedingly watchable. He takes over the base and arrests Cody, and though it’s doomed to fail, it still gives way to a promising sequence that finally allows Paul to do something. Last season tried it by upping him to a semi-important cog in the show’s machine, but like always, the show never really invested in Paul. And while I’ve been skeptical of Dylan Bruce’s ability to handle a larger role, this episode proves that Paul was also overflowing with potential that was never realized until it was time to kill him off.

It’s cheap to waste nearly three seasons on not utilizing Paul and then try to do all of it in one episode, but this hour succeeds. There’s nothing bad about Paul sacrificing himself in the name of protecting Sarah, as well as her sister clones, and it elevates his character immensely. For such a blah addition to the show, his death is a pretty profound one. First he’s stabbed by Miller, shot by Cody and definitely dead when he reveals the grenade he’s been holding, which explodes, destroying the base. And maybe Cody and Rudy. With Sarah confined to a bed for most of the episode, and having fever dreams in the rest, Paul takes her place as the episode’s action-oriented figure. He conspires with his superior, who eventually betrays him, to wrest control from Cody and makes the ultimate sacrifice to stop Cody and destroy her research. Though he opens the door for Sarah’s escape, it’s Helena who comes back to get her (after eating her scorpion friend–sort of. How does one eat what isn’t real?).

Meanwhile Cosima’s studying Gracie, and the episode deftly navigates Cosima’s budding romane with Shay and her investigation.  Delphine’s return to the storyline doesn’t do it any favors, and it doesn’t make me anymore interested in their relationship when Delphine’s having Cosima and Shay followed, photographed and recorded. I’m not sure why love has to present itself on this show as being creepy and stalking people, but it’s not cute. But I don’t trust Orphan Black to realize that, or even acknowledge it, when it’s been so determined to maintain relationships built off of them. Delphine and Cosima were iffy when we knew Delphine was her monitor, but Delphine picking up where she left off now is just more of the same, and it’s far from appealing. Shay could be the most boring person on earth, which she thankfully isn’t, but she’s still a breath of fresh air compared to every other love interest who turns up with ulterior motives.

Stray Observations

  • I am Alison and Donnie’s daughter wondering what the hell they were doing.
  • So we see Bubbles but we don’t see Alison’s mom? What a let down. But surely she’s going to turn up with Alison trying to get the store.
  • Shay is so cute. And I don’t think she would spy on Cosima.
  • Gracie’s life just continues to be very, very bad. Here’s hoping she has something to be happy about soon.
  • I presume Mark is still alive? Though I’m not totally sure. He seemed to have left the base before it went kaboom so I would guess we’ll see him seeking out Gracie. I can’t tell how that’s going to go for him or even how I want that to go.
  • I am confused about why Felix thought Rachel would know where Sarah was. She’s been in a hospital for the whole season. That being said, their scene was excellent, if disturbing.
  • Believe it or not, I had most of this review written on the Saturday the episode aired, but somehow I forgot about it and didn’t press publish. Apologies. I am going very slowly with the updates though so bear with me, I’m still working on it.
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2 thoughts on “Orphan Black: “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”

  1. Since you like spoilers, although this isn’t really much of one, yes, we do get to see Alison’s mother and wonderful scenes they are! She is played by the wonderful Sheila McCarthy.

    Like

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