Season 3, Episode 5: “Scarred By Many Past Frustrations”
New beginnings. New horrors. Same old trip.
It’s a tough gig being a supporting cast member on Orphan Black. Not an episode goes by that Tatiana Maslany is not (rightly) praised for her chameleon-like ability to become half a dozen characters. In truth, more than 90% of Orphan Black features at least a single version of Tatiana as the center of a scene. What does this mean for folks like Felix, Art, Donnie, Paul, etc? It means everything is always going to be about the clone in the room.
Not this week. This week, other people get the spotlight. What better example of this than Shay, Cosima’s new friend, played by the wonderful Ksenia Solo? From the moment it was announced Cosima was getting a “new friend”, protests began. Fans take their fictional TV relationships very seriously, and “Cophine” (Cosima/Delphine for laymen) is no exception. Even if Delphine is transformed into a dominating Rachel monster before our very eyes, even if Cosima goes looking for other dates, fans will cling to what they know and attack anything that threatens it. No one will ever be good enough for Cosima, no matter how adorable a human cinnamon bun they are. So, rather than try and fight the fans, Orphan Black is going around them by making Shay the center of attention. Somebody’s following Shay, recording her, photographing her, who she’s with, etc. For once, Cosima is not the grenade in a relationship. Also for once, Cosima is the helpless child in someone else’s hands. The Clone Club’s super science geek is putty in Shay’s faith healer hands and soothing voice. Let’s pretend for a moment that John Fawcett and the folks at Orphan Black can hear me; more Shasima (Shay/Cosima) please!
Next on the list for outstanding non-clone-related activities is Gracie’s first night out/in. Felix, Mrs. S., and Gracie bond over punk rock, skimpy outfits, and lots of alcohol. This episode truly feels like the first time we’ve gotten to see Felix as his own character, instead of just an extension of Sarah. He’s got his own gripes with Mrs. S., his own unresolved issues, and his own feelings towards the secrets she keeps. He’s also the number one choice for showing Gracie all the things her uber-religious upbringing has shunned. Forget breaking out of her shell, they’re going to shatter it. Even Art’s got his own little side case that’s proving interesting. It does lead back into the Castor vs Leda situation, but doesn’t feature any of the actual clones. None of this should be taken to mean Tatiana is hogging the spotlight. She works her butt off every single week as the centerpiece of this show and she has proven herself worthy of such an unbelievable opportunity. All this means is that it’s okay for her to take it easy every once in a while.
Even with other characters taking spotlight this episode, the scenes between Tatiana and herself are still an enormous highlight. Sarah and Helena are reunited, but there are serious scars that need addressing. Sarah finally comes into the open about some failings that have been hanging on viewers of the series since the beginning. All of it falls on deaf ears, as Helena is in her own little world where Sarah is nothing. In some ways it feels their relationship has progressed back to previous seasons, with neither trusting one another. One thing’s for certain, there is no way to predict what the future will bring for these two sestras. All that can be accurately deduced is that it will be awesome. And shocking.
Clone of the Week: Helena
Helena. In every family, there is always the wild one. This is especially true for the Leda Family, where unstable is the norm and you need a double-digit body count to be considered truly crazy. Helena is one of the most mesmerizing characters to watch on television. A combination of qualities both childlike and animalistic, she has a unique way of interacting with the world that has to be seen to be truly understood. It’s like watching Heath Leger’s Joker, but more primal and even less predictable. Her physicality alone wins her “Clone of the Week” this week; as she snuggles with scorpions, crawls around her bed, butters herself, and demonstrates a level of awareness that can border on omnipotence. Helena is truly the wild card of Orphan Black.
Episode Score: 9.0