Orphan Black Season 1 Review “Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner”

Orphan Black is taking me to a dark place that I thought I’d left behind after my freshman year of college – biology (shudder). Between Neolutionists, The Dyad Institute, and transgeneticism, this week’s episode packed a scientific punch. The premise of the show is genetic clones, so it makes sense that we’d have to get down to the “how” sooner or later. We’re still not there, but we’re starting to get clues.

Sarah knows now that Paul is her monitor, but doesn’t know what exactly that means. She worries that she still can’t trust him, which leads to her following him to a meeting with Olivier. Along with Felix, Sarah waits in the parking lot, clueless about what is going on inside. Olivier summoned Paul to the meeting to ask him questions about Beth. When he asks for explicit information on their sex life, Paul balks. This is a concrete indication that Paul has feelings for Sarah and is on her side. Having Paul side with Sarah is a good decision. Because there are so many female characters, Paul’s presence adds a helpful spoonful of testosterone to the mix. What’s more, he’s easy on the eyes.

Olivier expresses his concern over reports that one of the clones is killing the other “test subjects.” He doesn’t reveal to Paul that these are the clones, because he still believes Paul is ignorant of their existence. Thus far, Olivier’s true purpose has been cloaked by his sporadic appearances and vague advisories about the test subjects. We discover that Olivier is simply the cog in a larger machine; the one we were introduced to last week – The Dyad Institute.

More information is emerging on the nature and purpose of The Dyad Institute. Over dinner, Cosima confronts Dr. Leekie about his work with “transgenic embryonic stem cells.” The transgenic aspect involves the introduction of novel genes through a reconstruction of DNA strands. Or something. What does that mean for the Neolutionists? We know that Dr. Leekie envisions a path where we can speed up and enhance evolutionary development (his example last week was infrared vision). Olivier seems to suggest that Dr. Leekie has achieved something far more complex – our clones. When Olivier finally comes face to face with Sarah, he tells her, “You are our greatest achievement.” I have to admit that I will be disappointed if The Dyad Institute is responsible for the creation of the clones. We haven’t even finished season one, so I would like to have some mystery out there. While Orphan Black frequently gives us significant pieces of information, I can’t imagine that they would disclose the clones’ creator at this juncture.

The Neolutionists seem completely unaware that the religious fanatics are the ones hunting down the clones. When Sarah tries to tell Olivier about Helena, he ignores her. That brings us to Helena’s role in the episode. Helena wakes up after being rescued by Thomas, another apparent zealot who is intent on killing the clones. To assuage her doubts, Thomas assures Helena that she is the original and “the light.” Then he sends Helena back out to continue her mission. Maslany is incredible as Helena. The character could have been a ridiculous caricature, but Maslany makes her tangible, unpredictable, and frightening. I can’t think of many actresses who could pull off Helena’s club dance at the end, but Maslany does it. Helena feels like a completely separate person from Sarah, which is a huge achievement for Maslany and the show.

Now we have at least two factions in a clone war – the fishy religious folks and the white-eyed, tail-wagging Neolutionists. Each have their own symbols associated with their divergent philosophies, which helps us to easily identify them. The Neolutionists have adopted the computer power symbol (an open circle with a straight line at the top) within an eye. This symbol nicely beings together Neolutionists’ obsession with technology with changes to human physiognomy (hence the devotees with the white contacts).

Let’s ponder for a moment the implications of the Neolutionists’ vision of the world. If genetic modifications were possible, what would be the coolest thing to have? You could go Total Recall style and get a third breast, get Vampire-style cuspeds, or extra fingers to help with your piano-virtuoso fantasy. Or, you could be like Olivier and get a bile-inducing tail. The reveal of his tail at the end was revolting, especially when Helena lopped it off. My throat constricts just thinking about it. What kind of freaky people are we dealing with here? The clones should steer as far clear as they possible can from these lunatics.

Which brings us to Cosima’s problem. While Sarah is dealing with Paul, Olivier and Helena, Cosima has decided to get the upper hand against Delphine. She does this by trying to put the moves on her. Trying being the key word. Delphine has clearly reached out to Cosima in accordance with instructions from Dr. Leekie, but to what end remains to be seen. Cosima is definitely getting too confident, which may lead her to underestimate what she is up against with Dyad.

Even with all of the intrigue discussed above, there was still time for Sarah to visit Mrs. S and get more information on her background. Mrs. S explains that a man named Carlton brought Sarah to Mrs. S and asked that she hide her. Accordingly, Mrs. S made the huge sacrifice of leaving her life behind and moving to a new country with Sarah and Felix. It looks like we are going to get even more about her past in next week’s episode.

I like the direction we’re heading in and have a feeling the show will not disappoint when it comes time for the season finale. We’ve only got three episodes left. I hope that when the network gears up for season two that they get a new promotion strategy. This is such a fantastic show and it feels like not enough people have realized that.

Follow me on Twitter @LaVaudreuil