“This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.”
Donna Haraway: A Cyborg Manifesto
This season of Orphan Black so far has provided many more mysteries than answers, and the characters operate in unknown territory, investigating forward and backwards in time, trying to piece together Beth’s past and the future that Neolution seems to have been working on this whole time. There are several border crossings in this episode – obviously, the literal border crossing of Sarah Manning and her family after M.K. warns her that she is no longer safe in Iceland. On a different level that ties into the theme of this season, the transgressive border crossing is one way of looking at Neolution and its willingness to use humans as test subjects for its creations, which transgress the border between nature and science fiction. The characters still carry this show, from Sarah’s inability to comprehend that Felix is looking for a biological family beyond the adopted family that he has been with his whole life (an adopted family that he feels he is losing now that Sarah is closer to them than ever, and tied to Mrs S by biology), to Cosima’s attempt to remain optimistic about her treatment while still approaching her own salvation like a scientist who is eager to produce clear scientific results, even if that means foregoing a potentially necessary new marrow transplant from Kira. Alison struggles with Helena taking over her family, again in the literal sense of posing as Alison so that she can receive the medical attention she needs for her pregnancy and in the more complex and painful sense of being able to conceive children, and twins at that, while Alison’s struggle with infertility (preceding the show) has always existed as a subtle backdrop. Donnie’s enthusiasm about all of it doesn’t help her much.
The most harrowing struggle though is the one that already lies in the past – Beth, post-incident, relieved of her duties, and knowing that she cannot trust the union rep that was assigned to her case because he is Neolution. We see their dance around each other and the mutual acknowledgment that they know, but in a way, Beth has already become the ghost that she was in the beginning of the show, prior to last episode’s flashback. She is operating without hope here, and whatever it is she actually ended up doing – the show does not yet reveal if the Neolution operative forced her to contribute to some kind of mission that they were running, if the gun and the wig and the blood on her hands were forced on her by him or if this is some kind of mission that she and M.K. came up with to find out more about the maggot-bot – it is all directly leading to the night when she decided to kill herself. There isn’t much closure here, apart from a concession to M.K.’s feelings for Beth – because Beth is the only person who knows, her departure means that M.K. is thrown into absolute loneliness, even though Beth asks her to look out for the others, who do not yet know what they are up against.
Beth was M.K.’s family, and now that Sarah has found her, M.K. is eager to protect her, and that means protecting her from the knowledge that she feels ultimately killed Beth. She seems to know much more about Neolution than anyone else does, but isn’t yet sharing any of that information.
The episode has more than one troubled family, or characters struggling with finding their place in a newly configured family. There are a lot of parallels between Felix, trying to find his own place rather than the one that Sarah assigned for him, insisting that his identity is connected to his birth family (considering how intrinsically Sarah’s is connected to her extensive family, it’s easy to see where Felix is coming from). He has been left behind, literally and figuratively, by the events of last season, and even now Sarah uses him for her own means before she even asks him what he’s been up to.
Alison is struggling, similarly, with integrating Helena into her family without losing her own place in it, especially as Helena just wants to be more like Alison.
And what they are up against is once again a matter of speculation. We can assume that M.K. knows more about it than anyone else at this point, and she refers to the worm implants as maggot-bots, hinting that they might be some of kind intermediate stage of an organism that is still evolving and requires a human host to do so. Sarah accidentally finds out more about it when a hacker working for M.K. confused her for her, and shows her a video of what happens to people whose implants aren’t removed by the trained hands of the two South African EMTs that we met last episode – an untrained attempt to remove the maggot triggers a self-destruction mechanism that kills the host body. The final reveal of the episode – that Sarah has an implant herself – opens up several questions.
For one, it’s one of timing. It’s not really clear who the EMTs thought Sarah was when they attacked her in the Laundromat – my initial thought was Beth, because they were looking for a scar, but then, why would they think that Beth was still alive? And would they have been after Beth for her maggot-bot, or for some other reason (the two seem to be on a very specific mission, and have very specific skills for it). They know about the existence of the clones (the woman asks “which one is it” when she realises that Sarah isn’t who they’ve been looking for). They could have been after M.K., and the reference to a scar may be an implication that at some point M.K. was implanted with a bot, but managed to get rid of it (for example, if M.K. was indeed a survivor of Helsinki, maybe all of the clones who were under Dyad-observation back then were implanted). Was Sarah implanted when she was brought into Dyad (and did all the other clones receive similar implants when their monitors made sure that they had regular contact with Dyad doctors?). The two EMTs were able to identify Sarah just from feeling the maggot, which could either mean that its size was an implication of its age or that there is some kind of technology that is part of it which allows identification through tech that the EMTs, as Neolutionists, might have in their own bodies. The whole thing is extremely messy, even before we start thinking about what the purpose of the maggot is (data-gathering, mind-control, just for the heck of it, some kind of self-destruction mechanism devises to control the clones). I am also wondering if perhaps all the clones simply come with them and their biology keeps them from growing as quickly as they do in non-clone host bodies.
Going back to the theme of the season, the maggot-bot is a transgressive border crossing between animal and human, between technology and animal. I assume that future episodes will showcase the border crossing between technology and humanity itself, through the eye-implant that Rachel received. Neolution operates in the intersection of all of it, but the purpose of its operation is still unclear, unless it is creating for the sheer sake of it, because they can.
I wonder if Orphan Black is ever going to explicitly address Kira’s unsettling precognition ability, because she knew well before they were visible from the window that Neolution were coming for the cabin. Also notable: She keeps asking about Cal, who has gone into deep cover, and Sarah’s unwillingness to be honest about that with her might lead to some kind of conflict there (unless Kira simply has knowledge or foresight about what is happening to Cal).
Union rep: So what do you think will happen if you keep picking at this scab?
Beth: I don’t know. Story of my life.
Scott mentions that Dyad is no longer in the clone business, and whatever he and Cosima are building in their lair is the last remain of that business – I wonder if the fact that they have built their own secret network will eventually be a weakness, because that guy in the comic shows realising that Sarah looked a lot like Cosima means that more people are now clued into the whole operation than ever before.
Kendall is suffering from leukaemia but hasn’t told anyone apart from Scott – and the team is still trying to find a vector to begin testing the gene therapy. Would the leukaemia be an explanation for the sickness itself (we’ve learned that it is a side effect of the clones being sterile, but Kendall as the provider of both sets of parental genes suffering from an illness similar to Cosima’s feels like it wouldn’t be a coincidence).
Someone pointed out that the one thing that we know about Neolutionist Evie Cho is that she managed to cure herself of some kind of disease through gene therapy – I wonder if the maggot is somehow connected to that as well.
The show is leaving Delphine’s fate open.
Alison: She’s eating frozen bread and she’s murdered people.
Donnie: Well, so have we.
Alison: That’s different. Helena’s trained to kill people, we’re manslaughterers.
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