The lives of the clones of Orphan Black are often so entertaining that it can be easy to forget how draining their existence can be. In “From Instinct to Rational Control,” the difficulty inherent in all of their lives comes to the forefront. Sarah, easily the clone most often in mortal danger, snaps at Alison, makes minimal effort to patch things up with Felix, and desperately trusts both Dizzy and Ferdinand because she’s so hell-bent on saving her own life, again. Rachel is forced to make the argument to let a little girl die, both because it might save her own life, and because she thinks it’s the only way to gain the upper hand over her sinister mother. And Alison has to relive the torture of her fertility struggles in order to get a little information for Sarah. All of them are tired of living their lives this way, constantly stuck making calculations about who to lie to, and what compromises they can accept.
Alison is so often a source of comedy on the show that it was almost a surprise to see her carry some emotional weight in this episode. In her scenes with her now-pregnant old friend, she seems to be traveling back and forth between invention and truth so often not even she’s sure how honest she’s being. It was a scene given extra weight after we saw Donnie try to talk about the same issues with Helena. We’ve known from the earliest episodes of the show that Alison tried to have children and couldn’t, but it’s not a concept the writers have revisited often. It’s a nice touch of added depth for a character who can come across as a little less deep than Cosima or Sarah.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t get some comedy from her merry band this episode. There have been a few moments where other characters have made joking references to her marriage, but it’s actually pretty clear that she and Donnie have a healthy sex life and a strong bond, at least now that they’re being honest about their lives. As proper as Alison is, she jumps right into dirty talk with Donnie.
This whole episode was also a solid example of how to make jokes about two men dating without it turning into a giant mess of gay panic humor. The jokes come from the fact that Donnie is kind of an idiot, not from the simple concept of two men being involved. He’s a little thrown to find out he and Felix will play a couple, but he’s clearly not freaked out about it. There’s no jokey winking about the moment where they hold hands later in the clinic, and instead of Donnie acting flamey being the sum total of the joke, Felix corrects him and tells him not to act like a mincing stereotype. There are times when this show is almost ridiculously progressive, but they do it with such ease that it makes less evolved programs look even lazier.
For all its screwball comedy with the Hendrix clan, this episode was also a bit of an exposition dump. We finally learn what M.K. is up to just in time for her to leave, and we catch a few tantalizing glimpses of her computer. Is Marion Bowles dead? What do the red Xs through people’s faces mean, if not that someone has been taking them out? Ferdinand’s survival is definitely a net positive, given how great James Frain has been in the role, but it’s unclear if the viewer is supposed to share Mrs. S’s skepticism about his plans for romance with Rachel. What does he really want with her? He may seem like he’s part of the Helena Club for Rehabilitated Villains, but it’s hard to take that at face value.
Speaking of Helena…this again? She can’t just keep running away from the other clones every season. It’s starting to seem like they can’t figure out how to integrate her into the other plotlines. Much like Cosima can have a personal life or a research life, but not both this season.
But at least the shape of what the clones are up against is becoming clearer. With Rachel indisposed, Leekie headless, and Susan Duncan a little too mysterious, there was an vacuum on the villain side that Evie Cho, CEO and founder of the Brightborn group, seems ready to fill. You might have seen her on Oprah?
- This episode had a lot of fun with cutting between gross, connected images. There’s the jump cut from Leekie’s head to Ferdinand chopping tomatoes and also the milky liquid oozing from the tumor right after Donnie’s Air Italia moment. And if that isn’t the weirdest sentence I’ve ever written, I’d be surprised.
- Scott is still mad he didn’t get a raise at Dyad, but come to think of it, he didn’t work there very long and he conspired with another employee to keep vital information from them. So probably not employee of the month. Cosima’s “Who’s the science now, bitch” was pretty satisfying, though.
- Is Dizzy being set up as a love interest for Sarah? He seemed like a random source before who would eventually turn out to be evil somehow, but now that he’s gone on a caper with her, it’s starting to seem like something else is happening there.
- Other ways Donnie is the best: He notices and compliments Alison’s organizational skills after she shares her Brightborn research. Never has “Did you use the new laminator?” sounded sweeter.
- The show has really doubled down on this since her initial conflict with Sarah in Season 1, but the bomb-defusing, violent Mrs. S is by far the best mother on a show that’s more or less obsessed with mothers. Maria Doyle Kennedy is a delight.
- How long before we see M.K. again?