‘Orphan Black’ Review S02E08: “Variable and Full of Perturbation”

By  · Published on June 8th, 2014

BBC America

It seems like only last week that I was mildly decrying Orphan Black’s habit of tossing new, important characters into the mix late in the game, thus creating new questions as an alternative to actually answering much in the way of previous questions. The latest episode has some fun at my expense by not only not bringing back last week’s newbie (Michelle Forbes) but also by introducing yet another brand new character in the opening scene.

Of course Tony’s not just any new character though as he’s actually a clone off the same assembly line as Sarah and the rest. Born a female like the rest, Tony’s on his way to becoming a man through the use of testosterone and possible surgery (that or he has a sock stuffed down his boxers). Beyond what he brings to the narrative table – which is surprisingly little – Tony is a big step in the evolution of the show in that he allows star Tatiana Maslany to try on a new persona well outside of her normal beat.

But while she earns points for trying, it looks like we’ve finally found proof that Maslany is human after all and capable of failure.

Tony doesn’t work for reasons well beyond Maslany’s performance though as everything from the Star Trek: The Next Generation-hairdo to his ridiculous facial follicles to his sexually-tinged interactions with Felix fall flat. Maslany’s gift has always been her ability to “become” the clone she’s playing. Of course we know it’s still her, but each of the other clones feels like a distinct individual and an actual person. By contrast, Tony feels like Maslany simply and quickly dressed up for a Halloween party out with friends. And while there’s a surface-level giggle in watching Tony and Felix banter and dance around sexual tension it’s a bit too much to accept Felix’s playful attraction to a man who not only looks very, very much like his sister.

Narratively-speaking, Tony fails as well as his only contribution is to bring a cryptic and much ballyhooed message from his own, now deceased monitor Sammy. “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine,” is a crummy commercial! Okay, I’m exaggerating its awfulness, but the real message – “Tell Beth keep the faith. Paul’s like me, he’s on it. He’s a ghost.” – is not much better. One, it’s oblique in its relevance, and two, who here still cares about Paul? My guess is it means Paul is a “good” guy, something I will find hard to swallow after the scene a few episodes back where he threatened Sarah by phone with an evil-ass grin on his face. A grin that no one else could see but us so why would we doubt it?

The single bright spot of this whole Tony debacle is that he’s sent packing on a bus at the end of the episode meaning we’ll probably not see him again anytime soon. Okay, second bright spot? Felix saying “Holy Tilda Swinton.”

Sarah meanwhile agrees with Mrs. S that delivering Ethan to Rachel and Dyad is a smart play as it means they can keep Kira. This is a leap of faith of course as Rachel is not one to be trusted, but it’s also an important move as his knowledge may be the only thing capable of saving Cosima’s life. Little Kira’s tooth was only so helpful, but Ethan straight up guarantees he can not only save Cosima’s life but also prevent the others from even getting ill in the first place.

Quick aside, but did Ethan lie about “all” of his research being on those three ancient floppy disks? Could it be that maybe he also left some of it in the margins of his copy of “The Island of Doctor Moreau” that now sits in Kira’s little hands while she takes it all in with her dead little eyes? I still wonder what new revelations we’ll be getting about Kira beyond simply her ability to heal.

And while I know Sarah’s preoccupied by a few things, can we all just acknowledge how bad a sister she is and how bad a cop Art is (surprise) in that neither of them have thought to check in on Helena?

Ethan’s arrival comes just in time for Cosima. She forgives Delphine (again) but promises to bury her professional if she ever lies to her again, and then in the episode’s best scene, she reveals to Scott that she’s actually the clone they’ve been studying. His response, that it’s an honor to work alongside her, is perfect and easily one of the sweetest moments I’ve seen on TV in some time. He’s a minor character in the grand scheme of things, but his sincerity, especially towards someone as fragile as Cosima, is much appreciated.

Rachel is looking for Paul and having little luck, but one wonders if she’s looked closely at the beige walls where his blandness so easily blends in. Probably, she’s a professional after all. She also meets up with her father again, but her icy demeanor has returned to the point where she tells him it’s to be a professional relationship only. Her rock-hard exterior cracks just a little bit though after she questions why Sarah (and Sarah’s viable womb) was the only success story. Incorrect he replies, the clones were “barren by design,” and Sarah was actually a failure. Thier action makes sense scientifically, but Rachel is not pleased that her infertility was intentional. Her imagined trashing of the room around her brings her one step closer to an actual outburst. I like that we’re seeing more of her softer, less one-dimensional side, and while I doubt she’ll ever come around to being one of the good guys it’s always a positive when a character gains more depth.

Finally, has there ever been a couple more perfect for each other than Alison and Donnie? Sure they’ve had their fair share of troubles – monitoring, lies, infidelity, hot glue guns – but watching the two of them shamefully reveal the blood on their hands to each other makes me think these two crazy kids are going to make it after all. Now if only Donnie would learn how to wrap a dead body properly to avoid dirtying the trunk.

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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.