Altered Carbon is a science fiction series set in a technologically advanced future where people with money and power could choose to never die. That was the central thesis and conflict in the 10 part series from Netflix. The series touched on many other themes, but superficially. I thought the series tried to do too much. Continue reading “Review: Altered Carbon”
Orphan Black is over. All we have now is stored on the DVR to rewatch endlessly. Sob. I was a huge fan of the show and want to celebrate its time on live TV. Continue reading “5 Things I Loved about 5 Years of Orphan Black”
Orphan Black episode 7 “Gag or Throttle” ups the excitement and danger to maximum. Rachel (Tatiana Maslany who is here, there, and everywhere) has Kira (Skyler Wexler) in a terrible spot but starts to see things from a different point of view before the episode is over. This is a recap. There are spoilers.
Continue reading “Orphan Black S5 E7 Gag or Throttle”
Orphan Black gets creepy in “The Stigmata of Progress.” Sarah tries to figure out what’s implanted in her cheek, Felix has big news, the Hendrixes go on an archeological dig, Kira sees strange visions, and Rachel is back in operation.
Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Orphan Black: S4 E3 The Stigmata of Progress”
Orphan Black season 4 episode 1 is “The Collapse of Nature.” It gives us Beth’s (Tatiana Maslany AKA everyone) story as an extended flashback and then brings us back to the present where Sarah is hanging out in Iceland. Continue reading “Orphan Black S4E1: The Collapse of Nature”
“Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things,” episode 7 of season 2 of Orphan Black, gives us some shocking surprises, some slapstick laughs, and another turn of the screw on the momentous stakes involved for everyone.
As usual, everything revolves around Sarah, but I’ll start with Allison’s story since much of the action in this episode takes place in rehab.
Allison (Tatiana Maslany, one of many) trusts Vic (Michael Mando) with the truth about the scarf in the disposal incident. Not long after this revelation she discovers that he’s trading the info to Det. Deangelis (Inga Cadranel) for his freedom.
Allison immediately calls Felix (Jordan Gavaris) for help. He shows up and confronts Vic with Allison. Dear old Vic agrees to do what they want if he can see Sarah first.
Sarah agrees to come help Allison. For the talk with Sarah, Vic carefully sets a book in position. Does it contain a camera?
Vic wants to atone to Sarah. She instantly says, “I atone you,” and tries to leave, but he persists. He says he wants her back, right before he passes out by diving headfirst into Allison’s name tag art supplies. Felix announces, with the cutest possible grin, that he spiked Vic’s tea.
It’s family day – or as Felix terms it, public flagellation day. Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and the kids are coming. They cannot leave Victor decorating the floor of Allison’s room. What follows next is a sort of Three Stooges interlude with Allison and Felix dragging an inert Vic about looking for a place to hide him. Det. Deangelis is chasing around after them, looking to meet up with Vic.
While Allison and Felix haul Vic hither and yon, Sarah has to pretend to be Allison who is pretending to be Donnie in a role playing scene with Donnie. Donnie, as you might guess from the body language, is pretending to be Allison. The whole thing goes badly and Sarah flees to Allison’s room.
Donnie follows and discovers Allison and Sarah together. It comes out that Donnie didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t know people were coming into the house in the middle of the night doing strange things to Allison’s sleeping body. He thought he was doing an experiment in “long-term social metrics” for Dr. Leekie. The fact that he’s been a dope for years makes him very angry. I’ll get to the results of that anger later, because a lot happens before then.
Cosima, with Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) in loving attendance, gets stem cells injected into her uterus. Delphine thinks it will put Cosima on the road to recovery.
Cosima overhears a conversation in the hallways and learns that the stem cells came from Kira’s tooth. She is angry with Delphine, shouts that it’s her decision about using Kira’s cells. Delphine counters that there is no decision, there’s only one way forward and this is it. Cosima tells Dephine to get out of her lab.
Sarah and Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) dig through the heaps of detritus in Ethan Duncan’s house looking for a red box with no label. When they finally find it, Sarah takes off in response to a phone call from Cal. As Mrs. S is leaving with Duncan (Andrew Gillies), she learns that the red box contains 3 floppy disks on which the science they all want so desperately to recover is stored. My memory of floppy disks is that they held kilobytes of data, not megabytes or terabytes. Why only 3?
Cal discovered that his computer was hacked. He leaves it behind and takes Kira to meet Sarah. Sarah will take Kira with her. As Sarah is preparing to leave with Kira, she gets a call from Cosima. We don’t know if Cosima has forgiven Delphine, but she has reached the point in her sickness that she’s willing to ask Sarah for more DNA from Kira. Kira overhears Cal and Sarah arguing about a tooth, and pulls one of her loose teeth herself, offering it to Sarah for Cosima.
Leekie phones a whole new character, Dr. Marion Bowles (Michelle Forbes). She is Rachel’s superior, Leekie’s superior, maybe the boss of the whole operation. She wants the science back, she wants Sarah Manning to stop causing them problems, she wants Rachel handled. She’s wearing the most gorgeous white coat I’ve ever seen.
A new character at the top of the pyramid at this point throws everything into question. Do we really know who the bad guys are, do we know who’s in charge, what the goals are? Is she in charge of the Prolethians, too? Is this pointing to a new direction for season 3 to explore?
Mrs. S takes Duncan to her place. Then she walks right into Dyad and Leekie’s (Matt Frewer) office. She makes a deal for the missing science data and Ethan Duncan that guarantees Kira’s safety. Duncan wants to see Rachel before he cooperates.
Paul (Dylan Bruce) takes Rachel to Mrs. S’s house to see her father. When Rachel sees her father she tears up. She seems almost human. Almost normal. There was some discussion last week about Rachel’s possible Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If that’s the case, she’s looking at the man who raised her to think she was special, and she reacts with more emotion than we’ve seen from her.
Rachel goes back to the lab and summons Dr. Leekie. She calls Dr. Bowles in front of Leekie and tells her that the problem is handled. In the battle for supremacy between Rachel and Aldous Leekie, Rachel wins.
Rachel tells Leekie to leave. She says, “Don’t get in your car, don’t go home. You might survive. It’s foolish to spare you but you raised me. Nurture prevails.”
Leekie goes outside the Dyad Institute. He’s on foot. Donnie lurks there waiting for him. Donnie gets Leekie in his car by pointing a gun at him. Donnie accuses Leekie of ruining his marriage and making his wife hate him. He pounds his gun on the steering wheel for emphasis and accidentally kills Leekie right there in the family sedan.
To summarize, Leekie’s kaput, Cal may have gone home, there’s a new boss in town, Kira wants to help, Rachel is ruthless but loves her daddy, Cosima and Delphine had a very big fight, Allison and Donnie had a very big fight, and Donnie created bloody hell in the family car.
The Francis Bacon quote for this episode is from his unfinished utopian vision of the future, “New Atlantis,”
The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.
All images ©BBC America
The Orphan Black episode “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” begins in Rachel’s bloody apartment. Daniel’s body litters the floor, Helena’s signature art drawn in blood decorates the walls. Dr. Leakie (Matt Frewer) thinks Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) should take a kinder, gentler approach to the situation. She thinks not.
Paul (Dylan Bruce) will replace Daniel as Rachel’s monitor. Paul is the universal monitor: he’s monitored Beth, Sarah, and now Rachel.
Sarah takes her super-hugger of a twin sister to Felix’s (Jordan Gavaris) place. Helena needs to get out of her bloody wedding dress and clean up. Sarah tells Helena to behave and calls her Meathead. Helena objects with, “Don’t call me this,” but the nickname seems to symbolize the developing bond and affection between them.
Felix wants nothing to do with babysitting Helena – he has a hot date with the morgue boy – and delivers Helena to Detective Bell (Kevin Hanchard) for safekeeping.
Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) learns there is a new stem cell line, compatible with Cosima, that could help her. They go to Dr. Leekie’s office in search of it and he finds them there. Turns out that Leekie is willing to defy Rachel’s directive to shut down the help for Cosima by giving her an injection of the stem cells. He also tells Cosima that the clone’s original genome was destroyed in a fire 20 years ago. We heard about this fire before in relation to Project LEDA.
Paul’s first job as Rachel’s new monitor is to take the gun that Daniel used to kill the cop at Cal’s house and put Felix’s fingerprints all over it. He manages to do that by interrupting Felix’s love fest. Paul calls Sarah and says Rachel wants them all – Sarah, Helena, and Kira – or Felix goes down for murder. Rachel isn’t asking for Felix, which shoots down my budding theory that he might be a clone, too.
At Art Bell’s apartment, Helena is silent. She watches fish while Art asks questions about Maggie Chen and the Prolethians. Finally he feeds her, which loosens her up and she begins to talk. Interestingly, she asks as many questions as she answers, and her questions are intelligent ones. Also, she does love the powdered donuts.
Helena mimes poking the eyes out of one of her early tormentors. From art works we’ve seen of Helena’s where the eyes were X-ed out of a nun, I’m guessing her tormentor was a nun. She mentions a locker and the Swan Man who played God. Then she uses the lid off a sardine can to open her handcuffs and leaves Art cuffed to the wall. She goes to a storage unit (locker) where she has a motorcycle.
Cal (Michiel Huisman) and Kira (Skyler Wexler) are still playing house in the camper. Cal is being a great dad, Kira is being quick-witted and showing signs of ESP. Cal’s hiding a gun and carrying a fake ID. He assures Sarah when she calls that they are close enough to come get her whenever she’s ready.
At the Prolethian compound, Gracie’s (Zoé De Grand Maison) mouth was sutured shut as punishment for Helena’s escape. Henrik (Peter Outerbridge) and her mother Bonnie (Kristin Booth) tell her that, “She can rot,” if she refuses to talk about what happened. If they don’t find Helena, Gracie will carry the egg currently reproducing itself in a Petri dish.
Sarah and Art are in pursuit of Helena. Helena helped out by leaving some GPS coordinates at Art Bell’s. They find the locker and learn that Ethan Duncan is still alive. On the back of a recent photo of him is says “Swan Man.” Helena has taken off with a sniper rifle.
Guess what Paul’s second job as Rachel’s new monitor is? Sex slave.
Helena sets up the rifle in a apartment across from Rachel’s. As she takes aim and prepares to eliminate the problem that is Rachel, we see Rachel and Paul have sex. It’s weird sex. Rachel demands complete control. She orchestrates Paul’s every move and slaps him when he thinks for himself. Rachel demonstrates a kind of ruthless eagerness that is creepy and disturbing. She’s extremely turned on, but it’s the power and control that excite her, not the actual sex.
Helena, watching, says, “Pretty, dirty, sexy Rachel – like my mother.” Is there some woman somewhere that Helena once called mother?
Art and Sarah arrive and want Helena to put the gun down.
Helena wants Sarah to look at what Rachel is doing, at the “unfaithful” Paul. Sarah begs her not to shoot. She explains that Felix will be in trouble if Rachel dies. Sarah walks in front of the rifle and says she doesn’t care about Paul.
Sarah uses tears and some clever talk to convince Helena that they are family now, that they need to care for each other, and that Felix is part of that family. Finally Helena puts down the gun.
Helena and Sarah join hands. They walk out of the room with arms around each other. Sarah calls Helena Meathead again, and Helena responds, “Don’t call me this.” In the car, Helena tells Sarah that they need to go to Cold River, the place of screams.
Sarah meets Dr. Leekie in a bar. She demands Felix in return for Ethan Duncan, who is still alive. Leekie mentions that Cosima is sick – news to Sarah. When Sarah leaves, we realize Paul followed Leekie there. It’s really hard to tell where the real loyalties are with Paul and Leekie. They are ciphers, willing to double-cross anyone, but we aren’t sure why.
This episode was written by Tony Elliott, who is responsible for much of the writing in season 2. It was directed by Helen Shaver. She shared quite a bit about the experience on her Twitter account. Tatiana seemed to enjoy having her as a director.
So much enormous love for @helenshaver.
— Tatiana Maslany (@tatianamaslany) May 18, 2014
The quotation from Francis Bacon used in the title, with English translation:
“Ipsa scientia potestas est. Knowledge itself is power.”
Some photos from BBC America, some ©Jan Thijs 2013. via IMDB.
This episode of Orphan Black, “Mingling Its Own Nature With It” starts with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), Kira (Skyler Wexler), and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) sleeping in the woods in the stolen truck. We see Sarah struggle to find safety for Kira, Allison crack under pressure, Cosima do an autopsy on a new clone, and Helena get married. What an episode!
The clones each conducted their own lives without mixing together much in this episode, so I’ll summarize the stories clone by clone.
Sarah, Kira, and Felix make the mistake of stealing food from a convenience store in order to feed Kira. This puts a local cop and Rachel’s henchman Daniel (Matthew Bennett) on their trail. Sarah leads Felix to a house in the woods, seemingly empty, where they break in to spend the night. The homeowner shows up and turns out to be Cal (Michiel Huisman), who knows Sarah. Kira, in her prescient way, pegs him immediately with an, “Are you my dad?”
Yes, he is Kira’s dad, and even though Sarah stole $10,000 and his car the last time she was there, Cal lets them stay.
Sarah tries to explain to Kira why she was gone so much, and Kira talks about Mrs. S protecting them and comments that she likes Cal’s beard. Women from Nashville and every other show Michiel Huisman is on fall for his unkempt, bearded look – now even Kira likes it – I guess I should give up wishing he’d get a shave and a haircut.
Felix sees what’s going on and decides there is no place for him there. He leaves to be with Allison at her theater performance.
When the local cop shows up, Sarah is ready to take Kira and go.
Cal says, “Can’t you stop running for a minute?” and the look on Sarah’s face tells a story of wanting to do just that. They end up in bed together. (She must like the beard, too.) Their idyllic morning after is interrupted by the arrival of Daniel who tries to grab Kira, shoots the local cop, and leaves with Sarah driving the car at gunpoint. Kira is with Cal. Daniel making off with Sarah comes at the very end of the episode. The big cliffhanger is that they are t-boned on the road – a hit to the passenger side where Daniel sits – and we don’t know what happens to either of them.
Allison snipes at Donnie (Kristian Bruun) now that she knows he’s her monitor. The guy will never get any again, I can promise you that. She’s drinking and popping pills. She calls Cosima, but Cosima cannot do much to help her because of her own drama.
Detective Angie Deangelis (Inga Cadranel) simply won’t drop the case, as her partner Art (Kevin Hanchard) keeps telling her to. Angie stalks Allison, trying to befriend her and get information from her. Allison thinks she’s another monitor. Angie admits to being a cop and Allison and tells her to get lost. Detective Deangelis is going to prove to be a wild card in this story, I predict, because she’s relentless in her quest to find out more about Sarah and her former cop friend Beth, and because she’s the mama succubus – oh, wait, wrong show for a succubus.
By the night of the community theater performance of “Blood Ties,” Allison’s spaced out on pills and booze. She can’t remember her lines or sing in tune. (Tatiana Maslany is a pretty good singer if the few notes of real singing we hear are any indication.) Allison falls off the stage at Donnie’s feet and gets taken to the hospital.
Cosima and Jennifer
Cosima follows Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) into Dr. Leekie’s office, where she does a killer imitation of Matt Frewer’s Dr. Leekie by threatening to put an electric eel in a tank so Dr. Leekie will come along and say, “Great Scott! I’ve created life.” A hilarious moment in a very serious episode. The fact that Tatiana Maslany can do a perfect imitation of Matt Frewer reveals something about why she is so masterful at creating so many different women in Orphan Black.
Delphine has other things on her mind. She brought Cosima there to show her videos of another clone, Jennifer Fitzsimmons, teacher and swim coach at Sheldon High, who made a video diary of her illness after polyps were found on her lungs. Delphine says Jennifer was the first clone to show symptoms. When Cosima asks how Jennifer is, Delphine says she died 3 days ago. Cosima is the only clone who knows about Jennifer at this point (unless Rachel does). Cosima watches every video, horrified, seeing Jennifer slowly die of exactly what she herself has.
Delphine and Cosima do an autopsy on Jennifer’s body to try to understand more about the auto-immune disease that apparently killed her. Cosima is partly terrified of cutting into a woman with her face, and partly clear about needing to understand the biology of what’s going on in the clone’s bodies.
Helena is still in bad shape, but recovered enough to sit up in bed and talk to Gracie Johanssen (Zoé De Grand Maison), Henrik’s (Peter Outerbridge) daughter. Gracie is not with her dad’s program to fertilize and breed Helena. She’s another wild card who may gum up the works later on. Her dad thinks he has Gracie under his control, but he may be in for a surprise.
Henrik has Helena dressed in a white wedding dress, even though she lays in bed stupified by drugs, and marries her in a strange ceremony involving tying their hands together with ribbons while talking about God’s will. Then Henrik carries his bride off to begin his fertilization program. Helena is too drugged to fight back. If she ever gets clear headed, Henrik better watch out. At this point, we have no idea what Henrik has in mind as a fertilization technique. We did see him artificially inseminate a cow in the last episode.
The title is another quote from Francis Bacon:
“The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it”
Francis Bacon, Sr. quotes (English Lawyer and Philosopher. 1561-1626)
All photos by Steve Wilkie via IMDB
Season 2 of Orphan Black begins with “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed.” It’s a rip-roaring beginning to the new season. Every moment of the opening show was exciting, dangerous, tense, high-stakes, fast paced drama.
Watch a preview of the first episode.
I’m not going to recap the episode, just offer a few remarks. Spoilers ahead.
Tatiana Maslany has honed her performance to a more focused and nuanced rendition of each of her characters. Each of them is a distinct and unique woman. She’s sharpened them and made them more themselves. Tatiana Maslany is amazing as these clones, simply amazing.
The monitors for the clones, particularly Cosima’s monitor Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) and Sarah’s former monitor Paul (Dylan Bruce) are walking double edged swords. Both seem to be cooperating with the enemy while trying to help their clones.
And who is the enemy? Is it Dr. Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer) and his bioengineering firm? Or is it the clone Rachel Duncan – who gives orders to Dr. Leeki and everyone else? Or is it the religious group of Prolethians behind Helena who may be the ones who stole young Kira (Skyler Wexler) away?
And speaking of Helena, she makes a dramatic entrance in the last few seconds of the episode, trailing blood as she walks into a hospital and announces that her sister shot her. I’m really glad Helena is still around; she is fascinating and feral and vulnerable and terrifying.
Other interesting points in this episode include Sarah giving a measure of trust to Detective Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard), who is trying to help and protect her – maybe. Her decision to be honest with him will have future consequences. Felix (Jordan Gavaris) is still Sarah’s mainstay, even when he’s high and dressed in nothing but chaps. Alison is doing community theater and we see her in a song and dance routine. We don’t see anything of Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) in this episode. Too bad, because she adds a degree of mystery to the plot. Making up for the missing Mrs. S, we do get a lot of Detective Angela Deangelis (Inga Cadranel) as compensation.
A powerful start for season 2. Every moment is electric.
Alison and Her Musical Muse
Enjoy this photo from Orphan Black, which refers to Alison’s community theater performance as well as to Felix’s 4 AM visit to Allison’s place in search of a gun for Sarah.
— Orphan Black (@OrphanBlack) April 21, 2014
I remember the speech Jennifer Beals gave in Break a Leg about how a woman has to be both beautiful and as good as Meryl Streep to make it in the movies. (You can catch the speech at the 8:29 minute mark in this video.) It is generally accepted in American culture that Meryl Streep is the greatest actress since the origin of the human race. We don’t even have to discuss it – we’ve seen her prove it time after time.
So when you see a great performance, it’s easy to compare the actress’s talents with Meryl Streep. For example, I remember watching Toni Collette in The United States of Tara and thinking, Why have I never noticed how amazing Toni Collette is – she could rival Meryl Streep.
I’m telling you right now that if Streep was a verb, Tatiana Maslany streeped the hell out of Orphan Black. Here’s the trailer for season 1 of this BBC America series, which started in 2013.
This is the preview for season 2.
Here’s the preview for season 3.
Tatiana Maslany is a young Canadian actress who had quite a few roles before she got this part in Orphan Black, but her career will never be the same after this performance. She is simply electrifying.
Orphan Black is a clone story. A nature vs. nurture story. Maslany plays all the clones. You sometimes see her on the screen in two or three personas at the same time. She’s so good at making them unique that you don’t even get confused about who is who – you willingly accept them all as different women. The central character in this web of clones is Sarah Manning. She’s the criminal you saw in the trailer who steals the purse of her look-alike, moves into her flat, and attempts to live her life long enough to empty her bank account. This scheme drags out into a hellish impersonation as Sarah attempts to be a cop named Beth Childs. In season 1, Maslany played at least 7 different clones.
As Sarah gets pulled further and further into Beth’s life she discovers more women who look just like her. She doesn’t immediately realize they are clones – does she have a twin, is she a triplet? Nor does Sarah grasp the implications of what it all means. As various clones are killed off – one assumes by the person who created them – it becomes clearer what danger they are all in. They begin to work together to solve the mystery of who they are, why they are, and what they can do to protect themselves.
The clones include the wild-haired Helena, Cosima a brainy scientist who is a lesbian and Alison, a soccer mom. The other clones don’t show up as often. Helena is a wild animal on the prowl, dangerous and unpredictable. Cosima is trying to work out the genetics of the clones and why some of them (including her) are suffering from respiratory ailments. Alison is hilarious as the uptight suburban wife with undiscovered depths. They look different, sound different, move differently, carry themselves differently. There’s no mixing them up.
Jordan Gavaris plays Sarah’s foster brother and her best friend and confidant. His quips provide some of the comic relief. He gets deeply involved in the danger and adventure as the story unfolds.
Maria Doyle Kennedy is the mysterious foster mother, Mrs. S, who raised the two foster children. She is also the guardian of Sarah’s young daughter and has the power to keep Sarah from seeing her child. We are never sure if Mrs. S is good guy or a bad guy.
Dylan Bruce is Beth’s boyfriend, and possibly something else. He realizes after finding Sarah in Beth’s apartment and boinking her on the kitchen counter that she isn’t Beth, but he goes along with the whole thing without letting Sarah know he’s on to her. Assorted ex-boyfriends and bad guys fill out the cast. Inga Cadranel, who is Bo’s mother in Lost Girl, plays one of the cops. A favorite of mine, Matt Frewer – Max Headroom himself – shows up near the end of season 1. I won’t spoil it for you as to what his part in the cloning story is, but he is a key character.
Seasons 1, 2, and 3 were each 10 episodes in length. Season 4 is in the works now. I started recapping the series in season 2 and have continued since.
Have you seen Orphan Black? Have a favorite clone or a comment on where you think it’s going in season 4?