Forget the Castor-Leda binary. Susan Duncan and Kendall Malone are the yin and yang of Orphan Black.
This epiphany struck me about halfway through “The Scandal of Altruism,” a gorgeous monstrosity of an episode, the moment Duncan stepped through Felix’s loft door to face the women whose lives she’s orchestrated. She is agency embodied, a walking god complex with an educated British accent. She has the ability to “see the most” in people, exploit them in the name of science and her own views as a privileged white lady. Malone, on the other hand, is objectification incarnate. As I mentioned last season, her experiences as a working-class incarcerated woman and a nonconsenting medical guinea pig haven’t been of her own making for decades. Even before she was locked up for killing John Sadler, she’d lived a life under the auspices of men — first her husband and then her son-in-law. She’s a badass (from whom her daughter clearly has inherited much), but only because she’s had to harden to survive.
Most important, the two women are of the same generation. They represent the genesis of the moment at hand, the beginning of a chain of events that led everyone in Orphan Black to this fate. Frankly, I’m surprised Felix’s RIMBAUD letters and dick-rocket painting didn’t burst into flames the moment the two women made eye contact. It’s such a shame they don’t have more time to duke it out before Kendall is murdered. (As an aside, I still get a thrill from how regularly this show passes the Bechdel Test. Wouldn’t it be great if it passed the DuVernay Test, too? After all, people of color have been disproportionately affected by medical experimentation for centuries.)
Meanwhile, Evie Cho has come out on top all by her well-manicured self. Is it too much to hope for that “The Engineer” is secretly collaborating with Ensign Ro — sorry, I mean Marion Bowles, CEO of Topside — on this deeply capitalist plot to destroy someone else’s “Betamax” research? Cho might protest this characterization, of course. After infecting Cosima and Scott’s computer with a virus to destroy their research, then having Kendall kidnapped, shot, and burned in a van alongside all known samples of her DNA (emphasis on known!), it’s clear she believes in her moral righteousness. She even compares herself to Leonardo Da Vinci! Classic megalomania. Let’s be real, Eve. We all know how medical research funding works.
So, that’s that. We finally come full circle with Beth’s story, although I think most of us assumed something similar. By infiltrating BrightBorn to kill Susan, Beth reveals that Cho is in charge of the bots and therefore responsible for the folks who died trying to take them out. Then, by sparing her “maker,” she ensures the Ledas’ safety for at least a few months, not that Duncan will be of much use without Kendall or the samples Sarah bleached into oblivion. On the bright side, we got to see Beth pistol-whip the bejesus out of Cho before she stepped in front of a train. I held this beating in my mind later, as she twisted the knife in Cosima by cruelly announcing that Delphine had been “shot dead” in the parking lot.
This week, we also learn that the bots are customized for a test subject’s medical needs: Leekie’s combats a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s, while Sarah’s seems to act as a vaccine against the Leda disease. Let’s take a quick inventory. The Ledas now have two bots in their possession: Leekie’s, now starving in its tube, and the one Cosima steals after she and Evie remove it from her cheek. (The extraction was super-gross, but did it not totally remind you of those pimple-popping dermatologist videos? It’s kind of … calming, in a disgusting way.) It’s also noted that the bots (a) must feed on human blood to survive, and (b) “have [survival] instincts.” Is this foreshadowing? What can be done with these suckers?
As for everyone else: Ira is in the hospital following an attempted suicide attempt. He’s upset because the Ledas have figured out how to separate Leda samples from Castor samples (thanks to Kendall’s leukemia), which allows them to offer Susan only Leda cells — and not Castor cells, since, as Sarah points out, they’re “a walking biological weapon, mate.” When Susan agrees to the exchange, she implicitly agrees not to fix the Castors. (But she promises her poor sex pet that she’ll find a way around it.) Needless to say, this was totally predictable, which is actually kind of a pity — especially since Ira brings some personality to the table with that “actually, I’m a Libra” line!
Despite his excellent Sherlock Holmes hat, Poor Felix is still doing other people’s bidding. This time, he gets maced for his efforts as Fake Scotland Yard Detective/Aesthetician Whisperer when Krystal comes looking for protective custody, coincidentally from Art’s precinct. After confirming her insane cosmetics conspiracy theories and convincing her to not interfere with the “police investigation,” Felix also learns that she witnessed Delphine’s “murder,” a fact that might come in handy later …
… because Delphine has to be the ace in the hole, right? That’s the TV rule: Unless you see a body, the character isn’t dead. And we did not see Delphine’s corpse. Her return would usher in redemption for the dying Cosima, plus life-saving samples of Kendall’s genome. (The samples BrightBorn and Co. assume don’t exist, because they believe Delphine is dead.) God knows where Donnie, Alison, Helena, MK, Adele, or Ferdinand are, but I do hope Helena and her babies come back soon. This bloodbath is so intense, it’d be a shame to leave her out of it.