Orphan Black: Variable and Full of Perturbation

Only two episodes of Orphan Black remain in season 2 after this week’s “Variable and Full of Perturbation.” This episode introduced quite a lot of variation and perturbation to resolve in that time, especially with a new clone Tony (Tatiana Maslany) showing up.

Yep, Tony. Formerly Antoinette Zwicky, now a trans man named Tony. He’s a bit of a thug with too much long hair and sparse, wispy facial hair. (I can’t believe I once complained about Cal’s hair and beard.)

The introduction of a trans clone ties a blue ribbon and big bow on the nurture position in the nature vs. nurture debate that has been ongoing since this show began. Rachel even said, “nurture prevails” last week. I’m not saying your upbringing makes you trans. I’m saying your biology doesn’t determine your individuality.

Tony’s buddy Sammy is killed by “suits.” His dying words are for Tony to find Beth Childs. Since suspended cop Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) still has Beth’s phone, Tony reaches Art. Art takes him to Felix (Jordan Gavaris) who quips, “Holy Tilda Swinton” at the sight of Tony. Felix and Art want to hear the message for Beth, Tony wants to know what’s going on, and nobody trusts anybody.

Holy Tilda Swinton, what have we got here?
Holy Tilda Swinton, what have we got here?

While at a standoff over who will give who what information first, Tony takes a bath at Felix’s place, first showing off his monster package bulging in a pair of tight shorts. Felix definitely notices. There’s a bit of sizzle between them.

Oh, weird alert.
Oh, weird alert.

Tony tries getting information out of Felix with sex. It’s a little strange with Tony looking so much like Felix’s favorite sister and all. Felix pulls back.

Who is this person with my face?
Who is this person with my face?

Tony finds paintings of the clones in the apartment. Felix still won’t reveal anything to Tony. Tony still won’t reveal anything to Felix. Tony’s about to give up and leave when Sarah arrives.

Sarah, meet Tony. Tony, meet Sarah.
Sarah, meet Tony. Tony, meet Sarah.

With Sarah there, we finally get the message from Sammy (who Felix and Sarah assume was Tony’s monitor) to Beth Childs. Sammy was ex-military like Paul. The message is, “Tell Beth, keep the faith. Paul’s like me. He’s on it. He’s a ghost.”

Speaking of Paul, Rachel spends the whole episode trying to find him. He’s disappeared.


Allison goes home from rehab to find Donnie (Kristian Bruun) drunk in bed. Later that night she finds him in the basement, packing to leave.

Family therapy
Family therapy

Now that they are finally using the C word together, they have a bit of mutual talk therapy. They both confess their problems with murdering people. Once they are honest with each other, it’s clear that they actually do care about each other. Instead of leaving the family, Donnie shows Allison Leekie’s body in the trunk of the car. And he mentions that he shot Leekie with Allison’s gun. Boy, do they have a lot to do.

Sarah, Cosima, Delphine, Duncan, Mrs. S, Rachel and Kira

Sarah, Kira (Skyler Wexler), Ethan Duncan (Andrew Gillies), and Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) are all at Mrs. S’s place, waiting to see if they are going to give Duncan and his floppy disks to Dyad. Duncan is taken with Kira. He reads to her from and old copy of The Island of Doctor Moreau, a copy he used to read to Rachel. He gives Kira the book. Duncan tells Sarah that he can cure Cosima – no question about it.

At Dyad, Rachel tells Dolphine (Evelyne Brochu) that Leekie died of a heart attack and that she, Rachel, is in charge. She dispatches Delphine to get Duncan. Delphine thinks Rachel killed Leekie and the situation for Cosima is more urgent than ever.

Cosima has more or less forgiven Delphine over the Kira stem cell incident. They have a talk in which Delphine assures Cosima that she loves her. Cosima says, “You have to love all of us.” Cure one, cure them all. Delphine says she does love all of them and Cosima finally admits, “I love you, too.”

Delphine convinces Mrs. S and Sarah to let Duncan go into Dyad. When Rachel meets him again, she is cold and professional. He tells her what equipment he needs. Then he tells her that Sarah’s fertility was a failure, not a success. “You were all barren by design.” Rachel is frozen in place on the outside, but inside she cracks. Inside she throws a tantrum, tossing everything on her desk, throwing furniture, and hanging on to her emotions by the thinnest of threads.

Scott is in on the truth.
Scott is in on the truth.

When Delphine shows up at the lab with Duncan in tow, Cosima says it feels strange to meet her “maker.” Scott (Josh Vokey) is there to help. (Cosima told Scott that she is 324B21.) All of them are ready to get to work when Cosima has a seizure. She’s writhing on the floor with blood gushing from her mouth.

At Mrs. S’s, Kira wakes up early. She sneaks out of bed and sits on the floor with the copy of The Island of Doctor Moreau. She smiles as she leafs through the pages, which are filled with hand-written scientific drawings, chemical equations, and annotations in the text.

Helena was only mentioned in passing in this episode. Presumably she is still with the Prolethians, being impregnated with her own eggs fertilized by God’s representative on earth, Henrik.

The quote for the episode title, “Variable and Full of Perturbation,” comes from Francis Bacon’s Novum Organon, and reads:

the spirit of man (according as it is meted out to different individuals) is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance.

Orphan Black: Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things

“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.

Just call his name, Felix will be right there.
Just call his name, Felix will be there.

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?

What was in that tea?
What was in that tea?

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.

I'm Sarah. No, I'm Allison. No, I'm Donnie.
I’m Sarah. No, I’m Allison. No, I’m Donnie.

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 can't believe his eyes.
Donnie can’t believe his eyes.

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.

Let's get you well.
Let’s get you well

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.

Oh my, she's a surprise.
Oh my, she’s a surprise.

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.

Hello, father
Hello, father.

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

Orphan Black: To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings

The “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings” episode of Orphan Black brings Sarah some answers, but everyone is still suspect and no one can be trusted.

Sarah and Helena (Tatiana Maslany squared) are in a pickup on their way to Cold River. Helena refuses to tell Sarah where it is, because she knows Sarah won’t need her if she does. The scenes between Sarah and Helena grow more and more charming as Helena is revealed in greater depth. They spend the night in a tent and Helena asks Sarah about Kira – she wonders if she could have children, too. She says, “I am very good with children.”

Sarah wants to know what the Prolethians took from Helena, but Helena claims she doesn’t know. When they turn out the lantern for the night, we see Paul (Dylan Bruce) lurking in the dark outside their camp.

There’s a hilarious scene of Sarah and Helena driving. “Sugar Sugar” comes on the radio. Helena sings along with enthusiasm. Sugar is her thing, indeed.

What Tatiana Maslany does with Helena in this episode is masterful. Her uninhibited off key singing, her playfulness in the tent, her vulnerability when she asks about babies, her growl of a laugh later in a bar scene, her unbridled sexuality when she’s attracted to a man, her brutality when threatened – Tatiana’s bringing Helena into personhood with so much affection and skill. That Tatiana Maslany can do that with Sarah, Allison and Cosima still floating in her head is just amazing.

Inga Cadranel
Allison is stuck in rehab.

Allison is still in rehab. She’s reluctant to participate in group. The door opens and into group walks Victor (Michael Mando). You remember Victor: Sarah’s former boyfriend who got his finger chopped off for a drug debt and who Allison maced in a parking lot. Yeah, that Victor. He’s all Zen now, full of the wisdom of recovery. When Allison threatens Donnie’s (Kristian Bruun) privates because he failed to bring the kids to visit her, Victor steps in to defuse the argument. Later we learn that Victor is actually in cahoots with Detective DeAngelis (Inga Cadranel). She promised he won’t go to jail for his crimes if he rats on Allison.

Allison, incidentally, can handle a basketball with one arm in a sling.

Take your medicine and don't ask where it came from.
Take your medicine and don’t ask where it came from.

Cosima gets injections from Delphine (Evelyne Brochu). The injections may or may not be helping her. Delphine hired Scott (Josh Vokey) to come to Dyad to do gene sequencing. I haven’t previously mentioned Josh Vokey, who is fabulous as a naive geek, because the character wasn’t central, but he takes a central role in this episode. He reveals that he knows the samples he’s been given are clones, but he doesn’t realize that Cosima is a clone. He figures out that the stem cell injections Cosima is getting came not from a clone but a female relative. Perhaps a daughter. Is that daughter spelled K-I-R-A? We don’t know. Dephine makes Scott swear not to tell Cosima this news.

Sarah and Helena arrive in front of a church. It’s the church in the photo of Ethan Duncan, the Swan Man. Sarah instructs Helena to wait in the truck while she goes inside to investigate. Sarah finds photos of a building. The church deacon (Jane Spidell) tells her it was the Cold River Institute. Cold River is closed and all the records are in the church basement. The deacon also identifies the photo of Ethan Duncan as “Mr. Peckham” and mentions that Maggie Chen was also digging about in the old records. Sarah finds lots of info about the clones, but nothing about Andrew Peckham in the records.

Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) emptied Helena’s locker and took all the contents to Felix’s (Jordan Gavaris) apartment for help digging through it. A phone call from Sarah gets them looking for someone named Peckham, and they give Sarah an address.

Helena, of course, did not wait obediently in the truck while Sarah was doing this. She goes into a bar, starts drinking, almost breaks the finger of an asshole who thinks he can have her just because he wants her, and takes a liking to Jesse (Patrick J. Adams) who is nice to her. Both Paul and the Prolethian errand boy Mark (Ari Millen) watch her every move in the bar.

Helena's boyfriend
Helena’s boyfriend

When Helena and Jesse start kissing, asshole breaks in and wants a turn. Helena beans Mr. Asshole with a pool ball, tosses him on the pool table and climbs on with the intention of poking out his eyes. Helena gets arrested for smashing heads in the bar. In the police station she asks for her boyfriend. She’s told she’s been released and can leave with her sister.

When Helena looks up to see her sister, it’s Gracie (Zoé De Grand Maison), hiding her inflamed suture marks from the police with a hand over her mouth. Gracie and Mark tell Helena they have her babies and she agrees to go with them. Mark gives her Jesse’s baseball cap. I think he gives it to her to try to gain her trust, but it has the name of Jesse’s business on it, which may come in handy later.

Sarah leaves Helena to the cops and goes to Peckham’s house. Who opens the door but Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). Good heavens, is there anything Mrs. S doesn’t know? She’s wearing a Pussy Riot shirt. Someone who wants to hurt Sarah wouldn’t wear a Pussy Riot shirt, would she?

Mrs. S knows all
Mrs. S knows all

Mrs. S is trying to get Andrew Peckham (Andrew Gillies)  out of his hoarder’s horror of a house, off to somewhere to do her mysterious bidding. When Peckham sees Sarah he looks her over with great interest, decides she isn’t Rachel, and asks to be taken to Rachel.

Is it Andrew or is it Ethan?
Is it Andrew or is it Ethan?

He cannot be taken to Rachel, however. He’s been hiding from Dyad for 20 years because Aldous Leekie killed his wife Susan and took over the LEDA project for Dyad.

What was LEDA doing?
What was LEDA about?

Sarah wants to know what Project LEDA was all about. Peckham/Duncan tells her it was a proof of concept experiment to see if they could actually clone a human and because they “wanted girl babies.”

While Sarah and Peckham/Duncan are talking, Siobhan goes outside and confronts Paul. Yes, she knows who Paul is. Everything Mrs. S does in this episode is so momentous, we have to go to commercial immediately after. Her every line of dialog is a bomb dropping. She tells Paul that the hoarder inside in his filthy kitchen talking to Sarah is the only hope that any of the clones have and that Paul better back off and let them go.

Kudos to Kathryn Alexandre and the Faces We Never See

Kathryn Alexandre
Kathryn Alexandre

Kathryn Alexandre is Tatiana Maslany’s acting double. She plays whatever clone is opposite Tatiana in a scene. When we see Helena and Sarah in a scene together in a truck or a tent, we have to remember that it was filmed twice. When we see Sarah in the driver’s seat of the truck, the actor beside her doing Helena is Kathryn Alexandre. They film it again with Tatiana in the passenger seat doing Helena while Kathryn Alexandre sits in the driver’s seat and plays Sarah. In the finished version, we never see Kathryn’s face.

It’s time to acknowledge how important Kathryn Alexandre is to Orphan Black. When we see chemistry, warmth, and closeness between Helena and Sarah, it’s actually something happening with Tatiana and Kathryn. Not just the warm fuzzy scenes, but the fight scenes, the dangerous scenes, the funny scenes. If they have to film it 2 times, 3 times, 4 times, to get all the clones in a scene together, Kathryn is there giving Tatiana a partner to act with and react to.

Much of what we see in Orphan Black is illusion, built from brilliant editing, brilliant makeup and brilliant acting. When we see it as a finished piece it is so perfectly executed it’s hard to remember how it was created. Let’s step back from the illusion and look behind the curtain to praise the hidden people who build the show. Here’s to Kathryn Alexandre and everyone else we don’t see in Orphan Black. You are all awesome!

The quote from Francis Bacon for this episode comes from the 1623 De Augmentis Scientiarum:

For you have but to hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able when you like to lead and drive her afterwards to the same place again.

Some images from IMDB © Jan Thijs 2013. Some screen shots from BBC America.

Orphan Black: Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est

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.

Rachel orders Leekie to shut down the tests until Sarah comes to heel.
Rachel orders Leekie to shut down the tests until Sarah comes to heel.

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 is now Rachel's henchman.
Paul is now Rachel’s henchman.

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.

I can ignore you forever, Artie baby.
I can ignore you forever, Artie baby.

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.

I gave her darkness
I gave her darkness

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.

Yes, Helena can come up with GPS coordinates off the top of her head.
Why, yes, Helena can come up with GPS coordinates off the top of her head.

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.

Love the light in this scene
Love the light in this scene

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.

Don't shoot
Don’t shoot

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.

Give back Felix
Give back Felix

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.

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.

Orphan Black: Governed As It Were By Chance

The tension sizzles, everyone is sinister, and we don’t know who to trust in “Governed As It Were By Chance,” episode 4 of season 2 of Orphan Black. Everything ahead is a spoiler, but the story is not described in the order in which it happened.

The episode begins at the car wreck. Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) walks away with Cal (Michiel Huisman), leaving Daniel (Matthew Bennett) behind for dead. She hides the wrecked car under some brush with Daniel still inside.

Sarah and Kira in the camper
Sarah and Kira

Cal, for unexplained reasons (which makes him suspicious as hell), has a camper that isn’t registered in his name. Cal, Sarah, and Kira (Skyler Wexler) head off in it. Sarah trusts him, at least for now.

Sarah stops in at Mrs. S’s place. Felix (Jordan Gavaris) just happens to be there. They dig through old photos and scrapbooks and find clues about Susan and Ethan Duncan – as in Rachel Duncan’s parents – who are the people in the Project Leda photo. They also find photos of Carlton, the man who brought Sarah to Siobhan in the beginning. As they leave, the basement door opens and we realize someone has been listening.

Later, Sarah has a Skype conversation with Cosima. She shares her new intel and Cosima promises to investigate. Before Sarah called, Cosima was rewatching the videos of Jennifer’s slow death. She has to break off the call from Sarah quickly to hide her own tubercular-sounding cough and her own declining health.

Sarah and Cal
Sarah and Cal

Sarah wants to go to Rachel’s place. She gets Cal to agree to watch Kira.

Detective Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) is hanging about outside the Prolethean compound taking photos. He cannot see inside, but we see Helena wake up. She remembers vague snatches of the strange wedding. Gracie (Zoé De Grand Maison) tries to smother her. Helena overpowers her and runs off. She passes through a lab on her way out and remembers something being “taken out of her.” The look of distaste on her face as she recalls being in the lab suggests sensibilities in Helena that we haven’t seen before. Outside, Helena runs past Art Bell. He realizes who she is and delays the men who chase her, allowing her to get a head start.

Felix wants Allison to get her dignity back.
Felix wants Allison to get her dignity back.

Allison’s story is interspersed with these events. She’s in rehab, where Felix tells her she went voluntarily. Allison remembers nothing. She broke her arm when she fell from the stage; she’s a mess. Felix thinks rehab will be good for her and help her get her dignity back. Plus, dear daddy Donnie  (Kristian Bruun) shows up and threatens to take the kids away if she doesn’t stay. Allison will be peeing a cup for a few days while everyone else is in mortal peril.

Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) searches out Carlton. Carlton is played by Roger Cross, who must be the busiest actor in Canada – he’s in absolutely everything. Carlton just got out of jail for human trafficking. Siobhan is very happy to see him. She looks him over with an expression of pure lust, kisses him, unbuttons his shirt, tugs at his belt, and they get it on standing up in a hallway outside the men’s room where she found him. Why, Mrs. S, we hardly knew you.

So happy to see you, Carlton
So happy to see you, Carlton

Later they sit down for a pint and a talk. We learn that Mrs. S was in the know on Project Leda, that she’s known Sarah was a clone from the start. Makes me wonder if Felix is a clone and we just haven’t been told yet. Carlton mentions someone called The Ferryman, who will no doubt be important later.

Gotta love the double helix stickers on Cosima's computer
Gotta love the double helix stickers on Cosima’s computer

Sarah talks to Cosima and Felix, who have news to share. Rachel’s parents were geneticists doing DNA research. Cosima tells Sarah the Greek myth about Leda. The god Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces (or rapes) Leda. According to Greek mythology, Leda bore the half-human, half-gods Helen and the twins Castor and Pollux.

Through some smooth tricks, Sarah gets in Rachel’s empty apartment. She’s watching videos of Rachel with her loving parents when the left-for-dead Daniel walks in. He straps Sarah to the plumbing and is about to cut her throat with a straight razor when Helena comes in and makes a bloody mess of him. He’s really dead this time.

Helena and Sarah
Helena and Sarah

The sight of a not-dead Helena terrifies Sarah more than anything she’s endured up to this point. Helena addresses her as sister, says she followed her there from their mother’s house (meaning Mrs. S’s) and advances toward her.

Love ya, sis. Plus, damn, the editing on this show is brilliant.
Love ya, sis. Plus, damn, the editing on this show is brilliant.

Helena wants not to stab her sister with the huge bloody knife, but to give her a full body hug of hello. Helena is surprising in this episode – smarter than she’s seemed before in ways that show both intelligence and self-awareness. Her willingness to embrace the twin who put a bullet in her just a few days ago is also a surprise.

As the episode ends, we see that Henrik (Peter Outerbridge) took an egg from Helena, which is now fertilized and growing in a Petri dish. Big news: Sarah is not the only fertile clone. I imagine the sperm was Henrik’s, since he pictures himself as the godlike swan in Helena’s story.

The quote from Francis Bacon for this episode:

The spirit of man is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance.

Review: Orphan Black “Mingling Its Own Nature With It”

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!

Whose woods these are I think I know.
Whose woods these are I think I know.

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.

Can't you stop running for a minute?
Can’t you stop running for a minute?

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.

The ties that bind
The ties that bind

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

Review: Orphan Black, Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion

Episode 2 of season 2 of Orphan Black, “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion,” launches a brand new day, to quote the new character Henrik. New plot lines, new characters, and new developments everywhere you look. I’m going to mention a few key points.

Mrs. S definitely knows how to use that gun
Mrs. S definitely knows how to use a gun

One of the more interesting developments in this episode is the expansion of Mrs. S’s (Maria Doyle Kennedy) character. I’ve been eager to learn more about the mysterious Mrs. S, partly because Maria Doyle Kennedy is such a strong actor with a very strong persona and we haven’t seen behind the curtain on her very much. In this episode, we learn she can be a stone-cold killer and that she will do just about anything to protect Kira (Skyler Wexler). It’s also looking a bit like Mrs. S. might be Sarah’s monitor and that she has known about Sarah since her birth.

Skyler Wexler is a terrific choice as Sarah’s daughter. Physically she and Tatiana Maslany look enough alike to be convincing as mother and daughter. Skyler Wexler is as precocious as an actor as Kira is as a character. There’s something special about Kira, we don’t know what yet, but she has an unusual ability to see things and understand things.

The religious group called Prolethians seem in on the clone secret as well. Peter Outerbridge joins the cast as Henrik Johanssen, the leader of the Prolethians. Religious leadership aside, he’s also a stone-cold killer. Helena is snatched from her hospital bed and taken to the farm where the group lives. As she’s recovering from her wounds, we learn that the reason she survived the gunshot is that she is a mirror – all her organs are on the reverse side from that of her twin Sarah. Helena’s heart is on her right side, not her left.

Cosima joins Dyad where she gets her own lab. As she’s setting it up, she meets the clone Rachel for the first time. Rachel wants her to figure out why Sarah is different from the rest of the clones – meaning why Sarah can have children. Rachel seemed surprised to learn that Cosima is a lesbian. Her reaction to catching Cosima and Delphine in a kiss felt a bit off to me. She should have known already because she knows that Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) is Cosima’s monitor and how Delphine managed to get close to Cosima. This is one of the first off moments I’ve noticed in the writing of this series, unless it’s foreshadowing something about the clones that Rachel knows but none of the rest of us know.

Donnie, you shouldn't let your wife near your phone
Donnie, you shouldn’t let your wife near your phone

Allison finds out at Aynsley’s (Natalie Lisinska) funeral that her husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun) has been her monitor all along because she reads his text messages. This means she let Aynsley die a gruesome death by garbage disposal for no reason. Neither of these pieces of information are sitting well with Allison who is popping pills and downing drinks in a paroxysm of guilt. Methinks Donnie better be careful, too – like maybe he shouldn’t wear a scarf in the kitchen.

We learn about a program called Project Leda in this episode, which may be where all the clones originated. Sarah knows about it and apparently so does Mrs. S.

With Project Leda, the Prolethians, and the neolutionists from the Dyad Institute, we have three potential sources of danger for the clones. Are they all bad guys?

Let's get out of town
Let’s get out of town

Much of the episode is about Sarah’s search for Kira. By the end of the episode, Sarah manages to get Kira back, collect Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and make ready to run.

An interesting side note on the title of this episode. According to Entertainment Weekly, the title is a quote from Francis Bacon’s book The New Organon: Or, True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature. The book, written in 1620, is an early reflection on nature, science and religion.

Review: Orphan Black: Nature Under Constraint and Vexed

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.

Tatiana Maslany and Tatiana Maslany
Tatiana Maslany and Tatiana Maslany

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.

Reflections on House of Cards, season 2

Season 2 of House of Cards appeared on Netflix on Valentine’s Day. If it was meant to be a little billet-doux from Netflix to sweeten up our weekend, it failed the sweetness test. It more than made up for it in the drama department, however.

I want to share my reactions to this series without revealing any spoilers about season 2 while doing it. Overall, season 2 is even better than season 1 – and season 1 is exceptionally good. Here are a few reasons that House of Cards continues to get better.

  • There are fascinating plot twists that keep you on your toes in this story. Not one of the politicians in this tale does a single thing for the good of the country or the people – it’s all about self-interest. It feels realistic and unpleasantly like modern politics. Yes, it feels realistic in the telling, but if you really examine the plot it seems unlikely to ever be reality.
  • The performances by the lead actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as Frank and Claire Underwood are outstanding.
  • Supporting actors also do an outstanding job. It’s a big cast, because the story is involved.  Every character is important as a piece of the puzzle and every actor gives a credible performance.
  • The look, the mood, the writing, the pace: everything works, everything contributes.
  • A couple of episodes were directed by women, namely Jodie Foster and Robin Wright. A series always earns extra points with me when a woman directs.

The Master Manipulator

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood

Frank Underwood continues to be ruthlessly ambitious, a manipulator who will do anything to get what he wants. He shares some of his plans and goals with us by talking directly to the camera as he did in season 1. We see a measure of his true self thanks to this device. Other than his wife, most of the people around him have no idea what he’s doing. He’s very convincing.

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

In season 1, Claire Underwood was off doing her own thing, but in season 2, this power couple are working more closely together to achieve their joint quest for power. We see deeper into their relationship. House of Cards would still be fascinating if the only plot involved the complex and murky interactions between this couple.

Shared time in a complex marriage
Shared time in a complex marriage

They understand each other, they support each other, and they are committed to getting what they want. They tolerate each other’s foibles and needs and build on each other’s strengths. In some ways it’s a political marriage based on shared ambitions and convenience, but in other ways they love and care about each other.

House of Cards is about much more than a marriage, however. There are themes of good an evil, about power and whether power corrupts, about the end justifying the means, about progress, the common good, the rule of the moneyed class. Mixed in with the big thematic elements there are human stories about the desire for love, the need for sex, and appetites of all kinds.

A Few Supporting Characters

The majority of the supporting characters are ambitious politicians. There are a few journalists, sex workers, security staff, double agents, or others who somehow know too much and could be a danger to the politicians.

These are the supporting players that I found particularly impressive.

Molly Parker as Jackie Sharp
Molly Parker as Jackie Sharp

Molly Parker as House Whip Jackie Sharp is terrific. She’s strong, devoted to her own political ambitions and willing to work with Frank Underwood even though she knows he’s a snake. Her story gets fairly well developed for a supporting part. She gets involved with Remy Denton as part of that development, a choice that might end badly.

Mahershala Ali as Remy Denton
Mahershala Ali as Remy Denton

Mahershala Ali as Remy Denton is someone who is not a politician, but does what he can to influence politics in various ways. He’s an employee of billionaire Raymond Tusk and sometimes is sent to do things he doesn’t really want to do.

Gerald McRaney as Raymond Tusk
Gerald McRaney as Raymond Tusk

Raymond Tusk is played by Gerald McRaney. I have been watching Gerald McRaney on TV for over 40 years, since the early 1970s. I have to admit I’m fond of him. He’s usually a good guy, but here he’s a power junkie with billions at his disposal. He’s fantastic as a villain!

Stamper and Rachel Brosnahan as Rachel Posner
Michael Kelly as Doug Stamper and Rachel Brosnahan as Rachel Posner

Michael Kelly is chilling as Frank Underwood’s chief of staff, Doug Stamper. One of his chores in season 1 was to get the sex worker Rachel Posner out of the view of journalists and make sure no one ever heard from her again. He’s an alcoholic with 14 years of sobriety, but he goes on a crazy “dry drunk” binge over this woman (played by Rachel Brosnahan) and spends his time obsessing about her and following her every move. Her storyline grows more interesting and important with each episode of season 2 as well.

There are many characters I haven’t mentioned because I’m trying not to reveal anything that happens in season 2 that will shock or surprise you. There’s plenty in season 2 that will do that.

Heading into Season 3

Season 3 is a go. As I look at what transpired in season 2 and think about what may happen in season 3, I can’t help but think about a book I read recently called Give and Take by Adam Grant. I reviewed this book briefly in a post on my other blog, Web Teacher. The Machiavellian Frank Underwood is a taker of the highest magnitude. He thinks he’s invulnerable, he thinks everything is in his control, but he makes mistakes. He trusts the wrong people, he does the wrong things, and his empire could topple like a – it must be said – house of cards.

Adam Grant’s premise in Give and Take is that takers eventually fail and fall. Will Frank Underwood?

Watch This: Orange is the New Black Season 2 Teaser

It’s a mere 30 second teaser, but it came with the announcement that all 13 episodes of season 2 of Orange is the New Black will be released on June 6 on Netflix.

I’m ready right now.