TV Recap: Orphan Black S03e06 “Certain Agony Of The Battlefield”

It’s all hands on deck for this week’s episode, with the Leda Clones (Tatiana Maslany), the Castor Clones (Ari Millen) and a cast of various ruffians and other sundry characters.

For your reading edification, here is the episode six review of Orphan Black season three.

As predicted last week, Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) has reappeared on the scene and caused some ripples in the scientific and romantic world of clone Cosima. She’s Cosima’s boss, and so has a little clout in the work environment, as well as being a researcher in her own right. She points out a common element shared between the red-eye infected Gracie (Zoe De Grand Maison), and the Castor clones which Cosima and her research assistant Scott (Josh Vokey) have missed.

What’s discovered is a particular protein, an infection which is all part of a larger, more nefarious plan by Doctor Coady (Kyra Harper). She’s discovered the source of the Castor clones affliction and is testing it on the general population which is the reason for the clones carrying around little notebooks and snipping hair samples after having sex with unexpecting women.

There’s a definite undercurrent of questioning ethics in the overall Orphan Black storyline; first with the clones and then with the religious sect of Proletheans, and it’s a compelling tale when the writers stick to it.

In this episode, all the threads pull together in an ugly knot, a story of overreach in the grand tradition of Icarus himself. Aiming high is one thing, but how you get there is altogether another discussion.

Doctor Coady has high hopes for the infection created by the Castor clones; she talks about winning wars without a single drop of blood shed. But in fairness, she’s actually talking about her side, not those who are infected, for Gracie is now sterile, and we’ve already seen what happens to the Castor clones. Further, it’s not exactly the wisest move to infect the general population with something that sterilises them. That’s how epidemics occur, and a sterilising infection is bad news for humans in the same way as terminator seeds are for agriculture.

But there’s always someone higher up the food chain, as Paul (Dylan Bruce) finds out. But not before offing one of the clones and getting Sarah to temporary safety.

That’s the “A” story, written this week by Aubrey Nealon, and it moved at a pretty good pace thanks to director Helen Shaver, who got a great performance out of all the cast, especially Jordan Gavaris (playing Sarah’s brother Felix). He turned from his usual foppish gay male, to a cruel, desperate man trying to find his sister. The victim of his anger is clone Rachel, who suffered a brain injury at the end of season two and who has been locked away in a basement room in the Dyad Institute building. She’s abandoned and alone, which makes his sneering callousness all the more nasty.

But it gives Scott access to some symbolism Rachel has been painting, which links to the book given to Sarah’s daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) last season by Rachel’s father, Ethan Duncan (Andrew Gilles).

If Orphan Black has a fault it’s this: the characters make discoveries extremely easily; there’s very little deviation from the breadcrumb trails, no dead-ends, no wasted time. It may be an unfair comparison, but last year’s True Detective at least made the characters work for the information they got, and perhaps its focus on mystery is the reason that story was able to keep one guessing until the end.

Orphan Black on the other hand is trying to be many things, a medical sci-fi drama, a comedy, an exploration of nature versus nurture, a dystopian vision of the future; the list goes on. Ultimately it’s unfocused and that may be its eventual downfall, despite a unique and promising premise.

On the subject of comedy, there’s the “B” story of Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and clone Alison, and as mentioned in previous reviews, it’s utterly unrelated to the overall storyline. They’re introduced in this episode dancing on the bed throwing money around, and end up hatching a plan to expand the drug business via the purchase of a business owned by Alison’s mother. There may be a way to drag this back into the main storyline, but the writers are going to have to work hard to get it there. Alternatively, the plan may be an Orange is The New Black crossover in season four.

Next week, Delphine gets pushy with Cosima and her new GF, Sarah and Helena are getting plenty of exercise, and what’s the story with Rachel and those symbols?

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