Saturday 17 May 2014

Orphan Black - There’s no place for me here.

Orphan Black: 2x03 Mingling Its Own Nature With It.
The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it. 
Francis Bacon: Novum Organum
Orphan Black: a show about identity, and the profound role that knowledge of self plays in shaping identity and making individual freedom possible. In struggling to comprehend their history and purpose, the many strings tugging at them, the clones attempt to break free from being controlled and chased. And in a way, the more amazing thing about the show isn’t that they all look the same, but how different they are, how their life stories, families, histories have created a group of completely non-identical individuals. These different histories affect how each of the clones understands themselves and their surroundings: for example, Helena, Cosima and Rachel through religion, science and business, Beth, as little as we knew of her, approached her attempts to understand herself as a case to be solved. Equally, the parties at war to control the clones have disparate ideologies, an interpretation of reality shaped by ideas, an understanding of events based on pre-existing concepts. For Tomas, Helena is an abomination and only useful as a tool to destroy the other clones – while Henrik sees her as someone to be studied for signs that she is part of god’s plan for humanity (while his jealous first-born daughter considers her “barely even human” – a threat to the unity of her closely knit family). Leekie’s purpose isn’t clear yet, but it’s clear that the clones and the patent on their DNA is of significant interest to DYAD, and that monitoring their behaviour and trying to bring them in line with the institute is of paramount interest to him.  
Identity, a struggle for agency, and always, at the centre of everything, family: biological family and the promise it may hold for someone who grew up in complete isolation, thinking she was the only of her kind, Sarah’s unbreakable bond with Kira and the resourcefulness and incredible strength she shows when she is afraid she might lose her, the make-shift family that she created with Felix, that is put into question in the most emotionally harrowing scene this episode. That family-unit – Sarah, Felix and Kira – and to an extent, Mrs S, has always been one of the emotional cores of the show, but it is in severe danger of breaking apart now that Mrs S loyalty is in question and Sarah makes the – seemingly instinctual, but at least secret – choice to take Kira to her biological father, Cal. Felix was Kira’s father-figure, the one person in her life who would never abandon her along with Mrs S, but now his role in that family unit is in question if Sarah can so quickly decide to bring someone else into the fold, without really considering whether Cal is actually as trustworthy as she immediately decides he is, only because she thinks she knows him and because he lives away from civilization. Sarah is strong, and resourceful, but she also has a history of making choices that put others and herself in danger. And Felix’ feels a loyalty to Alison as well, who is his friend, who has just been abandoned by everyone right after realizing that Donnie – the person she built her life with, the person she’s raising to children with – has been lying and controlling her all this time. It’s significant that Felix is the only character who seems to comprehend what that means for Alison, who is empathic enough to feel bad about leaving her to carry her own burdens, without any support. At the same time, it’s interesting that Sarah of all people should give that “there’s two parts of you” speech to Kira, even though she was shaped by everyone except her biological parents (and is arguably like 80 per cent Mrs S). 
Sarah: I think Kira deserves something, something nourishing, for once. Even for just a few days.
Felix: Yeah. No, you’re right. She just met her father, you can’t yank her away. Uncle Felix isn’t going to babysit while you negotiate custody. I’ve got other drama in my life, Sarah. Alison’s musical opens tomorrow, she needs me. There’s no place for me here.
It’s possibly the most hurtful thing that Sarah could ever say to Felix, tell him that whatever it was he gave Kira wasn’t nourishing, that it wasn’t exactly what Kira needed. Sarah was always the one who ran away, relying on Mrs S and Felix to take care of her daughter, so this is almost unforgivably cruel. 

Henrik: She does have a soul, she does have a purpose, and she is going to be part of our family now.
Helena felt that connection with Sarah, but Sarah shot her. She was raised with lies, used for someone else’s purpose, shaped into a tool against other clones – and now that she escaped that prison for a little while, she’s fallen into the hands of a different branch of Proletheanism, one that is equally unconcerned with giving her agency or asking her consent, one that is equally interested in shaping her for a specific purpose. 

Random notes: 

Gosh, poor Alison. “I should have known that this would be the ending of the story we’ve become”.

I wonder if Leekie chose to tell Delphine about Jennifer Fitzsimmons to create an emergency situation – I don’t think she knew about her before, and there’s nothing that will bind her and Cosima closer to DYAD than realizing how serious the disease is that Cosima is battling (and she seems to be hiding how severely affected she is, from everyone, including Delphine). 

Delphine and Cosima, talking about Jennifer’s monitor, her boyfriend: 

Cosima: Sometimes I forget that you’re mine. 
Delphine: That’s good.

Such a sad exchange, because it’s not like Delphine can deny that she is Cosima’s monitor, she still has that function for Leekie, so regardless of how much they mean to each other – and I’m completely convinced that Delphine’s feelings for Cosima are genuine – they still have that divide between them. Cosima can sometimes forget, but that doesn’t make it any less true (and I think it’s important that they barely ever talk about it).


I’m not sure if they’ll take the idea anywhere that Kira gets her eerie sense of being able to predict the future to an extent from Cal – but one thing that I’m fairly sure about is that the project he used to work on, the pollinator drone, was bought up by DYAD, so he has at least that connection with the corporation. 

So… Angie. Still not sure if she’s trustworthy, but she might just be acting out of a deeply felt loyalty for Beth (who seemed to have been able to inspire that in people).

I keep wondering if Daniel went way beyond his mission in his attempt to kidnap Kira and Sarah – it’s definitely far beyond “she makes her own choices”, the command that Donnie was given, but then, Sarah is a different story entirely. 

It’s one of the most terrifying and horrifying scenes that the show has ever done, but Helena being coerced and drugged into the wedding, and then carried off, is so effective in terms of portraying lack of consent, lack of choice, lack of freedom. And then there’s the awful flashbacks she’ll have in the next episode of what actually happens next – there’s no show that I would trust with that kind of material more than Orphan Black in terms of seriousness and self-awareness. It’s still rape, even if it’s masked as something else with science and religion. 

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