‘Orphan Black’ Review S02E05: “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est”

By  · Published on May 19th, 2014

BBC America

For a show frequently focused on the evils that men do and the control that men have over women’s bodies, the latest episode of Orphan Black strikes a very clear blow against that dynamic. It’s not the first time of course as the series has always had fun with the gender dynamic, but the rarity here is that the scene in question is one of a woman using her power over a man in pursuit of sexual gratification.

Rachel’s discovery of her dead lover/monitor, Daniel, necessitates a replacement, and that’s where Paul comes in as she quickly instructs him to settle into both roles. He’s shocked to hear that Rachel even had a monitor, but her words and passive expression make it clear that while she retains control she’s also aware of who and what she is. That awareness extends to the hold they have over Paul – knowledge and evidence of his involvement in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan – and she applies it for her own domineering sexual interests.

Is it rape? It’s difficult to interpret Paul’s dull stare, and I doubt he’s unhappy being boned by Rachel, but it fits the definition of rape in the sense he’s being coerced. Just as his hand has been forced into hunting Sarah, the threat the Dyad Institute holds over his freedom is an equally powerful motivator for letting Rachel do as she pleases with his manly bits. Power, and the constant threat of losing it, runs throughout the episode affecting each of the other characters as well.

Sticking with Rachel for the moment, Daniel’s death amps up more than her sex drive. Immediately after Dr. Leekie tells her that maybe, just maybe, her aggressive stance against Sarah and the other clones is indirectly responsible for this escalation of violence. She responds by shutting down a specific stem line test, one that holds promise for Cosima’s health, and threatening to let Cosima die unless Sarah comes back in to the fold. Never one to put all of her eggs in one basket – mostly because as a clone she has no eggs – she also puts in motion a plan to frame Felix for the police officer’s murder at Cal’s farm.

It’s a pincer move meant to give Sarah no other option, but returning to the idea of men screwing over women’s desires, Dr. Leekie deflates Rachel’s two-pronged attack with a power play of his own. He tells Cosima that data lost in the long-ago lab explosion held the possible key to her survival, but the stem line experiments they were doing could help her all the same. As a gesture of supposed goodwill he offers it to Cosima behind Rachel’s back. His second act of defiance against Rachel comes when he meets up with Sarah and guarantees charges will be dropped against Felix if Sarah can locate and bring in the so-called Swan Man, one of the original program creators thought to have died in the explosion.

It’s actually Helena who knows his whereabouts thanks to her time spent with the group that had her offing clones left and right. Once little more than a violently quirky killer Helena has quickly moved up the ranks to become my favorite of the clones. To be fair, Alison is absent this entire episode, but even if she were here bringing the usual laughs she’d have a tough time keeping up with Helena’s wonderfully entertaining mind-games, banter with Felix and highly capable actions. Lovingly labeled “meathead” by Sarah, Helena gets dropped off with the world’s most incompetent cop, Art, and surprises exactly no one by escaping.

She leaves some clues behind and heads out to kill “very pretty dirty sexy Rachel,” but her plan – one I happen to have agreed with – is thwarted by the arrival of Sarah and Supercop. The two sisters once again have a face to face that, similar to last week’s, results in the episode’s best scene and another clip for Tatiana Maslany’s highlight reel. Is Sarah being honest with that show of emotion? Is she really glad to have Helena back as a sister after having believed she was dead? My money’s on probably.

As mentioned above there was no Alison this week, but I’m glad the show didn’t feel it necessary to spend more time back in rehab simply for laughs. We know where she is and what she’s doing, so we don’t need to see it. This episode was also missing Mrs. S, but while I enjoyed seeing her get some action last week I can’t say as I miss her. She’s someone who almost consistently creates more questions without ever answering them, and it’s often in the service of flopping her perceived loyalty back and forth at the same time. Is she good? Is she bad? I’m finding it hard to care, and now it looks like she’s meeting up with Paul next week? He’s another flip-flopper, but at least with him we know what his true motivation is.

Rounding things out we had Cal and Kira talking about socks, but aside from a quick glance at his stash of money and I.D.s the duo had little to offer. Happily though it seems like her new dad is agreeing with her as Kira is finally showing a spark of life behind those little doll eyes.

Less cheery is a the state of things back on the Prolethian farm where little Gracie has been kept in a closet with her lips sewn shut for having let Helena escape. The needlework and confinement seem like punishment enough, but no, it seems she may also be forced to become the surrogate mother for the fertilized egg stolen from Helena. So Rachel’s naked chair romp aside, bad men are still doing terrible things to the women in their charge.

We’re halfway through season two, and it feels like very little has been revealed in the way of answers. We’ve been introduced to several new players and learned new truths about some that we’ve already known, but actual information? Not so much.

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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.