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Review: Orphan Black’s slow ride

SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read on unless you’ve seen the Season 3, Episode 7 of Orphan Black, titled “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate.

Anyone who watches any TV knows what this episode was: filler. We took a break tonight from the main, pulse-racing plotline that dominated last week’s hour, and instead had our focus shifted to the wacky Alison drug-dealing sideplot. Nothing really happened, nothing really changed, and the momentum Orphan Black was picking up screeched to a halt as we dallied around at a school trustee campaign rally.

Every scene outside of the Alison story was far more compelling and interesting. The things we’ve been led to care about this season—Helena and Sarah’s relationship, Cosima’s health, Rachel’s plan of action—are relegated to the sidelines, so any morsel we can savour, we should. As I will always attest, Helena is by far the most interesting character; every scene with her shines. So the opening in the Mexican restaurant is engaging enough, knowing that Helena wants to kill Mrs. S. for betraying her and selling her out.

I thought we were going to have an episode of fun Sarah and Helena dialogue, but instead Sarah decides to take a shower in a strange place from a complete stranger (who knew Helena was pregnant?), even though they just escaped a military base and are probably being sought after. She then proceeded to spend three-quarters of the episode in there. Bummer.

Cosima, too, is barely onscreen (not disguised as Alison), and when she is it’s infinitely more watchable than the Alison plotline. The chemistry between Cosima and Shay is believable, and their pre-and-post-coital flirtations are actually kind of hot. (To be honest, I didn’t really see that coming from two actresses who worked together as children. Good for them!) Cosima tells Shay the half-truth, that she’s sick but not why, and doesn’t mention anything about clones. Shay will find out soon enough!

When Cosima started bleeding out in the bathtub, I have to admit I got a little worried. So many of the Castor clones have died, and there hasn’t been any personnel loss on Team Leda for some time. (I’m not counting Paul.) Could Cosima die this season? I hadn’t really considered it. It wouldn’t be advisable for Orphan Black to lose one of its strongest characters at this juncture, so it’s most likely not going to happen.

The rest of the episode was pure Alison running for school trustee. We all knew she was going to win, so the stage is set for her victory—unless it all derails from the drug-dealing, which is probable. We meet her mother (Canadian shout-out to Sheila McCarthy!), who takes forever to sell her store to Alison, and we see Donnie make a series of missteps in the suburban couple’s first big drug deal. Everything is drawn out as Alison has to go back and forth between the rally and the deal. Watching this storyline was like that girl counting the money in Portuguese. It took forever.

At the end, at least we find out that Rachel knows the code in Ethan’s book, and she’ll only reveal it to Sarah. Yes please, more scenes with those two, and let’s circle back to the big stuff. We’re running out of time (and episodes) to dally any further.

Clone of the Week: Who else but Helena? Punching Mrs. S. in the face, being mouthy with the server, muttering death threats. It’s all so classic.

Random Thoughts:

  • I hate when Cosima coughs! Makes me so upset because I know what’s coming.
  • Helena vs. Mrs. S.: Ding ding ding! Loved every second of that.
  • Sooo the Castor clones just took the day off? No pursuit? No nothing? I find that very hard to believe.
  • Felix: “You need bangs that say ‘unhappy, sexless marriage.’”
  • How could they possibly hide Cosima’s dreadlocks under a Santa hat? I had dreads for two years of my life and they would bend to no hat.
  • Learning to play Agricola looks … uh …
  • Felix: “We’re gonna dismantle that bitch.”
  • I will never tire of seeing Canadian money on TV.

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on Space.

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Review: True love’s kiss on Orphan Black

SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read on unless you’ve seen the Season 3, Episode 6 of Orphan Black, titled “Certain Agony of the Battlefield.

Poor Paul. Such a noble death for the shady character. We never really knew whose side he was on until tonight, when he fully admitted to Sarah that it was her he loved all along. Looking back, it was fairly obvious that they were going to kill him off: A) he was disrupting the Castor camp completely by jailing Mommy and the rest, B) he had feelings for Sarah, their captive, and C) with Cal in the picture, Paul’s character had kind of hit a dead end.

Still, he went out fighting, and fighting hard. For the first time in my Orphan Black viewing time, I actually came to like Paul. We knew who he was working for, and it made all the difference. When he revealed that he was secretly packing a grenade in the end scene there, I actually let out a cheer. For once it was “Go, Paul!” instead of “Ugh, it’s Paul again.”

Interesting, too, how Beth was brought back to the forefront. Sure, Art mentioned he was in love with her a couple episodes ago, but we got to live and breathe Beth again. She’s downright creepy in Sarah’s hallucinatory dream, but drops a pearl of wisdom on Sarah prior to her waking up: “Stop asking why, and start asking who.” Before the end of the episode, we have both Paul and Sarah asking “Who?” They get answers, but not full ones.

Seems Mommy and her crew are illegally testing the Castor virus/disease/infection on unsuspecting women—enough to fill a couple black books—and they’re testing it so it can be used as a weapon. Mommy doesn’t seem to have any problems with it, and her complete lack of conscience indicates to me that she’ll be dead before the end of the season. She is irredeemable now, having killed Paul, almost killed Sarah and infected multiple strangers. Can’t wait for her to get her comeuppance (hopefully from Helena).

Helena in the desert was one of the greatest Orphan Black scenes to date. When she ate Pupok for sustenance, I smiled wide. (Does that make me a sick person?) I swear I could watch a Helena-only spinoff, no problem.

Another scene for the history books is, of course, the Donnie and Alison “making it rain” scene. The music, the flying money, the sexual gestures, the underwear … it’s something you or I would do if we won the lottery. Orphan Black hasn’t really been doing that very much this season: crazy stuff that makes us laugh. We want the zany, non-sensical interactions. Remember when Felix wore those assless chaps? Or when Scott and his nerd friends were playing that fantasy board game? Like that. This was a nice reminder of what the show can offer outside of sci-fi and drama. Despite that scene, I still contend the Alison/Donnie plot is by far the weakest one. So the couple wants to “take it to the next level” in the drug-dealing game? SO. WHAT. The whole thing is so pointless and derivative, I can’t even believe it’s still going on. Thank goodness Maslany and Bruun are so fantastic, otherwise this would have been disastrous.

In other news, Cosima got some! (Her storyline also steps outside the main plot, but she’s still fully involved in the goings-on. This is how it should be done with Alison.) We even got to see naked Tat back. Usually it’s just man bum on this show, so I approve of the change. The love triangle I prophesied last week has come to pass. Delphine is back in town and lurking on the sidelines, and yes, even taking pictures of Shay and Cosima’s date. I guess Shay is trustworthy, then? We can never forget what Beth said: “Start asking who.” So I still don’t trust her.

We see Rachel at the end, crying. She’s either broken or ready to kill; those are the only two options. She seemed kind of broken to me this time, what do all of you think?

Clone of the Week: Sarah. Girl went to hell and back, plus she lost a man who loved her and was reunited with her daughter and sister(s)—Helena in reality, and Beth and Kira in dreamland. Oh, and she almost died. Three times.

Random Thoughts:

  • The only reason I can come up with as to why the Alison/Donnie plot is still going on: eventually the clones will need money for something. Alison will be there to provide it.
  • Rachel vs. Felix. More please. And FINALLY Felix gets in there, really angry and relentless. It’s more believable that his character would do something rather than just sit around with Mrs. S.
  • Prettttttttty sure Kristian Bruun’s balls were visible in the money scene.
  • How does Alison not care at all about her sisters or their welfare? It seems very far-fetched that she hasn’t even called them, not to mention know anything about the situation with Castor.
  • Helena: “I regret nothing.”
  • Shay’s hair was totally a wig, right? What is it with this show and bad wigs?
  • Felix: “Now nut up and take me to the cyclops.”

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Space.

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Review: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? on Orphan Black

SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read on unless you’ve seen the Season 3, Episode 3 of Orphan Black, titled “Formalized, Complex, and Costly.

Oh my god, the clones are actually sisters and brothers! OK, so maybe it’s not that exciting as far as revelations go (in fact, it’s kind of obvious that they would be related), but it does add another dynamic to Orphan Black, and even offers the possibility that they can team up and take on Dyad … and maybe even the Prolethians, who are back in fine flower-dress form this week.

It’s hard to tell who the real enemy is in Episode 3. Is it Rudy, who had to kill his own brother because he was defective and it was “protocol”? He goes to extreme measures all the time, but we can’t forget that he’s had a military life, is a messed-up clone, and is on an assigned mission to bring back the genetic material.

Is it Mark? The poor guy genuinely wants to separate himself from the clones and just go off with Gracie. Sure, he tortures Willard Finch (Nicholas Campbell looking his grizzliest) for information on Henrik’s scientific work and inadvertently kills him, but Mark’s motivations are as pure as Sarah’s.

Sarah is looking for Helena, and will stop at nothing to get it. If it means killing someone, she will. So does that make her any less of a villain than Mark? Nope. We sympathize with Sarah because we know her struggles. We don’t know the male clones’ stories—at least not in full. And hey, we’ve gotten to know Mommy a bit better now, and she seems to be a few shades of crazy. Having her raise a bunch of boys (which is what I’m assuming at this point) under a military structure probably provided some serious scars, both internal and external.

To put it simply, I’m having trouble figuring out who to root for. Obviously I love Helena and ultimately want Sarah to succeed in her quest to bring her home, but I feel badly for the Castor clones. I’m a tad concerned that these guys were just introduced to be killed off one by one, with Rudy and Mommy eating bullets in the Season 3 finale.

I’m assuming Mark is dead at this point. If Bonnie (Kristin Booth, represent!) missed from that distance with that rifle, then she’s a terrible shot. So that’s two Castor clones in as many episodes. It’s going to be impossible to form any real attachment to them, and makes me really fear that one-by-one concern, above.

This main-storyline tedium is what makes the Cosima-Scott-Felix brain extraction so fun, and so necessary. As disgusting as it was—I had to stop eating for the duration of the scene—it was a nice break from the cryptic conversations and runarounds of the plot. There was humour, amazing special effects, and hey, it’s interesting! We want that science nerd stuff, it’s engaging; it also brings the story forward when we learn that the Castor clones are suffering from irreversible brain disintegration. And who doesn’t love the occasional Felix rejoinder?

The other other subplot is ticking along according to plan: Alison and Donnie are successfully winning over the local housewife population with their drug dealing, and getting support for her school trustee campaign. I still stand by this subplot as being totally ridiculous and pretty unrealistic, but this is a show about clones who’ve found another group of clones, so who am I to judge? The scene in the garage was entertaining, mostly because watching Alison one-up anyone is a joy. We’ll see if this matures into anything of substance, or if it’s just another distraction from the density of the main plot.

One thing I will ask for is: more Helena. I can’t tear my eyes away when she’s on-screen. She’s either going to beat the Castor clones, or join them, and honestly I don’t know which one I prefer.

Clone of the Week: Helena. Her sassy comebacks make my night.

Random Thoughts:

  • Holy Canadian TV actor cameos! Nicholas Campbell as Willard Finch and Kristin Booth reprising her Bonnie role, all in one night! Such a pleasure.
  • The scene with Rachel undergoing rehabilitative therapy was spellbinding. Couldn’t get enough. Her dialogue reiterated to me that she will eventually go after/try to kill Delphine. So she can’t say “key” right now, but in a matter of weeks she’ll be back to the same ol’ Rachel, except with a badass eyepatch.
  • Did anyone else hear Cosima still coughing? That scared me.
  • Alison: “Go sell a house, Marcie!” and then “I need to cut something.”
  • Why was Sarah still talking/whispering into her phone when she’s trying to sneak into the barn? Who does that? Stealth 101: No phone talking.
  • Shout-out to Jilly’s, the now-gone strip joint in downtown Toronto, which makes an appearance in the background when Sarah and Art question the midwife.

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on Space.

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Review: Gains and losses on Orphan Black

SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read on unless you’ve seen the Season 3, Episode 2 of Orphan Black, titled “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis.

One down already, and we’re only two episodes in!

Deranged and obviously defective Project Castor clone Seth was shot to death by his brother Rudy, who either couldn’t bear to see Seth suffer anymore, or couldn’t be bothered to continue cleaning up his messes. Seth, we hardly knew ye. I will miss that moustache. It seems rather early in the Orphan Black season to bid farewell to such a potentially rich character (not to mention the possible dynamics between he and his brothers), but it might be a device to draw our attention to the obvious comparison pairing: Helena and Sarah.

I could argue that Helena is “defective” like Seth, but I don’t really see her that way. I see her as a product of abuse, hyper-intelligent, and street-smart. Yes, her one confidante at the moment is a scorpion, but you try being in a crate for an extended period of time and see how you’re doing! Anyway, we can see how much Sarah is driven by her desire to save her sister—no matter what the cost. Enough, in this case, to send Kira to Iceland with Cal (oh, Cal) so she can resume her Helena search-and-rescue without endangering her daughter.

And Helena, even though she’s been sold to the bad guys by Mrs. S., is still loyal to her sisters. When Dr. Coady (“Mommy”) tries to sway her with platitudes and compliments, Helena simply utters “I don’t believe you.” At this point, she still believes she has an ally in Sarah and the girls, and there’s no way Sarah betrayed her. She’s right, of course, but it’s only a matter of time (and waterboarding) before Helena is reprogrammed to go against her fellow Project Leda members. Lest we forget that she’s pregnant, too—a very valuable thing to every camp on the show.

Seeing Cal, Paul and Art for the first time in Season 3 reminded me just how weak the male characters are (with the exceptions of Felix and Donnie). Cal exists as a device to take care of Kira and physically protect someone when he needs to, plus he’s easy on the eyes; Paul is also the stereotypical “hot” guy, but he doesn’t really do much of anything other than threaten on occasion and lurk in the shadows; and oh man, Art. I can see he’s no better at policing than he was in the series premiere.

On one hand, as I’ve expounded above, it’s irritating to have all these fringe male characters (other than the clones) just popping up when necessary to move the plot forward. But on the other hand, it’s interesting to see the gender flip, and I wonder how many current TV shows have unjustifiably weak female characters, merely there to be eye candy. On a show like Orphan Black, which is female-strong, I think it’s an acceptable thing (for now) to have these supplemental people contribute now and then.

Ari Millen was more prominently featured in this episode, and that was a pleasure. Obviously an outstanding actor, he brings a lot of charisma to the male clones. He is at once convincingly scary (as Rudy) but also sincere (as Mark). I think it’s going to be fun watching him unpack the characters over the remaining eight episodes. His scenes with Tatiana are just a joy.

I am also a big fan of the nerd duo, Cosima and Scott. With Delphine “away in Europe” (a.k.a. Evelyne Brochu shooting another TV show), the two scientists are working together to figure out where they stand with Dyad. They’ve got the key to Ethan’s work, and that’s their ace in the hole. We’ll have to wait and see how they wield it.

As for the Alison, Donnie and Ramon side-plot, I don’t want to spend too much time on it because I think it’s ridiculous. As much as I love to watch the married couple bicker and be silly, the idea of running for school-board trustee while being everyone’s drug dealer just makes no sense. Why would anyone willingly elect their drug dealer in a position involved with their child’s education? Alison would have no power over these people. Sure, she knows that they do drugs, but so what? Surely there are other ways to get money. I don’t know, the whole thing just seems very random.

We’ve trudged through the beginning here, but the through-line for the season seems clear: Sarah is now on the hunt for Helena, phalanxed by Mrs. S., Felix and her sisters, and Project Castor (along with Mommy) and Dyad are after them. Like Sarah says: “Now we find Helena and finish this shit.”

Keep it simple, Orphan Black.

Clone of the Week: Rudy. Convincingly terrifying and engaging, I wanted to see more of him. Also, second episode in a row featuring Ari Millen’s ass.

Random Thoughts:

  • Anyone else counting the minutes until Mrs. S. and Mommy throw down? Mother-figure fight!
  • Thanks to the readers for pointing out my errors last week—I could swear Alison said “diddle,” but apparently it was “doodle.” Also, the new Leda clone is spelled “Krystal,” not “Crystal.” Love you Orphan Black fans, so dedicated!
  • Felix on the new clone phones: “Blue as the skies of Lesbos!”
  • Donnie: “Fist me.”
  • The fake moustache budget for this show has now substantially declined.
  • That hockey-in-the-house scene with Cal, Kira and Sarah was so contrived I had to hold in my laughter.
  • Michiel Huisman (Cal) is so drastically underused on this show, it’s almost criminal. See: Game of Thrones.

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on Space.

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Review: Them’s the Breaks on Orphan Black

SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read on unless you’ve seen the Season 3 premiere of Orphan Black, titled “The Weight of This Combination.

We’re back in Clone Country, and things are just as complicated … perhaps too complicated. The plot and goings-on in the Orphan Black Season 3 premiere are somewhat muddled, and at times it feels like we’re being over-explained to. To be fair, there’s a lot happening with the clones (now both male and female), Dyad, Topside, Mrs. S., Paul, the “cleaner” Ferdinand, Delphine, and some strange plotline with school board trustee Marcie and our favourite suburban couple, Alison and Donnie.

Thank goodness for the Orphan Black humour and visuals, otherwise this would have been a very tough slog. Underneath all of the exposition thrust upon us, there is a simple thread to follow, one that I intend to focus on rather than all the extraneous information that doesn’t really matter in the end. The bottom line is this: Rachel, Topside, Dyad and Project Castor are out to destroy the Project Leda clones, and the sisters have to band together in order to stop them. There. Easy, isn’t it?

The bizarro baby shower dream opening scene is one for the ages: saturated colour, reference to ox liver, Felix at the barbecue, pregnant Helena in her Sunday best. I didn’t believe it was real for one second, but hey, it was still entertaining. And only Helena would have a talking scorpion feeding her encouragement. This is the kind of fun I want from Orphan Black, but don’t always get.

Going by the ads and commercials, I was expecting this episode to dedicate more time explaining Project Castor, their motivations, and who each of the male clones were. While we saw them all, except for Mark (Rudy talking to Sarah and doing naked yoga/exercise, Seth beating up Mrs. S., and Miller freeing Helena)—we didn’t really get much. The show is still focusing on (and trying to make clear) the whole Topside debacle, along with the revelation about the Helsinki slaughter in 2006. I have a feeling Episode 2 will delve deeper into the guys’ backstories.

But for now, we get a lot about Cosima and Delphine, which I don’t mind. Their break-up scene was a heartbreaker, and hearing Tatiana’s crushing “I love you,” complete with cracking voice and tears, was enough to make my chin quiver. For the first time (to me, anyway), Delphine was awesome, concocting elaborate schemes and pushing down on Rachel’s empty eye socket. I was squirming away during that scene.

Straight-up, I’m worried that Rachel will kill Delphine. In fact, I’d bet money on it; but not before she and Cosima have their reunion. Their break-up seemed kind of unnecessary anyway, but I accepted it because Delphine is probably just trying to protect Cosima.

Alison and Donnie’s school board trustee story is out of left field. At least it’ll provide a less-intense side story when things heat up among the clones. It also brings us the glory of Kristian Bruun and his Donnie character, which I suspect is why they’re doing this story in the first place. No longer a monitor, Donnie needs to be integrated into the plot somehow. Also, Marcie? She looks so evil, she’s either A) involved with Topside somehow, B) involved with Project Castor somehow, or C) is both. Whatever the case, don’t trust her.

And I know I’ve said this before, but can I just shout out one more time to Tatiana? I never tire of watching her play a clone playing a clone. She masters it, from the walk to the tone to the accent, and it is a marvellous display of acting. Bravo. Just never play Tony again.

Next week, one of the Project Castor clones has Xs over his eyes. WHY? Can’t wait to find out.

Clone of the Week: Helena. Hands-down, she is the most entertaining clone, from the scorpion-talking to the dream sequence. More, please.

Random Thoughts:

  • Felix: “Delphine has your number? We definitely need new clone phones.”
  • Alison: “Holy diddle, here we go!”
  • Big nerd props to Scott’s periodic table of elements T-shirt. Not gonna lie, I kind of want it.
  • Donnie: “They took the Taurus.”
  • Another clone! Crystal Goderich, blonde, sexy, seductress … hope we get to see more of her.
  • Felix: “Don’t these people know you didn’t even finish high school?!”
  • Ari Millen didn’t have much to do in this premiere, aside from looking crazy and doing naked pull-ups, but I especially liked his Seth character (the moustache). I think he has the most depth, and I enjoyed his mini-breakdown in the kitchen with Mrs. S.
  • Wherever Sarah and Felix go drinking, down by that river—does NOT look appealing. Time for a new spot to set up the lawn chairs and talk clone.

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on Space.

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