“I need a way forward. I feel like we’ve been on our back foot against everybody and I’m sick of it”
Rachel relates this feeling to Cosima towards the beginning of “Ruthless In Purpose, And Insidious In Method.” The notion of wanting a “way forward” surely resonates with a good portion of Orphan Black fans, who were likely also searching for something approaching a clear, definitive direction after half-a-season worth of meandering plotlines and relentless mythology building. Just as the two episodes before it, “Ruthless In Purpose, And Insidious In Method” makes the case that the show, after getting lost in the woods for a bit, has finally found that way forward.
As the episode opens, the Hendrix subplot has thankfully grown from being its own insular storyline to a proverbial way station for various characters. With Connie’s shop now under their control, Alison and Donnie are taking in both Gracie and (much to Donnie’s consternation) Helena as store employees. Donnie is also more than a bit perturbed at Jason for making a move on Alison/Cosima at the campaign mixer last week. Alison tries to clear the air with Jason, which only results in him trying to kiss her again. No doubt still a bit burnt from Alison’s infidelity in Season One, Donnie arranges a meeting with Jason where he asks him to back off. Obviously, Jason ends up knocking Donnie down but not before Mr. Hendrix gets off the best line of the episode—“I may be a bitch, but I’m Alison’s bitch.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the clones find themselves in a tight spot after Scott reveals to them that Rachel can translate the Moreau pages. Not wanting Dyad to stick its nose into their business, Sarah and Co. strike up a deal with Rachel—she will decode the pages if they agree to help her steal the identity of a fellow clone in order to escape to a “quiet life in Taiwan.” The new clone in question is a manicurist name Crystal, who the Castor twins originally tried to take advantage of earlier in the season.
Crystal marks the first Leda clone introduced since the much-maligned Tony back in Season Two. That said, if Crystal is designed to be a similarly conceived minor character, the writers certainly do a much better job here at giving her an actual personality. Initially, Crystal, with her tight clothes, blond hair and mall ditzy demeanor, comes across as little more than a vapid, air-headed bimbo. She even states at one point that her greatest fears are “twins and clowns.” This perception begins to shift, however, after Felix makes his way into her shop.
Affecting a non-British accent (i.e. actor Jordan Gavaris’ actual voice), Felix quickly learns that the girl is much sharper than first impressions would imply. She expresses a suspicion that someone is observing her, citing her steady rotation of boyfriends (ostensibly Monitors) as evidence. Moreover, when Felix moves to her locker in order to steal her info, he is surprised to find that she’s been doing some fairly remarkable detective work into the Castor brothers. Here, Felix’s brotherly instincts take over. Dropping the vocal disguise, he tells her, in as non-specific a way as possible, that she’s a “one-of-kind survivor” and is “not alone.” Needless to say, such an outcome is much more preferable to the uncomfortable, quasi-incest vibe that stemmed from Felix and Tony’s interactions back in Season Two.
As this is going on, Scott arrives home to find Rudy waiting with questions about the book. As we’ve learned from the episode’s opening scene with Virginia at the Mexican cantina, Castor has an insider who’s been feeding them intel. When Scott and Cosima are forced into telling Delphine that Rachel did translate some of the book, she quickly points the finger at Rachel being the mole. With time working against them, Scott arranges to have Rachel removed from the Dyad institute and taken to translate at the clones’ hideout. Just as she’s succeeded at translating a passage of the book that sounds like a nursery rhyme and refers to an “original,” a Dyad doctor bursts through the door and demands Rachel be taken back. In a fit of rage, Rachel collapses. Later, the doctor reports that she fell into a coma and is not likely to make it through. With the key to translation now out-of-the-picture, a furious Delphine fires both Cosima and Scott.
In the episode’s final scene, however, we discover that Rachel, far from the helpless being she’d portrayed herself as, has actually been manipulating everyone the whole time. Indeed, she was actually working in cahoots with the Dyad doctor and is now using Crystal to get her eye back.
After two episodes wherein all the Castor/Leda conspiracy elements were pushed to the side, this entry finds them all coming back in full force. Indeed, the first ten minutes or so of the episode mostly centers on various characters spewing background info at each other like some kind of “previously on” segment that’s been quite literally integrated into the episode. And while this ongoing “where’s the genome?” plotline remains an aspect of the show I’m not horribly invested in, it’s reassuring that all the subplots that I once thought to be momentum-killing fillers are now starting to pay off in intriguing ways. In any case, much of show’s improved quality no doubt reflects the fact that the show’s previously disparate characters are now allowed to interact with each other for the first time in a very long time. Even the smaller, incidental moments like Helena shamelessly flirting with Donnie (“you are strong, like baby ox”) work to give the show a good deal of zest.
“Ruthless In Purpose, And Insidious In Method” continues the effective course correction that has characterized this latter half of Orphan Black Season Three. It now legitimately feels as though the elements that were so sloppily set up in the first five episodes are now beginning to come together and cohere into something new and exciting. Congrats, , I’m officially back in your corner.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.