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Orphan Black Review: Season 4 Episodes 1-2

Beyond this point lie spoilers for Orphan Black Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2. This article includes full recaps of the episodes. If you’re planning to watch but haven’t yet, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. We’ll be here when you’re ready. 

 

You guys. Orphan Black is back. Tatiana Maslany is once again gracing our screens with her enigmatic ability to be four to seven people at once and grow her bangs out in the blink of an eye. I’ve finally had some time to sit down and watch the two episodes of Season 4 that have aired so far, so let’s get caught up!

If you need a quick refresher, here’s a completely comprehensible recap put together by the cast and crew. The first 3.5 minutes gives a brief overview of some key events from the last three Orphan Black seasons, and the rest of the video gives a little more insight to the characters and the cast and crew’s hype in the lead-up to Season 4.

Was that helpful? Feeling totally caught up and refreshed now? No? Okay. Here’s what you need to know:

The main revelation at the end of Orphan Black Season 3 is that the neolutionists are the big bads who have been overseeing this whole shebang. That’s right, remember Dr Leekie and his neolutionism shit? A lot more important than we originally figured. Neolution has secretly been operating Dyad, Leda, Castor and the military’s every experimental move. It would seem that the spider orchestrating this twisted web has finally been found.

The neolutionists revealed to us in the finale are Dr Nealon, the medical dude who’s been overseeing the Leda clones, and Rachel’s very own, very much alive mother Susan Duncan. Delphine killed Nealon after he attempts to spit a mysterious and gross worm from his mouth into hers, but we’ll come back to that worm in a sec in Season 4. Sarah was about to hand over samples of the original clone’s genome to Topside’s Ferdinand, in exchange for him getting Castor off their backs, but Delphine put a stop to it when she discovers Neolution and realisds that Topside would be handing the genome right over to the neolutionists. Ferdinand snaps at this revelation and immediately allied himself with Leda.

Rachel was revealed to be alive inside a neolutionist headquarters of some description, at the hands of Susan Duncan and alongside the newest clone Charlotte. The rest of our favorite characters reunited for one final dinner to celebrate Alison winning her school trustee election before Sarah, Mrs S and Kira packed off to Iceland to hide Kendall from Castor and Neolution. Delphine meanwhile visited Cosima’s new girlfriend Shay to apologise for thinking she was a Castor spy and encourages her to get Cosima to explain everything. Delphine shared a kiss with Cosima and let her go one last time, a fitting yet heart-wrenching scene as Delphine is then shot in the gut by a mysterious attacker in a carpark on her way to leave. Time will tell who shot her, and if Delphine is alive or dead.

Aaaand that brings us up to this year.

 

Recap: Episode 1

“The Collapse of Nature”

Sarah, Kira, Mrs S and Kendall have been hiding out in Iceland for some 6-8 weeks, but Season 4 makes us wait a little longer to find out what will happen to our Leda ladies.

Episode 1 opens with a disturbingly eerie scene: an unknown figure, disguised by a sheep mask, witnesses a couple dressed in paramedic uniforms burying a body in the woods.

Flashback to our first clone Beth Childs, who is woken by a phone call from the mysterious sheep figure. Unbeknownst to Paul, Beth snorts crushed pills in her bathroom as she receives map coordinates from the sheep. At the crime scene the next morning, Beth lies to Art and says the call she received was an anonymous tip, but she clearly knows who she’s in contact with. Her sheep contact is revealed to be another Leda clone, one with a Nordic accent and a crooked fringe, called M.K. The body turns out to be a tattooed man whose cheek has been cut out post-mortem. Beth and Art begin to investigate and find a lead for their two suspects.

The episode gives us a lot of insight into Beth’s state of mind before she killed herself on the train platform in our pilot episode. Borrowing surveillance gear from Raj at work, Beth explains it’s to catch Paul cheating, but really it’s to figure out his true identity, as with M.K’s help Beth has caught onto Paul’s monitoring.

Paul: “When you say it’s over, then it’s over.”

Beth: “You end it, you coward.”

However it’s evident that their relationship had been on a downward-spiral even before this revelation. Paul has become distant while Beth is lonely and hiding a steadily-worsening drug problem. Despite phone calls from Cosima and Alison and concern from Art, Beth is keeping everything bottled up in her own world — that is, aside from borrowing Alison’s daughter’s pee so she can bluff her way through a drug test at work.

Back on the crime case the body is identified as Edward Capper, a member of Club Neolution. M.K and Beth are on the edge of connecting the dots between Neolution and themselves, but they aren’t quite there yet. Beth and Art head to the club to try and find out who knew Edward Capper. They’re spotted by Olivier Duval, who phones Leekie to warn him that one of his very own clones has shown up at the club. Beth and Art meet a pregnant woman named Trina, who wears a single white contact lens to show that she’s a Neolution follower. (The end of Season 3 saw Rachel fitted with a glass eye that also had a white iris. Oooooh.)

Beth’s boss discovers that she may or may not known her anonymous tipper, and pulls her off the case as a precaution. Back home she downs some drugs and hard liquor before fighting with Paul when he arrives home. Hurt by his apathy, she contemplates killing him or at the very least threatening him with a gun, but stops before she can go through with either. Lost and lonely, she seeks solace at Art’s house where they share a kiss before sleeping together.

Trina calls Beth in the middle of the night and says her boyfriend is missing after going to meet some “hardcore neos” who happen to fit the description of the two suspects. Leaving Art behind, Beth follow Trina’s lead and finds the neo lair, where the “paramedics”, accompanied by a third man, are cutting Trina’s boyfriend’s cheek out. Inside his cheek is a worm, the same kind that Dr Nealon tried to spit into Delphine’s mouth. Beth freaks and makes a run for it, and in her panic she fires her gun at the first sound she hears — which happens to be Maggie Chen. Damn.

M.K: “Neolution is just an ethos. Like, about creating yourself. Individual evolutionary choice.”

Beth calls Art, who arrives at the scene before the rest of the police and tries to supply Beth with a cover story for accidentally shooting an innocent civilian. When the police arrive, the lieutenant introduces Beth to her legal representative, Detective Duko…who just so happens to be the guy Beth just saw inside the neo lair. Shit son.

Beth runs to M.K in a final bid for help, but she already knows she is trapped. Tragically, we’ve already seen how Beth’s story ends. It’s a punch to the gut knowing everything that happened to her before she took her own life on that train platform, but makes me all the more grateful to the show for showing how deeply Sarah was affected by Beth’s death, thus doing justice to Beth’s memory. The only thing we’re left wondering is how and when Art will connect the dots and get back on the Neolution case.

That question is answered immediately as the episode ends with a seamless transition into our present timeline, where Sarah Manning is woken in the middle of the night by a phone call from Art. Art has since tracked down M.K, who tells Sarah that she knew Beth, Neolution knows where Sarah is, they’re coming for Kendall Malone, and Sarah has to run. Right now.

 

Recap: Episode 2

“Transgressive Border Crossing”

After that intense episode threw us right back to the beginning, Episode 2 slows down a little, reintroducing us to the family while the Clone Club tries to figure all this new shit out.

When lights on the frozen horizon confirm that they are indeed being hunted down, Sarah, Kira, Mrs S and Kendall get the hell out of Iceland and head home. Sarah sends messages to Felix, Alison and Cosima saying they’ve arrived back. Mrs S’ friend, Benjamin, takes Kira and Kendall to a safe house, while Sarah heads into a comic book store that’s fronting for Scott and Cosima’s basement laboratory. Sarah reunites with Cosima, and Alison over Skype.

Sarah: “How you doing? You all right?”

Cosima: “Yeah, yeah I’m good. Secret lab under a comic book shop, what more could a girl want, right?”

Sarah then meets with Art, who discloses the details about his last case with Beth. They head to Beth’s apartment to look for clues. Art discovers the surveillance camera that Beth installed to keep an eye on Paul, while Sarah finds Beth’s drugs. Going through the footage, they find Beth pointing the gun at Paul. We find out that Trina visited Beth’s house. Sarah decides to hit Club Neolution while Art continues sifting through the footage.

Meanwhile Felix hasn’t been returning Sarah’s calls, so Alison goes to set him straight. Felix is reluctant to tell Sarah that while she’s been gone he’s been tracking down his birth family. Rightly so, since when he finally does tell Sarah, she’s offended and says that she, Mrs S and Kira are his family. ‘No,’ Felix says, ‘They’re yours.’

A subplot follows Donnie and Helena’s trip to the clinic to get Helena an ultrasound, where it’s revealed she’s pregnant with twins. It’s implied that Alison is jealous of Helena’s pregnancy. Meanwhile Kendall admits to Scott that she has leukaemia, but makes him swear not to tell Mrs S. Cosima confesses to Mrs S how scared she is for Delphine’s life, but there’s still no word at this stage on whether Delphine is alive or dead.

Felix gets Sarah into Club Neolution where she runs into a guy who shows her a video of a man with one of those worms implanted in his cheek — only this time, when an attempt is made to cut out the worm it mutates and kills the host. Sarah is horrified and bolts, leaving Felix behind at the club. She connects with M.K at a laundromat, but instead of meeting face to face M.K is watching her through a surveillance camera. On the phone, M.K tells Sarah how she found her and warned her that Neolution was coming for her, but explains that she can no longer talk to Sarah because “it will kill her like it killed Beth.”

A final flashback shows Beth returning home with blood on her hands. She’s surprised to find M.K waiting for her. M.K got worried after not hearing from Beth for days, but Beth ignores her concern and gives M.K (whom she now calls Mika) a gun, telling her to go back into hiding. Mika begs her not to leave, saying that she needs her.

After hearing this story, Sarah asks Mika why Beth jumped, but Mika says Beth wouldn’t tell her. The maggot implants are part of it, Mika says, and simply tells Sara once again that she needs to hide. Sarah spots Mika’s car outside the laundromat, but when she makes a move to go out to her Mika speeds away and hangs up. The two creepy paramedics appear out of nowhere and grab Sarah, throwing her to the ground to check her mouth. Just as Sarah and all of us watching begin to panic that Sarah’s about to get her cheek cut out or worse, the paramedics leave her alone.

Sarah is no less frightened — she bursts in on Mrs S, Benjamin and Kira, immediately grabbing Kira and attempting to check her mouth, but Mrs S stops her until Sarah explains what’s going on. ‘I think there’s something in my mouth,’ chokes Sarah, and sure enough — holding up a torchlight to the inside of Sarah’s cheek — Mrs S finds a twitching worm. Sarah freaks. I freak. The credits fucking roll.

 

Episode Review

Gosh dang, I can’t wait for the next episode. Watching these two back-to-back turned out to be a fantastic idea, as they felt like one long set-up for the next eight episodes in the season. The foundation for the plot has been clearly established over the backdrop of Beth Childs’ past. We know quite a bit more about these mysterious worms now — they appear to be some kind of weapon or genetic modifier, it’s possible they’re implanted in all the clones, and they’re clearly a big part of Neolution’s game plan and had a part to play in Beth’s death — but we still don’t know exactly what they do or what they’re made of. But we’re definitely going to find out. If you need to speculate more in the meantime, head over to The Mary Sue for some theories.

Beth’s backstory broke me. The poor girl just needed some love, attention and an understanding of herself, but by the time she was getting what she needed with Art and the case, it was too late. The brief scene where she and Art got intimate was excellent. We already knew Art had feelings for her, but seeing that it was Beth who initiated what may have led to a romance between them added a whole other dimension to the relationship, and made me doubly sad that it never came to be. I now want to go back and review Season One and see the subtleties in Art’s reactions when he finds out that Beth is dead and Sarah has been impersonating her. Ugh. Such a sad story. I have so many feelings.

I’m really excited that they seem to be opening up a subplot for Felix that may see him get his own character arc. Felix has been a great asset to the series but he’s obviously been far more of a function in Sarah’s story than a fully-fledged character in his own right, so to see him break away from that and get his own plot is something I’m looking forward to. I just hope that it doesn’t end up causing a rift between Sarah and Felix, because brother-sister relationships are my jam and I need these two to stick together.

Overall there was just a lot of subtle emotion in these two episodes, and I loved all of it. Donnie’s reaction to Helena’s twins was so lovely, and Alison’s implied jealousy over the babies was heartbreaking. And alive or dead, whatever happens between Cosima and Delphine is going to tear me apart.

As usual, a great start for Orphan Black. Lots of twisty bits and pieces, but handled well given the complexity of the show’s steadily unravelling and ever-growing plot web.

Episode reviews of Orphan Black Season 4 will continue on Fandom Following every Monday!

So while we wait to find out if Sarah gets to keep the side of her face, what did you guys think of these episodes?

 

Images courtesy of BBC America.

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    Erin Latimer is writer whose specialties include film analysis, television and gaming reviews, and re-examining movies from her childhood through a lens of feminist fan practices and queer theory.

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