Email Roundtable #40 – Orphan Black

This week Kerri and Katie attempt to discuss Season Two of BBC America’s Orphan Black. As of this writing, two episodes have aired: “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” and “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion.”


Katie: Orphan Black is back, Kerri! What was your impression of the first two new episodes?

Kerri: The first two episodes start, essentially, where the last episode of the first season left off. I suppose there is a bit of a time jump but it isn’t substantial. Sarah Manning is looking for her lost/kidnapped daughter, Kira, and she’s enlisted the help of her brother, Felix, and the other “good” clones, Cosima and Alison, to help her in her search. Sarah has also, curiously, asked Art the cop for help and allowed him to be a member of, as Felix calls it, “clone club”. Quickly, we find out that Kira is alive. We also find out that another character presumed dead, crazy Ukrainian clone Helena, is also still in the land of the living – though less so.

We also meet some new Proletheans who may be the strangest looking group of people ever assembled. I am a big fan of the young, quiet assassin who may be the first interesting male character on the show, save Felix.

Although I enjoyed the first two episodes (episode 1 was a knockout), something felt a bit off to me. Perhaps it is all of the exposition of which there is still a tremendous amount. What did you think?

Katie: I enjoyed both episodes a tremendous amount. Episode 1 was action from the first minute to the last! But you’re right, something does feel a bit off this season.

For the first time, I’m having trouble following certain characters motives. There are so many conspiracies and sub-conspiracies. The only one that feels totally off though, is Sarah asking Art for help, considering he wanted to arrest her only a few episodes (and maybe just a few hours) ago. He’s a pretty bad cop. And Art’s partner is one stiff actor. I can’t stand her. Why does she care so much about Sarah??? It can’t just be a connection with dead Beth. That character feels very one-dimensional in a sea of full, three-dimensional characters.

I’m really intrigued by the Proletheans. Religious nuts that are obsessed with science! I think it has a lot of potential.

Kerri: I think the “off-ness” also has something to do with scenes that don’t feel fully scripted. I noticed this in a couple of scenes between Felix and Sarah and then again between Felix and Alison. They feel loose and improvised in an otherwise fully stylized and mannered show.

That’s why I think the Proletheans fit so well – they are very “specific”, if you know what I mean. They have a “look”. Even the new main farmer-guy looks like the most farmer-y farmer that ever farmered. I love that they are not only extremely religious and obsessed with science but also that they live in this rural cult. There is a kind of Amish vibe about them but they certainly use science to their “advantage”. Nothing is natural about the Proletheans but they are surrounded by nature. These are the types of characters I’ve seen countless times before (religious extremist cult members) but taken in a new direction.

I think your assertion that characters will jump ship in terms of loyalty has always been an issue with the show. Betrayals seem rather meaningless and it’s hard to keep up with all the mounting conspiracies. It seems like it’s hard for the characters to keep up with the conspiracies as well.

Katie: Isn’t it amazing how Tatiana Maslany has such great chemistry with Jordan Gavaris while playing either Alison or Sarah? I think a spin-off web series with Felix and Alison should be in the works. Felix’s reaction to Alison admitting she help kill Aynsley was so funny!!!

Good point about “specificity” in Orphan Black. You’re right on the nose. The stuff that isn’t 100% considered feels out-of-place.

To completely take the conversation in another direction, I’m very interested in how Orphan Black addresses the many different political and human conflicts that have to do with cloning. The clones have to deal with so many different groups wanting a piece of them. It’s human issues, women issues, privacy issues. But all of these issues are dealt with through the plot so none seem preachy.

Kerri: The show is pretty expert at handling these heady themes and, like you mention, they never seem preachy. I think the way they achieve this balance is threefold:

1. Everything moves so quickly that you rarely have time to think about the grand design of the show.
2. The show is campy enough that dialogue that might otherwise feel forced is usually played with a wink.
3. Humour is ALWAYS an undercurrent even when everything could be played completely seriously.

Is there a theme that you are most interested in this season?

Katie: I’m always interested in gender-related stuff, but with Orphan Black I’m really interested how the show discusses control over one’s body. Scientists like Leekie and Delphine and Rachel all feel authority over the clones, and the right to information about their bodies. As well, the Proletheans feel they have a right to Helena. But not only that, just look at how the community theatre director treats Alison — just touches her however he wants.

Kerri: I think that what you are getting at is very related to gender. All of the bodies that are controlled or that other people are trying to control are women’s bodies. And it’s not just human female bodies. Just look at the cow that the Prolethean’s are inseminating in the second episode. Women (specifically the clones) are the desired element in the world of the show but they aren’t desired in the way women usually are in pop culture/the media. The clones aren’t ogled or seen as sex objects (although, let’s be honest, they are all damn sexy) – they feel like they hold the key to something powerful and they are wanted for that. They are like special, secret, powerful, sacred meat.

Katie: Which is true, I suppose. They are pretty amazing and it would be great for science to study them, but… how horrible. It’s such an interesting topic and both sides are (almost) represented. Admittedly, the case for the scientists is pretty weak, when Dr. Leekie is your figurehead.

Any favourite moments from the first 2 episodes?

Kerri: I loved all of the stuff with the Proletheans, as I mentioned, although I mostly think I just like looking at that assassin guy’s face.

At first I thought the reveal of who took Kira was a bit underwhelming but it resulted in some nice stuff with Mrs. S and Sarah in the latter half of episode two. I also had some initial worries about the young girl who plays Kira and her blank-stare acting style (Graeme calls her “Dead Eyes”) but there was some fascinating stuff exploring her ability to read people and situations in episode two as well.

I will say though a lot of the Cosima stuff hasn’t worked very well for me so far this season – she feels even MORE like the Exposition Queen.

I also loved that Big Dick Paul saw a reduction of screen time.

How about you?

Katie: I agree with all your points. Quality Cosima scenes are lacking so far. Although there was that sexy moment in the new lab with Delphine…

My favourite scene so far has to be the scene in the diner from episode one. I thought it was brilliant how Sarah smashed the fire extinguisher through the wall to escape the bathroom. Sarah really knows how to act under pressure. Plus, I’ve seen that situation so many times – trapped in a room – but this one was different and fun.

Kerri: I liked how disappointed Cosima was with the lab the Neolutionists stuck her in. And how Delphine was able to cheer her up.

The diner scene was exceptional. It was a pretty killer way (pun very much intended) to open up the season.

Katie: Ok. Time for shout outs.

I’d like to shout out to Helena, that sugar-lovin’ hungry monkey. She has the craziest stories, so I’m glad she’s not dead, even though she killed her mom.

Kerri: I’d like to give a shout out Felix’s large, black, infrequent lover and sometimes (based on the second episode) artistic muse. That guy probably has to put up with a lot of shit and seems to deal with it gamely (and, so far, silently). And he holds a football really well.

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