One of the (many) things I loved about Orphan Black’s first season was how it towed the line between its conspiracy thriller aspirations and its tendency towards broad comedy. Then again, when your premise involves clones with rapidly different personalities interacting with one another, how can you resist injecting a little silliness into the proceedings? “Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things” feels like a definite throwback to the kind of dilemmas and absurd situations that characterized the first year. Much of that is due to the focus on Alison, who has always stood as the “comic relief clone,” even as her plotlines grew darker and darker in tone.
The episode opens with Alison confessing her participation in Aynsley’s death to Vic. It doesn’t take long, however, for her to realize that he’s been playing her all along and plans to reveal this info to the police. Desperate, she calls Felix who, in turn, calls Sarah to help fix the situation. After an awkward exchange in which Vic begs Sarah to take him back, he suddenly—in one of the episode’s funniest visual gags—collapses onto a table littered with glitter and party decorations. Apparently Felix planted a roofie in Vic’s tea as a back-up plan. The rest of the plotline plays out as a farce worthy of Molière. While Alison and Felix attempt to hide Vic’s unconscious body, Sarah is forced to impersonate Alison for “Family Day,” a special clinic event in which all the patients’ families come to visit. It all culminates with the ever-clueless Alison’s husband, Donnie, finally discovering that his wife has a clone. See, while he may have been an official Monitor, he thought spying on his wife was merely part of an innocuous sociology experiment.
Elsewhere, the writers continue their streak of providing Cosima with some actual meaty material to work with. Here, Cosima discovers that the stem cells that Dyad has been using to treat her ailment actually come from Sarah’s daughter, Kira. This leads to a heated argument between her and Delphine, the first the two have had in some time. It’s a nice bit of dramatic development for what was quickly becoming a somewhat stilted relationship. Ultimately, Cosima calls Sarah and tells her about the situation. In a bit that utterly confused me at first, Sarah seems ready to take Kira to Cosima with no questions asked. Here’s where I bump against the episode. I have trouble believing that Sarah would not have some serious objections with turning her daughter over to Dyad, even if it meant helping Cosima. At the very least, I was expecting some resistance on her part. In any case, it certainly doesn’t bode well for your “evil institution” when characters feel like they can come and go as they please.
In addition to dealing with Alison and Cosima, Sarah also must come up with a way to use Ethan Duncan’s testimony to her advantage. Siobhan suggests a ploy wherein they have him reveal Leekie’s part in his wife’s death to Rachel, and watch how it plays out. Proving once again that she’s far from a heartless Dyad pawn, Rachel proceeds to report Leekie’s transgressions to the their supervisor, Marian Bowles (played by the fantastic Michelle Forbes who, between her roles on Battlestar Galactica and True Blood, can play this brand of villainy in her sleep). Without hesitation, the enigmatic Marian orders Leekie’s “removal.” In a surprising turn, Rachel offers Leekie the chance to escape unharmed.
Ultimately, Rachel’s merciful offer is in vain and it’s here that we say goodbye to Dr. Aldous Leekie. With all due respect to actor Matt Frewer, who has been great in the role, I’ve never found Leekie to be a particularly compelling antagonist. He always seemed more like a ruthless labcoat than a proper Big Bad, especially when compared with the show’s other villainous characters—Pastor Hank, Rachel, or the recently-introduced Marian, who I can see scooting into the void left by Leekie.
Perhaps in a reflection of Leekie’s marginalized status in the show, he gets a less than dignified send-off. While attempting to get the hell out of Dodge, Leekie is followed by a gun-wielding Donnie. Furious about being unwittingly used as his wife’s Monitor, he forces Leekie into his car and confronts him about Dyad’s deception. Knowing that he could not hurt a fly, the scientist dismisses Donnie’s threats, stating that, in the large scheme of things, he will be merely a “footnote” in the experiment. Barely keeping his composure, Donnie announces that he’s quitting his Monitor job and slams the car’s steering wheel for emphasis. The problem? The gun is still in his hand and promptly goes off. The round hits Leekie squarely in the head, spraying blood across the car’s interior. As a horrified Donnie takes in what’s just happened, The Troggs’ peppy pop song “Love is All Around” plays over the soundtrack, ending the episode on a fantastically morbid note.
“Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things” finds the creative team loosening up to have a little fun. It’s a good example of the fact that, no matter how intense Orphan Black can get, it will never be one to become overly leaden in its plotting. It’s this spark of mischievous fun that the show can always fall back when its other elements fall short.
Tatiana Maslany’s Emmy Moment of the Week:
•While she’s done it before, I will always get a kick out of Sarah impersonating her other clones, particularly Alison. The scene where she has to role-play with Donnie for the clinic’s “Family Day” is nothing short of gold.
•Similarly, a close second would be Alison’s confession to Vic. They way Alison abruptly launches into the confession and then just as quickly turns chipper at having the weight lifted off her chest is yet another example of Maslany’s great comedic timing. The icing on the cake, however, comes with Michael Mando’s hilarious, wide-eyed response as he struggles to keep his cool after having such extreme info unloaded on him.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on “Twitter”: https://twitter.com/Mrozema.