Tatiana Maslany breaks Tatiana Maslany’s heart. / Ken Woroner, BBC America

Two episodes in, and it looks an awful lot like we’re getting two seasons of Orphan Black for the price of one. One of them takes place in the present day, and follows Sarah’s efforts to figure out what the Neolutionists are up to, and the other is a sort of alternate universe version of this show, where we learn what the series would be like with Beth as the lead. That vision is a far more tragic one, as we finally witnessed (some of) what happened the day Beth stepped in front of that train.

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There are a lot of parallels between these two versions of the show. There’s the constant danger of facing off against Neolution. There’s the stress of trying to know how much to tell the other clones, and what to keep from them for their safety. But there have not been many scenes as heartbreaking on this show as M.K.’s desperate efforts to keep Beth from leaving her. Even in only two episodes, the show has so effectively plumbed the depths of Beth’s utter lack of hope that the question of whether or not she would just walk away from M.K. without a goodbye was legitimately up in the air. And her eventual concession and ginger embrace of M.K. comes across as a near-Herculean effort.

Sarah, on the other hand, is deeply embedded in life with other people. Compare the moment where she reunites with Cosima to Beth’s goodbye embrace with M.K. It’s lingering, they make long eye contact, and then afterwards Cosima takes her hand. And no one even hands off a gun! The contrast between the two scenes could not be more stark. Given M.K.’s hesitance to get involved with Sarah and the rest of clone club because she fears going through the Beth experience again, it’s hard not to wish she could have witnessed that moment, to see what the sisterhood can be when they haven’t given up hope.

It’s also the high point of what Cosima goes through, as it becomes clear that Delphine’s disappearance or death is not something she’s going to let go. Is she even still dating Shay? Also, the degree to which Mrs. S is surrogate mothering all of these ladies is like a long slow lesson in how to parent effectively. For a woman who seems to have become a parent somewhat by accident, she’s very smart about how to treat each of the clones. And it felt like a very Cosima moment to resist the “chicken” endearment, but then to be so relieved to have someone to talk to about the Delphine situation.

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It was a strong episode all around for moments of surrogate family, what with the adorable scene with Donnie and Helena at the doctor’s office. Donnie continues his campaign to be the show’s most successfully rehabilitated character, between his kindness to Helena and his empathy with Alison, who’s clearly struggling with Helena’s easy fertility.

The problem with the dual storylines, and Felix’s bold steps away from the clones, is that it takes focus away from what works on the show, adds more characters for us to care about, and results in tossed off lines about how Dyad is out of the clone game as an explanation for why they won’t be part of this season. Given that they were running the entire clone program, that doesn’t exactly make sense. Who’s monitoring all the other clones now? And the decision to keep the news of Sarah’s return from Helena doesn’t really parse, other than as a way to avoid having to show one more scene of their reunion.

So far, the split season has worked reasonably well, but how long can they maintain an 8 clone season? We still haven’t checked in with Rachel or Krystal, both of whom are likely to be big parts of this season. Ambition can be both a strength and a weakness for this show — it’s exciting to see how far they’re willing to take their ideas, but sometimes that means the show gets a little lost, so it’s difficult not to be hesitant about embracing a complicated present/past structure.

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Still, the dramatic arc of the series, at least in the early running, is still strong, and we even got what must be one of the show’s more horrifying reveals: Sarah already has the fatal grub living in her cheek. Now what?

Stray observations

  • The tragic burning sock monkey after the family escapes from Iceland was a bit heavy-handed and on-the-nose, given that Sarah calls Kira monkey.
  • “She’s changed her hair.” “Because it was too ugly.” I feel certain we have not seen the last of the clashes between Helena’s personal aesthetic and Alison’s.
  • Regarding Helena’s murders versus the Hendrix’s: “That’s different. Helena’s trained to kill people. We’re manslaughterers.” Good to know, Alison.
  • Eight is the quantity of clones we’re at for the season, right? Sarah, Cosima, Alison, Helena, Beth, M.K., Rachel, Krystal.
  • Even the grinchiest among us must feel a little joy for Helena finding out she’s having twins. Having a sister is her favorite thing.
  • How much more painful does that M.K./Beth scene get when you realize Beth is wearing the outfit and carrying the purse from her scene at the train station in the pilot? Red dress, black coat, black bag. Daaaamn, Orphan Black.

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