Hello readers, and welcome to Dork Shelf’s recap of Orphan Black season 2, episode 8, “Variable and Full of Perturbation”. Something strange happened this episode, and that strange thing was that this episode was kind of… bland and boring?
Now, I see you’ve already gotten your pitchforks from the basement and have equipped yourself with some torches that you got from Pier One Imports. Before you go all “blasphemy!” on me, please understand that while I may have thought this episode was weak, the show overall is still one of the best out there. No? Still not appeased? Well, before you chase me out of the weird country western-loving suburbia this show now takes place in, let’s recap the show, shall we?
We start off the episode with a car chase involving a burly bleeding man and a tiny accomplice who is clearly Tatiana Maslany. Bleeding Man has set his life difficulty level to “near impossible” and is now in “confess everything before I die mode.” With his last on-screen breath, Bleeding Man urges New Clone to go find Beth Childs.
Back at Mrs. S.’s home, Ethan Duncan looks at Kira like a piece of cheese (I would say meat, but let’s face it, cheese is way more delicious). Although the old man does nothing but try and bond with the little girl, Sarah is less than thrilled in his interest in her.
In an odd twist, Sarah decides to tell her daughter that she totally abandoned Auntie Helena in Prolethean-ville. Helena can totally take care of herself against a sect of religious nuts who treat her like a cow! The emotionally unstable clone who has a penchant for going on murderous rampages will be just fine psychologically with you abandoning her and making her feel used! Jesus Sarah, can you give a little more of a shit? A few episodes ago you were making me cry at how you were able to tenderly bring Helena off a ledge. Now all of a sudden you don’t care if your twin is rotting in jail or being impregnated by some nutjobs? I get that you’re trying to just spend some peaceful moments with your daughter, but real talk: you’re being an asshole.
At the Dyad Institute, Cosima and Delphine are having a lovers’ spat that involves locking each other out of the lab; seems like an apt response to hiding devastating information from your loved one, no?
When Delphine tries to speak with Dr. Leekie, Rachel kindly informs her that her mentor suffered a fatal heart attack on a Dyad jet. Despite not actually knowing Leekie’s fate, the lie is likely employed to stop any attempt to contact the ousted leader. Delphine’s saddled with even more news when Rachel reveals that Ethan Duncan might be the key to saving the clones, and Cosima in particular.
At Chez Felix, we properly meet Tony the Transgendered Clone. The idea of a transgendered character on the show is a fascinating one, and I was pleasantly surprised by the show’s recognition of its characters’ fluid sexualities. The introduction of such a character has the potential to not only add more dimensions to Maslany’s performance, but also inject some masculinity into our very femme pool of clones. Despite the good intentions behind Tony’s reveal, I found the implementation of his introduction wholly disappointing.
My first issue with Tony was his appearance. On the show, Tatiana Maslany imbues each of her characters with specific mannerisms that make you suspend disbelief in spite of yourself. Her performance, however, is supported by the clones’ specific looks. In addition to helping viewers distinguish one character from another, hair, makeup and clothing act as aesthetic extensions of Maslany’s creations. Rachel’s rigid haircut and tight corporate clothing, for example, reinforce the proclone’s emotional guardedness. Tony’s sloppily crafted appearance, however, did little more than distract the viewer from the actresses’ performance.
My main gripe? The execution of the makeup looked… well… like makeup. The painted on eyebrows along with the obviously applied chinstrap looked like bad attempts at a Halloween costume. I wholly understand that Maslany’s soft features make it difficult for her to portray a transgendered character who is far into his transformation. But if you’re going to put facial hair on an actress, at least make it look better than my attempts at it.
Additionally, the choice of greasy mullet and inexplicably pinned back waterfall was just odd. While Tony could just love an unconventional style the choices seemed haphazard and left me searching for reasons as to why that specific look was chosen. For the first time on Orphan Black, I saw the actress and not a living, breathing, clone on my screen.
In addition to the odd styling, Tony’s lack of purpose beyond delivering a message from his deceased partner rendered his existence superfluous. What could have been an interesting storyline felt only like mildly entertaining filler. While Jordan Garvais’ mixture of attraction and repulsion towards Tony was well done, the entire exercise ultimately felt like an aimless endeavour in an already flat and expository episode.
While all of the Tony business is going on in the background seemingly because Tatiana Maslany was bored and wanted a challenge, Delphine visits Sarah and proposes an idea of Rachel’s: give Duncan to the Dyad, and he might be able to decode enough of Cosima’s synthetic sequences to cure her. When presented with the option, Duncan quickly jumps on board. Before leaving, however, he imparts a present onto Kira in the form of his copy of The Island of Dr. Moreau, which we later find out is replete with notes on the cloning experiments. Uh oh… is this something the clones will have to use when Duncan dies? ~*Foreshadowing*~.
Upon seeing Duncan read the book to Kira, Sarah comments that the choice is inappropriate. Cue viewers with “really, bitch?”
Back at the lab, Cosima schools some adorable dorky scientists on how to play board games. Everyone’s crush on our little geek monkey intensifies. The battle bitches are kicked out of the lab, however, when Cosima and Delphine patch things up over a nice course of helium. While the high brings the women back together, Cosima pushes Delphine into admitting each time she betrayed the clones. Before confessing her own feelings, Cosima threatens to ruin Delphine’s career if she ever tries to pull a fast one again. Ah, true wuv.
At the Hendrix residence, Donnie tries to forget the horror of accidentally killing Leekie by raiding Alison’s minibar (so that’s where she gets those teeny bottles!). When that doesn’t work, he decides that leaving his wife and children in the middle of the night might be a better decision. Alison is not down with any of it, and shames him into facing their issues rather than running away from them. Ugh, a Donnie heavy storyline. Blah.
Part of the reason why I’m finding so hard to get on board with the “Alison and Donnie work shit out” plotline is because Donnie’ explanation for being in the dark about the clones is just so goddamn stupid.
Donnie wasn’t just approached a few years ago to keep tabs on a wife he was already married to. That explanation would have been more morally complex and would have established that Donnie truly had feelings for Alison before the Dyad started meddling with their life. This type of explanation would also justify Donnie’s rage at finding out the lengths the Dyad went in order to get data on Alison.
Donnie also wasn’t a monitor who developed feelings for his assigned clone. That explanation would again make the character morally ambiguous, and would present a relationship that emotionally rings true.
No, Donnie wasn’t any of these things.
He instead entered into a relationship with a woman, married her and then adopted children with her over the course of seven years all because some random dude in a lab coat told him to. Since the couples’ entire relationship is a big ‘ol lie, it’s hard to believe that Donnie would all of a sudden be incensed that his study-approved wife was being poked and prodded at night. Additionally, his mind-boggling stupidity makes it hard for me to empathize with him, mainly because I just want to punch him in the face. Alison: you can do better.
In Dull Paul news, we find out from Tony that the on again off-again clone clubber is a “ghost”. Apparently pottery isn’t the only thing Paul has in common with Patrick Swayze.
At Evil Inc., Rachel and her estranged father meet once again to discuss the services he will provide the Dyad. Despite an emotional first meeting, Rachel is resolved that going forward she and Ethan should have a strictly professional relationship. While the clone is able to maintain the illusion of control, we’re treated to some brilliant interspersed segments during the conversation that reveal Rachel’s internal fury at the revelation that the clones were designed to be barren. Turns out its Sarah who is the defective one in the baby-making department, and not the rest of her sisters.
With the Dyad potentially after him and no real reason for existing, Tony hops on a bus never to be heard from again because he can “take care of himself”. Yes audience, this clone was here at the end of the season because, who gives a shit, look it’s Tatiana Maslany wearing a beard!
We end the episode with a heart breaking scene wherein Cosima’s health takes a turn for the worst, and I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING!
Overall opinion: Sigh. This could have been better. Unfortunately, with a new clone being introduced seemingly just to share news about Dull Paul and an ever more annoying Donnie on our hands, the episode dragged. While it had some bright spots, they were few and far between.
Plot-wise, we did get a few interesting revelations. Is Cosima being purposely allowed to get sicker? Certainly such a move would kill two birds with one stone: Duncan could be furiously sequencing the clones’ DNA, and Kira would be lured into the Dyad’s clutches. Dum dum DUMMMM!
Felix: “Holy Tilda Swinton!”
Science nerd to Cosima during board game night: “Do you wanna play?” Cosima: “I don’t know if you’re ready for that.”
Felix, gently schooling Art on how to address transgendered people: