Orphan Black / Screen

Orphan Black: “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”

After last week’s intense episode, I expected the show to keep up with its momentum, but it does much better with the followup “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”, which zooms out on Sarah in the wake of Paul’s heroic sacrifice and zooms in on the other clones. For once this is an episode without a Castor clone or a Prolethean, which is likely why the episode feels like such a breath of fresh air. It looks more like season one than any of the other episodes have, back to seeing clones reluctantly (but humorously) impersonating one another and Alison running around trying to balance the demands of being a drug dealer with the election.  Sarah and Helena’s scenes in a cantina are scattered, and Sarah isn’t around for most of it, and it’s a relief to take a break from the intensity of Sarah and Helena and immerse ourselves in the more comic/romantic happenings on Alison and Cosima’s end.

One of my most enduring complaints about the season has been Alison’s isolation from the main plot, and that’s not rectified here, but instead of Alison feeling as though she inhabits a different show, other characters are thrown into “Alison world” for a quick moment. Cosima and Felix are in a whirlwind trying to keep up with Alison as she’s forced to contend with her high strung mother Connie (Sheila McCarthy), pissed off drug dealers and a flirtatious Jason Kellerman. Alison’s fun at even her worst, and her appealing to her difficult mother to hand over her business so she can use it to launder money is so superbly ridiculous that it works. Alison has no qualms about potentially wrecking the business her mom’s worked so hard to maintain because she can’t stand her. It’s easy to see why since Connie Hendrix (Donnie took Alison’s name) is quite the pain. She’s peppy and judgmental, much like Alison, who both loathes her mother’s worst character traits but has also taken on plenty of them for herself. Their relationship isn’t particularly deep, not when it’s pretty clear that they’re similar and different enough to butt heads as much as they do. Connie hesitates at selling Alison her store, feigns heart attacks and is voting for Marci Coates. She only comes around after Alison’s trustee speech, a nice moment for Alison despite being a clumsy device to sell the episode’s theme.

The idea of nontraditional, patchwork families is better when it’s just happening rather than the audience being treated to some awkward narration. Helena and Siobhan are making up (which is a bit too easy considering what Siobhan did, and Helena’s initial eagerness to make her pay for it), and Sarah’s relieved to be reunited with her only mother figure, telling her about Paul and catching up on what’s been going on in Sarah’s extended absence. Rachel’s decoding her father’s code, written in their secret language. Meanwhile Donnie nearly gets his nose cut off doing a drug deal, throwing a wrench in Alison’s campaigning, already made awkward by the arrival of an ailing Cosima, who needs Alison’s pee. And Alison’s more involved  in other people than she’s ever been, risking her election to keep Donnie alive (there is a moment where it seems as if she may leave him hanging to give her speech) and insisting to Cosima that she look out for her health by allowing Dyad to help her.  It’s an episode that introduces Alison’s mother, displays Alison’s discomfort and hurt feelings with her mother’s disregard and then has Alison deciding Connie’s not very worth her time.

Connie was impregnanted with Alison via in vitro and appealed to the doctors to give her sperm other than that of her then-husband, which is how she ended up giving birth to a clone. It seems like a strange revelation, since it doesn’t end up really being much of one. So Connie was kind of awful? Knew that already. And we certainly knew Alison likely wasn’t her mother’s kid. It’s more surprising when Alison introduces Cosima as her clone, in a weird attempt at getting back at her. That news rolls right off Connie’s back, as she decides that Cosima is just Alison’s half-sister.

Cosima and Alison being at the center of the episode, and interacting with one another, is a welcome relief. Both tend to exist on their own planes, with Cosima only popping in on the other clones via video chat these days so seeing her and Alison together is a nice change. Their bond existed before Sarah even entered the picture, and it’s most apparent when Alison decides not to give Cosima her pee, knowing that Cosima’s potentially risking her safety by refusing to allow Dyad to help. And Cosima’s reluctant impersonations of Alison are hilarious, if only because Cosima really has no idea what she’s doing and nearly outs Alison as a lesbian during her speech. It’s much different from what we’ve seen of Sarah, a natural grifter, and actress hopeful Alison. Cosima’s impersonation amounts to…nothing much really. Just being there and looking like Alison is all she’s got going for her, but that makes the mistaken identity especially fun throughout, with Cosima forced to abandon her glasses and flail around with Felix as her guide culminating in Jason kissing her, thinking she’s Alison.

I choose not to discuss Jason’s thing for Alison, but I will say this: I don’t see why Alison seems to be into it?  Jason Kellerman is the opposite of Alison, who’s recently renewed her relationship with Donnie and who I can’t see kicking him to the curb after all that’s happened recently for her ex-boyfriend and now drug dealer. And I just can’t forgive Justin Chatwin’s for Shameless, playing a character I despised who isn’t very different from this one.

I’m still confused about what exactly Cosima’s health is doing. There was some improvement, wasn’t there? Now it seems to be even worse. Delphine turns up at Shay’s, to be creepy of course and ask Cosima for a urine sample. I’m likely in the minority, but Shay is wonderful. No word yet on if she’s going to join the legion of Orphan Black love interests with ulterior motives, but I like her so far. She’s not stupid obviously, since she’s immediately put off by Delphine’s arrival and eavesdrops on hers and Cosima’s conversation. I can’t blame her for that, not when Delphine shrugs off Shay’s reminder that it isn’t cool that she shows up at Shay’s apartment looking for Cosima as if there’s a reasonable explanation that she’s traced Cosima to a stranger’s home. And because Cosima’s life sucks almost as much as Helena’s does, she opens up to Shay about her health issues and is rewarded by her blood filling the tub.

Stray Observations

  •  Connie thoughts Cosima was mulatto, which is…unfortunate and makes me question what Connie’s relationship is with her very not white grandchildren.
  • Helena and Sarah were in Mexico so of course they encounter a mystical Latina woman as all white people do when they go to new places.
  • Helena also calls Jesse her boyfriend and says they’re going to raise her baby together. Okay.
  • Donnie took Alison’s name. Since his last name was Chubs, he didn’t really have a choice.
  • Rachel will only tell Sarah what the code reads. So next week we’re back to business. We’ll probably see Mark and Rudy and everyone else I didn’t miss this week.
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