Orphan Black Recap: A Clone Scorned

Tatiana Maslany as Sarah. Photo: Orphan Black IV Productions Limited
Orphan Black

Orphan Black

The Mitigation of Competition Season 4 Episode 9
Editor's Rating 5 stars

Welp, I could technically say that I saw that coming, but let’s be real: I did not see that coming at all. Last week, I predicted that Rachel would sell Sarah up the river to Evie Cho in exchange for a seat at the table. That prediction was true, but only in the sense that I underestimated her cunning just as much as Evie did.

It’s not that she relished the truce with Sarah. (After all, Sarah did “put a pencil in [her] brain.”) She was really looking for a chance to regain power — by exploiting Sarah’s grifter skills and Art’s detective work to track down two surrogates, who fled the BrightBorn facility with a damning video and biological proof in their possession — all to exact the ultimate revenge on someone with whom she would never make peace. Luckily, Sarah and the sestras benefit from her megalomania this time.

Although I was shocked at Rachel’s brilliant coup, how did Evie not smell this trap? Sure, it makes sense that she’d be a bit distracted — by her bot, by the stress of quietly tracking down two pregnant escapees (one of whom she unfortunately catches), and by her upcoming bot-launch press conference — but you should be suspicious if an enemy hands you a phone and says, “Trust me, I’ll solve all your problems as long as you give me something that won’t require you to sacrifice anything … and oh, by the way, this is definitely the only copy of a video that could ruin your life’s work in an instant.” Rachel’s success with the video-camera-in-the-necklace trick, which gets her to “explain” the existence of those euthanized infants, almost feels like an attempt to turn those doctored anti–Planned Parenthood videos on their heads. These ethical horrors are real, and they have nothing to do with a political agenda.

Speaking of ethics, I still cannot believe how well Orphan Black’s writers reflect current scientific debates, even down to the small details. In “The Mitigation of Competition,” we learn that Evie comes from the working-class town Tisdale, where the economy has gone the way of many midwestern and Appalachian manufacturing and mining outposts. She intends to “give back” by building BrightBorn’s new facility there, which would bring 200-plus new jobs to the area. This is actually a huge point of contention in the real world: What might happen when potentially dangerous research facilities are built in low-income areas? Although scientists and administrators like Evie Cho argue that these projects create jobs and bring better resources to the communities they’re marching into, community members and activists often don’t see it that way, especially considering that (1) most locals don’t have the required education or credentials needed to get “good” jobs at a company like BrightBorn, relegating them to lower-paying roles like food or janitorial services, and (2) the health risks involved in these facilities like this will affect the already-struggling local community first. (Here’s a great example of this exact thing happening back in the late ‘00s in Boston.)

Anyway, Rachel’s Neo-visions have expanded to include a whole encampment of gruff dudes in the woods, where the beheading of that swan apparently took place — is taking place? Will take place? It’s hard to determine the timeline of this swanicide, though if that last-minute shot of Delphine (!) writing in a cabin (!!) implies she’s the one doing it — perhaps in an attempt to be found or to warn the Ledas (?!) — that would mean Rachel’s eye is basically an inescapable Periscope livestream.

Elsewhere in the woods, Helena is finally back. She’s been living like a pregnant Davy Crockett out in a fictional national park, holing up in a DIY yurt (do-it-yurtself?) and helping herself to game that most certainly counts as poaching. Out in the wild, Helena needs no one; she is entirely self-sufficient, albeit in a disturbing sort of way. But now that she’s found her sestras, she’s dragged by newfound love and loyalty back into the hell of other people, where she exists as both a curse and a blessing.

A curse to Felix, anyway. She shows up unannounced, vaguely intimidating Adele with a butter knife and otherwise shattering the crystalline cage of lies he’d built to protect his bio-sister. He’s all but forced to send her away.

Nevertheless, she’s a blessing to her “Hendrick” family, who are packed and ready to escape their judgmental neighborhood for a quick vacay — after having the most boring, Donnie-centric sex possible — only to find the Aryan half of the Ghoul Squad in their den. In the squirmiest scene of the episode, he ties them up and threatens to put a glitchy bot in Alison’s face unless she gives up Sarah and the others. She refuses, ready to die a horrible death for her sisters, and starts praying … which works! Helena appears with bow and arrow and a thirst for human flesh, then kebabs Leif Erikson through the neck, splattering his blood across Alison’s face. God is real, y’all!

And yes, Cosima is once again a beacon of reason in this otherwise insanely twisted mess of ideologies. Once they successfully fertilize Sarah’s egg, Susan lends her a copy of P.T. Westmoreland’s manifesto to pass the time, giving her the chance to first offer that the forefather of Neolution is “fascinating, for a racist blowhard who thinks that poverty is genetic,” then suggest that Susan’s own moral code is hardly that far removed from her Victorian hero’s. (Another reason why Cosima cannot die: Without such levelheaded, bullshit-free analyses to keep things honest, the science of Orphan Black might otherwise not seem that bad, if one didn’t already have an active interest in these topics. Thanks, Real Cosima!) Offended by the thought, Susan counters that she was “under enormous pressure to continue Leda” when she created Charlotte, which just further piques Cosima’s interest. Is there someone else behind this whole operation? Whose authority could make Susan so stressed that she’d accidentally cripple yet another a clone?

Additional Notes:

  • I do like Ira. He’s basically Rachel’s Felix: a loyal anchor, usually pushed to the side or forced to do dirty work. I hope we get to keep him.
  • Is it just me, or does something about this Adele subplot still feel off?
  • Is the island’s age supposed to be relevant, or was that just a means of showing how cute, smart, and Cosima-like Charlotte is? Four billion years is ancient.

Orphan Black Recap: A Clone Scorned