Orphan Black: 4x06 The Scandal of Altruism.
The fourth season of Orphan Black, clearly gearing up towards its finale in this episode, has been a season of contrasts. It has featured Beth and Mika’s loneliness against the (if increasingly fractured) togetherness of Sarah’s sisters, very different and competing models of motherhood (Sarah and Kira, Siobhan and Sarah and Felix, Kendall and Siobhan, Kendall and the other clones, Susan Duncan and Rachel, sometimes perhaps even Rachel and Charlotte), the stark class contrast between what happens on the stage and behind the scenes of BrightBorn. This episode provides further insight into both Susan and Kendall, linked through the experiment that gave birth to all the clones, and portrays them as two women shaped by the same story, starkly different, and yet, in some surprising ways, similar.
Their origin stories couldn’t be any more different, of course. Kendall was imprisoned and used as a lab rat by Susan’s husband, she is dying of leukaemia, she never had the luxuries, education and support that Susan must have had. Susan is upper-class, a brilliant scientist. Both are mothers, Kendall to Siobhan and physiologically, to all the clones, and Susan Duncan figuratively, as the creator who cares like a mother but acts like the ruthless scientist. They both have a stake in the fight though, in keeping the clones alive, finding a cure.
They are also, from Evie Cho’s perspective, part of the old guard, obsolete, irrelevant. Cho is an engineer and her personal involvement in the technology isn’t that of a mother, but of a previous patient who was cured with the new methods that she is now trying to perfect. Evie Cho is from a different generation, and she has watched Susan’s obsession with trying to get the clone programme back on track and considers it obsolete, old technology, irrelevant in the face of the new. From her perspective, this old technology is a threat insofar as it may put her own programme in question, if others follow Susan’s opinion that cloning is a more elegant and humane solution than Evie’s experiments and their sometimes horrible outcomes. Evie tells Cosima that “clones are obsolete, You’re Betamax” – a branch of evolution that will lead nowhere, especially now that Evie has (presumably) destroyed any trace of the original genome that could have saved the Leda (and Castor) clones from extinction. Evie is certain enough that killing Kendall and destroying Cosima’s research is sufficient that she leaves Cosima alive, content in destroying her mentally rather than physically, by finally revealing to her what happened to Delphine in that parking garage.
Evie: We don’t need your baseline. We can fix people now.
Cosima: You can’t perfect the human genome. You can’t know what perfect is.
Evie: I know. I was born sick.
Cosima: I’m sick too, that doesn’t justify this.
Evie: Da Vinci robbed graves to study anatomy. In a hundred years, they’ll call me a pioneer.
Evie is in moral and intellectual conflict with Susan, and she is on a different page than Cosima as well. I think it is significant that Susan explained in this episode how much she admires the difference between all the clones, the beauty of the fact that they are all individuals, unknowable, in spite of sharing the same DNA. Evie’s approach to Neolution, to creating the perfect human, feels different, it is an engineered solution, a quick fix, that does not much care for the prolonged effort of monitoring, studying and caring that Susan has put into her project. That is not to say that Susan is in any way not morally reprehensible – Leda has, after all, led to a programme of constant control, of taking agency, has led to Helsinki and the slow death of Jennifer, and the destruction of many other lives – but Evie is willing to accept the sheer body horror of her experiments if it leads to elegant outcomes like the perfect BrightBorn babies and the maggot-bots which are able to target specific genetic traits.
The episode rewrites history, and changes what we thought we knew about Beth’s character as well. Rather than having killed herself out of hopelessness, Beth chose to sacrifice herself for her sisters. Evie Cho tried to use her as a weapon against the competing technology (and herself), but Beth didn’t kill Susan Duncan, and instead the blood on her hands on the video feed is from Evie, but having realised the truth, Evie threatened to “cauterise” her life and destroy everyone she loves, so instead she chose to take herself out of the equation.
That throwaway line about Beth’s father having certain “tendencies” was hard to bear in light of both her ultimate sacrifice and the terrible way in which Paul the coward abused her.
I will not believe that Delphine is dead until I see a body; Evie Cho seems to be the kind of person who would be unnecessarily cruel and resort to lies to wage her mental warfare, and from how Krystal talks about what she saw, it seems like there might be a chance that this isn’t the full story (also she referred to Dr Cormier in the present tense).
“Two relationships, one missing soulmate”
(Also OH SCOTT).
Ira attempts to commit suicide when he realises that Susan is all too willing to trade in his salvation as long as it means that she gets Leda back.
Once again, not taking Krystal seriously is biting everyone in the ass, and again they decide not to tell her the whole truth, even though Inspector Dawkins from the Yard finally gives her a clone phone. Consider how freaking far Krystal has come on her own, without the massive support that Sarah and the others have had. She is a force to be reckoned with.
Sarah manages to get rid of the maggot-bot (Cosima steals it, and I wonder how it will come back into play), and finds out that it was supposed to active the genes that cause the illness in the Leda clones.
Kendall: And tell your sisters I’m proud to have been part of them all.