Retro Review: Orphan Black, Episodes 7-10

“Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner”:

What’s this? An episode of Orphan Black I unequivocally enjoyed?

What sorcery is this?

The many and sundry clones of Orphan Black“Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner” is easily the best episode of the series to date. The plot is streamlined, with no filler at all, and it seems like all the disparate threads of the show’s story are starting to come together.

Helena has recovered and is hot on Sarah’s trail. Paul walks a tightrope as he tries to discover the truth behind the clones without giving away Sarah’s secrets. Art and the cops are closing in on the truth. Everyone’s putting all their cards on the table, so to speak.

That there are still several episodes left before the season finale gives me hope that there might be some awesome stuff ahead. Everything’s on a collision course, and there’s plenty of time for the ensuing chaos to play out. Colour me intrigued.

I believe I can also now let go of one of my initial concerns about the show — that it would endlessly extend its mystery without providing any real answers. Thankfully, it seems this will not be the case. The mystery is slowly being unraveled, and I’m starting to get a pretty clear picture of what’s going. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered, but I now have confidence that they will eventually be answered, so I’m happy to sit back and enjoy the journey.

I do still have a few complaints about this episode, but they’re relatively minor. For one thing, the clones all continue to display a complete inability to exercise good judgement.

Paul in Orphan BlackAlso, my brief fascination with Paul’s character is already fading away. It was interesting to have him as a double agent whose loyalties were at best unclear, but now he seems to have been firmly established as Sarah’s loyal boyfriend. That’s far less compelling.

Still, on the whole, this was a very good episode, and Orphan Black’s best showing to date by a wide margin.

Overall rating: 8/10

“Entangled Bank”:

And now we’re back to the same old, same old.

I’m afraid everything I have to say about this episode is just repetition of the complaints I’ve had about this show from the start.

Once again, it’s an episode where a lot happens, but the plot isn’t really advanced in any meaningful way.

And once again, all the clones act incredibly stupid.

Sarah, if you’re going into a situation where you’re almost certainly going to be captured or killed, why wouldn’t you clean out your jacket pockets of things that would lead back to your daughter? You know, the person you swore to protect at all costs?

Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning in Orphan BlackMeanwhile, Cosima continues to allow herself to be seduced by the world’s most obvious spy, and Allison… is just a lost cause at this point.

Overall rating: 6.9/10

“Unconscious Selection”:

This episode mainly seems to deal with the inevitable repercussions of the clones’ poor decisions. Sarah must find a solution to the Helena problem following Kira’s injury, Cosima has to confront the incredibly obvious truth that Delphine doesn’t have her best interests at heart, and Allison faces an intervention following her intoxicated rampage.

Meanwhile, Dr. Leekie tries to make peace with Sarah on behalf of her Neolutionist creators, and the cops draw ever closer to the truth.

I enjoyed “Unconscious Selection” much more than the last one. It does a good job of advancing current arcs in meaningful ways — mostly notable the Helena situation — while also opening up new questions.

Is Dr. Leekie really not the bad guy after all?* Does Kira have super healing a la Wolverine because she’s Sarah’s daughter?

Matt Frewer as Dr. Leekie in Orphan Black*(I doubt it.)

Mostly, it’s an entertaining enough episode. My one complaint would be that Sarah continues to hide things from Art and the cops. She’s already brought Mrs. S. and Paul into her confidence. Is Art really so much less trustworthy than Paul? I’d think having the cops as back-up would be pretty handy.

I mean, I guess she runs the risk of being arrested for history’s weirdest case of identity theft, but I imagine she could get a pretty decent plea deal by helping to expose the world’s largest illegal human cloning ring.

But again, the clones are all idiots.

To my great surprise, I think Allison actually managed to be the most entertaining part of this episode. That was a Hell of a tongue-lashing she gave Aynsley. And her and Felix had some pretty hilarious moments.

Wherever else this show may go wrong, you can always count on Felix to keep things interesting.

Felix in Orphan BlackOverall rating: 7.4/10

 “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” (season finale):

And so we come to the conclusion of Orphan Black’s first season.

As one would expect, it starts with all the plots slowly coming to a head. The Neolutionists extend an olive branch to the clones, offering an obviously false* promise of protection and freedom. The cops at last stumble onto the truth, though they don’t understand what they’ve found. Cosima begins to manifest the same lung disease that plagued the German clone. Sarah is at last forced to find a solution to the Helena problem. Allison finds a way to go even crazier.

*(I say this not because the Neolutionists are obviously sinister — though the only way they could be more so is if they had black top hats and spent all their time stroking their mustaches — but because their promise includes both 24/7 protection from all threats and no monitoring, two things that can’t possibly go together. The fact that none of the clones pick up on this is once again a testament to their complete inability to think rationally.)

But yet despite everything seemingly coming to a climax, this really doesn’t feel like a season finale. It offers no revelations about the clones or their reason for being. Most plots don’t advance much beyond the status quo.

Only Helena’s story comes to any satisfying conclusion, and while “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” leaves many questions yet to be answered, they’re all the same questions we’ve had for a while.

Detective Arthur Bell in Orphan BlackThe story with the cops is a particularly bad case. Early in the episode, that particular arc seems to be coming to a head. They teeter on the brink of the truth, and all Hell seems ready to break loose. All bets are off as to whether the police will be Sarah’s salvation, or her doom.

And then it all just sort of evaporates. The cop plot all but disappears, and Art and his partner return to their previous status of being confused but of no immediate relevance to Sarah’s life.

There are some good emotional payoffs throughout the episode, but in a show whose appeal is based far more on its mysteries than on its somewhat mediocre cast of characters, that’s not nearly enough.

If “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” had been just another episode, it would be okay, but as a season finale, it falls flat. Even with a halfway decent cliffhanger, it just doesn’t have much to offer in the way of “wow” factor. It’s just another step along the road, not a climax.

Overall rating: 6.9/10

I leave the first season of Orphan Black feeling little more than a vague sense of disappointment. The potential for a great show is here, but it’s never been more than potential.

As of now, I’m not sure if I’ll bother with future seasons. I’m curious to find out what’s actually going on, but looking up spoilers on Wikipedia seems just as good an option as wading through several more hours of almost good television.

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One thought on “Retro Review: Orphan Black, Episodes 7-10

  1. At least you don’t have to wait 9 months to see the next season. I quite enjoyed a few things this season, for sure.

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