Thursday 29 May 2014

Orphan Black - You know we’re not just a concept, right? That we’re your consequences?

Orphan Black: 2x06 To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings.

For you have but to hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able when you like to lead and drive her afterwards to the same place again. Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating into those holes and corners when the inquisition of truth is his whole object.  
Francis Bacon
It’s ironic where everything has ended up: in the basement of a church, the archives of scientific experiments dating back to the early 20th century, back to what Leekie told us were the beginnings of the Dyad Institute, stored physically, not digitally, in dusty boxes, with pipes and the building itself making weird, creepy noises. One to the church, one to the state, is what happened to Helena and Sarah, Henrik has a scientific background but pursues what he considers god’s creation, his strand of Proletheanism believes in science and god, while Leekie’s neolutionism seems just as absolute and dogmatic as a religion. Church and state: orphans entrusted to the care of the church, but with nobody to speak for them, the victims of eugenics (also in a way a terrible religion) – scientists poking at things with sticks, as Cosima tells Sarah, “Good intentions, bad science” (is that really something we can take seriously in connection with eugenics, considering the awful and fraught history?), an ideology expressed in experiments, photo albums with entries like “MOST PERFECT BABY, 1908”. This is where it all began, how it began, an idea, to create a perfect human being through science, an idea transformed as more things became possible, and only barely hindered by ethical considerations and questions (and so perfectly documented, since scientists obsessed with eugenics were equally obsessed with keeping very detailed records). Sarah finds the files and understands them as the history of her creation, Ethan Duncan probably found them years ago and understood them as proof of his moral failing, Maggie Chen collected some of them and decided that the only way to deal with the abominable process was to eliminate its outcome, not taking into account, or realizing, that the clones are still profoundly human, regardless of how they were created. The children that Sarah finds in the records were victims of forces stronger than them without ever understanding what was happening, but she is so desperate to try and comprehend her history and the people involved in it, she is trying to claim that history back from both dusty forgotten basements and modern, uninviting labs, two sides of the same coin. The history of Leda leads to one of her creators, who happens to be stored away in much the same way that all these files are: a house filled with things collecting dust, an archive that nobody can read, with only birds for company. 
It’s a perfect quote for the episode, a quote that attempts to justify poking at things with sticks without scruples as long as it serves truth and knowledge. It’s the same principle that the scientists of Leda followed, the same one that Henrik is using now (the outcome in one case is human beings being patented, Helena being robbed of her agency and control over her own body). One side of the coin is creation, the creation of the clones, the creation of Helena’s children, the other is control over the product of said creation – Paul chasing Sarah for Rachel, or observing her, for Leekie (a man with two masters), Mark trying to capture Helena, either for Henrik or to save Grace. 

And again, it’s about family. It’s “having” a family vs. “making one”. If season one portrayed how the clones found each other and sort of formulated a shared agenda to gain back power from seemingly unbeatable enemies, then this is the result of that process: they made a family. Sarah feels responsible for Helena and Alison. She has her biological family in Kira, and Felix, someone she will always implicitly trust completely, but she shares with Cosima and Alison a common history and purpose, and she does love them like sisters, to the extent that she is willing to risk and sacrifice things for them. At the same time, she is Helena’s only family – “we make a family, yes?”, a family that Helena needs so much that their road trip towards the horrible history of Cold Springs turns into a weird, not-quite nostalgic since it never actually happened tribute to a childhood neither of them ever had. They camp. They sing along to ridiculous songs on the radio. It’s endearing, and heart-breaking at the same time because Helena is so conscious of the fact that Sarah’s betrayal of her is imminent, that the only reason why her twin is entertaining her is because she needs something from her (she doesn’t give her all the information she has to postpone the moment of the inevitable betrayal, but ultimately, it has to come). Helena can’t bear to lose Sarah, but Sarah still has Alison and Cosima to think and care and worry about, so that Helena, once she’s in trouble, becomes an issue that she asks Art to deal with, while driving away from her. Sarah abandons Helena, with all her secret wishes for a normal life (the road trip, the camping, dancing and kissing a boy, having children) that make her so vulnerable to what Henrik has to offer, even if the way he fulfils his promises is terrible and evil. She and Cosima are a “we”, a we strong enough to plan Alison’s escape from rehab. She and Helena aren’t, because ultimately, as close as they are biologically, Helena is scarily the other, someone too far removed from Sarah’s world to be understood or trusted. The first thing Grace tells her when she comes to claim Helena back for her family is “she’s not coming back for you”, and it’s not a lie, at least not for now. Grace sees only a monster when she looks at Helena, but she’s been tasked to represent her father’s ideology, and she sells it well: you will have your own children, and they will come into this world the same way you did. It’s not something that Helena, without family or friends, and so keen on having what Sarah has, can turn down, regardless of how traumatizing her experiences there were. 
If there is a connecting theme throughout the episodes, it’s the clones trusting, or having to trust, the wrong people to fulfil their deepest wishes. Alison is desperately looking for a confidante against Donnie, and of all possible people clings to Vic the Dick, sent into her rehab centre by Angela to spy on her. Secretly, as little time as she gets to tell her story, Alison is the most tragic of the clones, because she has lost so much in so little time: Donnie has all the power to threaten taking away her family, the man she thought loved her is her monitor, and wherever else she puts her trust, it’s always wrong, especially now that Felix is busy helping Sarah, solving mysteries, escaping being framed for murder. Alison has no other choice but to trust Donnie, there’s nobody else there. 
Cosima and Delphine trust Leekie, because they’ve run out of other options. And Cosima trusts Delphine, because what’s the point of love if you can’t implicitly trust someone, except that specific point is so complicated with them: Delphine is doing what she thinks is the best for Cosima, saving her life, but she is employing methods that Cosima hasn’t consented to. She is going behind her back, in a situation where they are already vulnerable since they’ve involved Aldous to a scary extent. Delphine hired Scott to help them, without giving him the vital bit of information (that Cosima is the clone, both subject and object in their experiments), against Cosima’s will, and Scott realizes that the stem cells they are using to cure Cosima aren’t from a clone, but from a close female relative, which opens up all kinds of question, also whether Delphine knew about it (she knows enough to realize that this information needs to be kept secret from Cosima, but I’m not sure how involved she is in all of this, how much she knows). 
It’s hard to tell whom Sarah trusts. She realizes that Mrs S has always known more than she told her, because she is guarding Ethan Duncan in his safe house that looks more like a prison, a holding pattern for an old man who has lost everything he ever worked for, and the daughter who was the product of his experiments. They – Carlton and Siobhan’s network – kept Ethan save, gave him a fake identity, in exchange for information about Leda, to find Amelia and the one child that she gave to the state. Sarah meets him, Swan Man, the man who was a scientist and made himself a daughter that he meant to raise with love, but instead delivered to Leekie, who had different intentions. They wanted “babies, little girls” – they, Leda did, the military did, the “most perfect baby”, but also he and his wife, also Leekie with his ideology about the future of mankind (and also Helena, with her dreams about a normal life). 
Ethan: It’s all in the past.
Sarah: No, it’s not. It’s my life, and you gave it to me, so you’re gonna help us.
Ethan: They stole my daughter.
Sarah: Your daughter is lost. There’s just me. And Alison, a housewife with two adopted kids and Cosima, brilliant scientist, just like you.
Ethan: I can’t.
Sarah: We’re real, Ethan. Cosima is… unlike anybody I’ve ever met. And she’s sick. We’re sick, your little girls are dying. It can happen to Rachel too.
Ethan: I tried to stop it.
Sarah: You can help us now.
Ethan: You don’t understand.
Sarah: What don’t I understand?
Ethan: Leekie, Leekie wouldn’t let us raise her. We were going to expose everything, but he found out and…
Siobhan: Go on. You can tell her.
Ethan: Who do you think I’ve been hiding from all these years. Aldous Leekie killed my Susan. He killed Rachel’s mother.
Ethan and Susan Duncan wanted a perfect child, and they raised her with love and care; Aldous Leekie wanted a perfect child, and he raised her to be perfect, a weapon, a sharp mind acting without hesitation. Rachel is still a miracle, the result of those different forces trying to control her (because she would have realizes the struggle, and drawn her own conclusions). Ethan understands the humanity of the clones only through the perspective of having and losing a daughter; Sarah’s plight is new to him, a clone he never knew asking for his help as the creator who might have answers about the disease threatening all of them. They aren’t just a concept. 

Random notes: 

That shot of Helena and Sarah going to sleep, mirror images of each other, is perfect. Church and state, light and dark, ying and yang. 

So the stem cells are from “a close female relatives”: as far as we know at this point in time, that could be Kira (unlikely, unless Cal is working with Dyad, which I guess is always a possibility), Helena’s fertilized eggs (and I wouldn’t put it beyond Henrik that he’s working with Dyad, or someone in his group), or a female relative of the lost original parents, which could be anyone, really, but it seems like the pet theory is Siobhan (probably not helped by her “I am their mum” statement, which was likely not actually meant literal, especially in a show where the meaning of family extends so far beyond the biological). 

The church and state thing, as much as the question of the culpability of the monitors, and the responsibility of the scientists for their own creations, goes back to complicity, I suppose? Realizing that it’s completely unethical and unsupportable to use human beings in that particular way, to control them and take away their lives. It’s so clear in the case of the orphans who had nobody to speak for them or help them, who were just completely helpless in the face of a project like Leda, but it’s really the same with the clones. 
Delphine: Pauvre petit chiot.
Cosima: You’re the puppy.
Oh boy. 

Their reaction to Scott talking about DNA is hilarious: THIS LAB IS NO PLACE FOR ACTUAL SCIENCE. It’s for make-outs. And the occasional sexy drawing of blood. 

Considering what this show is about (and also, tragically current events), the scene with Helena in the bar is perfect: the guy hits on her and takes offence when she doesn’t respond demurely (“Are you being rude?”), he gets aggressive, she sprains his finger and later beats the shit out of him. IT’S MY BIOLOGY, MY DECISION. 

Also a fantastic little moment, Helena claiming everyone’s history as her own when she talks to Jesse: Police officer, brilliant scientist, I quit to be with my family, after rehab, drinking problems, but now I am with my sestra, having adventures. 

I really quite love the scene where Art comes over and takes care of Felix and later realizes that he should utilize Felix’ devotion to Sarah and his talents for actual detective work, which Felix turns out to be quite good at. 

Mrs S recruits Paul. Because “a man with two masters answers only to himself”, and who wouldn’t choose Siobhan over Rachel and Leekie (and “I’m the mum”. Which has so many implications in terms of who she feels responsible for, who she fights for, who she will lose everything for to help). 

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