The Season 4 premiere of Orphan Black – “The Collapse of Nature” – is something of a brave gamble. Following the events of last season, the show was really ready for all sorts of jumping points forward. So it’s an interesting choice that it jumps backwards instead, with the episode focusing almost entirely on a clone we’ve mostly only heard about – Beth Childs. Our only real prior glimpse of the actual Beth came in the series premiere, and that was when she jumped in front of a train to kick off Sarah Manning’s journey in the Clone Club world. Everything else about her has come second-hand, either through characters like Art and Paul and the other clones relating what they knew about Beth, or through Sarah’s impersonations of Beth, and the reactions to that.
But the actual Beth? We didn’t know that much about her. And, as it turns out, much of what we thought we knew might’ve been wrong.
We find ourselves watching a Beth who sure was keeping a lot of secrets. She loved her sestras-to-be, and was fiercely protective of them. She didn’t trust her boyfriend-and-monitor Paul. She was having a friends-with-benefits (!) relationship with her partner Art. She was seriously self-medicating. And she worried about her abilities as a cop.
Beth also knew a lot more about Neolution than anyone might’ve guessed – and she wasn’t exactly sharing much of what she knew with anyone. As it turns out, everyone’s favorite body-modders were up to Tons of Bad Shit, even back when Beth was still alive. But there’s not much Beth can do about it – as she begins to uncover more and more things, she accidentally shoots someone, and is suspended from the police force. Everything’s looking hopeless, and Beth doesn’t have anywhere to run as the episode winds to a conclusion …
… and it’s heartbreaking, because her fate is already sealed.
But it’s also a reminder of the fierce bond between the clone sisters. Beth was willing to do anything for them. And as the episode wraps up by cutting to the present, with MK finding Sarah and telling her “you need to run” – it’s clear that sentiment remains with Sarah and her sestras, even the ones she doesn’t know yet.
Was this episode a home run? I’m not quite sure yet. But I think it potentially sets up the rest of the season in spectacular fashion.
Beth: “Yeah, I’m, uh, looking to have my breasts surgically modified into, like, corkscrews.”
Beth: “Everything else okay?”
Cosima: “Not really. You ever heard the one about the lesbian and the U-Haul?”
The almost-meeting of Felix and Beth at the police station.
Alison with the gun. And of course Alison was supplying Beth with drugs.
And a lot of callbacks to previous episodes. Turns out the surveillance equipment in Beth’s apartment was put there so Beth could spy on Paul, not the other way around.
Beth’s awfully similar to Sarah, personality-wise. And MK (the new sheep-mask wearing clone) seems like a timid, non-homicidal version of Helena. I don’t blame the always-awesome Tatiana Maslany for this; I just think the show writers could’ve worked to find ways to make them more their own characters. (In Beth’s case, maybe it doesn’t matter; time will tell with MK.)
Hope you’ve been paying close attention to The Story So Far. “The Collapse of Nature” made reference to plenty of details coming from prior episodes in prior seasons, and assumed that the viewer knew them all well. I knew some of them, but some references whizzed straight over my head during my first viewing. It made for a fun-but-somewhat-confusing watch.
No Helena appearances. Or Donnie. Boo!
Wait, Beth was sleeping with Art?
And I think I’ll be quite happy if I never hear the phrase “bifurcated penis” on a television show ever again.