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Orphan Black Season 4, Episode 10 Recap: Die Hard, or Maybe Just Get Maimed

Not only is this episode, “From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths,” the season finale, it’s the finale to the penultimate season! BBC America announced that Season 5 would be the series’ last, and I’m glad for that. Don’t get me wrong – I love this show! – but there are times during Season 4 where c0-Brain Mike and I wondered if this series was going to start meandering without any sort of endgame in sight. And lo & behold, we have it! We know now that it’ll have: a really NASTY villain; a mysterious puppetmaster who’s possibly immortal (!); and probably a major death or three. Because let me tell you, Season 4 ends on a dark note.

But before that – hey look! Ferdinand’s back! A little poorer (OK, a lot poorer) but not dispirited, he reawakens Rachel’s lust for power via some S&M and bondage. (Somehow, this motivational trend hasn’t yet made the cover of Fast Company.) Now that Evil Cho is out of the way – permanently (death by maggot-bot!) – Rachel drops any pretense of working with Sarah and the rest of Clone Club. She wants Neolution, and she’ll betray anyone to get it. Speaking of betrayal…

Over on the Island of Lost Clones, Mommie Dearest Susan locks up Cosima after their attempt to create new Leda/Castor stem cells succeeds tremendously. For Susan, the search for the cure is important – but not as important as seizing power by restarting the cloning project. Like Rachel, Susan sees an opportunity to pull Neolution back onto the path of cloning supremacy. Unfortunately for Susan, she doesn’t have Rachel’s ruthlessness and self-hatred – and boy, is THAT a wild combo of bad traits! Spitting like Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, Rachel (a clone herself, mind you) tells Neolution’s board that the testing of clones will not only resume – she intends to push the White Rat metaphor to its nastiest extreme, stripping the new clones of all rights and keeping them locked up. OHHHH, SHE’S CRAZY.

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And yes, her bionic eye is still giving her David Lynch Vision – which leads to one of several references in this episode to Neolution’s founder, P.T. Westmoreland, who literally wrote the book (he did! He wrote a book!) on Neolution and genetic theory about 100 years ago. Susan had suggested that Westmoreland himself developed Rachel’s eye, but how could that be if the guy lived decades ago…?

In any event, Sarah and Mrs. S are in the dark about Rachel’s motives until a visit by clone beautician Krystal (and subsequent impersonation of Krystal by Sarah) gives them a chance to quiz new Brightborn big-wig Dr. Van Lier. They realize what Rachel and Susan are up to, and Sarah strong-arms Castor clone Ira into summoning a helicopter to take her to the Island of Lost Clones, where she intends to bring Cosima back, Die Hard style. Yeahhhhhh, about that….

Wednesday Charlotte gets an increasingly ill Cosima out of the locked room and says they have to get to the boat. First, though, they happen to see Rachel viciously stab Susan! Holy Matricide, Batman! Wednesday Charlotte is going to need therapy for that. They quickly leave the house, but a) they’re not sure where they’re going, b) it’s dark and really, really cold, and c) by leaving, they miss bumping into Sarah!

Sarah’s Bruce Willis impersonation lasts about as long as my brain cells during Live Free or Die Hard. She finds a badly injured but still alive Susan, and Rachel takes advantage of her distraction to beat the crap out of Sarah with her cane, stab her in the knee (!), and grab her gun. This would’ve been 30 seconds in a Die Hard film, but it’s understandably traumatic enough to send our hero Sarah scrambling for her life!

Sarah calls Mrs. S for help, but whoops, Ferdinand is already in the Rabbit Hole safe house, keeping an eye (and his gunsights) on both S and Kira. Rachel outmaneuvered Clone Club big time in this episode. The only tiny bright spot is the return of Delphine! Creepy Uncle Joe from Rachel’s visions shows up to save Cosima and Charlotte, and he brings them to — a homeless camp on the Island? With medical equipment? And ominous glances from other bearded people? Where is this, Mulholland Drive? Fortunately, Dr. Delphine brings Cosima back from the brink with her, um, bedside manner.

The season ends with Rachel, now firmly in power, about to have her first audience with … P.T. Westmoreland. Yes, he’s alive! Maybe. Could he be cloning himself over the decades and transferring his memories, ensuring his immortality? Or is a fakeout?

The Good:

It’s great to see Rachel as a villain again. Let’s give the writers credit for slowly building her back up over the course of two years. She’s now very much aware what defeat and humiliation taste like, which makes her deadlier than ever.

I’ve mentioned several times that I’m sick of the Castor clones, but I’ll make an exception if we can get a spinoff featuring Ira, Rachel, and Ferdinand. “Is he wearing socks?”

The Hendrixes hiding out in the woods with Grizzly Helena: Alas, Alison “has the shits.”

Krystal refuses to believe that she has any resemblance to Sarah. Brilliant.

I love it when a clone impersonates another clone. It somehow makes Tatiana Maslany even more amazing.

The Bad:

NOOOOOO, not another “Man Behind the Curtain” trope! Geez McGee, I thought we were done with that after Lost. I don’t mind the concept of an immortal mastermind, but this episode gives us the intro and the payoff in the same hour. No setup. It’s a little too Deathly Hallows-ish.

The WTF:

Why in the world does Sarah go solo to the Island of Lost Clones, when she already knows it’s a hostile situation? It’s crazy. She could’ve left Kira with Felix. There’s no reason for her NOT to have taken Mrs. S with her, since this is the type of situation that S excels in. That’s just, well, dumb.

Next:

That’s it for this year’s recaps, but stay tuned! Mike and I will soon mingle brain cells and discuss our final thoughts on Orphan Black Season 4.

–Ken

Orphan Black Season 4, Episode 8 Recap: Challenge Rating 7

Three things come through clearly in “The Redesign of Natural Objects”:

  1. For the first time in a while, there’s a sense of hope. It’s tiny, and could vanish in an instant, but it’s there.
  2. Don’t mess with Mrs. S.
  3. Darkwing Duko plays D&D! Unfortunately, he’s a 3rd-level rogue who walked into a CR 7 encounter. See #2 above.

Let’s deal with these in turn. Item #1: The hope comes from a new idea conjured by Cosima, whose on-again/off-symptoms remind me of how Peter Parker’s Aunt May was either always on death’s door or getting romanced by Dr. Octopus. But I digress. Cosima, newly energized from learning that Delphine may be kinda-sorta alive, gets in touch with ex-Neolution boss Susan Duncan and twitchy sestra Rachel (thanks to M.K.’s super-hacking) and theorizes they could still get the combo Leda/Castor DNA, despite Kendall’s death: What about old-fashioned in vitro fertilization of a Leda egg with Castor sperm?

Naturally, Sarah would need to agree to this, and she does so, only because Cosima is so excited about it and, really, what other choice is there? Cosima is facing a death sentence, otherwise, as might the rest of the sestras – including M.K., whom we see with a nasty nosebleed. Shockingly, the basement of a comic book store isn’t really equipped for such a procedure, so Cosima and a ziploc bag of Sarah eggs will have to travel to Susan’s super-secret retreat. Susan is excited about this; Rachel sees an opportunity to kick out Evil Cho and put Susan (and herself?) back in control of Neolution. That’s not the only thing Rachel sees: Her bionic eye keeps displaying glitching digital visions of a swan (i.e., Leda), including one where it’s beheaded. But hey, everything’s fine!

Item #2: Don’t mess with Mrs. S: It’s obvious to everyone except Orphan Black’s main characters that Mrs. S might have a teeny desire to seek revenge for her mother’s death and go all Jack Bauer on Darkwing Duko’s ass. One positive development of Mrs. S almost-assassination attempt: She sees Darkwing Duko meeting with Alison! Oh ho. She informs the rest of Clone Club that Evil Cho may be using the Hendrixes to get to Sarah. And indeed, that’s exactly what’s happening. Jailbird Donnie will get his feathers fatally plucked by a skinhead with a Neolution tattoo (subtle – NOT!) unless Alison tells Duko where he can find Sarah.

Time out. If Evil Cho thinks the “self-aware clones” are such a threat to her plans to gene-modify the world, then, uh, why the hell did she let Cosima walk free the night Duko killed Kendall? I mean, if you really want Sarah Manning, why didn’t you – oh, I don’t know – threaten to kill Cosima unless Sarah revealed herself? I can understand letting Cosima go in order to warn the other clones to back off, but if you really want Sarah out of the way, you tossed away a pretty good bargaining chip. Okay, time in.

Sarah and Mrs. S convince Felix to chat with Alison (who is in rehearsals for the church production of Jesus Christ Superstar, a.k.a. The Plot Thread That Wouldn’t Die) and make sure she hasn’t been co-opted by Team Evil. Alison assures Felix that, aside from all her assets being frozen and Donnie being in an ugly orange jumpsuit, she’s peachy. However, when next we see her meeting with Duko, he puts her on the phone with Donnie, who is getting the crap beaten out of him in his cell. Pressured, she tells Duko that Sarah will be at the Rabbit Hole tonight.

Hours later, Duko is on stakeout outside the comic book store – and Skinhead Tattoo Boy is still beating up Donnie? Really? Isn’t that kind of a long time? Aren’t there lockdown hours? Does Wilson Fisk run this jail, because that would explain a lot!

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Tatiana Maslany as Alison, and Gord Rand as a fuzzy Duko

In any event… surprise, it’s a setup! Alison told Felix what was going on, so Sarah, Art, and Mrs. S ambush Duko inside the Rabbit Hole and force him to call off the jail hit squad. In one of the best scenes of the past two years, we see a very anxious Alison in the middle of Jesus Christ Superstar rehearsals juxtaposed with scenes of Donnie getting beaten up. Felix, quietly watching the rehearsals, gives Alison the “Donnie isn’t dead” code signal, and she’s able to smile and relax in a literal and theatrical prayer of thanksgiving. Nicely done.

Mrs. S is still in a Jack Bauer mood, so she shoos Art and Sarah out of the store while she hooks up the car-battery clamps onto Duko’s shoulders. DAMMIT, DUKO! THERE’S NO TIME! Sorry, got carried away on a 24 wave of nostalgia. It’s soon apparent that Duko knows bupkis about Neolution’s bigger plans; he’s a mere tool who was forced into doing Evil Cho’s dirty work because she’s threatening his niece. “You understand? It’s about family!” he pleads. “Oh yes,” says Mrs. S, preparing her favorite rifle. “Family.” BLAM! Darkwing Duko’s blood sprays across an Atomic Robo poster, reducing its value by 85%.

Oh, and what made Duko feel so at ease that he let his guard drop inside the comic book store? Item #3: Dungeons & Dragons! He saw Hell Wizard’s D&D tabletop! Hell Wizard nervously said that his party consists of of a 10th-level paladin, a 12th-level thief and a half-elf cleric named Albus Dimbledots. Duko compliments him on the party makeup but says that it’d be even better if it had someone who could turn into a dragon. Ah, great. Darkwing Duko is a munchkin.

Was a munchkin. Min/max that, you dire weasel!

The Good:

Felix’s sister Adele wasn’t annoying this episode! Still clueless about clones, she gets the night’s best line when she meets Alison and says she looks just like Sarah, “but with less anger and more hygiene.”

Also surprisingly non-annoying: Rachel! When Susan proposes she take up a hobby instead of worrying about the fate of Wednesday Charlotte and the other clones, Rachel suggests carpentry: “I can build us all coffins. Shall I start with the smallest first?”

Everything with Alison this episode was terrific. My breath was taken away again by the fact that it’s one actress playing all these wildly different characters. Kneel before our Taslanic majesty, fools!

D&D for the win, baby.

The Bad:

Evil Cho Incorporated is guilty of poor supervillainy, as described above. If they truly want to get rid of Sarah, they had better, earlier opportunities to do so.

There’s a logic leap behind the trap to get Duko. Okay, Alison sends Duko to the Rabbit Hole. But why would they ever think that Duko would go alone? Or that he wouldn’t tell Evil Cho about Sarah’s hideout as soon as Alison told him? It’s a stretch, at best.

The WTF:

Still no Helena! But she’s back in the next episode.

-Ken

Doctor Who DVD Review: Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Great Story, Lousy F@#&ing Puppets)

Jon Pertwee’s fifth and final season as the Third Doctor is something that’s quite enjoyable to watch, if a bit melancholy. The tone of the season still has the same sense of swashbuckling, Steed-and-Peel Avengers-influenced derring-do of the rest of Pertwee’s time as the Doctor, but there’s also a sense of somberness to it. In many ways, it feels similar to David Tennant’s final run of specials and the four knocks – the blue crystal of Metebelis Three seems to be beckoning to the Third Doctor throughout his last season, letting him know that his time is indeed running out. And while it’s not the best of his seasons – the three middle seasons with Jo Grant were certainly his heyday of classics – with the introduction of Sarah Jane Smith to the TARDIS, it’s still an exceptionally good one.

Perhaps the best story of this season is “Invasion of the Dinosaurs,” a story than many classic Doctor Who fans have derided as a low point in the show’s long history … but that criticism is, in hindsight, unfair. Yes, if you ever wanted a poster child for why the special effects of the classic series were utterly atrocious, “Invasion” is the most obvious and easy story to point to. But if, as a viewer, you can get past that – and, admittedly, that’s a Very Big If for some – it’s one of the most surprisingly good stories broadcast during Pertwee’s time as the Third Doctor.

Why? Glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Also, spoilers ahead – as much as a 43-year-old story can have spoilers, anyway!

“Invasion” opens with the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith returning to modern-day Earth, where they find London virtually abandoned and under martial law. Mistaken by military patrols as looters (because OF COURSE THEY ARE), they learn that the city’s been cleared out because dinosaurs keep randomly appearing and disappearing on the streets. Why? And who’s responsible? That’s the mystery that the Doctor and Sarah Jane need to figure out, and it’s a mystery that eventually requires the full assistance of U.N.I.T. to solve.

dinoIt’s a story that’s kind of hard to neatly classify, despite the bonkers premise of time-traveling dinosaur invaders attacking London. In reality, “Invasion” is much more of a sci-fi espionage thriller/mystery – yes, really! – and it’s a surprisingly good one. “Invasion” is  a  complex, well-thought-out story, and unlike many of the typical six-parters of Jon Pertwee’s era, it doesn’t feel like it’s being stretched too thin. Much of the story involves the investigation into the cause of the dinosaur appearances, as well as the reason – and not everybody agrees on what’s most important to figure out first. Not even the Doctor and Sarah Jane are always on the same page, and while things invariably go the way the Doctor expects they will, it’s interesting to see the characters try to puzzle everything out.

Even once the basic mystery’s solved, it leads to further questions, and further problems, all of which are logical and fit the story . In this way, it stands out from many of the other six-part stories of this time frame, which typically resemble two separate stories stitched together with some plothole-ridden excuses of ideas. “Invasion” is  cohesive from beginning to end, and always manages to stay engaging and interesting throughout each of its episodes.

One of the big surprises in “Invasion” is how well-nuanced the so-called “bad guys” are in this story. Most Who villains of the Pertwee stories – and, for that matter, in “classic” Who, period – are pure evil, out to take over the world or destroy the universe, and the stakes of these stories are very clearly delineated into good/evil consequences. Here? Well, the main antagonists come in the form of Project Golden Age, a scientific group that has an agenda that seems oddly prescient: Humanity’s busy screwing up the world, possibly dooming it to extinction, and they want to set things right. That, all told, isn’t such a horrible mission. How they plan on accomplishing their goals isn’t exactly great – they want to send an elite group back in time and basically start humanity over, which would wipe out just about everyone in the modern world as we know it – but their basic premise of “making things right” is at least well-intentioned.

Also, most people in Project Golden Age aren’t even aware of the “wipe out humanity” aspect of the plan. So instead of a simple good/evil conflict, you have the Doctor and Sarah Jane finding themselves at odds with plenty of characters who are basically good people with inadvertently bad intentions. And it takes a bit more than a bit of Venusian Aikido to stop those good people.

It’s an interesting – and modern – twist. Fast forward the story thirty-some-odd years to another show in another country, and you could see pretty easily how “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” might be an episode of Fringe or the X-Files, without needing to edit much at all. Having Walter Bishop spout lines like “I posit that these dinosaurs are not being bred in modern times, but instead being brought here through a time corridor” … yeah. It’d work just as well now (and better with modern CGI effects, obviously!).

Most surprising in “Invasion,” though, is the twist of Mike Yates’ betrayal of U.N.I.T. – and of the Doctor! While Seventies Doctor Who really didn’t have much going on in terms of overreaching, season-long story arcs – at least not like it does in the modern era of the show – the recurring appearances of the U.N.I.T. regulars gave at least some backstory to the characters, and made them feel to regular viewers more friendly and familiar. You’d occasionally have the Brigadier grumbling about his wife, Doris, for example, or have a casual mention of Jo Grant and Captain Yates going out on a date, even though said date would never be shown on-screen. In the “classic” Who era, it’s probably as close as you get to character development like the Ponds, or Rose Tyler’s family. And U.N.I.T. certainly was a family.

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So to see Mike Yates take sides with Operation Golden Age, and essentially sell out the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and the rest of U.N.I.T. – it’s both shocking and sad. Especially since Mike is like many of the other “villains” of “Invasion” – he thinks he’s doing the right thing, just for the wrong reasons. And when he finally realizes that he’s not only wrong and will have to resign from U.N.I.T., but that he’s also deeply disappointed his friends, and especially the Brigadier … man, it’s heartbreaking. This is watching it with modern television sensibilities, too – one can only imagine how shocking this must’ve been for first-time viewers in 1973!

On a more positive note, though, watching Sarah Jane in this story is awesome. I think most Who viewers associate the character primarily with Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, but it’s easy to forget how well Elisabeth Sladen worked with Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor as well. “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” is a solid reminder of the terrific chemistry that they had together – it’s only their second story, but they work with each other with a great, natural ease. The Doctor’s still more than a bit patronizing to Sarah Jane, but that comes with affection, and you can see her understanding that he’s mostly trying to be protective of her (not that she always wants his protection!). It’s also great to see Sarah Jane still in full-on journalist mode – hey, dinosaurs overrunning London just might be a front-page story! So seeing her trying to help the Doctor out while still getting the scoop, and while trying to navigate security clearances, both from bad guy General Finch and from good guy Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart … she’s got a lot to do in these six episodes besides say, “What is it, Doctor?”!

dino13Everyone else in the story is pretty good as well. Pertwee’s in fine form here – even though it’s his last season (and he knew it at this point), on-screen, he’s still radiating the same flamboyant confidence as always. (Particularly when he finally gets to unveil the Whomobile in episode four!) And Mike Yates’ betrayal gives the U.N.I.T. regulars meatier dialogue than “five rounds rapid,” which is great to see. In particular, the Brigadier’s staunch but sad disappointment in finding out Yates is a traitor is terrific. Meanwhile, the guest cast reads like an all-star cast of other great classic Who episodes – hey, the evil scientist is Nyder from Genesis of the Daleks! And General Finch is Li H’sen Chang from Talons of Weng-Chiang! They give the excellent performances that you’d expect, so between the script and the actors, everything’s firing on all cylinders …

… except the dinosaurs.

The goddamn puppet dinosaurs.

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Yes, the proverbial elephant in the room with “Invasion of the Dinosaurs,” unfortunately, are the dinosaurs … and yes, they’re every bit as bad as their reputation. Not only are they obviously puppets, they’re bad puppets, with primitive CSO overlay trying – and failing – to integrate them into the story. Every scene they appear in is utterly cringeworthy and laughably awful. There’s no way to take this seriously. Usually this era of Doctor Who was pretty good about knowing the limits of its next-to-nothing budget, but the dinosaurs show that the production team was clearly overreaching themselves this time – which is a shame, because if the story had been done with any sort of more conventional Who monster, I think it would’ve been a home run. I give them top marks for ambition, but in terms of execution, it’s one of the biggest failures in the show’s history. (I would love it if this could somehow get the “Day of the Daleks” modernized CGI effects options, which would probably allow viewers to see this story in a different light!)

Sigh.

Finally, “Invasion” represents a swan song of sorts for the classic U.N.I.T. era, which is both wonderful and bittersweet to watch. Already missing Katy Manning and the late Roger Delgado, U.N.I.T. was on the wane in its place in the Doctor Who universe, and “Invasion” is probably the last time we get to see the rest of its regulars – and the Third Doctor – operating at their finest. Yes, there would be more stories featuring U.N.I.T. over the next few years, but their impact in those stories isn’t nearly as strong. They’re basically off to the side of the main action in Pertwee’s final tale (“Planet of the Spiders”), and during their first few appearances in Tom Baker’s early season, it’s obvious that U.N.I.T.’s been relegated to an afterthought. “Invasion” is the story where you can see the curtain really begin to close, and it’s a good one to say a fond farewell to Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and his team, who meant so much to the stories of the Third Doctor’s era.

So, despite the dubious reputation of “Invasion of the Dinosaurs,” I highly recommend it as one of the best stories of the Third Doctor. And if you’re watching it on DVD, some of the extras are great – the Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen Part One feature has the late Lis Sladen talking about her auditions for Sarah Jane, and working with Jon Pertwee. Some of the stories she tells are familiar ones, but it’s still nice to have them all in one place, being told by Lis herself. Also, People, Power, and Puppetry is a great “making of” featurette where both Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts talk at length about the behind-the-scenes work that went into making “Invasion” … and that, yes, even during the making of this story, they were acutely aware of how bad the dinosaurs were going to be.

At any rate, if you’ve never seen a Third Doctor/Sarah Jane story … I’d seriously recommend “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” as the one to watch, even with the terrible puppets. Even despite them, it’s outstanding.

Rating: 4/5 Braaaaaaaaaains.

–Mike

Orphan Black Season 4, Episode 6 Recap: You’re Betamax

A gut-wrenching episode of Orphan Black! But is that a good thing, or is the series twisting the plot yet again because … well, they can? We’ll get to that as we discuss “The Scandal of Altruism.”

First, we have a Highlander-esque flashback! Beth is back in black (and blonde) as we, the audience, see what voyeur Art couldn’t: where Beth went after she left her apartment with the handgun. She plans to assassinate Mommie Dearest herself, Susan Duncan! There’s much more to come in this flashback, and it’s too bad the regular characters can’t watch this at home like us, because boy, these flashbacks would’ve come in handy!

We check in with a bunch of folks in rapid succession:

  • The Eww Couple of Susan Duncan and DNA-Boy-Toy Ira have a post-coitus discussion of their options, and we learn that Ira does have the same potential for “glitching” as the other Castor clones. Still, Susan sees hope for him “as long as Sarah listens to reason.” Uh-huh. Susan, you haven’t been paying attention to this series, have you?
  • Cosima tells Sarah all about her BrightBorn experience and the chat with Susan Duncan and Evil Cho. There’s a deal to be made, especially with the clock continuing to tick on Cosima’s life.
  • Over at the police station, Art quickly steers Detective (and Neolution spy) Darkwing Duko away from Krystal, who has come to complain about the conspiracy “targeting beauty professionals.” As misguided as she is, her quest for answers could cause a lot of problems for Clone Club. The solution: Felix poses as “Inspector Dawkins, from the Yard.” Krystal: “Which yard?” “Scotland Yard.” It’s one of the few bits of levity in a brutal episode. No room for Hendrix hijinks in this one.

Sarah goes to BrightBorn to talk terms with Susan and Evil, and she learns that each maggot bot is given a different task. Leekie’s maggot bot was designed to impede the onset of Alzheimer’s. Sarah’s bot was designed to make her sick. Neolution wanted to know why Sarah’s biology was different than her sestras’, so her maggot bot was playing Whack-a-Mole with her immune system to collect answers. Sarah has important info to share, too: Kendall Malone has cancer. However, this is potentially good news for Clone Club! Cosima and Scott can use the cancer cells’ reproduction to separate Leda from Castor in Kendall’s wacky DNA.

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Sarah’s condition from giving those cells to Susan? “We’re not saving Castor.” Thank you, Sarah! She’ll give only Leda cells so that Cosima and the other sestras can be cured. Ira isn’t happy that his Mrs. Robinson refuses to go to bat for him after all the times he’s, uh, batted for her, and he gets all Morrissey for the rest of the episode. Evil Cho and Cosima then remove Sarah’s maggot bot in a surprisingly risky operation, and we’ll very glad that Cosima was there to keep an eye on Evil. Hmmm, I don’t trust her!

Mrs. S isn’t happy about the planned cell swap. “You bartered my mother behind my back!” (Coincidentally, that’s the plot of the lost episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.) But things do move along: Scott begins harvesting the Leda cells while Susan and Kendall have an unpleasant chat. Then things go south fast! Kendall is nabbed on her way out of the meeting, Sarah tosses bleach on the cell samples and accuses Susan of pulling a fast one, and Cosima is in the grasp of Evil Cho. Susan pleads innocence, so the Kendall-napper had to be the scorned Ira, right? Nope! It’s Darkwing Duko, who takes Kendall to an abandoned field, where they wait….

We learn via flashback that Beth spared Susan’s life after hearing Susan say, “I’m your creator” and claiming that she loved Beth and all the Leda gals. Susan says that if Beth kills her, it won’t solve anything, it’ll give the script editors heart failure, and it’ll probably result in all the Ledas being killed. So, wonder Sarah and Art, where did the blood on Beth’s hands come from?

From Evil Cho, that’s where! She orchestrated the assassination attempt to knock Susan off the top perch of Neolution, and Beth beats the crap out of her when she realizes she’d been set up. Darkwing Duko stops Beth, but Beth believes Evil’s claim that the only way to keep the other clones safe (at least for a while) is if Beth kills herself and takes her crusade with her. Honestly, this part seemed like a bit of a stretch. If Beth knows that Neolution is going to keep manipulating  the clones’ lives – or worse – then what benefit is truly gained by her suicide?

In the present, Evil shows up at the field with Cosima in tow. Her plan is to kill Kendall and incinerate the body so that no genetic info can be retrieved. Essentially, Evil wants all the clones to go away and die. Direct genetic manipulation is where all the fun is! Clones? Feh. That’s competing tech, and obsolete competing tech at that. She tells Cosima coldly, “You’re Betamax.”

With that, Darkwing shoots Kendall in the head and sets fire to the van. Evil doesn’t kill Cosima – probably to avoid a revenge spree from Sarah – but before she leaves, she rubs a bit of salt in the wound: “Delphine Cormier was shot dead in the Dyad parking garage. Tell Sarah it’s over. Or Beth died for nothing.”

And that’s it. Any hope of a cure for the sestras’ condition is gone. Kendall is dead. Delphine is dead (maybe? I bet not). And Clone Club seemingly has no cards left to play. As I said, brutal. But not really fulfilling. There was no “wow” or “oh my god” moment in this episode.

The Great:

The fakeout with Ira. I fell for it, too, just like Sarah.

Krystal’s marvelous inability to understand why “Inspector Dawkins” was English if he’s from Scotland Yard.

The climactic scene in the field. It was framed and paced extremely well.

The Not-So-Great:

Let me get this straight: There’s yet another Big Bad to deal with? No sooner do we think we’ve reached the top of the Neolution/Dyad/BrightBorn pyramid than we find out that Evil Cho is really calling the shots.

The WTF:

I understand the need for super-secrecy, but is Scott really delicately harvesting cells on a table in Felix’s studio? Dude! You don’t know who’s been ON that table!

Okay, so this incredibly important research that Scott and Cosima were conducting that could literally save Cosima’s life wasn’t even backed up???  That’s an oversight that Krystal or Alison would make. Not Cosima.

By the same token, Scott and Cosima didn’t make sure to harvest any of Kendall’s cells prior to the Susan Duncan meeting? They knew what she wanted, and more importantly, they knew they couldn’t trust Susan/Neolution. Clone Club made a bunch of uncharacteristically dumb moves this episode, which is maddening because the stupidity was Because Plot Reasons, and not anything particularly believable.

So, after two episodes of “is Adele really Felix’s sister,” she just kind of disappears stage left. Again, there better have been a point to Adele’s introduction, and a really good one, because at this point everything involving her and Felix smacks of little more than timewasting episode filler.

Orphan Black Season 4, Episode 5 Recap: Krystal Klear, Baby

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!

krystal-clone-GIF-s4-orphan-black.gif

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.

The Great:

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.

The Not-So-Great:

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.”

The WTF:

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.

Hey, Master, You’re So Fine: Ranking the Incarnations of the Master in “Doctor Who”

In a season that proved to be brilliant in so many ways, one of the highlights of Doctor Who this past year was the return of Missy – or, as the character’s usually been called through many, many appearances on the show, the Master. Fighting the Doctor (and saving him, when she’s not busy trying to kill him), fighting Daleks, simultaneously helping and tormenting Clara – Missy reminds the audience with mad style why she and her previous incarnations have always been the Doctor’s best frenemy. (Even if Davros might have something to say about that.)

But is Missy the best incarnation of the Master? Come find out! Here, we take a look at all of the regenerations of the evil Time Lord to grace the televised episodes of Doctor Who, ranking them from worst to best.

7. Eric Roberts

I always dress for the occasion!

Yes, the star of such classic films like Best of the Best, Part 2, Sorority Slaughterhouse, and High Heels, Low Standards once was cast as the Master. And yes, it was a trainwreck. The sad thing is, everything starts out okay – he’s originally Bruce, the EMT driver, who the Master’s ‘essence’ possesses, and that’s not too bad. But then, he becomes Terminator Master.

RobertsMaster1

Um, okay.

And then, Camp Megalomaniac Master, by way of the School of David Caruso Overacting.

RobertsMaster2

Riiiiiiiiggggghhht.

He’s not menacing. He’s not evil. He’s a joke. And given how good Paul McGann is as the Eighth Doctor in this wretched abomination of a story, it’s a shame.

SimmMaster6. John Simm

Anyway, why don’t we stop and have a nice little chat where I tell you all my plans and you can work out a way to stop me, I don’t think!

More of a shame is John Simm’s wasted run as the Master during David Tennant’s tenure as the Tenth Doctor. A brilliant actor – one need look no further than his brilliance on Life on Mars to see that – his performance as the Master starts out ridiculously well, right from the aftermath of his regeneration. The look of malevolent glee on his face as he wakes up, and realizes that he’s got the Doctor’s hand, and the TARDIS, and he’s won …

… it’s brilliant. And the gloating is well-deserved.

From there, though, it goes downhill. As he becomes Prime Minister Saxon (a storyline that honestly makes no sense), he goes from sinister to this weird, smug, frenetic “I’M EVIL!!!” mentality – it’s like he’s trying to out-manic the Tenth Doctor, and it doesn’t work. And that super-hyper “I’M EVIL!!!” portrayal carries right on over into his later appearances in “The End of Time.” I think if he’d gotten the chance to be cold and calculating – the yang to Tennant’s yin – he could’ve been great as the Master. As it is, he unfortunately just chewed a lot of scenery.

AinleyMaster5. Anthony Ainley

Peoples of the Universe, please attend carefully. The message that follows is vital to the future of you all. The choice for you all is simple; a continued existence under my guidance or total annihilation.

There’s a pattern here. Namely, first performances of a new Master that start out great, with things only getting worse from there. And for the most part, that’s true of Anthony Ainley’s turn as the Master. Taking on Consul Tremas’ body in “The Keeper of Traken,” his Master is absolutely superb in his next two stories – the Fourth Doctor’s swan song in “Logopolis,” and the Fifth Doctor’s debut in “Castrovalva.” He manages to combine the panache and the charisma of Delgado’s Master with the at-times unhinged insanity of Peter Pratt and Geoffrey Beavers … and it works. He’s more dangerous than his original incarnation.

After that, though? It’s a mess. When the Rani says in “Mark of the Rani” that “he’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line,” it’s a fairly accurate description of most of Ainley’s appearances as the Master. Lots of over-complicated, usually pointless evil plots that don’t make any sense, lots of metaphorical mustache twirling, gloating, and monologuing that would make Syndrome from The Incredibles proud. The dangerous Master we glimpsed in “Castrovalva” turns up all the dials to 11, and shoots straight into over-the-top bombast for the rest of his appearances with the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. He’s not menacing or dangerous, but just kind of an evil buffoon with delusions of grandeur … and it’s disappointing, to say the least.

Oddly enough, though, in Ainley’s last televised appearance as the Master in “Survival,” he dials back the Snidely Whiplash Overdrive Mode long enough to give what’s probably his best – and most chilling – performance. Infected by the Cheetah People, the Master’s no longer interested in crazy schemes and chewing scenery – he’s instead stripped down to something primal, and it’s fascinating to watch.

If he’d only been more like this throughout his time as the Master, I think Ainley would be remembered as one of the character’s best incarnations. Instead, we only have some glimpses and moments of a great villain – and, unfortunately, far more moments of a “meh” one.

JacobiMaster4. Derek Jacobi

Oh! Now I can say I was provoked!

For a Master who realistically only appears in two scenes of one episode, man, does Derek Jacobi own the role. He spends most of the episode “Utopia” in the chameleon arc-created persona of kindly, doddering Professor Yana, trying to help the remnants of humanity escape the clutches of the Futurekind. Upon switching off the chameleon arc, though, he reverts to his true form – the Master – and watching him so effortlessly switch from to “meek and mild” to “badass ruthless” in the blink of an eye is nothing short of amazing. For less than ten minutes, Jacobi’s Master takes control of the situation in “Utopia” and just utterly owns the Tenth Doctor.

It’s terrific to watch, and it’s a shame that this incarnation of the Master was so brief. (One can only hope that Big Finish somehow manages to work him in as the Doctor’s nemesis in their stories someday!)

PrattMaster3. Peter Pratt/Geoffrey Beavers

Predictable as ever, Doctor.

When the Master disappeared at the end of “Frontier in Space,” most regular Who viewers must’ve believed that would be the last they’d see of the evil renegade Time Lord. (Roger Delgado’s tragic death at this time certainly would’ve made this an understandable notion.) So it must’ve come as some surprise several years later during Tom Baker’s tenure as the Fourth Doctor that the Master reappeared.

But the Master certainly didn’t look as he did before, appearing instead as a hideous, rotting husk of a person. And gone was the suave, confident charm of Roger Delgado’s Master, replaced instead by pure, vicious rage. “Only hate keeps me alive,” he tells the Doctor at one point … and the words are spit with such venom, it’s chilling to hear them spoken. It’s a far cry from what the Master had been during Delgado’s time in the part, but it works perfectly, and Peter Pratt’s voice alone makes the character incredible to watch – and to listen to.

This version of the Master appears again a few years later as a foil for the Fourth Doctor in “The Keeper of Traken,” with Geoffrey Beavers replacing Peter Pratt in this incarnation of the role. He doesn’t quite have the menace of Peter Pratt in “The Deadly Assassin,” but honestly, that’s mostly because his makeup in “The Keeper of Traken” is a pale shadow of what was seen in that earlier story. But he’s still creepy and menacing, and his insane desperation to survive – and make the Fourth Doctor suffer – is still brilliantly nasty. (His more recent appearances in the Big Finish audio productions have been equally wonderful and nasty as well.)

2. Michelle GomezMissy-970x545

Say something nice.

Even though many avid Who viewers assumed that “Missy” might be the Master from the moment she appeared at the end of the Twelfth Doctor’s first episode, “Deep Breath,” it’s unlikely that anyone could’ve predicted just how great she’d be. She manages to take the unhinged, unpredictable insanity often seen in Ainley’s and Simm’s Masters, but keeps it from turning into camp, as they seemed to do all too often. If anything, she flips the “bananas” trope on its head at times – you get the feeling that her homicidally wacky behavior is often an act, and she’s far more calculating and devious – and in control – than she’s letting on.

Make no mistake, though – she’s definitely bananas.

However, one subtle nuance that Missy’s brought back to the ongoing Doctor/Master relationship is the friendship – such as it is – that she has with the Doctor. This comes across loud and clear in “The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar,” where it’s evident that they have a deep, rich past together, and however strange that history may be, they have great respect for one another. It’s a reminder of why the Doctor’s always seeking to redeem his mortal enemy, rather than defeat him, and why – while Missy/the Master always wants to eventually kill the Doctor – there’s a certain admiration that keeps her from, well, popping him like a balloon. Missy’s a terrific addition to the modern Who pantheon of villains, and I hope we keep seeing her in seasons to come.

DelgadoMaster1. Roger Delgado

I am the Master … and you will obey me.

Sometimes first appearances are indeed the best. So it should really be no surprise that the reason all of the other various Masters throughout the history of Doctor Who are held to such a high standard is because of how utterly brilliant the originator of the role actually was. Roger Delgado – cast to be the Moriarty to Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor – is nothing short of outstanding in just about every appearance he made on Doctor Who. (And there were quite a lot of them – Delgado’s Master is in every single episode of Jon Pertwee’s second season as the Doctor, and frequently in the two seasons after that!)

Charming, suave, and brilliant, Delgado’s Master was much the equal of the Third Doctor in every way. His schemes were grand and his ambition boundless, and it’s always entertaining to watch his character execute those mad plans with style. He also got the upper hand against the Doctor many, many times, and while he never ultimately succeeded in his schemes, he certainly scored plenty of smaller victories against the Third Doctor and U.N.I.T. along the way. And some of his failures were the result of his own ego and arrogance, rather than the Doctor outwitting him.

One of the big differences between Delgado’s Master and all of his other successors was his pragmatism. He wasn’t always out to conquer the universe, or kill the Doctor (although he certainly wasn’t adverse to those goals!). Sometimes, his goals were smaller. And much like the Rani would be in later years, there were many times he really didn’t care about the Doctor at all – it would only be when the Doctor would show up and interfere with his own Machiavellian schemes that the Master would try to kill the Doctor.

But there were plenty of times that he cooperated with the Doctor (sometimes willingly, sometimes not), and even with U.N.I.T., if it served his own interests. His Master wasn’t so much insanely evil so much as simply lacking a conscience, and that’s perhaps a distinction that elevates his Master above all the others. He had an immense amount of respect for the Doctor, though he was loathe to admit it. And even Jo Grant, the Brigadier, and yes, even Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton – they all got a nod of admiration from the Master here and there.

Make no mistake, though. Of all the Masters, his was the most ruthless. And he most certainly wanted the Doctor dead.

Roger Delgado’s Master is a joy to watch. The most insanely evil? No. The most villainous? Possibly. The most fun? Probably.

The best?

Absolutely.

-Mike

Orphan Black Season 4, Episode 4 Recap: Ferdinand’s Cooking with Gas

After the gruesome, funny events of Episode 3, it’s not surprising that Episode 4 (“From Instinct to Rational Control”) takes a bit of a breather – and gives Tatiana Maslany a few extra minutes to rest. Oh sure, she’s still all over the episode, but the star players this week are the Dream Team of Donnie and Felix – and everyone’s favorite droll assassin, Ferdinand!

Allow me to step back and convey my man-crush on actor James Frain. Whether he’s playing a feckless corporate exec (24), a supernatural hitman (Grimm), or a dual-personality crime boss (who remembers The Cape? I do!), Frain has a terrific talent: He makes amorality fun. And now that Ferdinand is relatively unfettered, Frain has been especially fun this year, showing off Ferdinand’s “happier” self while keeping his lethality intact – except for one really dumb moment. We’ll get to that.

First, let’s cover all the Maggot-Bot Mania. Cosima and Scott unwrap the gnarliest package of all: the super-slimy, super-stinky head of Dr. Leekie, which somehow continues to look like Matt Frewer. (He’s a very thin man.) They’re going to dig out his maggot-bot, which is still alive because it’s been feeding on a tumor in his face. OHHHHHHHHHHHH! The Cronenbergian amazement continues when we get to see the maggot-bot up close: It’s a friggin’ bug cyborg, complete with artificial head and stinger!

Cosima and Scott try to determine its purpose. After all, if removing it would also kill the host, its task must be something pretty big, right? They find the answer: radical gene therapy. The maggot-bot modifies its host’s DNA. That’s damn creepy – even Borg-like. In last week’s recap, Mike asked a very good question: Why would Neolution/Dyad put a maggot-bot in the head of its, um, head? We might have an answer. Was Dr. Leekie’s DNA being modified, possibly without his knowledge? And if so, to what end? More importantly, what is Sarah’s maggot-bot doing to her DNA? How many more times can I type “maggot-bot”? PLENTY.

This discovery ties in nicely with the second plot thread: Donnie and Felix going undercover as a gay couple in order to get info on the suspicious fertility clinic. Wonderfully, Donnie almost blows the whole thing, because his impression of a gay man seems heavily inspired by episodes of Three’s Company. Felix warns him, “Stop mincing.” Since both of them volunteer to donate sperm, Donnie goes into a bathroom and is given a stack of – gay men’s magazines. But how will he be able to, ah, donate? Why, phone sex with Alison, naturally! They replay their fantasy of the Passenger and the Italian Flight Attendant. “Do you need help with your buckle?” Success!

Eventually, with Alison’s help (of the non-phone-sex kind), they learn about the clinic’s secret, oh-so-successful program that works when no other artificial insemination program will: Brightborn Technologies, which has an eerie, Hanso Foundation feel to it (for you Lost fans). Their motto: “We’re making the world a better place, one baby at a time.” Ahhhhh. Can you say “radical gene therapy”?

The last key plot thread has to do with Sarah, MK, Mrs. S, and Ferdinand, and he is THRILLED when he’s brought to the Clone Club Secret Hideout down the Rabbit Hole. His first reaction: “A chef’s kitchen! Who’s hungry?” Sarah won’t tell him the identity of her Deep Throat (a.k.a. MK), but he’s willing to play along. He also has a nice chat with Mrs. S, and we learn that in his own strange way, he loves Rachel! He envisions going off with her to a tropical island for a few romantic months … before coming back to kill all his enemies. How can you not like this guy? Meanwhile, MK – who has Mad Hacking Skillz, which is seemingly a necessity in every series these days – learns that Sarah is palling around with the infamous Ferdinand, and she’s not happy about it.

In fact, she is SO NOT HAPPY about it that, while Sarah and Dizzy sneak around inside MK’s trailer, MK is hacking Sarah’s phone to send a text message to Ferdinand and lure him to a trap at Beth’s apartment.

Now here’s the really dumb thing I mentioned earlier: Ferdinand idiotically SITS DOWN IN THE BOOBY-TRAPPED CHAIR, even though his Spider-Sense should have been tingling once he realized that Sarah wasn’t the one who set up the meeting. It’s very disappointing when writers make smart characters do dumb things solely for the sake of advancing the plot. This syndrome is otherwise known as The Walking Dead. But I digress.

We learn that MK actually has solid reasons for wanting Ferdinand dead. He had killed MK’s best friend (and sestra) Niki and started the fire that badly scarred one side of MK’s face. “You killed six of my sisters and 32 of my friends!” Yeahhhhh, that’s going to get someone mad. Before she can immolate Ferdinand, however, Sarah pops up and pleads for his life: He’s a dirtbag, but he’s a dirtbag we need right now. MK still has the advantage, though, and she forces Ferdinand to transfer $3.7 million from his offshore accounts (his Tryst With Rachel fund) to her, before she leaves him still in the booby-trapped chair, but alive. Mrs. S is able to get him out, and Rachel tells him they’re even now; she doesn’t owe him anything. Ferdinand is now in need of a new suit.

Overall, a satisfactory episode, largely redeemed by Donnie, Felix, and Ferdinand. The rest of the characters were kind of in a holding pattern, although that may change now that we know the maggot-bots’ purpose, if not the goal.

The Great:

“That’s the head of Dyad.” Yes. Yes, it is.

“Ferdinand’s frittatas” would be a great band name.

Everything about Donnie & Alison’s phone sex. “Is that your Leaning Tower?”

Helena deciding to leave House Hendrix because Alison is freaky over her pregnancy. It’s a sad moment, but from a character standpoint, it’s good. But what about Boyfriend?!

The Not-So-Great:

Every scene with Wednesday Charlotte, Rachel, and Mommy Dearest. It’s no longer interesting, and having another friggin’ Castor Clone in the mix doesn’t help.

Ferdinand’s convenient stupidity, as described above.

The WTF:

The close-up of the maggot-bot with its biomechanical parts! Holy Brundlefly, Batman!

Beth has been dead – or at least known dead – for nearly three years. And her apartment STILL doesn’t have a new tenant? Boy, her neighborhood must suck. Someone call the Property Brothers!

Orphan Black Season 4, Episode 3 Recap: Oh, Cheeky Leeky

Now this is getting to the Orphan Black that we know and love. Great turns by all the clones? Check. Weird mysteries that move along from episode to episode, where we actually get some answers to what’s going on? Weirdness and grossness? Check. Some genuine laugh-out-loud moments? Double check. There’s a lot of awesomeness in this episode to savor … just don’t stop to think about things too much, though, since some of it doesn’t make much sense.

“The Stigmata of Progress” – the third episode of Orphan Black’s fourth season – opens with … hey, Rachel! Good to see you and your eyepatch! Looks like you’re being examined by … aw, fudge, as Alison might say. It’s a Castor. His name is Ira, and while he seems to be a bit more scholarly than his testosterone-laden brothers, he’s no less creepy and annoying. Rachel doesn’t seem to be a big fan, either. She’s also not a fan of still undergoing therapy from her pencil lobotomy, or by still being essentially a prisoner of Susan Duncan. Her only ally, it seems, is sorta-daughter clone Wednesday Addams Charlotte, who despite being a child, has really good insight into what’s going on.

Anyway, Rachel’s figured out that the search for Kendall/Sarah/Kira’s not going well. She’s also figured out that she’s not leaving her therapy sessions anytime soon, so she makes sure that Wednesday Charlotte – who, thanks to online homeschooling, has access to a computer – can send some messages for her to the outside world. Specifically, to Topside.

Cut to Sarah, who’s reacting to her implanted maggot-bot the same way most normal people would – how the hell can she get it out, and how fast? She goes to the Comic Cave, where Cosima and Scott can make some guesses as to what it might or might not be, but can’t figure out anything definitive. Cosima says she’d need to examine an intact maggot-bot from a Prolethean to really get a good handle on it. This tidbit of information gets over to Alison and Donnie, who look at each other and realize they already have a conveniently dead Prolethean buried under six feet of concrete in their garage. “Now go rent a jackhammer, Donnie!”

Sarah and Mrs. S, meanwhile, care far less about the nefarious purpose of the maggot-bot, and stay focused on just getting the damn thing removed. Sarah initially goes to Felix to get some back-up, but finds her stepbrother suddenly bonding with Adele, his related-by-blood long lost sister who’s conveniently just arrived in town! Surprise! And it turns out that while she’s blonde and Southern (unlike Felix), she’s also something of a freespirited casual-sex-and-drug-and-drinker (very much like Felix). Um, okay. We went from “I want to find my real family” to “bonding with my sister, who’s now my new BFF” in record time.

Even Sarah thinks this is too bizarre to be believable, and points out what everyone in the audience is already thinking – hey, Felix, maybe your new Sister Dearest is a Neolution spy. This understandably pisses off Felix, who tells Sarah to make like a tree and get lost.

Back to Alison and Donnie. Turns out decomposing bodies don’t smell good when you unbury them. And while they’re busy unburying Leekie in the garage, two police officers stop by the Hendrix household, wanting to know about the election signs they found with a bunch of dead drug dealers. Helena, pregnant professional assassin who knows a lot about those dead drug dealers, answers the door. Realizing what’s going on, she switches into her atrocious impersonation of Alison and lets the police in. Donnie tries to come to her rescue, but Helena manages to steer her way through the questioning of the police without too many problems. (Although she answers a couple of questions to which she really shouldn’t know the answers – either Helena has an eidetic memory for detail, or maybe there’s some sort of subconscious telepathic link to Alison and her other sestras. Given how this episode’s going, I’m betting on the latter.)

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With that crisis averted, Donnie and Alison touch base with Cosima, and tell her that they have a maggot-bot sample. From Dr. Leekie. And oh, by the way, Donnie killed Dr. Leekie. Oopsies. Cosima rolls with this as best she can.

Working solo, Sarah tracks down Dizzy, the drug dealer who mistook Sarah for MK. He gives her the name of the guy in his gruesome maggot-bot video – Alonzo Martinez – and with Art’s help, Sarah learns that Mr. Martinez recently visited a local dental clinic. When Sarah sneaks into the clinic later that day, one of the dental assistants there hisses at “Beth” to chill out and cut out the spy act. Sarah realizes that she’s found one of Beth’s Neolution informants, and asks the dental assistant to help remove her own maggot-bot after hours.

Except after hours, our not-so-friendly assistant start poking around Sarah’s cheek, and cheerfully tells her that if she makes any sudden moves, the bot gets punctured and she dies. Oh, and Neolution high-muckety-mucks are on their way. Fortunately for Sarah, help comes in the form of Ferdinand, who slits Not So Friendly’s throat. Turns out the combination of Rachel’s SOS notes from Wednesday Charlotte – and Mrs. S’s inquires for black market surgeons – tipped off Topside as to what was going on.

Really good episode. Not sure we’ve gotten a lot in terms of explanations – yet – but this season’s rolling, and off to a strong start. We also have all of Clone Club roughly on the same page and working together, which is great (unlike last season, where Alison’s storyline often seemed adrift and unconnected to everything else). Felix’s “find my family” thread is the only weak story strand so far, but we’ll give it time.

The Great:

Rachel and Wednesday Charlotte, communicating via painted messages to avoid anyone “listening” in on them. Fantastic stuff.

Just about every scene containing Alison and Donnie. Seriously, I would watch a sitcom just about them (and their wacky homicidally pregnant roommate/sestra Helena) if Orphan Black ever gets cancelled. “It smells like garbage juice.” “She’s a scientist and a lesbian. She’s not going to let it slide.” “Well, we’ll have time to discuss the do’s and don’t’s of certain decisions later.”

And Cosima’s reaction to Alison and Donnie’s matter-of-fact confession of manslaughtering Dr. Leekie is priceless.

The Not-So-Great:

While it’s played for humor … really? The police actually bought Helena posing as Alison? She didn’t even give the lame “I have cold” excuse this time. And Donnie didn’t come into the house reeking (literally) of death? That whole sequence – while hilarious – was kind of a stretch.

If Kira starts rubbing her fingers together and talking to her imaginary friend Tony, I’m going to repeatedly bang a meat tenderizer into my head. Orphan Black does so many fun, clever, original ideas really, really well; wandering into the Stephen King School of Creepy Kids is not one of them. Let’s hope this goes somewhere better than OMG KIRA IS A TELEPATH. (And Wednesday Charlotte appears to be heading down the same path.)

Shit. Ken spoke too soon. We have a Castor Clone sighting! Ira’s sort of … meh. Not terribly annoying yet, unlike his brothers, but I expect with time he will be.

The WTF:

Wednesday Charlotte coughing up blood. Uh-oh.

So, exactly why did Dr. Leekie have a maggot-bot in his cheek? He’s the leader of Neolution. Why would he want something that could kill him instantly imbedded inside his body? That seems like the sort of things you implant in people you don’t like. (And why did it even occur to Alison and Donnie that Leekie might even have one in the first place?)

Art’s obsession with the Beth surveillance videos is edging into super-creepy stalker territory.

–Mike

Orphan Black Season 4, Episode 2 Recap: Lair of the White Worm

The gang’s all here after last week’s Beth-bonanza, and our main characters are relaxing in their top-secret retreat in Iceland where NO ONE will… oh, what’s that? They’ve been found? Well, time for Sarah, Mrs. S, Kira, and super-duper-cheery Kendall to head back to Canada.

But home isn’t safe these days, and that’s one of the interesting dichotomies that Orphan Black has set up in Season 4’s second episode, “Transgressive Border Crossing.” Even though the Clone Club scored major victories against enemies big (the Proletheans) and small (Alison’s vengeful drug suppliers), they may now be less safe than ever. Sarah & Family are forced to go into hiding because they know too much and because every enemy wants a piece (literally) of Kendall, a.k.a., Leda Prime, the Charm School Dropout. (Oddly missing in the family dynamic is Cal, since that probably exceeded budget constraints for this episode. Filming in the frozen wasteland costs money, people!)

In the past, Sarah, Cosima, and Mrs. S were good at buying time by playing one bad guy against another. That’s not an option now. There’s one bad guy left – Season 1’s gene-splicing, body-modding Neolution – and it’s a much bigger conspiracy of Cronenbergian craziness than the clones (and we) ever realized. Fortunately, our new sestra, the sheep-mask-wearing MK, is a big-time paranoid and Chloe O’Brien-ish hacker, and she’s able to alert everyone.

Note: By “Cronenbergian,” I mean like David Cronenberg, the Canadian horror director whose bizarre films often blur the line between technology and the organic. Among his best known films are Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986), but Shivers (1975) may be more apropos to what’s going on here. Specifically…

Orphan Black has danced around with science fiction and espionage themes over the past three years. When the somewhat-sleazy Dizzy mistakes Sarah for MK and shows her the video of the “maggot bot” (!!!) being removed from a man’s check, the series dives full on into horror. Gone are concerns about people-as-property or corporate assassins. We’re talking about the terrifying unknown and an invasion of self that is far worse than anything the Proletheans did.

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It’s an effective and very disturbing sequence – on which they double down in the final scene! OHHHHH! This season seems poised to take us on a wild trip down the Rabbit Hole, which not coincidentally is the name of the comic book store that Cosima and Scott have turned into the Clone Club’s secret lair.

There were times during Season 3 where I frankly didn’t look forward to the next episode. That might not be the case this year.

The Great:

The continuing absence of Castor clones. Thank goodness that plot is done.

The interweaving of the Beth flashbacks with current events was masterfully handled.

Alison on spotting Felix’s, er, exposed flank: “Shiitake mushrooms, Felix!!”

Donnie taking Helena (posing as Alison) to get a sonogram. Not only has this duo turned out to be a) heartwarming and b) guaranteed comedy gold, it also requires an effort of will to remember that Helena is played by the same actress who plays Alison and Sarah and OHMYGOD WHY DOES SHE NOT HAVE AN EMMY YET?

The revelation last season that Sarah has a genetic connection to Mrs. S wasn’t satisfying. Felix’s reaction to that in this episode is.

“That’s different. Helena’s trained to kill people. We’re manslaughterers.”

The Not-So-Great:

No, Scott, don’t agree to keep secrets! Keeping secrets NEVER works out on Arrow!

Still not sold on the character of Kendall. It’s as though the writers hadn’t really planned on her surviving the third-season finale.

The WTF:

SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS THAT ENDING!

“What is it…?” “I don’t know!”

–Ken

Orphan Black Season 4, Episode 1 Recap: Beth, I Hear You Calling

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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.

Beth (TATIANA MASLANY)

Beth (TATIANA MASLANY)

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.

Quick thoughts:

The Great:

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.

Dr. Leekie!

Alison with the gun. And of course Alison was supplying Beth with drugs.

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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.

The Not-So-Great:

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!

The WTF:

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.

-Mike