Friday 14 July 2017

Orphan Black - Defy them. Defy them.

Orphan Black: 5x05 Ease for Idle Millionaires.

The core realisation in this episode comes in a heightened, conflicted conversation between Delphine and Cosima towards the end, when they discuss the central truth about their relationship. 
Delphine: I made a promise. I promised to protect you.
Cosima: And I promised to defy them. This I what we do, I push too hard and you do things without my consent. That’s our relationship.
Delphine: We can end it, or we can just accept it as it is.
Delphine: That felt like accept it.
Cosima: Yes. This is what he does. He divides women.
This division that has always worked in the favour of people like PT Westmoreland, and in general, in the favour of men, exists throughout the entire run of this show. Back in the day, after assuming the identity of a scientist who had disappeared in the late 1800s, PT Westmoreland managed to divide Susan Duncan and Virginia Coady, while still making good use of each of their unique talents, and reaping all the benefits of their research. Now, he is using the same tactic to manoeuvre around Rachel and her mother, around Sarah, Siobhan and Kira, around Delphine and Cosima. He profits from mistrust and jealousy, and even more so, from women seeking power but only along terms that he makes for them. This is Rachel’s ultimate fallacy – she believes that she has carved out an unlikely seat at the head of the table for herself, but deep down, she is still very much playing by PT Westmoreland’s rules, and every time she takes Susan Duncan, her mother, down, she is playing into his old, wrinkled hands. 

The thing is though that Delphine and Cosima realise this, and how they have both been made complicit in this whole act, from the start. It used to be Leekie who manoeuvred Delphine into the position, who started this whole charade of not quite trusting, of never quite telling the truth, and it always profited Dyad, Leda, Neolution. There is absolutely no question, and there never will be, about the deep and profound love that Delphine and Cosima have for each other. They have both literally returned from the dead only to find each other again, and they are both working and fighting for a way out of this maze. There is no question that the means which both of them have used have been questionable over the years, that Delphine has left Cosima in the dark too often, and not quite revealed enough about what she was doing – that, in the process, she has sometimes taken agency away from her beloved – but she has learned so much, too, and grown, and realised that this isn’t the way forward. It’s a very, very substantial realisation they come to here, that every single time they have mistrusted each other, or played this game, they have played into the hands of PT Westmoreland, and this entire patriarchal system that ensures that agency is stolen from women to the benefit of men aging towards death and scientific irrelevance. 

What better way to fight them then than to defy them utterly, in every aspect. PT Westmoreland’s little charade of Victorian propriety, of dressing up for the occasion – Cosima knows it’s all shadow play, that he isn’t 170 years old, that the legend is a fake created to give him relevance, something that won’t hold up for much longer, since all of this grandeur only serves to save his literal sad little life. He isn’t just determined to create a scientific legacy, he literally does not want to die, because he thinks himself too important to, because he is too afraid of what may come after, because he believes this legend he has created of himself. There’s nothing more dangerous for him than to be found out as the fraud that he is, a man with barely anything to contribute himself, someone who has always required others to do the hard work for him. It’s hard even to see what his scientific contribution to any of this is, considering that Virginia and Susan used to do the work and now Cosima has done most of it herself. He is a pathetic old geezer who has created a legend of greatness that is far enough removed from reality to every be thoroughly checked for veracity, but the truth will catch up with him eventually. 

If his strength lies in dividing women against each other, then Rachel is playing right into it, because all she can see is that she has finally managed to best her mother, that she has proved Susan Duncan’s prediction that a clone will never be allowed a seat at the table wrong. It doesn’t matter much who is in her particular position, but Rachel doesn’t realise that, because she believes herself to be the chosen child, now that corporate leads science. It won’t matter to PT who leads this thing towards immortality, and how many children and clones have to die along the way, because all he cares about is his own sagging skin. This is another thing that Delphine and Cosima finally realise, once they have decided to trust each other enough. Delphine is the one who insists on playing the game on the surface, while Cosima has always been a more obvious, defiant fighter. In any case, they figure the whole thing out – that the children and people with cancer in the camp aren’t being healed, that the true key to the fountain of youth lies in Kira’s genetics, that the plan here is to restart cloning with Kira’s eggs, that they will try to replicate her ability to heal herself in all those new children, now that Rachel has found surrogates. 

It’s grisly, and suitably Victorian for the setting. PT stole a young child from an orphanage and experimented on him until he became a monster, incapable of comprehending his own existence, depending on Mud’s tenderness and humanity for survival. His genes lead directly to what was wrong with all of Sarah’s sisters – a defect that was meant to give eternal life, but eventually compromised their biology. Westmoreland has literally poisoned them with an experiment, gone wrong, one that he kept locked up in his basement, out of embarrassment that this would one day constitute the essence of his legacy. 

We can debate Cosima and Delphine for hours here, but the truth is that Delphine would die for Cosima as certainly as Donnie will always save his own skin first. She always comes back. Her entire life now revolves around finding a way out, a way to best this deeply connected organisation that is dominating everything. She is the one who has set up the pieces, who has gotten Siobhan involved in a game that she is so much better at playing, she is the one who has put Felix and his biological sister on the corporate money trail in Switzerland. The flashback provides us with the very moment when all of this started, after Cosima decoded the proprietary information in her own genetic make-up – 
Delphine: You can’t let them win.
Cosima: I’m intellectual property, Delphine.
Delphine: This… none of this matters.
Cosima: They made me sick.
Delphine: Then we’ll find a cure.
Cosima: There’s nothing, nothing that’s mine.
Delphine: Hey, you have me.
Cosima: You, you were paid to lie to me.
Delphine: I’m sorry. Hey, come here. I can promise you one thing. I will always work to protect you.
Cosima: They own me, Delphine.
Delphine: No, no they don’t.
Cosima: Yeah, they do.
Delphine: Not your integrity.
Cosima: My integrity.
Delphine: Not your intellect.
Cosima: My intellect.
Delphine: Not your humour.
Cosima: My humour.
Delphine: Defy them. Defy them. Live your life with every ounce of passion that I know that you have. They will never own you.
So much of this show is about identity and what it means for each of the sister’s identity that they are clones, that they are copyrighted material. It’s particularly hard for Cosima, who doesn’t have Sarah’s absolute fierceness, this natural inability to comprehend and follow rules. Defying is part of Sarah’s DNA, she has always hustled her way through life – but not Cosima. She understands the science, and even the intended consequences of intellectual property, the economic consequences of it. The idea that her beautiful mind could not be hers is more shocking to her than to any of the other clones, who aren’t scientists, who aren’t as deeply part of the very work that created them. Delphine understands this, but she also loves Cosima for all the other things that make her her, which is exactly what saved her, and kept her alive, and which is exactly what saves her, and keeps her alive, now, when PT tries to compromise her and make her his in asking her to kill Janus. She defies him, because she knows that if she kills for him, she will lose herself. It may cost her her freedom – she is the one locked up like a failed experiment – but in the end, it will win her everything, because PT Westmoreland does not own her humanity, or her choices, or her ability to be the best person that she can be. 
Cosima: You’re a woman. You’re a human being. If you don’t start there, there’s nothing to mitigate.

Which, imagine that: All of these people, desperately making up for mistakes in the past, and all those times when people like Susan Duncan and Virginia Coady chose to be weapons against themselves for the purpose of some remote sense of fame and accomplishment, this faint promise of scientific immortality. This has always worked in Westmoreland’s favour, and propped up the system that keeps undermining women and taking their agency away from them. It’s not hard to figure out who those 1,300 surrogates are that Rachel found, and what precise position of economic and social disadvantage has put them in a position of having to say yes to Neolution. This beast will continue existing unless this great and complicated plot between Siobhan and Delphine comes to fruition. 

Random notes: 

OF COURSE PT would want his women to dress up like Victorian women, like Angels at the table, and of course Cosima would defy him utterly by reversing gender stereotypes and OF COURSE Rachel would come in in a black lace dress, overlooking the scene from above. 

Ira is glitching. And of course he is Siobhan’s possibly very unreliable mole on the island, even if he delivers a semi-genuine “Your people wish you well” to Cosima. 

This is a good reminder that Cosima has been pretty much entirely cut off this whole time – Delphine is the one who tells her that Rachel has Kira, that Kira is being experimented on at Dyad. 

Sarah finally decides to let Kira in on all of their grown-up secrets, and it turns out that she might just be a natural hustler. I have every faith in her that she’ll be able to play Rachel Duncan, queen of underestimating people, like a fiddle. 

And speaking of underestimating, only an old fuck like PT Westmoreland would call Alison a crone, and not see an outline what is surely to come (which is, Alison coming down on all of this like a ton of bricks). Perhaps he should keep in mind how great mind Aldous Leekie found his pathetic end. 

Some very great hints here that the answer to all of this will eventually be the connection between all the sisters and Kira, as Sarah promises Kira to make her part of the grown-up story if she shares everything she knows about the connection. 

Yannis, or Janus - the god who looks backwards and forwards, much in the same way in which Siobhan and her science kids are trying to uncover the past of Neolution to find a way to fight them, in the future. The two-headed god was also featured centrally in many of the ads for this season, so...

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