Thursday, 18 June 2015

Orphan Black - I am a mother now and walk a different path.

Orphan Black: 3x09 Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow. 
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
The idea of rediscovering your roots has always been present in Orphan Black. In the first season, Sarah figuratively travelled back in time to trace back the history of Dyad and Leda, and found out that it went as far as experiments on orphaned children in the 1920s. Many of the characters on the show connected to the science have struggled to fit their scientific curiosity in with their idea of morality, and those characters that didn’t struggle have always been the scariest. The cost of the experiments has always permeated the story of the show, from the disease that is killing both Castor and Leda to the ruthlessness of surviving, to Virginia’s idea of using genocide to make the world a more peaceful place. 
Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow is another journey into the past. Rachel’s part translation of her father’s book is pointing to London, so Sarah and Felix accompany Mrs S back to her old haunts. It’s a reminder of Siobhan’s history as an activist, surrounded by other people who were campaigning for the same things, eluding the police, living in the underground. It’s joyous for a short time, when she takes to the stage again, but the reality of the situation, and Ferdinand, quickly catch up with everyone. One of Siobhan’s old friends manages to identify that the number Rachel provided belongs to a prisoner, and someone else tracks down the name, but not before people start to die. 

Meanwhile, things escalate on the home end of the operation. Nothing in the file that Delphine provided to Cosima before sending her away proves that Shay is a spy or a mole, but Helena’s past history (and her experience with Delphine as her monitor) means that she fits all the pieces together in that particular way. If that evidence was planted, because someone wanted to draw Delphine’s and Cosima’s attention away from what was actually happening (Gracie betraying them to help Mark, Rachel relying on Nealon’s faithfulness or connection to whoever that was in the operating room), it didn’t even have to be definite fake evidence. The culture of mistrust and Cosima’s precarious situation are sufficient, just as Delphine’s love for Cosima is enough to drive her to extreme measures. She threatens, which is effective (and really, it’s all she does – never explicit, only hinting, telling stories), and again, the camera effectively turns away to leave it open how she leaves Shay once she realizes the scope of her mistake. It’s easy to see Topside’s power in people like Ferdinand, in the lackeys, but their true effectiveness lies in the subtle ways in which they use their strength, in their manoeuvring and manipulating. Delphine thought she could play that game to her advantage, but in fact, she has always been ill-equipped – and worse, Ferdinand in London now has leverage against her, because she allowed Sarah to get out of control.   
One of the few complaints that I have about the season is how insular the storylines are. Helena’s presence has made Alison’s story slightly less isolated, but it is still missing a definite connection to what Sarah is doing. Cosima is thoroughly linked into the main story, and even more so since Delphine is navigating her love for Cosima with her obligations to Topside, but Alison is still very much disconnected from anything Dyad or Leda. Helena’s story is captivating because she is struggling to rewrite her own story. She told Sarah and Mrs S as much in Mexico: she still believes in a future in which she raises her baby with a nice man, holding down a normal job, away from all these struggles. She wants to have turned a new page, and have a life that resembles the one that Donnie and Alison more or less take for granted, and are about to squander with their drug business. This is why the outcome of this episode is so tragic: Donnie is getting her mixed up in the Hendrix’ business, when their drug lord asks for his pills back. Jason, after his confrontation with Donnie, is no longer vouching for the Hendrixes. In the absence of the pills, the guy takes Helena’s fertilized eggs instead – with neither him or Donnie actually knowing what it is. 
Helena doesn’t want to walk down this path, but she sees her own children in danger, and the situation escalates when Pouchy threatens Alison’s children. Like Donnie said – they made their house bigger to contain Helena, she is now part of the family, but from Helena’s perspective it means that she extends her fierce protection to Gemma and Oscar. We don’t know what she actually did, only that she emerges victorious, covered in blood, winning both her “babies” and the Hendrixes start-up money back.  

There is a perfect symmetry to the final revelation. From the beginning, Sarah and Siobhan seemed like matching spirits, so it makes sense that they would have an actual biological connection. Siobhan’s mother is the genetic original for both the Castor and the Leda line, because she is a biological anomaly, having absorbed a male twin in the womb. And again, the episode shows the immoral roots of Ethan Duncan’s great experiment. He tested and used prisoners, who had nobody to talk for them, who had no grasp of what was being done to them. 

Random notes: 

Sarah is genetically identical to Siobhan’s mother. 

Rudy is experiencing the first effects of his illness, which means that he is running out of time, and presumably, he and Virginia will fight all the fiercer for a cure in the episode to 

Kendall killed Siobhan’s husband – and Mrs S wants to kill her, but the irony of the history is that she is also the Leda original. They need her to die to get rid of Castor for good but they also need her to live to heal their own family. 

It remains mysterious how Mrs S came to track down Sarah in the first place though, considering the connection that was just revealed. 

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