Orphan Black Recap: Call Me Hell Wizard

Orphan Black

Transgressive Border Crossing
Season 4 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating *****
Tatiana Maslany as Sarah, Joel Thomas Hynes as Dizzy. Photo: Orphan Black IV Productions Limited

It would have been difficult for this episode to match the magic of last week’s banger of a premiere. The season four kickoff had the element of surprise, but the curiously titled “Transgressive Border Crossing” had an extraordinarily tough act to follow, not to mention the burden of catching us up on the rest of the crew in the present day, leaving little room for sparks to fly. Nevertheless, we do get a great moment or two, most of which remind us that Tatiana Maslany’s virtuosic performances are not the only exceptional elements of Orphan Black. The others involve robo-maggots. You’ve been warned.

The first moment belongs to Siobhan, who, lest we forget, is one of the most badass guerilla goddesses to ever fictionally live. (Remember that Pussy Riot shirt she wore last season?) The moment she realizes Sarah is not being paranoid and Neolutioners are indeed coming for them, she busts out a tank of gasoline and burns the cabin down without batting an eye. Kira’s sock monkey is left behind in the blaze — a haunting bit of symbolism if ever there was one, considering her mom calls her “monkey.”

Somehow, S, Kira, Kendall, and Sarah are all smuggled back to Toronto from Iceland into a safehouse with Siobhan’s rebel friends. (Did they stow away on a cargo ship? Seems awfully cold for a little girl.) S and Sarah meet Cosima and Scott in the basement of a comics shop, where they’ve relocated their post-DYAD lab. But what is with that smarmy comment from the comics-shop guy, “Something tells me you’re not here for the latest issue of Rotten Ruin?” Forgetting for a moment that he could’ve just meant that Sarah looks exactly like the person hiding in his basement, that’s a pretty lame thing to say to two women, buddy. Luckily, Cosima balances out the nonsense: “A secret laboratory underneath a comic-book shop — what more could a girl want?” (Speaking of geekery, I’m feeling pretty … sheepish … about failing to notice last week that MK’s mask is a nod to the first-ever cloned mammal.)

Cosima’s Kendall-enabled gene therapy does not seem to be yielding results. She’s smoking a lot of weed to dull pain, both physical and emotional; we don’t yet know whether Delphine is dead or not. (I like this suspense, especially if she’s still alive, since it means someone will have had to have helped her.) Kendall tells Scott that she has leukemia — which isn’t really surprising, given how she said Duncan originally came to her in prison under the guise of doing cancer research — but makes him promise not to tell anyone because she’s a tough old bird.

Elsewhere, Alison and Donnie handle Helena’s pregnancy with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Alison’s magnanimity is really being tested, since Helena is not only benefiting from her identity (and detailing her sex farts to a doctor who believes she is Alison), she’s also now carrying twins, which means she’s twice as blessed as her barren sestras. Is Alison keeping Sarah’s return a secret from Helena out of spite? Maybe a little.

Sarah meets up with Art at the same diner where he used to go with Beth to catch her up on his late partner’s Neolution investigation. Together, they search Beth and Paul’s old place, which has been boxed up in the wake of their respective deaths. Sarah finds Beth’s drugs and Art finds her surveillance camera, the footage from which reveals a few things: She had the goth pregnant girl over; the sallow Neolution mole-slash-union rep threatened her in her own home; and the day she died, she put on a really bad wig and left the house with a gun and a hotel key card in her purse. (Another sidenote: I love Sarah quoting Cosima’s contemptuous reference to “soundbite science” — a subtle reminder to always stay woke, Clone Club.)

Felix, meanwhile, has been busy enjoying his favorite pastime: listening to opera while painting dick rockets (ahem, “in art, it’s called a phallus, darling”) on the walls in the nude. And then Sarah comes barging back into his life. Frankly, Felix has every reason to be as resentful as he is about his sister’s crap. Why is every protagonist’s best friend (or in this case, adoptive sibling) always so unwaveringly selfless? These high-stakes stories, particularly on TV, stretch on for months or even years, yet these characters gladly keep their lives perpetually on hold to aid the hero. At first, the sacrifice seems logical — I mean, what would you do if you found out your sister was a science project being hunted by two cults and a corporation? — but after a while, the fact that it never seems to cost them anything to do so starts smelling fishy. I’m glad Felix is finally sticking up for himself, not only because he deserves better than being manipulated to help Sarah break into Club Neolution, being judged for wanting to find his birth parents, and being abandoned mere minutes after Sarah insists that she is the only family that should matter to him — but also because “Transgressive Border Crossing” may inspire other showrunners to reconsider their own supporting characters’ autonomy.

Sarah got her money’s worth, though. At the club, another seemingly wronged Neolutioner mistakes her for Beth and takes her out back to show her a video on his phone, in which a dude is killed by the robo-maggot in his cheek when his friends try to destroy it. I guess that’s why they had to cut Capra’s whole cheek out. She manages to run off with his phone once he realizes she’s not Beth, which is lucky, because MK conveniently texts him seconds later to “meet” her at an empty laundromat. When she sees Sarah arriving instead, she opts to call remotely, warning her sestra that knowing any more information about these maggot things “will kill you like it killed Beth.” She tells Sarah that she’d met Beth at her house after she’d returned from her wig-and-gun run covered in someone else’s blood (the Neolution detective, perhaps?). Visibly shaken, she’d been avoiding all clone contact for days, and when pressed for details, will only say that she’d screwed it all up and that they should all stop digging — as though that would keep them safe, LOL.

When MK begged her not to abandon her, Beth had just hugged her, told her to protect the others, and walked out, presumably to the train station to meet her demise. Then two things happen: Sarah realizes MK is sitting outside in her car, and the EMS Ghoul Squad shows up, locking the door behind them. They seem ready to kill or kidnap her, but after some deliberation (in German, because of course it’s in German) and a quick finger swab of her right inner cheek, they realize she’s not MK, as previously assumed, and just … let her go? This scares the living bejesus out of Sarah, who bolts back to the safehouse to a self-examination. The final few seconds feature the most horror-struck face I’ve seen on a screen since It Follows, as Sarah realizes, with the help of a flashlight, that she’s got a wriggling maggot in her own cheek.

A few modest cliffhanger concerns:

  1. How has Sarah not felt that thing moving around in there?!
  2. How the eff could the Ghoul Squad identify her simply by rubbing a finger across that spot?!
  3. Was it foreshadowing when Siobhan prevented Sarah from checking Kira? For that matter, were the monkey-burning and Kira being mad at Sarah for not letting her see Aunt Alison foreshadowing, too?

This nightmare hellscape has finally dropped all pretenses and gone straight for peak body-horror, so I’m going to need these questions answered post-haste. Thank you all for being here with me during this dark time.

Orphan Black Recap: Call Me Hell Wizard