After reaching a new artistic high with “Governed as It Were by Chance,” “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” finds Orphan Black easing back on the gas pedal a tad. Moreover, it’s an episode that focuses more explicitly on the in-show mythology, which tended to be one of the less interesting elements of the first season. Here, with further teases about the continued existence of their creator, the show is attempting to create a more intriguing sense of mystery surrounding the clones’ origin. For the most part, it succeeds. Still, the episode’s reliance on info-dumping, while necessary, does somewhat hamper the usual charm.
The episode opens with Sarah bringing Helena back to stay with Felix. Given her look of abject horror at the conclusion of last week’s episode, she appears to be taking the news of Helena’s continued existence shockingly well. Felix also seems little more than mildly annoyed at the prospect of housing a mentally unstable killer. Instead, he does what he does best and cracks wise. “I’m sure I’ve got a Ukrainian folk costume around here somewhere,” he comments when asked to get her new clothing.
While Helena gets her bearings, Sarah proceeds to dive further into the mystery surrounding Project Leda and the mysterious “Swan Man,” who served as the clones’ creator. Along with help Detective Art Bell, she discovers a picture of Leda scientist/Rachel’s adoptive father Ethan Duncan taken some time after the lab explosions that supposedly took his life, meaning he might still be walking around as an old man.
Perhaps in an attempt to maximize the episode’s runtime, the show experiments with some of the usual non-Sarah plotlines in an attempt to build up the characters. The time typically allocated to the Alison plotline, for instance, is here taken over by Rachel. Though Rachel never breaks her icy demeanor upon seeing Daniel’s body, it’s clear that his death has triggered something primal inside of her. From here, she goes on a bit of a ruthless streak. First, she refuses to treat Cosima with her usual medication unless Sarah turns herself in. Then, in a more brazen tactic, she orders Paul (yep, remember him?) to break into Felix’s apartment and put the party animal’s fingerprints on the gun Daniel used to kill a policeman. Further demonstrating that she’s a bit more damaged by recent events than she’s letting on, she later commands Paul to engage in sex with her. As one would expect, the sex is less sexy and more clinical in nature. When he even attempts to affectionately touch her, she responds by slapping him.
If there were any problematic character moments in the episode, most of them belong to Paul. After serving as Sarah’s lover/ally for most of last season, Paul has here been reduced to yet another Dyad enforcer. When he invades Felix’s home, for example, one could be forgiven for forgetting that these two characters ever shared any kind of amicable history, especially as Paul shows no remorse whatsoever at forcibly pinning Felix down and shoving Daniel’s gun into his hand. Perhaps his character’s 180 stands as part of some larger plan, but the lack of ambiguity in his actions does feel a bit confounding here.
Meanwhile, back at the Prolethean farm, we see how Pastor Hank and his associates are dealing with Helena’s escape. Specifically, it means that their attempts at impregnating her with another clone are in jeopardy. As for Gracie, until she agrees to talk about what happened, her parents have sewn her mouth shut as punishment. What’s more, Hank later threatens to inseminate Gracie with the clone-human child if they do not find Helena soon. And while I know that setting up the villains as “Evil” is important to crafting memorable antagonists, some of the Proletheans’ actions in the plotl comes across as maybe a bit too over-the-top for this early in their development.
The episode culminates with Helena escaping from her secure location and heading back towards Rachel’s apartment with a sniper rifle. Taking aim at the clone from an adjacent building, Helena catches Rachel right in the middle of her awkward sex with Paul. Before she can pull the trigger, Sarah arrives at the scene with Art and begs Helena not go through with it. When her begging becomes a tearful plea for them to work together, Helena lowers her rifle and, for the second week in a row, ends the episode by creepily embracing her sister.
“Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” can’t help but feel like a bit of a comedown after the jaw-dropping conclusion of last week’s installment. Much of the episode, in fact, seems merely like scene-setting for future plotlines and new dynamics—Sarah and Helena as a new team, Paul “forced” into sexual relationship with Rachel, Cosima now getting strange new medical treatments from Dr. Leekie, etc. Even a show as rapidly paced as Orphan Black requires at least one or two of these per season and, while the episode cannot help but feel restricted by its necessary plot machinations, the writers still manage to incrementally move the plotlines forward in ways that at least feel engaging, if not always exciting.
Tatiana Maslany’s Emmy Moment of the Week:
• Though I’m not sure how much of it was sincere and how much was a desperate attempt to prevent her from shooting Rachel, Sarah’s tearful plea to Helena during the sniper scene (as well as Helena’s subtler reaction) would make for one heck of an Emmy clip.
• A close second comes earlier in the episode when Sarah takes Helena to stay with Art. Once there, Helena jokes that Art lays with pigs and even lets loose a pig-like snort to emphasize her point. Don’t know what to say—that made me laugh.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.