Orphan Black “Human Raw Material” Review (Season 4 Episode 5)

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This week’s Orphan Black illustrated the fundamental problem with the show: it relies too heavily on the stellar performances of the cast to mask the chaos of the story. The episode reminded me of the interlude we previously had with Helena at the farm with the Proletheans. That story dominated several episodes and then fizzled out. It seems like we’re heading in a similar direction now with mutant babies.

Let’s start with the babies. Orphan Black is using shock value as a crutch. This season has seen an increase in the grotesque with the robot maggot, Dr. Leekie’s rotted head, and now deformed babies. I am not saying there’s no place for the grotesque in the show – it’s been there since the beginning, like when Helena cut off Olivier’s tale. It just feels unnecessarily heavy this season.

I’m also not sure that we needed this whole new wrinkle of a birthing center that is exploiting women and creating genetically modified children that come out malformed. What about Projects Leda and Castor? What about the robot maggot? Can we get some resolution on those stories before we toss in a baby factory? And what is the point of these genetic experiments? Judging from the final scene, it’s so that Susan Duncan can find a cure for the illness that will strike Ira, who is evidently her lover. This felt like shock for the sake of shock. Didn’t she help raise him?

In addition to the Frankenstein elements of the episode, we have a stranger supernatural element developing with Kira. This started a couple episodes back with the idea that Kira has some sort of psychic ability to see the future. Now we find out that it’s even more than that and she can feel the emotions of all the various clones. The show is starting to feel like one of those abandoned mine rides where the cart shoots off in various directions with some making it to the top and others falling down a chasm. I’m not sure this psychic stuff is going to go anywhere and how it even fits with a show wedded to the concept of science.

All of the plot drama swallowed up what could have been more impactful emotional moments in the episode. This division between Felix and Sarah feels like it came out of nowhere and is impacting what has been the most solid relationship. Sarah doesn’t trust that Felix’s sister is who she says – which shouldn’t be that shocking considering all they’ve gone through. A good question is why isn’t Felix more skeptical. Sarah surreptitiously has their DNA tested and it confirms they are siblings. It should have been a heartbreaking scene, because Sarah clearly feels she’s going to lose her brother. Instead, Felix was a jerk and Sarah came off looking petty and aggressive. Only Kira seemed to understand Sarah’s pain. But her empathy may only be the result of the psychic connection.

There were some fun scenes with Crystal, though I feel like her and MK have been less impactful than some of the other clones we’ve seen. I love the scenes with Donny and Crystal. It looks like Delphine is going to be coming back into the mix soon. I haven’t really missed her character, since there are enough other characters to fill the void. We’ll see if she adds anything meaningful, but I’m not counting on it.