For a show featuring murder, abduction, sexual assault and the subjugation of women by an oppressive patriarchy Orphan Black can sometimes vie for funniest series on television.
This is not a particularly new observation one and a half seasons in, but but while past episodes have left most of the comedic styling to Alison and/or Felix this episode drops that responsibility squarely in Helena’s lap. She’s made us laugh before of course, but those small moments were no comparison to what the smile-inducing assassin manages here. A road-trip with Helena and her “seestra” Sarah is guaranteed to be a good time for viewers on the face of it, and Tatiana Maslany and the show’s writers don’t disappoint.
The sixth episode of the second season isn’t just very, very funny though as it also furthers the plot with a handful of answers and (surprise!) several more questions. Sarah gets a somewhat informative face to face with the elusive Swan Man, Helena is coaxed back into captivity and a whole bunch of odd pairings raise new doubts and concerns over who exactly can be trusted. Increasingly, and sometimes frustratingly, the answer to that question seems to be not a damn soul.
Sarah and Helena are the real meat of the episode, and together and apart they once again offer some of the best scenes of the season. The two are on a road trip searching for answers, and in addition to some sisterly bonding (including a finely crafted yin-yang-shaped embryonic callback in their sleeping arrangements) the brutally cold Ukrainian assassin’s ongoing maturation into the real world continues to be a thing of wonder. Her fumble-filled car karaoke (“Sugar Sugar”) had me on the verge of giggling only to see it pushed into legitimate laughter by her campsite shenanigans with shadow puppets and gaseous expulsions.
She’s a child in all but the literal sense of the word — something that makes her straight faced proclamation that she’s “very good with children” even funnier — but she hits puberty before the episode’s over thanks to a sojourn into a nearby bar after being unwisely left alone by Sarah. After seemingly ordering one of everything on the drink menu and dealing with an unwanted suitor she becomes enamored of a nice young man (Patrick J. Adams) in a baseball cap. She offers him a white Russian (ahem) and after some self-referential chit chat and friendly bouts of arm wrestling he offers her a dance. It’s her first, and while we don’t see her feet stepping clumsily over his we can imagine it all the same.
It’s a rare moment of warmth for Helena in particular, and while Mark the Prolethean’s presence on a nearby bar stool tells us it will be short-lived it’s enough to give us hope that she has a happy ending waiting for her down the line. Sarah’s not very encouraging on that front though. In addition to being unable or unwilling to sleep eye-to-eye with Helena and then leaving her to wait in the truck like a puppy dog she abandons her sister after Helena gets arrested. Is it me or is this a dick move on Sarah’s part? Sure there’s unresolved bad blood between them and she did call Art to ask for his help in getting Helena safely released, but couldn’t she at least have stopped by the station to check on her? It’s enough to make me wonder if Sarah’s newly turned leaf regarding actually caring about Helena isn’t just a load of bull to fuel her own self-serving aims.
While Helena is off flirting and fighting Sarah’s research in the church reveals the cold reality behind the Cold River Institute and her own origin. On the one hand she and her fellow clones were a success, but the line of human failures on the road to that success paint a sad and disturbing picture. Her arrival at Ethan Duncan’s (Andrew Gillies) home bears fruit – along with the unexpected return of Mrs. S, more on that in a moment — and he offers some insight including the creepy specificity that the program was intent on creating “little girls” as opposed to babies period. His revelation that Dr. Leekie is a big baddie seemed designed to shock, but is anyone really surprised by this? He’s been lead creep since last season, and all the transparent acts of kindness towards Cosima haven’t changed that.
As for Mrs. S, I know she’s a popular and beloved character, but more and more I’m getting the sense that she’s just being plugged into the story willy nilly to deliver or enable some new layer of expositional mystery. She seemingly knows everyone in the entire story, and now we even have her sharing a tea with Paul? (I can’t be the only one who though she had poisoned the cup right? And then was disappointed that she hadn’t?) It’s at the point now where she’s legitimately putting Sarah and Kira in jeopardy by continuing to reveal information in piecemeal fashion instead of simply sharing everything she knows. There’s no logic to her behavior beyond suiting the writers’ needs.
And I’ve wondered this before, but seriously, where is Paul’s allegiance? He’s played both sides, but that recent smile he showed while threatening Felix on the phone with Sarah was pure smarmy malevolence, and he was alone at the time so why look so damn evil if there’s no one there to convince? It’s easy enough to write him off as a bad guy now, but were Mrs. S’ comments to him about Afghanistan meant to imply a deeper connection or just that she was aware of the incident? Hmm?
The ongoing story thread regarding how not a single soul aside from you and your clone can be trusted carries over to Cosima once again too. She’s getting some new stem cell match treatment from Delphine, and while I think I believe the monitor actually cares for Cosima I’m not exactly sure how far that care will carry. Once again she’s hiding things from poor Cosima, and that’s never a good thing for a relationship.
Alison returns after her absence last week only to discover that she’s stuck in treatment with Vic. He’s a changed man now, clean and living a life inspired by Buddha, and he’s gone from being an angry tool to being a man espousing quotes about how anger is a tool to be used on problems not people. Alison’s been cut-off from everyone, so it’s nice to see her forming a new friendship here, but once again the doubt over who you can trust rears its ugly head. Vic has nothing to do with clones or the Dyad Institute, but like so many before him he’s pretending to be one thing while actually being nothing more than a spy.
Finally, they didn’t accomplish much this episode aside from becoming best buds, but I’m thinking Felix and Art may be making a play for their own spin-off. They’re not my favorite characters by a long shot, but yeah, I’d watch the hell out of them on season two of True Detective.