Orphan Black Season 1 Review “Unconscious Selection”

Orphan Black (BBC America) Episode 9 Unconscious Selection (4)

Fans of Orphan Black began tweeting up a storm last night about the “huge twist” at the end of the episode. I prefer to watch the show on Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee, so I closed Twitter before I stumbled across any spoilers. When I finally reached the big reveal this morning, I wasn’t as floored as others seem to have been. Helena and Sarah are twins. Rather, they share the same birth mother.

As always with this show, we don’t have the entire story yet, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions. But, if Helena and Sarah were separate embryos implanted into the surrogate, then their twin-ship doesn’t mean a whole lot. They’re still just genetic copies – like Alison, Cosima, Katja, and the others we haven’t met. If we discover that they are monozygotic, that would be a far more interesting twist; particularly if there is some genetic design that would prohibit such an occurrence. That would be the shot across the bow in the battle between science and nature. No matter how perfect a Neolutionist design may seem nature will always be the superior force.

We’re seeing this same struggle played out with Kira. Delphine tells Cosima that Kira is an anomaly, which is something we’ve known since Sarah is the only clone who has a biological child. It appears, though, that it is not just Kira’s existence that’s unexpected. At the end of last week, Kira was struck by a car after running into the street. I didn’t have any doubt that she wouldn’t be seriously injured given her unique position on the clone family tree. Despite suffering severe injuries, Kira makes a miraculous recovery that stuns even her doctors. This leads Sarah to suspect that there is something biologically different about Kira. While the clones may be the first step in the Neolutionist design, Kira seems to be the leap forward.

Of all the clones, Cosima is the best positioned to uncover the genetic mystery of herself and her siblings. But, Cosima is starting to drink the Neolutionist Kool-Aid, which does not bode well. When she learns that Dr. Leekie has discovered the identities of Sarah and Alison, she starts to question Delphine’s loyalty. Cosima is blinded by lust and entranced by an accent. She knows that Delphine is her monitor, but ignores the implications of that. In her mind, she’s building a real relationship that is based on trust. When she figures out that Delphine has betrayed the clones to Dr. Leekie, she confronts her. Delphine claims to have genuine feelings for Cosima, but is unable to convince her. The worst part is that Delphine knows about Kira, though she says she will keep the girl’s existence a secret.

There are too many peripheral characters for Delphine to stay in the picture for very long. I imagine that she will one day meet the same end as Olivier. Until then, Cosima is on her own. This isolation is what makes her vulnerable to the Neolutionists. Sarah and Alison have a growing support system that Cosima isn’t a part of. Even Helena has more of an opportunity to be a part of the group than she does. This is what makes Cosima the most dangerous out of all of them.

The developing relationships of the other clones are becoming my favorite part of the show. Because we’ve been with Sarah since the first moments of the opening episode, she’s the one who has our allegiance. But, out of all the clones, I’m enjoying the scenes with Alison the most. The developing relationship between her and Felix is amazingly well done. This week, Alison turns to Felix when she is unable to return to her home. He reluctantly agrees to let her stay at his place until she finds an apartment. Even though Felix knows she isn’t Sarah, it feels as though there is a connection between him and Alison because she is like Sarah. While the clones have different personalities, there is something fundamentally the same about them, and Felix seems to react to that.

Alison’s personality quirks are also incredibly fun. I love her OCD tendencies, which are on full display when she cleans Felix’s house. When Felix returns home and sees the cleanliness, Alison delivers one of the best lines of the episode, “Your drug paraphernalia is in the drawer.” It was even more entertaining when they go to Alison’s house and unwittingly walk into an intervention. Alison flees to the bathroom. All of her girlfriends surround the closed door, but Alison will only talk to Felix. The look on his face is priceless as he sashays past the soccer moms.

Aside from the relationship she’s developing with Felix, Alison’s character is compelling because she is so fallible. She is completely unable to control her temper, and her tantrums are fantastic. At the intervention, Alison once again turns her wrath on Ainsley. This brings me to the only question I want answered before the season finale – who is Alison’s monitor? She has been so convinced that it’s Ainsley that I’m starting to think it isn’t. With his previous suspicious behavior, my money is still on Donnie.

In the midst of all this chaos, Sarah is still trying to make sense of everything. She agrees to meet with Dr. Leekie in the hopes of getting some answers. Dr. Leekie claims that he is also merely a cog in the machine and doesn’t know the bigger picture. I’m not buying this. When he first looks at Sarah, there is something in his face that suggests his interests are more than scientific. I’m wondering if perhaps Sarah is the clone of someone who was once close to Dr. Leekie – a daughter. He is likely the scientist who originally recruited Sarah’s surrogate mother. Most importantly, Dr. Leekie is fixated on finding Helena. He fancies himself Ahab and Helena his whale. He should remember that things didn’t end well for Ahab.

Sarah struggles with giving Helena to Dr. Leekie. He claims that Helena was corrupted by religious zealots called Proletheans and that he wants to deprogram her. When Sarah later confronts Helena, who is trapped in a cage courtesy of Tomas, she is conflicted about what to do. Part of her wants to shoot Helena in the head. Part of her wants to give Helena to Dr. Leekie. Ultimately, she chooses neither of those options and returns to Mrs. S. There, she meets her birth mother, Amelia, and learns the reason for her connection with Helena.

Sarah has another problem, though, that she doesn’t fully appreciate. The police are unraveling her connection to Beth and Katja. This is the only uninteresting storyline and it needs to be wrapped up before the end of the season. Art is superfluous and unless they revamp his role, they should just let this plotline fade away.

Of course, this wouldn’t be Orphan Black without a handful of new questions to tease us. Who is the woman who called Dr. Leekie? She has the same voice as our clones. Is she the original? What do the genetic variations between the clones really mean? It can’t be as simple as Cosima’s theory that it’s a bar code. We’re running out of time for answers, but at least we know the fun will continue in season two.

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