Orphan Black Recap: The Bear in the Woods

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Photo: Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA
Orphan Black

Orphan Black

Let the Children and Childbearers Toil Season 5 Episode 4
Editor's Rating 4 stars

My questions for Percival T. Westmoreland are numerous, but this week, one has proven more pressing than the rest: How does one live to see nearly 200 years of scientific history and still fail to learn from it? I suppose getting old entails getting stuck in one’s ways, but what if, as with Westmoreland, you’re an old man obsessed with “the future?” Surely he knows that “we can’t let our history stand in the way of the future” directly translates to “I’ve made it my life’s work to remain willfully, probably fatally blind to the context and consequences of my horrific ambitions, which include torturing a genetically unique child, inflicting severe neurological damage, and condemning him to live like an escaped convict in the woods, attacking humans and animals for no reason,” right? He was alive during the Nuremberg Trials, after all — and even if he was hiding out in Borneo by then, he was definitely around for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Nevertheless, before they found Kendall Malone and initiated projects Castor and Leda, that is what P.T. Westmoreland, Susan Duncan (who’s still alive because P.T. is a patriarch who claims ownership over everyone and everything, even death), and Virginia Coady (also unfortunately alive, currently imprisoned and drugged in secret, under a pseudonym, in a locked-down psychiatric facility by Susan) did to satiate their scientific curiosity: human experimentation worthy of the Nazis, on a child with a “unique genome.” At some point, we’re to believe they argued about the means: Susan tells Ira, who returned to his mother-wife just in time to be jealous of her relationship with the “fossilized” Westmoreland, that her ends were still to engineer human evolution, but she couldn’t stomach the atrocities Coady and Westmoreland happily committed in pursuit of their master-race goals.

Boo-freaking-hoo, Susan. Just because you regret becoming a monster doesn’t neutralize the fact that you still are one. Because she certainly helped create the morlock that attacked Sarah in the woods of Revival — ultimately just a miserable, mutilated man-child who knows only an unending nightmare of a life enslaved by heartless scientific ambition. Also, despite all her soapboxing, Susan certainly just agreed to help Westmoreland and Rachel try it again with Kira, in exchange for a few light strokes of her ego and a flimsy promise of data transparency! As this episode pointedly reminds us, Orphan Black has all but cornered the female-monster market.

But Kira, impatient tween though she may be, is not stupid. She may be cutting herself to test her healing abilities (and not the spiny mouse as I anticipated, though I’m unsure which would’ve been worse), but when Felix — who is still a better, more patient person than anyone in his life deserves — calmly reminds her why Rachel can’t be trusted, she does seem to accept and consider the concern. Her mum is a con artist, for God’s sake! Kira knows when she’s being manipulated, so once someone brings it up in a calm, non-condescending tone, she has no choice but to consider the danger she may be facing at Dyad. Speaking of non-condescension, that might be the key to winning Kira back in general. When Sarah and Siobhan stop off at the convent where Helena is holed up in (and yes, there is just a random convent conveniently within driving distance of the sestras) on their way to find Coady, Helena tells Sarah how she stopped self-harming when she found peace (and her sestras), and suggests finally telling Kira the whole truth about what’s been going on for half her life now. It’s easy to forget how infrequently Kira has been kept in the loop about all these details we adults have been struggling to keep straight for five years, but looking back, it’s clear she’s exhibited a superhuman degree of patience in the face of everything that’s happened. (Another mutant ability, perhaps?!) Besides, keeping Kira in the dark is a liability on multiple fronts: Not only does it push her into Rachel’s arms emotionally but also it leaves her with little understanding of the danger she’s in and thus unable to defend herself adequately.

Finally, let’s take a moment once again to salute the awe-inspiring genius of Siobhan Sadler. As a veteran of antiestablishment revolt and the only real adult in the room, Mrs. S has become the de facto leader of the clone resistance. With the precision of a covert intelligence operative, she tasks Hell Wizard and Scott with researching Westmoreland and the entire history of Neolution while she and Sarah run a masterful mother-daughter grift on Dr. Elizabeth Perkins, who isn’t a very good psychologist, to gain access to Coady. (Her impersonation of Perkins rivals Sarah’s of Beth, and Sarah and Beth are played by the same person.) Meanwhile, she’s tracked down Adele, whom she somehow learned was an embezzler in addition to being Felix’s bio-sister, and convinced Adele to head to Switzerland with Felix to “track patent hoarding corporations and global profit flows” — specifically, to follow the money Neolution moves around in Europe. Put that intel together with whatever Scott and Hell Wizard find, and you’ve got a perfect relief map detailing the past, present, and future of Westmoreland’s research. It’s reassuring to watch her take care of business so efficiently, even if it’s all for the sake of exposition. Let’s just hope that discovering who her Neolution informant is won’t break our hearts.

Scattered Notes

• Coady has Sarah’s visitor’s badge now, so she’s definitely going to attempt escape on her own, which means Team Leda probably won’t know exactly what Coady, Westmoreland, and Duncan were trying to do to their first test subject until it’s nearly too late.

• I’ve rarely gotten as verklempt watching this show as I did during Sarah and Helena’s heart-to-heart on Helena’s convent bed. Sarah’s apology for pushing her twin away came across as more of the long-overdue atonement we saw last week from Alison.

Orphan Black Recap: The Bear in the Woods