Friday 23 May 2014

Orphan Black - This was never a game.

Orphan Black: 2x05 Ipsa Scientia Potestas.
The third degree is of those who limit and restrain the former opinion to human actions only, which partake of sin: which actions they suppose to depend substantively and without any chain of causes upon the inward will and choice of man; and who give a wider range to the knowledge of God than to his power; or rather to that part of God’s power (for knowledge itself is power) whereby he knows, than to that whereby he works and acts ; suffering him to fore know some things as an unconcerned looker on, which he does not predestine and preordain: a notion not unlike the figment which Epicurus introduced into the philosophy of Democritus, to get rid of fate and make room for fortune; namely the sidelong motion of the Atom; which has ever by the wiser sort been accounted a very empty device. 
Francis Bacon: Meditationes Sacrae

“To get rid and make room fortune”, or, to look at a given situation and find a way out, what all of the clones have been doing all this time, trying to understand the situation and gaining control over it, over their lives, back from all these forces working against them: Sarah, the most obvious, the most furiously fighting back against Dyad, but also everyone else. Helena trying to find a way to work within the confines of Dyad without being compromised (possibly impossible), Alison just struggling to understand her situation, Helena escaping cage after cage, just looking for family, even if that family caused her the most pain. 
“We make a family”, was what Helena asked of Sarah, because in her head, Sarah was all she had: A childhood trapped in a cage, trapped in darkness, because of what she was, because the fact of her existence offended the religious beliefs of those put in charge of her, and then finally, finding someone who shared her identity in such an intimate way; a twin sister. I think the most potent parallel this season offers is between Helena and Rachel: one, given to the church to presumably protect her from what her birthmother thought would happen to her, which turned into a brutal fate, being turned into a weapon against those who shared the most with her, and the other, both an experiment and an amazing scientific advancement and the child of the scientists, raised with love and care, but raised as the result of research, science and effort (until the scientists disappeared out of Rachel’s world, and left her to be raised by Dyad and Leekie). Both are a case of accidental parental abandonment, and both were raised in a reality that profoundly shaped their world view. Cosima was wrong in thinking that Rachel would have been raised without emotion, and the very fact that she wasn’t brought her to a place where the world, as it is now, is obviously hostile an in desperate need of improvement, if it is capable of taking the only source of humanity and warmth from her. 
They are both looking for family in their own way: Rachel in trying to gain control of the corporation that birthed her, outranking Leekie at this point, making decisions against his will in spite of being monitored and spied on knowingly, and Helena in faithfully following Sarah, despite the fact that Sarah tried to kill her, to the extent that she accepts Felix as family just by virtue of Sarah declaring him as such (“That’s my brother, which means he’s one of our sisters.”) It’s a parallel to how Cal is dealing with the realization that he has a daughter, the genuine care he puts into Kira, the way he is awed by her capabilities and insight. As much as I distrust him (even though Dyad doesn’t seem to have a very good idea of who he has, just assumes he has anti-corporate leanings, the fact remains that he has a stash of money, fake IDs and a gun), I think his affection for both Kira and Sarah is genuine. 
This episode also shows clashing ideologies or approaches. Aldous is keen on saving and healing Cosima, while Rachel sees her as an asset to be exploited at all costs. He may have found a way to help her, she sees that as an opportunity to gain leverage against Sarah, use Cosima’s illness as a threat to make Sarah into an asset (except Sarah doesn’t even know that Cosima is sick). They both work for Dyad, but their ideas about what Dyad should do, and what the clones should mean to them, are radically different, and this is the first time that we get a glimpse of Aldous Leekie as outside Dyad as a corporation. He leaks the information about his successful stem cell research to Delphine after Rachel orders him to cut Cosima off from any advancements, and he seems to be willing to cooperate with Delphine and Cosima, behind the back of Dyad, because he cares about the clones (even if he just cares about them scientifically, his interest in them is different from Rachel’s, who approaches the issue from a business perspective and a very personal one). 
Ipsa Scientia Potestas is also shockingly and eloquently about what happens in personal relationships when power isn’t equally distributed, or what happens to the question of consent when someone is so blatantly disadvantaged. It’s difficult to truly care about Paul, because he is so cowardly: whatever he did in his past was cowardly, whatever Dyad has over him to be able to blackmail him into acting was cowardly, and he acts out of self-preservation more than anything else, he is an opportunist rather than an idealist in a show where that kind of thing has massive implications – but it makes him a victim, a victim of the same structures that so severely affect Sarah and the others. He can’t say no when Rachel asks him to be his monitor (he didn’t say no when they asked him to be Beth’s, and that was heinous and terrible), and he is in no position to negotiate the finer points of that contract. He can’t consent to having sex with her because he is no longer in the position to say no to any demand that she makes of him. We don’t yet know what drives Donnie, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s some dark secret in his past, but everything that Delphine has been doing over the past few episodes has been out of love, as misguided as it might have been, but Paul is in no position to even act out of any kind of genuine emotion, except self-preservation. So yes, what Rachel does to him is rape, because he can’t say no, he has no control over the fact that they have sex, or how they have sex. 
It doesn’t matter that it’s so difficult to empathize with him for all his selfishness and acting out of self-preservation. It’s rape, even if the thing he does before is so heinous: setting up Felix with the gun that killed a cop, using the most faithful and likeable character that the show has to save himself. 
This is the thing about organisations breeding ideologies – sometimes the turn against the very people that they should protect, whether it’s a situation veering out of control or just happenstance. It’s what happens to Gracie, post accidentally freeing Helena. She can’t admit to her parents what she did, so eloquently, Bonnie, her mother, decided to sew her mouth shut and punish her with all the brutality that an absolutist religious ideology has to offer. Henrik seems to disagree with that approach, but as little power as Bonnie has in deciding the greater fate of their religious community, she does seem to be quite powerful within the family unit. Unless they get Helena back, Gracie will carry that child to term, because that’s what they do: they take ownership over someone’s body, steal their agency and control over their biology, inscribe their own purpose, even if it’s their own child. 
It’s about choice and control. Leekie decides to go against his corporation, potentially, in helping Cosima and Delphine to find a cure for Cosima’s illness. (and equally, they make a deal that they can never be entirely certain about when they trust him) Rachel submits to being monitored, having someone inform Leekie about her status, but at the same time, she tries to claw back control by taking possession of that person the only way she knows how to. Sarah can’t fight her war without Helena, and it becomes paramount to her to explain that Felix is family, whose protection merits giving up whatever edge they may have over Rachel Duncan. There’s always someone looking at someone else, to gain back control. Fate and fortune. 

Random notes: 

Rachel is just fascinating on all accounts. She is subject and object at the same time, self-aware and in control of her destiny but at the same time monitored, knowingly and by choice, but by someone she has the power to control. 

It’s turning into a recurring theme that Art puts so much faith into his position as a police officer with power, and just continues to fail: of course Helena is more resourceful than he is, and would turn something mundane into an escape plan. I like Art a lot, but he isn’t quite resourceful enough to match either Helena or Sarah. 

Something about how very eloquently acknowledges how gay sex works is just really heartening, idk. What a good show. (and what good music choices for that scene, too!)

Ethan Duncan is alive, he survived the explosion, and Maggie Chang knew (and Helena knows). 

(and the Duncans aren’t meant to be the source of the original DNA, are they?)

The original genome (the true white whale of the project) was lost – “The entire project is essentially an orphan”, so whatever Leekie and Dyad have been doing essentially comes down to reconstructing the information that was lost? Leekie also mentions that the synthetic sequences in the clones’ DNA (the hay in the haystack) overcame the viability issues, meaning that either the diseases and the infertility stem from the synthetic DNA or that it’s something that they messed up in the original DNA in the 80s? Wherever this goes, it’s interesting to consider that Helena and Sarah, the two clones originally intended to live with the Duncans, are the one with the most “perfect” DNA. 

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