‘Orphan Black’ Review S02E04: “Governed As It Were By Chance”

By  · Published on May 12th, 2014

BBC America

It’s a sad norm in the world of television that narrative shortcuts are made solely for the sake of time and to ensure certain beats are hit before the next commercial break. The best writers learn how to fit everything they need into the allotted time and in a logical fashion. Others seem to care less about how exactly they get from point A to point C and just hope viewers either don’t notice or don’t care.

Which brings me to the most recent episode of Orphan Black.

There are some pretty big moments here that scream lazy writing in the interest of hitting certain dramatic beats, and I’m not giving them a pass. Thankfully though, while they might be enough to sink an episode of a lesser show their effect is overpowered and overshadowed by the absolute brilliance and execution of the final minutes.

Last week ended with Daniel kidnapping Sarah in a car, leaving Cal and Kira in their dust and then being t-boned at an intersection by another speeding vehicle… and we now see that the truck that hit them was driven by Cal. I’d already forgiven that episode’s poorly crafted kidnapping scene and stopped wondering how exactly Daniel even found Cal’s place, and I began this new ep with a clean slate, but come on people. I’ll grant you that Cal knows the roads better than Daniel and Sarah (who was driving), but they were racing along at a pretty fast clip. Cal had to load Kira into his truck, drive her to his second farm (?), catch up to them via different roads and then time the impact perfectly at an intersection he couldn’t possibly know they were heading towards?

It’s a bit much isn’t it?

At least it leads to some solid and far gentler scenes between Kira and her bewildered father Cal as the two bond while Sarah heads back to the city for answers. I suspect he’ll be attempting some kind of move to help Sarah now that he knows the Dyad Institute’s name – at least I hope that’s the direction it takes as opposed to a revelation that he’s associated with them somehow – but for now it’s nice seeing him interact with his vacant-eyed offspring.

Sarah’s investigation takes her to Mrs. S’ place for more clues and then on to Rachel’s immaculately clean and organized condo in the sky. She finally discovers the identity of the two scientists in the photo to be Rachel’s parents, and Cosima theorizes that means she was raised with complete awareness as to who and what she is. I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case though. Her snooping is interrupted by a back-from-the-dead Daniel – the show is fully embracing its comic book sensibilities with its refusal to let characters actually die – and after some dumb moves by Sarah he gets the upper hand, ties her up in the shower and begins to slice her face with a fair bit of glee.

Before we discuss what happens next let’s catch up with poor Helena’s experience on Pastor Hank’s Prolethian farm. She’s mildly sedated after the assault from last week’s episode, and that makes her an easy mark for confused young Gracie who attempts to smother her with a pillow. Helena is resilient though, and after knocking out (instead of killing?) the teenager Helena recalls what these wackos did to her and heads for the woods.

This brings us to the episode’s second and far more ridiculous transgression. Art sees Helena running from the farmhouse, knife in hand, and while he calls out to her he doesn’t give chase. Five Prolethian men coming running after, all of them armed, and all the detective does is make them leave their guns behind. He lets them chase after the clearly scared Helena! One of them has a cattle prod! It’s bad enough that he’s letting these guys chase after a woman with clearly aggressive intent, but she’s one of the clones that he’s so invested in investigating! This is probably the most nonsensical scene I’ve seen on any TV show all year.

Because seriously.

The deranged Helena, with no money for bus fare in her pockets (or pockets in her wedding dress even), makes her way back to the city and follows Sarah to Rachel’s apartment. I won’t even ask how Helena gets into the apartment, but she does and it results in one hell of a scene good enough to make me begrudgingly accept those earlier bits of stupidity. Director David Frazee and writer Russ Cochrane find a sweet spot here as Sarah sits helpless in the shower, blood streaming down her neck and Daniel heads to the living room in response to a noise. We stay with Sarah seeing and hearing the events as she does, and as the sounds of a struggle ensue Daniel stumbles into view clutching his own neck in vain as he bleeds out. A now crimson-stained Helena shambles into view, knife in hand, and the already scared Sarah becomes utterly terrified.

She left Helena for dead last season after shooting her in the chest – meaning Sarah’s been surprised twice in this episode by people she was sure were dead – and begins to mentally collapse from absolute fear. It’s not murder Helena has on her mind though as instead she embraces her sister and softly pleads for help.

Everything comes together perfectly in this sequence, from the editing to the jarring score, and at the core of it all is Tatiana Maslany’s incredible dual performance. It seems obvious and redundant to praise her acting again and again, but she’s honestly doing some of the best work on television week after week.

Alison and Cosima both take a backseat to their fellow clones’ adventures this week. The former only appears for comedic effect and to let us know she’s ended up in rehab. Initially convinced it’s actually a Dyad Institute trick she discovers it’s legitimate and she’s there for the long haul unless she wants to risk losing her kids to her husband Donnie. Cosima meanwhile only shows up to be sad and offer some possible exposition. Mrs. S is also given the shaft (ahem) with a minimal amount of screentime, but we do get a tease of her saucier former self when she meets up with the man who actually handed her young Sarah to protect all those years ago.

We didn’t get much in the way of real answers this week, but there are definitely some new questions. What are the Prolethians actually up to here? They’ve taken an egg cell from a clone and fertilized it – I get that much – but what’s the reasoning behind that desire? It’s going to be a life two or three steps removed from a traditional human, so is this simply their attempt at a supposedly “miraculous” birth? Is this new info regarding Project LEDA meant to imply that the clone project was an attempt at creating super-humans? And finally, why is Art so damn dumb?

What did you think of the latest episode of Orphan Black?

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.