Friday, 21 July 2017

Orphan Black - With fortune and fiction, that’s how the patriarchy works.

Orphan Black: 5x06 Manacled Slim Wrists.

To her fair works did nature linkThe human soul that through me ran;And much it grieved my heart to thinkWhat man has made of man. 
William Wodsworth: Lines Written in Early Spring
Orphan Black has always been about the consequences of a patriarchal system for individuals. It’s a show about women fighting for choices and freedom, and how that fight can only be possible if they love and support each other, considering how overbearing and powerful the opponent is. The opponent has had different faces over the years, but in this final season, more than ever before, he has become the literal personification of the patriarchy: a pathetic old man who created a myth about his immortality, propped it up with money and by relying on the powerlessness of female scientists in the 1960s, and literally sucked the blood from women and children so he could stay alive forever. PT Westmoreland isn’t eternal, but the system that allowed him to exist in a mansion, on an island surrounded by supporters who thought him almighty, and gave him the blood of their children, may as well be. 
There is a reason why he wanted Cosima and Delphine to put on Victorian garments, and why the messenger was so outraged about Cosima’s unconventional choice: traditional gender roles is what keeps Westmoreland right where he has always been. Without the specific social configuration of the 1960s, when he started his career, the much more scientifically brilliant Susan Duncan would have had a shot to fill his shoes, but since she was a woman, and he had wealth, he was the one who carved out a seat in eternity for himself. He was nothing but a middling student, a mediocre scientist, relying on other people’s genius to support him – and now, in older age, fearing death, this figurative vampirism has turned to a very literal one. 

While Westmoreland has his new and less ethically weighed down companion Virginia Coady bleed the children of Revival dry, the person on the outside who once again stumbles across a relevant insight about the future of Dyad and Neolution is… Krystal Goderitch. As in her two previous experiences, the message that Sarah and Art might take from their experience of being once again bested by a woman with only a vague idea about the conspiracy she has high-heeled walked into is not to constantly underestimate the clone that uncovered the evil plans of Virginia Coady and Castor and knew that Delphine was alive all along – but what they will eventually, once again, take away from it is to leave Krystal in the half-darkness that she has existed in for the past few years of her life. She could be an asset, but at the same time, constantly refuses – and surprisingly successfully, considering she doesn’t have a whole sisterhood, Siobhan and seasoned police detective to back her up – to follow anyone else’s agenda. Here, the success of hers and her friend’s Brie youtube show about the dark side of the cosmetics industry has her accidentally find Dyad’s new delivery mechanism for gene therapy – the billion dollar cosmetics industry. Her findings line up with what Felix and Adele are digging up in Switzerland – Rachel has been buying start-ups that promise new ways of proliferating Neolution technology, and Leonard Siff isn’t the ethical vegan maker of cosmetics that Krystal thought him to be. 
I actually really like the idea of an alternative history here where Krystal managed to combine all the resources she has available – industry access, a fairly awesome best friend in Brie – to find the very same thing that Sarah and her sisters are fighting for, only with much more elaborate and networked resources. Consider how much it has taken Sarah’s family to place Felix and Adele in Switzerland, with the help of deeply embedded Delphine and another source on the inside (who’s probably Ferdinand, since we received some information this episode that he was knew about Virginia Coady’s whereabouts, and likely delivered her to Sarah and Siobhan after being sent out in the cold by Rachel). Krystal gets there with barely any help at all, and only the incidental genius of a kleptomaniac best mate who happens to steal the prototype for Dyad’s future.  Part of Krystal’s dangerous half knowledge about this conspiracy has always been her own fault, but some of the responsibility falls entirely to Sarah, who, as Krystal correctly observes, has always been incredibly rude to her, and never taken her seriously. It does serve Art and Sarah right that they find themselves very much on the outside of Krystal’s investigation into big cosmetics here, only able to watch her get everything she wants using methods chosen by her, rather than following Art’s fatherly advice. 

And as much as this whole storyline is much-deserved comic relief before the gears really start turning, which I am sure they will very soon, it also fits in very well with what is happening on the island. The same mechanism that has Sarah and Art not take Krystal seriously is what kept Westmoreland on top for such a long time, and it’s the same heinous thing that has managed to trap Cosima in the basement, once again turning her into what she has always feared the most – a specimen for someone else’s research. Westmoreland’s power lies in his myth, and that power is indirectly explored when that myth finally crumbles, with the real failing of his science after Aisha dies and the very small but effective proof of a photo of him as a young man, not long enough ago. It is also explored through Mud’s relationship with him when she reveals her backstory, a junkie who stole from her parents, failed to overdose and found herself rescued on the island, by this overbearing fatherly figure. She is so grateful for this new purpose that she punishes herself for failing Westmoreland (with what happened to Yannis) by wearing a bell around her neck, which constantly sounds throughout her interactions, as a reminder of how Westmoreland got where he is today. He doesn’t even have to exercise any actual power anymore, because the way the system works his mere presence works a charm, and makes those he has managed to put under his spell work according to his plans. 

Things go wrong when his mask slips and he starts to reveal his true self, which is a person who doesn’t just strive towards scientific progress at all costs, but more than that, towards individual immortality. Susan Duncan is evil because she only considers the means of Neolution problematic, not the end goal, Virginia Coady is evil because she believes in any means necessary, but Westmoreland is a special specimen of male privilege – he believes any means are justified towards the achievement of his main goal, which is to stay alive forever. So Susan Duncan realises he is a threat to not just her, personally, but the very goal of Neolution, and that the person trapped in the basement of the mansion is very likely the best hope towards achieving what she has in mind for the future of mankind (Kira’s genetics, researched by her aunt Cosima, which is still not benevolent, but a little bit less horrifying than Westmoreland ordering Rachel to kidnap Kira overnight). It means that Ira, who he torn between his two mothers, his desire to know who he is and what he is for, has to choose a side, and eventually stays with Susan, who made him human, even though she never much worked towards a cure for him. They manage to get Cosima out of the basement, but the plan to rid the world of Westmoreland fails utterly when he plays his cards just right, and manages to get Mud to act exactly as he wants her to act, because he knows precisely what encouragement she needs to stay loyal. 

Susan Duncan dies on the island, finally. And Ira dies with her, because his time has run out. But as Revival burns, because its citizens have finally realised the full extent of their oppression, and the nature of their oppressor, Cosima gathers Charlotte and steers a boat towards safety. Cosima has always refused that she was the beautiful baseline, both scientist and the subject of science – she will never be part of any of that, because she has seen behind the mask, and knows what lurks there. 

Random notes: 

Obviously the show is gearing up towards a very bloody and tragic ending, so this little excursion into comic relief delivered via Tom Cullen was excellent. NOT THE BEARD, KRYSTAL. 

There’s also a lot of stuff going on in the background with Scott, working through his own issues (Scott on ghosting: “It’s difficult at first but eventually you get used to it.”) and Brie. Oh Scott. 
Bree: You’re like what? Normcore? 
Scott: Yeah. The normest.
Kira is ready to hustle Rachel, and that still holds true after hers and Siobhan’s plot to avoid Dyad fails and Mr Frontanac and Rachel kidnap her. 

She’s been poisoned… by big cosmetics. What about that is confusing?

You and that Australian girl are gonna like mess this thing up.

Tragic Ira does ask Virginia if there are any more brothers left… and as far as we know, there’s only Mark, right? Presumably the show would like to keep Ari Millen around until the end. 

Siobhan foreshadows when she tells Rachel that she will need them all, one day. Westmoreland doesn’t care about Rachel anymore than he did about Susan Duncan, or does about Virginia Coady. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Das Lied zum Sonntag

Feist - Century

All lonely, or not lonely, century away
But still a vision as if help's on its way

Friday, 14 July 2017

Orphan Black - Defy them. Defy them.

Orphan Black: 5x05 Ease for Idle Millionaires.

The core realisation in this episode comes in a heightened, conflicted conversation between Delphine and Cosima towards the end, when they discuss the central truth about their relationship. 
Delphine: I made a promise. I promised to protect you.
Cosima: And I promised to defy them. This I what we do, I push too hard and you do things without my consent. That’s our relationship.
Delphine: We can end it, or we can just accept it as it is.
Delphine: That felt like accept it.
Cosima: Yes. This is what he does. He divides women.
This division that has always worked in the favour of people like PT Westmoreland, and in general, in the favour of men, exists throughout the entire run of this show. Back in the day, after assuming the identity of a scientist who had disappeared in the late 1800s, PT Westmoreland managed to divide Susan Duncan and Virginia Coady, while still making good use of each of their unique talents, and reaping all the benefits of their research. Now, he is using the same tactic to manoeuvre around Rachel and her mother, around Sarah, Siobhan and Kira, around Delphine and Cosima. He profits from mistrust and jealousy, and even more so, from women seeking power but only along terms that he makes for them. This is Rachel’s ultimate fallacy – she believes that she has carved out an unlikely seat at the head of the table for herself, but deep down, she is still very much playing by PT Westmoreland’s rules, and every time she takes Susan Duncan, her mother, down, she is playing into his old, wrinkled hands. 

The thing is though that Delphine and Cosima realise this, and how they have both been made complicit in this whole act, from the start. It used to be Leekie who manoeuvred Delphine into the position, who started this whole charade of not quite telling the truth, of not quite trusting, of never quite telling the truth, and it always profited Dyad, Leda, Neolution. There is absolutely no question, and there never will be, about the deep and profound love that Delphine and Cosima have for each other. They have both literally returned from the dead only to find each other again, and they are both working and fighting for a way out of this maze. There is no question that the means which both of them have used have been questionable over the years, that Delphine has left Cosima in the dark too often, and not quite revealed enough about what she was doing – that, in the process, she has sometimes taken agency away from her beloved – but she has learned so much, too, and grown, and realised that this isn’t the way forward. It’s a very, very substantial realisation they come to here, that every single time they have mistrusted each other, or played this game, they have played into the hands of PT Westmoreland, and this entire patriarchal system that ensures that agency is stolen from women to the benefit of men aging towards death and scientific irrelevance. 

What better way to fight them then than to defy them utterly, in every aspect. PT Westmoreland’s little charade of Victorian properness, of dressing up for the occasion – Cosima knows it’s all shadow play, that he isn’t 170 years old, that the legend is a fake created to give him relevance, something that won’t hold up for much longer, since all of this grandeur only serves to save his literal sad little life. He isn’t just determined to create a scientific legacy, he literally does not want to die, because he thinks himself too important to, because he is too afraid of what may come after, because he believes this legend he has created of himself. There’s nothing more dangerous for him than to be found out as the fraud that he is, a man with barely anything to contribute himself, someone who has always required others to do the hard work for him. It’s hard even to see what his scientific contribution to any of this is, considering that Virginia and Susan used to do the work and now Cosima has done most of it herself. He is a pathetic old geezer who has created a legend of greatness that is far enough removed from reality to every be thoroughly checked for veracity, but the truth will catch up with him eventually. 

If his strength lies in dividing women against each other, then Rachel is playing right into it, because all she can see is that she has finally managed to best her mother, that she has proved Susan Duncan’s prediction that a clone will never be allowed a seat at the table wrong. It doesn’t matter much who is in her particular position, but Rachel doesn’t realise that, because she believes herself to be the chosen child, now that corporate leads science. It won’t matter to PT who leads this thing towards immortality, and how many children and clones have to die along the way, because all he cares about is his own sagging skin. This is another thing that Delphine and Cosima finally realise, once they have decided to trust each other enough. Delphine is the one who insists on playing the game on the surface, while Cosima has always been a more obvious, defiant fighter. In any case, they figure the whole thing out – that the children and people with cancer in the camp aren’t being healed, that the true key to the fountain of youth lies in Kira’s genetics, that the plan here is to restart cloning with Kira’s eggs, that they will try to replicate her ability to heal herself in all those new children, now that Rachel has found surrogates. 

It’s grisly, and suitable Victorian for the setting. PT stole a young child from an orphanage and experimented on him until he became a monster, incapable of comprehending his own existence, depending on Mud’s tenderness and humanity for survival. His genes lead directly to what was wrong with all of Sarah’s sisters – a defect that was meant to give eternal life, but eventually compromised their biology. Westmoreland has literally poisoned them with an experiment, gone wrong, one that he kept locked up in his basement, out of embarrassment that this would one day constitute the essence of his legacy. 

We can debate Cosima and Delphine for hours here, but the truth is that Delphine would die for Cosima as certainly as Donnie will always save his own skin first. She always comes back. Her entire life now revolved around finding a way out, a way to best this deeply connected organisation that is dominating everything. She is the one who has set up the pieces, who has gotten Siobhan involved in a game that she is so much better at playing, she is the one who has put Felix and his biological sister on the corporate money trail in Switzerland. The flashback provides us with the very moment when all of this started, after Cosima decoded the proprietary information in her own genetic make-up – 
Delphine: You can’t let them win.
Cosima: I’m intellectual property, Delphine.
Delphine: This… none of this matters.
Cosima: They made me sick.
Delphine: Then we’ll find a cure.
Cosima: There’s nothing, nothing that’s mine.
Delphine: Hey, you have me.
Cosima: You, you were paid to lie to me.
Delphine: I’m sorry. Hey, come here. I can promise you one thing. I will always work to protect you.
Cosima: They own me, Delphine.
Delphine: No, no they don’t.
Cosima: Yeah, they do.
Delphine: Not your integrity.
Cosima: My integrity.
Delphine: Not your intellect.
Cosima: My intellect.
Delphine: Not your humour.
Cosima: My humour.
Delphine: Defy them. Defy them. Live your life with every ounce of passion that I know that you have. They will never own you.
So much of this show is about identity and what it means for each of the sister’s identity that they are clones, that they are copyrighted material. It’s particularly hard for Cosima, who doesn’t have Sarah’s absolute fierceness, this natural inability to comprehend and follow rules. Defying is part of Sarah’s DNA, she has always hustled her way through life – but not Cosima. She understands the science, and even the intended consequences of intellectual property, the economic consequences of it. The idea that her beautiful mind could not be hers is more shocking to her than to any of the other clones, who aren’t scientists, who aren’t as deeply part of the very work that created them. Delphine understands this, but she also loves Cosima for all the other things that make her her, which is exactly what saved her, and kept her alive, and which is exactly what saves her, and keeps her alive, now, when PT tries to compromise her and make her his in asking her to kill Janus. She defies him, because she knows that if she kills for him, she will lose herself. It may cost her her freedom – she is the one locked up like a failed experiment – but in the end, it will win her everything, because PT Westmoreland does not own her humanity, or her choices, or her ability to be the best person that she can be. 
Cosima: You’re a woman. You’re a human being. If you don’t start there, there’s nothing to mitigate.

Which, imagine that: All of these people, desperately making up for mistakes in the past, and all those times when people like Susan Duncan and Virginia Coady chose to be weapons against themselves for the purpose of some remote sense of fame and accomplishment, this faint promise of scientific immortality. This has always worked in Westmoreland’s favour, and propped up the system that keeps undermining women and taking their agency away from them. It’s not hard to figure out who those 1,300 surrogates are that Rachel found, and what precise position of economic and social disadvantage has put them in a position of having to say yes to Neolution. This beast will continue existing unless this great and complicated plot between Siobhan and Delphine comes to fruition. 

Random notes: 

OF COURSE PT would want his women to dress up like Victorian women, like Angels at the table, and of course Cosima would defy him utterly by reversing gender stereotypes and OF COURSE Rachel would come in in a black lace dress, overlooking the scene from above. 

Ira is glitching. And of course he is Siobhan’s possibly very unreliable mole on the island, even if he delivers a semi-genuine “Your people wish you well” to Cosima. 

This is a good reminder that Cosima has been pretty much entirely cut off this whole time – Delphine is the one who tells her that Rachel has Kira, that Kira is being experimented on at Dyad. 

Sarah finally decides to let Kira in on all of their grown-up secrets, and it turns out that she might just be a natural hustler. I have every faith in her that she’ll be able to play Rachel Duncan, queen of underestimating people, like a fiddle. 

And speaking of underestimating, only an old fuck like PT Westmoreland would call Alison a crone, and not see an outline what is surely to come (which is, Alison coming down on all of this like a ton of bricks). Perhaps he should keep in mind how great mind Aldous Leekie found his pathetic end. 

Some very great hints here that the answer to all of this will eventually be the connection between all the sisters and Kira, as Sarah promises Kira to make her part of the grown-up story if she shares everything she knows about the connection. 

Yannis, or Janus - the god who looks backwards and forwards, much in the same way in which Siobhan and her science kids are trying to uncover the past of Neolution to find a way to fight them, in the future. The two-headed god was also featured centrally in many of the ads for this season, so...

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Orphan Black – I wasn’t a good sister to you.

Orphan Black: 5x04 Let the Children and Childbearers Toil.

The fourth episode of this final season of Orphan Black sets the stage of what is to come. It establishes the motivations of the main protagonists and antagonists, gives some gory detail about the history governing their actions, and hints at a struggle not too far in the future. It brings back people thought dead, and unravels secrets and monsters, as well as skeletons in the closet. 
But the heart and soul of the show lies in its love for the sisterhood itself, and all the relationships surrounding it. Sarah finally finds Helena in the convent and voices what the essential core of all of their struggle is about – that feeling of connectedness, of love, of a shared life and love, that she felt when she was dying on the island. When she finally understood how Kira feels about all of them, and why it is so unbearably painful to lose someone. It’s so very fitting that the centre of the episode is Sarah and Siobhan teaming up to follow a lead that, unbeknownst to Sarah, was given to Siobhan by Delphine, a psychological researcher connected to a major figure in the Castor-Leda-Neolution conspiracy. As they travel down their dark path, doing what they both do best – stealing identities, lying their way into the heart of Neolution once again – Cosima goes on her own, solitary journey into the dark basement of Westmoreland’s Neolution, uncovering a poorly kept secret about the monster that predates the experiment that gave birth to her and her sisters. Both journeys eventually lead to the same place, and use the same Victorian gothic horror tropes – it’s Cosima, rooting around in Westmoreland’s basement to find the gory remains of an experiment, running awry, leading directly to the man in the woods who is haunting the community, and Virginia Coady, returned from the dead, retelling the story of Neolution’s first attempt at controlling human genetics. 

It’s that primal rift between Westmoreland and Susan Duncan that decides the stakes here. Theirs is an opening, for maybe a second, for things to go differently, as Susan insists that she has always disagreed with the intelligent methods, the questionable science, but never the ultimate goal of Neolution. Maybe there is an attempt here to make a broader accusation against people who willingly align themselves with a cause that is inherently evil, attempting to keep face by publicly disagreeing with the methods, yet carrying the same poisonous ideological seeds forward. It doesn’t take much for Westmoreland to bring Susan back into the fold, much to Ira’s horror, after she realises that he is on a new path with Kira. 

All of these paths, throughout the history of Neolution – how back in the Sixties, Westmoreland and Susan Duncan recruited Virginia, who proved to be much more willing to execute the crude methods that Westmoreland pursued, while Susan disagreed. How they split up, and were ultimately separated, into Leda and Castor, two very different approaches, both ultimately inhumane and brutal, but in so very different ways. And how finally, Susan Duncan gained enough leverage to have Victoria imprisoned in a mental institution (and we thought that her death was the one good thing Paul ever accomplished, but it turns out he was never good for anything after all) – but what will happen when PT finds out, if he hasn’t already, and isn’t playing this game still, after all this years, of pitting one woman after another to reap both their awards freely. 

This is clearly what this season, and ultimately this show, is working towards. Showing clearly and without hesitation how a man like PT Westmoreland, who I am completely certain will turn out to be a fraud, manipulated women over history and again and again to fight against each other, and who in the process created an environment in which women were robbed of their agency, to his benefit. Cosima is only following breadcrumbs in this episode, and finally comes to understand the horrors when she realises that Mud is protecting her predecessor, a failed experiment that directly led to Kendall Malone, and her own existence. 

The heart of this episode is between Sarah and Helena, meeting perhaps for the final time in Helena’s hiding spot, Sarah explaining how she has come to this understanding, through her near-death experiment, about their special connection, and how this is the thing that they need to protect from the corporate and patriarchal interest of PT Westmoreland. A sisterhood, a relationship between Kira and all of Sarah’s sisters, but also, this idea of family, of existing outside the grasps of this horrifying entity that has ruined the lives of disenfranchised people for centuries. 

Random notes: 

Mothers and daughters, mothers and very grossly sort-of incestuous son-lovers, brother and sister… an entire episode about so many constellations of family. 

Siobhan has recruited Felix’ sister Adele for her talents in corporate embezzlement to trace Neolution’s corporate interests in Switzerland, and Felix will help her. Nobody but Siobhan knows, for now, that Delphine is behind all of this. 

Helena heartbreakingly reminds Sarah that she is reproducing the same errors of their past when she keeps Kira in the dark about her identity, because this is her struggle too and at the beginning of it lies the ability to know about herself – which is precisely how Rachel has control over her. 

IT isn’t revealed yet, here, what Westmoreland has now that he didn’t used to, but Virginia and Susan Duncan know that it has to do with Kira Manning’s unique biology. 

I think we get a glimpse of Virginia managing to steal Sarah’s visitor pass, so let’s assume she won’t be imprisoned by Dr Nemetz (how suitable to name a presumably Neolution psychiatrist who imprisons women German) for much longer. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

Reading List: June.


Jessa Crispin: Why I'm Not A Feminist.
Shulamith Firestone: The Dialectics of Sex.
Roxane Gay: Hunger.


Lynne Tillman: Someday This Will Be Funny.
Emily Ruskovich: Idaho.
Emily Fridlund: A History of Wolves.
Jacqueline Woodson: Another Brooklyn.


I Am Not Your Negro (2016, Raoul Peck).
Get Out (2017, Jordan Peele).
Power Rangers (2017, Dean Israelite).

Orphan Black - I am a mother, and a homemaker.

Orphan Black: 5x03 Beneath Her Heart.
Alison: Who are we really?
Cosima: Yeah, that’s the existential question, isn’t it? 
Beneath Her Heart works because beyond being an episode that finally has Alison make decisions for herself and move firmly and decisively into a direction she chooses, rather than following someone else’s lead, it also serves as a meta comment on what her role has been in Orphan Black in general. 
There are so many barbs against her here, so many small, hurtful comments intended to make her smaller than she is. Rachel’s messenger doesn’t hesitate to tell her that her life is meaningless compared to Cosima’s importance as a scientist and Sarah’s and Helena’s fertility, and while she is herself constantly questioning herself, and has been ever since Beth first contacted her, the one area of her life that used to be her domain is slipping away slowly as well. After being revealed as a drug addict recently, she has lost control over the community fair that she helped to build, and as much energy and love she has put into this sphere, the people were quick to turn their backs on her. 

Orphan Black has always navigated through this questions – what it means for the identity of the clones that they are what they are, both in terms of them as individuals and them as a sisterhood, and more than that, what it means to be caught up in this conspiracy and to have to fight for autonomy. These are big questions, but almost everyone apart from Alison has an identity that seems to lend itself to the struggle. Beth, the ghost haunting them all, was a cop, the woman who started it all. Cosima is a scientist working on her own biology. Helena was raised to be a weapon against her own, and Rachel was raised within the very corporate system that birthed her. Even Sarah – a grifter – fits fairly neatly into the specific set of skills required to navigate this life that she never chose. 

Alison, on the other hand, has changed plenty in terms of who she is, but never quite in what she does. She still mainly identifies herself as a mother of two children and a homemaker, someone who tries to make sense of NEolution, Dyad and being a clone from the context of being those things. And the world she has been thrown into doesn’t forgive this very easily, and keeps mocking her for her choices, while at the same time taking the agency away from her to reflect on why she ever made those choices, and how they may fit into who she was, as a person, before all of this. Which is an interesting question as well, if we keep in mind that Donnie has been her monitor for as long as she has known him – the entire thing that her adult identity is shaped around has always been profoundly tainted by Dyad, and even if Donnie is now on her side – the fact that he was once so intimately involved with the conspiracy that was taking her agency away from her cannot be too easily forgiven. 

The other thing that comes up here is more intimate, and it’s about Alison’s grief for her best friend Aynsley. She let her die because she thought she was her monitor, a person who had betrayed her all her life, but it turned out to be Donnie. The show has never directly addressed this fact – it has talked about Alison’s guilt through her addiction but never really about Donnie’s culpability in what happened. Now, as Alison struggles with Neolution reaching for her, and Rachel literally threatening her existence by putting the police and Maddie Anger on her, she goes back to that primary question of who she is. These flashbacks to the Hendrixes and the Norrises sharing their life in this quaint suburb are heartbreaking, considering what happens later, because in spite of the artifice and the horribleness of the power struggles we’ve seen Alison – everything that makes this community run – their relationship is genuine, heartfelt and powerful. It’s a true friendship between four people, and particularly between Aynsley and Alison, best friends, supportive of each other. 

These memories go back to when all of the mystery started. Alison had already been contacted by Beth, who tried to convince her of the seriousness of the conspiracy, but Alison was reluctant to put her normalcy in danger. In the end, Cosima rings the doorbell to convince Alison that this whole thing is bigger than could be explained by coincidence – except Alison, very likely because she is overwhelmed by all of this in any case, has just tried mushrooms the first time, and Cosima’s whole thing is entirely too much for her in that situation. So she closes the door in her face, but the doubts are simmering, and they go deep – right to the core of her existence – straight away. She reflects on the fact that she is a mother and a homemaker, while these women who look exactly like her are cops and molecular biologists. 
Alison: Aynsley, do you think this is all there is for us? Bailey Downs?
Aynsley: If you really feel like there’s another purpose for you, you should trust that. 
I think the thing here is that this question goes much deeper than the fact that Alison is a clone, or that Neolution is creating this web around her. It’s a profound question about choices and purpose, and if anything, being a clone has just facilitated the process, because it’s harder not to ask that question when there are so many women with such diverse lives but the exact same genetic make up. 
Beyond that, it’s also about who Alison WANTS to be, rather than who she has always been forced by circumstances to be. She keeps manipulating herself to not to confront this, by choosing a life with Donnie in Bailey Downs, by drinking and taking drugs, but the question is still brewing and weighing heavily on her. 
Towards the end, she comes to the realisation that her sisters, whom she loves so much in spite of all the trouble she causes, have given her a sisterhood that goes far beyond the petty issues dominating the Church Fair in Bailey Downs. It has given her the ability to change the course of history and to take back control, and to save her own family. She finally comes face to face with Rachel Duncan – whom she still hasn’t met in person – and drops Aldous Leekie’s head on her table, forcing an end to Maddie’s investigation. She reminds Rachel of the fact that she has been in this fight longer than Sarah has – that she was Beth’s first, the core and heart of this sisterhood. 
And then, later, after absolving her family of most of the threats hanging over them, she tells Donnie that she needs to go away for a bit, so she can figure out who she truly is. It’s a glorious moment, and one that Aynsley would have proudly supported. 

Random notes: 


Favourite comic scene this season so far – Felix closing the curtains on Alison’s speech, and then slowly dragging drugged Donnie out of sight. 

Alison’s conversation with Rachel was a good reminder that she DOES have basic firearm safety, because Beth put a lot of effort into training her and making her capable for this fight. I think all of this comes to fruition in this episode – like Alison finally realises that she has these tools at her disposal and finally finds the courage to use them. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Orphan Black – We run on principle.

Orphan Black: 5x02 Clutch of Greed.

The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,
And warmly debated the matter;
The Orthodox said that it came from the air,
And the Heretics said from the platter.
They argued it long and they argued it strong,
And I hear they are arguing now;
But of all the choice spirits who lived in the cheese,
Not one of them thought of a cow.

 Arthur Conan Doyle: A Parable
The episode begins with what might be a fever dream, but in light of what we know of Kira’s powers, could be something else entirely. Sarah, once again the clutches of Rachel, Ferdinand and Dyad, sees Kira and Siobhan, and is warned that she needs to let Kira go, that she needs to listen to her. It’s a prescient warning for what happens later in the episode, and one that Sarah ignores utterly.

It’s difficult to find a common thread here, between where all the characters are going, but maybe it’s this: That in a show that is so much about biology and genetics, the thing that determines the characters is still mostly their past experience, their instincts based on how they’ve been hurt before. It’s all about fight or flight, and Sarah (and MK, who is tragically thematically paired with her in this episode) has always thought about running first. Back in the day, she used to do it on her own, leaving Kira behind, but now she is extending that primal instinct to find safety far away from danger to her daughter, to her sisters. Previously, Cosima turned her down, arguing that fleeing, in that case, wouldn’t suit any of them, especially since Delphine told her to follow the science to wherever it leads. To be truly free, the argument goes, the sisters have to understand their full story, but Sarah isn’t interested in anything that connects her to Rachel and to any kind of alliance that Rachel maps out for them.

And is this how PT Westmoreland’s parable applies to her as well? How the sisters have been fighting about the correct approach, and how, back in the day, this applied to Rachel as well. In the parable, the two approaches are both wrong because they are based on limited information, because none of the cheese mites are in any position to envision the being that they came from, as it is too far removed from their current position, from their current lived experience. How would a cheese mite imagine a cow, what all it knows is the space between the platter and the air. On the other hand, it is always relevant, in any story, who the storyteller is, and in this case it is an old man posing as a very, impossibly, old man, an none of the sisters have any proof that he actually does exist. There is no trail of documents, no data, to support his claim that he will outlive Darwin’s tortoise, that a combination of his genetics and Neolution’s science has made him immortal. PT Westmoreland is a necessary creation, but he also embodies a logical fallacy in Revival, because why do they have to chase the dream so vividly still if they have already found a solution? The only way to solve the puzzle of why PT Westmoreland is so old, whereas everyone else isn’t, is that he is somehow bestowed with special powers, which justify his position at the top of the pyramid. This is too convenient to actually add up to the truth though, so my guess is still that this man is an impostor, a necessary illusion for a scientifically pretentious religious cult that has lived in isolation for such a long time. If all of his outstanding biology is already there to be studied, why does Rachel need new surrogate mothers, to restart the cloning? Why does Revival find children with cancer from around the world, who are precarious enough that they can be studied without any resistance?
PT promises Cosima that if she chases the answers long enough, and follows the path he lays out for her beyond finding a cure for herself and her sisters, eventually she may be capable of envisioning the cow, the impossible being, that has created them all, but for now, the main reason why Cosima keeps digging, keeps following, isn’t this obscure promise, because she has no desire to become part of the collection in this ancient house, another stuffed animal, another front page in a science journal. It’s just that Delphine has told her to do this, but maybe, the reason why she used the exact same words – follow the science – is because she has already figured out that it leads to a place that is very different from the one that Westmoreland or this creepy freaking village promise.

Which leads us to Rachel, who has changed into a person who seems at peace with herself, who pursues a path, who has finally found a calling. Presumably, this is what Westmoreland does, also: He reads people perfectly, and finds what is missing from them, what they need to hear to follow his instructions. It took him no time at all to know that Cosima wants to heal her sisters, wants to find her own cure, so when he met Rachel, he must have known that she wants nothing more than preside over the future of the human race, and prove that she can do so as a clone. He has put her in a position where she feels that bringing the other sisters into the fold doesn’t mean giving up power – but then there is the other consideration to make. She seems changed entirely, especially to Ferdinand, who so desperately needs her to be her old self. But has Rachel really changed? Everything that happens in this episode, from Sarah standing in another prison cell hearing that all her sisters apart from Helena and Mika have joined the cause, to Sarah being pitted against Kira and her family when she refuses to leave the normal life that has been promised to her, aligns with what Rachel, and I mean the old Rachel, would have wanted the most. Nothing could hurt Sarah worse than her daughter deciding against her, and for Rachel, nothing could hurt her most than Siobhan and Felix arguing against her that running away and saving her family is the better option here. This new Rachel has accomplished exactly what the old Rachel always wanted the most, taking away every little thing that she envied Sarah so much. She takes Kira’s hand, and walks away from Sarah, and glimpses back, and in that glimpse, I don’t think there is a single doubt that this new Rachel is simply a fa├žade for the old one that currently works good for her, that is like a successful rebrand, but still hides the same vengeful, hateful, hurt clone who has now lost both of her parents and still feels like Sarah has stolen something from her just by being herself.

There is a tragic parallel in this as well, between Kira’s deep desire to understand herself and her connection to all of Sarah’s sisters, and Sarah’s refusal to allow her this understanding because she thinks that it will trap her in dependency on an inherently untrustworthy corporation. Most of this show has been about the clones demanding to understand their own existence against the wishes of those who created them, and now Kira is doing the same with the woman who created her, Sarah. As much as Sarah’s refusal to allow Kira to choose this path for herself is based on a well-founded concern over Rachel’s trustworthiness, and the nature of Dyad, it still leads to exactly the same outcome that she experienced herself when she realised who she was. People she trusted were making decisions against her own will. It’s tragic that the episode is resolved the way it is, with Kira walking away with Rachel, as if the only solution to this is for her to trust Dyad. But then, this seems to be the theme of the season – Sarah once again losing everything, even though she is trying so hard, because she can’t change her spots, and her first instinct is to run even when does she is trying to protect tell her that she has to find a different way.

It takes a lot of courage not to run, especially when it comes instinctually.
And I think when all else is done, when the season and Orphan Black end, we will still come back to this moment and try to grasp what it means.

This whole dynamic, of an old man deciding the course of so many people’s lives, of an entire organisation built on the subjugation and exploitation of others but particularly women – an organisation that picked poor women off the streets to use them, that has deprived them of basic rights, and often killed them in the process – leads to this scene. Ferdinand, a sad, sad man, sexually frustrated by a woman who refuses to give him what he wants, takes all of that frustration out on Mika, who is wearing that woman’s identity, but who has also taken all of his power, all of his money, away previously. Ferdinand stands for everything that Dyad, and all its previous and future mutations, stand for when you take away all the pseudo-scientific veneer, all the branding, all the fake respectability of the learned and old. He is a misogynist, a man who hates women, a man who hates when he doesn’t get exactly what he wants. Rachel tells him that he has to change his ways, because she is trying to turn Neolution into a different project, and Ferdinand the way he has always been is like the inevitable ghost of the past haunting it, one  that is so hard to shake off because this entire institution is inherently patriarchal and brutal, as much as Rachel is attempting to change it.
Because he hasn’t gotten what he wanted, and because Sarah has slipped through his fingers, he tramples Mika to death.
There is no other way of saying this – in this episode, Ferdinand jumps on her, and doesn’t stop until she has died. It’s viscerally horrible, it’s a brutal scene that is incredibly hard to watch, and even though it ends with him being sent out on the street, it stands for everything that Dyad has been throughout the ages. At its core, it steals autonomy from people, turns their bodies into proprietary information and takes the ability to lead independent lives away from them. The direct violence Ferdinand uses in this episode is just another expression of that very same ideology that uses women and thinks nothing of depriving them of agency.

These are Mika’s last words for Sarah – that this whole thing is so much bigger than about her and her daughter, that losing sight of the enormity of their undertaking will mean that they lose this war. Dyad will always come back in one way or another, because the ideology behind it is so deeply embedded in our society.

I think Delphine knows, and she also knows that the only way to do any lasting damage here is to contact Siobhan. These two will be interesting as a team, because they should make up for each other’s shortcomings perfectly: Delphine was never one to whom acting covertly came naturally, and Siobhan isn’t one who blends in well. Delphine is very much not a ghost, and I suppose we will finally find out what she truly meant when she told Cosima to follow the science.

Random notes:

Who is Mud? She lives in the mansion, and talks to PT Westmoreland daily.

We get confirmation that Helena’s twins have the same uncanny ability to heal themselves that Kira has, and Helena escapes from the hospital after doing something pretty terrible to a doctor who might or might not have been a Neolutionist. Donnie, for his part, does what he does best: Runs away.

It is kind of beautiful, that Rachel starts the episode by promising that only the results of the non-invasive studies on Kira will be proprietary information, while Kira herself remains Sarah’s: Because Kira isn’t anyone’s either, she’s her own person too, which throughout the ages has been a contended idea.

This is a tiny throwaway moment, but the comic shop guy tells Ira that “his mom will be okay”, very much not realising that Susan wasn’t exactly motherly to him. Also, Ira is going back on the island to spy for the Clone Club, because he has many reasons to hate Rachel.