We’ve been throwing around the word “Cronenbergian” to describe the action on Orphan Black quite a bit this season, and for good reason. For the past three seasons, the show’s been mostly a sci-fi thriller series, with occasional dalliances into horror. This season, though? Much like one of its main themes – evolution – the show’s started evolving into something much more unsettling, becoming more of a horror thriller with some underlying sci-fi elements instead. And it’s not just the big shock elements, either. There’s an uneasiness permeating even the most normal scenes, of people just talking, or sharing a meal together, or doing something that should be just mundane.
In that regard, Orphan Black’s becoming a lot like Twin Peaks, taking on David Lynch’s penchant for making the ordinary quite profoundly disturbing at times. It’s hard to tell at the moment whether this tonal shift in Orphan Black’s narrative is something that’s just for this particular story arc, or for this season, or represents a more significant shift in the show’s overall theme … either way, showrunners Graeme Manson and John Fawcett deserve a lot of credit for pushing the boundaries of the show, and not just playing things safe as the seasons progress.
The latest episode – “Human Raw Material” – doesn’t quite open with anything horrifying, though. Instead, we get clone Krystal, still a bubbly beautician with a fondness for anything pink … but there’s a little bit of an edge to her now. She’s training in kickboxing and self-defense – turns out that her encounters with the Castor twins last season have left a mark on her, and she’s determined to find out who they were, and just what’s going on.
Moving on to someone who does know what’s going on (sort of), Sarah learns that Geneconnexion – the genetic matching company that brought Felix and his biological sister Adele together – is owned by Neolution. She brings along Kira as she tries once more to talk to him about Adele, but Adele happens to be there, wihich complicates things. Also complicating things is that Adele is really, really sweet with Kira. Nothing gets resolved, there’s a lot of uncomfortable tension, and Sarah winds up leaving with surreptitiously secured DNA samples from Felix and Adele so Scott can independently test them for her.
Meanwhile, Alison’s supposed to be infiltrating BrightBorn with Donnie, but she has other plans, so Cosima winds up being Donnie’s fake surrogate baby momma-to-be instead. Considering she can actually follow all of the biological technical talk at the place, it makes sense. She tries breaking off to do some snooping, but isn’t terribly successful at first. What she is inadvertently successful at is running into Susan Duncan (whom she doesn’t recognize!) and talk through some of the science of what BrightBorn is doing … and its ethics, or lack thereof. Cosima’s adamant that gene manipulations of embryos is a Super Bad Idea. Susan smirks and doesn’t care.
Suddenly complicating things is the surprising arrival of Krystal at the doors of BrightBorn while Cosima and Donnie are already there. Awkward!
Turns out that the Clone Club decision last year to keep Krystal blissfully ignorant of Neolution wasn’t exactly the greatest idea. Since Krystal’s been left to her own devices, she’s come up with a half-baked crackpot conspiracy theory about what’s actually going on with Neolution and its various subsidiaries, which is painfully wrong, but also contains just enough hints of what’s right to keep her on the right track. In other words, she’s a loose cannon who could potentially do a lot of damage to her unknown sestras. And she certainly manages to freak Donnie the hell out when he finally lays eyes on her.
Over to Sarah, who’s sitting down to dinner with Kira and Mrs. S at their safehouse. Felix stops by, bringing along Adele. Not cool, Felix. Tensions immediately rise to Twin Peaks Palmer Family Dinner levels, with Sarah and Felix sniping at each other and getting progressively nastier until Felix actually starts throwing food at Sarah. It’s incredibly uncomfortable, and looks like it’s about to really spin out of control when Scott calls Sarah’s cell phone. Sarah listens, and then tells Felix that she had his DNA tested against Adele’s. Yes, according to Scott, Sarah says, the Geneconnexion results were right – Felix and Adele are biologically related. That revelation makes everything just as uncomfortable as it was before.
(I’m not convinced that Scott actually told Sarah that, by the way. Judging from the long pause before she tells Felix that tidbit of information, and the pained expression on Sarah’s face, it seems quite possible that she just didn’t want to add gasoline to an already raging fire.)
Back at BrightBorn, Cosima’s made progress in her investigation. Putting on scrubs, she’s managed to snoop around at last, taking pictures and collecting information. A doctor comes in – hey, can you help us deliver this baby – and Cosima finds herself looking at the ugly underside of BrightBorn, as she helps deliver GAAAAAHHHH HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THAT THING!!!!!! Sweet merciful crap, it’s the baby from Eraserhead, in all its malformed, hideous glory! All the speeches about ethics made by Cosima earlier come to fruition in one horrifying scene – and then Susan comes in, revealing her identity at last to Cosima. Uh-oh.
While that’s going on, Donnie tries to lead Krystal out of the way and off to safety, posing as masseuse, um, “Ronnie.” Zero points for originality, “Ronnie.” He manages to coax out of Krystal why she’s there, and that she thinks she’s the Snowden in a grand conspiracy theory. Of course, her conspiracy theory revolves around mutations related to cosmetics, like teeth growing out of people’s eyelids. It would sound weirder and more ludicrous, except this is Orphan Black. So it only sounds slightly weird. Donnie manages to let on that he knows more than he’s letting on, though, which kicks Krystal into Paranoid Mode, and she unleashes those sweet kickboxing moves of hers on Donnie and his groin. Oh, Donnie.
Susan has Cosima captured, but not imprisoned. They debate ethics again, except Susan starts countering with reality. Namely, original DNA source Kendall. Cosima says handing over Kendall to Neolution isn’t an option, but Susan points out that a lot of gene therapy could take place if they did have Kendall. And part of that therapy could include a cure for Cosima. Cosima’s lack of response to that speaks volumes.
Finally, some alone time for Sarah and Kira. In this week’s Stephen King moment, Kira reveals that she can sense the emotions of Sarah and her sestras, including “ones she doesn’t even know.” It’s an interesting reveal, even if it’s not terribly original. We’ll see how this plays out.
And having let Cosima go to consider her options, Susan Duncan goes for a swim at the BrightBorn pool, where Castor Clone Ira is waiting for her. She gloats, he smiles, and then … they start sucking face. Ewwwwwwwww, for three reasons. First of all, ewwwwwwwww. And that’s not because Susan’s much older than Ira; it’s that she’s for all practical purposes his mother. Second of all, Susan’s been shown thus far as being all about hardcore science – compromising scientific integrity for the sake of getting a Castor booty call seems more than a bit out of character. And third of all, ewwwwwwwww.
Alison, on what Cosima should do once she infiltrates BrightBorn with Donnie: “I don’t know, Sarah things. Skulk around, look miserable, con people.”
“Is that a rocket ship?” Um, no, Kira. No, it is most certainly not.
“I look like a geriatric skateboarder.” “I have to go … shit.” And Donnie’s patronizing explanation to Cosima about how not to act like a lesbian, which leads to her dry “I’m just going to let that one slide” retort. Donnie rules.
Helena being MIA, except for a quick good-bye text to Sarah. Booooooo.
I know Sarah’s got a lot going on, but her bitchiness to Alison is kind of out of left field. Alison doesn’t pull her weight? Um, who’s financing the majority of Clone Club’s activities? I’m pretty sure it’s the Hendrixes. And I found it even stranger that Alison didn’t throw that right back in Sarah’s face.
I’m really not sure what the point of the whole Adele storyline is. If Adele is some sort of Neolution operative, or represents something/someone else with Very Bad Plans, then she’s so obviously a bad guy – and should be to every in Clone Club, with the exception of the emotionally blindered Felix – that it’s almost laughable. There seems like there could be so many better ways to handle that character, and that type of storyline. And if she’s not someone with Very Bad Plans – and is genuinely who she says she is – then it’s not terribly interesting, or advancing the story much. Let’s hope this is all setup for something completely out of left field in an episode or two, and not just this year’s version of “Alison Needs Something To Do So School Elections.”
Wait, repeated mentions by Krystal of “the blonde French doctor.” It’s possible that Delphine’s alive???
Susan Duncan and Ira. Again, ewwwwwwwww. The Flowers in the Clone Attic vibe goes WAY beyond creepy.