Yes, Orphan Black is back and it is as demented as ever. While one of our Leda clones finds herself imprisoned (and maybe slightly crazier than usual), Sarah has to pull off the greatest acting trick of her clone impersonating career. Plus, we’ve got scary new clones — and a rather scary Delphine, as well.
Forgot what happened last season? Catch up with our Season Two recap.
Once again, the third season starts where the last one left off, but “The Weight of This Combination” kicks off not by plunging us into the reality of Orphan Black, but with a fantasy sequence. Helena got a rather sweet homecoming last season, one where she was fully accepted by Sarah, Felix, Cosima, and Alison as a full-fledged sister. That brief taste of familial honey was quickly snatched away, however, when Siobhan sold her out to Paul and the Castor division.
We’ve always known that Helena’s psyche is rather childlike, but getting to see inside her head is at once delightful and heartbreaking. Her brightly colored fantasy life’s one of suburban, sororal bliss. It almost looks like something out of Big Love, but without any straight men in the mix. Her wants are simple, a combination of what she knows about her own family members and her own particular desires.
In her dream, Helena has a baby shower where she is the recipient of Sarah’s sisterly teasing, Kira’s excitement for a cousin, Alison’s maternal generosity, Felix’s caretaking, and Cosima’s enthusiasm. That she blends an all-American cookout with her favorite foods — marinated ox liver and babka — is genius, but Helena really pulls at my (admittedly pliable) heartstrings when she imagines Cosima telling her, “I’m way better thanks to science.” Helena’s comprehension in this area may be limited, but she still wants the same things her sisters want.
Then reality (kind of) intrudes. Helena’s dream ends with a scorpion crawling from her belly. When she wakes, locked in a box inside a desert facility, the scorpion is still there. This isn’t any arthropod, however. It’s speaking to Helena, telling her she’s being tested again. Helena doesn’t exactly relax, but she somehow knows this scorpion. Is this Helena’s imaginary friend? Is it related to her previous religious frenzy? The fantasy sequence played on what we already know about Helena, but this scorpion is a clear sign that there are corners of the Angry Angel’s brain we still haven’t explored.
Sarah and Felix don’t know Helena is missing yet, and they’re enjoying a rare moment of downtime when Delphine calls. She summons Sarah back to Marion Bowles’ mansion to meet with Rudy, the captive Castor clone whom Sarah saw at the end of last season.
Before we get into the Rudy meeting, let’s take a moment to admire Delphine’s new ‘do, shall we?
We don’t learn a whole lot about the Castor clones in this episode (we’ll get some sense of their dynamic next week), but it’s clear that they’ve been swan hunting. Delphine explains that Topside captured Rudy because they discovered him and another Castor clone targeting a Leda clone who was in the dark about her DNA. And this woman is hardly the only Leda in Castor’s sights. Rudy knows an uncomfortably great amount of information about Sarah and her sisters. He’s also an enormous asshole. He enjoys playing with Sarah, speaking in riddles that only make sense in retrospect. He sneeringly warns Sarah, “Count your sisters.”
It doesn’t take long for Sarah to learn what Rudy meant. A Castor clone tracks down Siobhan and roughs her up, looking for info on Ethan Duncan. An interesting detail about this exchange: Siobhan is aware of Castor, but she didn’t, until now, know what the Castor clones looked like. Learning what Siobhan doesn’t know is almost as interesting as learning what she doesn’t. Siobhan informs the mustached Castor clone that Ethan is dead, which only serves to anger the clone.
So what do the Castor clones want with Ethan Duncan? Well, this particular clone is suffering from disorienting (and potentially painful) flashes. Chances are that, just as the Leda clones suffered nasty health effects from the Duncans’ genetic tinkering, so too did the Castor clones. That book that Cosima has (the one that she’s keeping from everyone but Scott) is sure to be extremely valuable.
When Felix and Sarah discover Siobhan beaten up and bloody, Siobhan confesses: she traded Helena to Paul in exchange for information that Marion wanted. Sarah is furious. Her loyalty to Helena is total now, and she spends the rest of the episode obsessed with getting her twin back.
We briefly check in with the rest of Clone Club. The Murder Hendrixes are still feeling their oats from last season’s body-hiding escapades. Alison is expressing it in a perfectly Alison way: announcing her plans to run for school trustee to a rival with sugary bile. Donnie, on the other hand, is still Donnie. We love you Donnie, but calling your boss a bitch does not make you cool. It makes you unemployed.
The Murder Hendrix will have to get creative with their finances, which is sure to be highly entertaining. Also, there’s another mention of Alison’s terrible mother. Can we please, please, please meet Mrs. Alison’s mom?
Cosima is still trying to understand what happened with her near-death experience. She interrogates Kira about it, apparently trying to figure out if it was a real, perceivable phenomenon. It’s hard to tell if Kira doesn’t understand what Cosima’s talking about, or if she’s uncomfortable with discussing Cosima almost dying in Felix’s bed. Either way, Cosima is distracted by the appearance of Delphine.
Delphine was kind of on the B-team last season, but it looks like she’s ready to step up to center stage. She was always a femme fatale — smoldering, French, and full of secrets — but she’s also a character we want to fool us. We want her to love Cosima, to always be looking out for Cosima’s best interests, even if she has a really weird, manipulative way of showing it. (Jennifer’s autopsy, anyone?) But now that she’s the new Rachel, she has majorly leveled up in the secrets department, and her motives are as murky as ever.
But hey, at least we have her to protect the Leda clones from Helsinki.
Topside sends a cleaner named Ferdinand to sniff around Dyad, and Delphine does not want Ferdinand to know that Rachel is out of commission. She enlists Sarah to play Rachel for a day in the best “one clone pretending to be another clone” routine yet. Sarah’s experience as a con woman makes her the perfect choice to impersonate Rachel and her ability to evade and misdirect Ferdinand is a thing of beauty. Each syllable oozes her contempt for both Rachel and Ferdinand.
We learn from a conversation between Delphine and Rachel’s physician Dr. Nealon that, years ago, Dyad terminated a group of clones in Helsinki. And it’s clear that Ferdinand wants a repeat in Toronto. Alison pretends to be Sarah (but with shampoo commercial hair) to throw Ferdinand off the scent, but once he’s felt her up, he only has eyes from Rachel and her sadistic sex games. And Helsinki.
Alison playing Sarah never gets old. I love that, while Sarah has Rachel’s accent nailed, Alison still doesn’t quite get Sarah’s right. It makes sense; Sarah has made a felonious career out of studying human details, where Alison is more likely to caricature her sister.
While Sarah agrees to Delphine’s scheme on the condition that Delphine help her recover Helena, she uses her access to Ferdinand to try to ensure Helena’s recovery herself. So, still playing Rachel, she agrees to meet Ferdinand at Rachel’s apartment.
Meanwhile, Delphine undertakes a rather brutal interrogation of Rachel. Rachel is conscious, but after that pen to the eye, she’s suffering from mild aphasia. “I’m you,” Delphine tells her coldly after pressing her thumb into Rachel’s eye socket. To prove it, after Rachel confesses to plotting a repeat of Helsinki with Ferdinand, Delphine punches her thumb back into the socket in the hopes of learning more. Delphine has always been a manipulator and a liar, but this is a whole new level of cruelty. True, she may (may) have Clone Club’s best interests at heart, but by the end of all this, can she possibly still be someone Cosima could love?
At Rachel’s apartment, Sarah and Ferdinand get down to dirty, dirty business. They exchange what, for Ferdinand, passes for playful banter —aggressive and accusatory on Ferdinand’s end, answered by cold glibness on Sarah’s. Sarah keeps trying to steer the conversation toward Helena, at least until she realizes what Ferdinand and Rachel are up to: the extermination of the Toronto clones as well as their nearest and dearest. (Save Kira. She’s for Rachel’s personal enjoyment.) He’s already sent a team to deal with the Hendrixes.
You know, as much as I was creeped out by the sex scene between Paul and Rachel in Season Two, I’m not sure this scene would have worked if we (and Sarah) hadn’t already witnessed Rachel’s controlling sexual habits. And as horrible as Delphine’s treatment of Rachel was, it’s only thanks to Delphine’s intervention that Sarah doesn’t kill Ferdinand and he’s able to call off the Hendrix-aimed hitman. Fortunately, Ferdinand still thinks Rachel is alive, but Delphine, contrary to all of her experiences, thinks she can order Sarah to stand down. Good luck with that, puppy.
We end the episode with two liberations. First, Helena’s captors free her from her box. (Surprise! There isn’t really a scorpion in there with her.) We see Ari Millen’s face on a fatigue-clad body, reinforcing that Helena is among the Castor military now. Second, the mustached Castor clone, the one who beat up Siobhan, frees Rudy from Topside’s custody. Rudy looks at his brother almost like they’re in love.
So, Orphan Black delivers a solid first episode for its third season, but one that highlights just how many threads (some of them fairly new) that the show is trying to weave together. Whether we end up with a beautiful tapestry or a horrible mess relies a lot on how well the dynamic between the Castor clones. We got another brilliant Tatiana Maslany showcase this week, but there are some big tasks about to be heaped on Ari Millen’s shoulders.
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 PM on BBC America.