Thursday 19 June 2014

Orphan Black - You’re the bravest thing I know.

Orphan Black: 2x09 Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done.

Two of the most impressive scenes that have ever happened on this show which has so many outstanding moments: Sarah and Mrs S realize that the decision on whether Kira is going to donate bone marrow to buy Cosima more time isn’t in their hands, that they can’t take this choice away from the one person that is concerns. She is a child, but this is her body, and Sarah has spent months struggling for the right to make choices about her own existence, and she’s seen her sisters do the same, so she can’t take that away from her own daughter, despite the concern. So Kira ends up making the choice – an informed choice, knowing fully well both what the procedure involves (needles which she hates, but no pain) and what’s at stake (Cosima doing worse, maybe dying). 
Elsewhere, Henrik has started the second phase of his project, implanting Helena’s eggs – but not only does he make himself the father of this new generation of humans, not only does he use Helena for that purpose, but he also forces his own daughter (the episode implies that he doesn’t inform her of the fact but that Gracie is smart enough to figure it out on her own, based on her father’s ideology) to carry Helena and his children. Once Helena realizes this, it changes everything – because she finds it abhorrent that Grace has no choice in this, and tells her that she should not carry the child to term if she doesn’t want to. There’s an earlier scene where she punishes and threatens one of the women of Henrik’s group for being cruel to the children – Helena loves children, is protective of them, but she also escaped from a terrible, abusive childhood that took every single choice about her life and her body away from her. It’s how Grace learns to trust Helena over the people she has known all her life, seeing someone stand up for her, fight for her, give her a choice. 
Helena was brought up to be a weapon against her sisters until she redefined her concept of belonging, but she still holds an absolute definition of vengeance and justice. She does to Henrik what he did to all the women he controlled – she makes him helpless, tying him to the gynaecological examination chair, taking away his ability to make choices. An eye for an eye. And then she burns everything down. 
Both of these moments are about empathy and love, and contrast harshly will so many others were characters are denied the ability to make choices about their own bodies. Both examples are also about parenthood – Sarah doesn’t make the choices for Kira, in spite of it – while Rachel still struggles with the realization that her life’s burden is inherent in her design, that it was an intended outcome and worse, was decided by her father, the scientist. Ethan and Susan Duncan wanted a child, so they made one, but they also wanted to be scientists. Maybe they found a way to solve that problem: after all, Sarah was supposed to be their child, and Sarah isn’t infertile (and, as is indicated in the episode, therefore doesn’t suffer from the same disease that threatens the others, since the two are connected), but Sarah (and Helena) disappeared, so they took Rachel instead. Maybe they were going to raise a child that didn’t have the same limitations as their research subjects, a form of compartmentalization, but either way, intentional or not, Rachel is now the daughter who is in conflict with her father. 
It’s about the relationship between children and parents and subjects of experiments and their creators, and in a wider sense, also between the clones and DYAD. Now that Leekie is dead, Rachel offers Leekie’s old position as director of the programme to Delphine – telling her it’s “not a bribe, nor a ploy” (when in fact, it’s both), that they “could take this program into an entirely new direction”. And Delphine bites, because she is still convinced that the struggle with DYAD is a question of direction, that there is nothing inherently wrong with what DYAD does, just with the purpose and methods of its creation. Sarah (and even more so, Mrs S) would probably be of the profound opinion that DYAD itself, in whatever shape and under whoever’s leadership, needs to be taken down if only for the reach it has, for its lack of oversight. Delphine thinks she can wield it and use it for something good, when it should be obvious to her that DYAD has gone too far to be controlled by anyone, and that people like Rachel and more so Dr Bowles are so much more apt at power play than she is that she isn’t up to the task of giving DYAD the purpose she wants it to have. Delphine is either just too naïve (it’s how Leekie got to her in the first place) or at a point where she can’t even allow herself to think what it would mean for Cosima’s recovery if DYAD were unchangeable and rotten to the core. She would rather lie to herself than give up all hope, but that mind frame will always be in conflict with how Sarah approaches situations. 

The more salient conflict is between Sarah and Rachel though, because it dates back to before either of them was even conscious of their existence: Sarah was meant to be Ethan’s daughter, and Rachel was the replacement. Sarah has Kira, Rachel is barren by design. Rachel grew up thinking she was special among all the clones, and yet, Sarah is the one who holds everyone’s interest, the one at the focus of everything that is happening at DYAD. 
Dr Bowles: Sarah Manning intrigues me. Doesn’t she you?
Rachel: Biologically, yes?
Dr Bowles: But it’s not just her biology that’s gotten her this far, is it? You were bred into this, given every advantage, but Sarah, Sarah is a product of chance. Yet here we are at loggerheads with her.
Rachel: She’s in hand, I assure you.
Sarah’s strength and resourcefulness are a product of chance, even her biology is, inasmuch as it deviates from the design of all the other clones. It’s hard for Rachel to believe herself to be the chosen one if Sarah exists. So she goes off, and thinks of all the things she’s lost – the happy childhood, the loving parents – and what Leekie shaped her into, after, a tool and a weapon, even if it’s a more subtle one than Helena, and then she uses all the weaknesses that she knows her enemies to have. She uses Delphine’s naiveté, giving her false evidence, knowing she will take it to Sarah, lead her to Sarah, without hesitation. She dresses up as Sarah and is somehow more convincing than any of the other clones were ever at personifying each other, fooling even Mrs S and Felix and Kira (who is still waking up from her narcosis, but still). She does to Kira what Leekie did to her, with no choice in the matter. The room Kira wakes up in at DYAD contrasts perfectly with the one she had with Mrs S – it’s perfect, new, shiny, but a prison nevertheless that gives her no choices. “You’ll get used to it. You may even grow to like it here. Just as I did.”

Random notes: 

JFC Donnie and Alison’s new found love, connection over accidental homicide and burying a body together, and even more so, Donnie Hendrix’ confidence, fuelled by said accidental homicide. Disturbing and amazing. 

Donnie: I’m not as perfectly comfortable with manslaughter as you.


In the same vein of the child/parent/subject/scientist dichotomy, Delphine struggles with Cosima being both the person she loves and the subject of the research that is trying to save her life: “I am in the middle, committed to my subject”, is what she tells Dr Bowles.

Delphine: Hello Felix. 
Felix: Delphine.

(Maybe they should have realized earlier that it’s not so much a question of trust with Delphine but a question of aptitude?)

Delphine: I made a terrible mistake. 
Cosima: What have you done?

Oh Delphine. 

There’s some irony in what happens with Mark and Henrik: Henrik shapes the dogma of this fundamental religion, and yet his version of a traditional marriage is his daughter giving birth to her father’s children, Mark takes a moment too long to realize what Henrik means exactly when he tells him he can marry Grace (“To multiply is divine”) but Grace doesn’t have the luxury of being ignorant of her father’s plans. They still have wedding ceremonies at that place but the actual “multiply” part happens in a lab. Traditional marriage with a twist!

Michelle Forbes' outfits remain out of this world. The most terrifying.

Just a theory at this point, but potentially the disease was an intentional outcome as well? Wouldn’t be that much out there to assume that the scientists would have wanted to have an off-switch for their prototypes. I just can’t completely see Ethan in that role (but then, there are hints that Susan was the more pragmatic of the two, so who knows). 


Lady Canuck said...

Thanks as always. I'm waiting for your breakdown of episode ten somewhat patiently.

cathy leaves said...

Thank you! I'm currently travelling but I'll try to have the review up in the next week or so.