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Orphan Black Review: "To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings"

(Episode 2.06)

TV Reviews Orphan Black
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<i>Orphan Black</i> Review: "To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings"

I’m gonna be honest here. Having just reviewed the exceptional season finale of Hannibal the other night, I’m still somewhat basking in the euphoria and brilliance of that great episode and its pull-no-punches final act. Hence, watching a show like Orphan Black immediately afterwards feels akin to digging into a nice homemade meal after consuming a delectable gourmet dinner. I’m sure the former is really good, but I can’t help but feel just a little spoiled by what immediately preceded it. It’s to the episode’s credit then that, even with that big obstacle working against it, “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings” still makes for an equally great, if much more light, hour-long installment. In the tradition of Hannibal and its food metaphors, let’s call it an effective palate cleanser.

The episode is certainly a nice bounce back from the previous week’s entry. This stems primarily from the fact that, having plowed through all of the necessary exposition, the show is now free to once again do what it does best: deal in humorous character interactions. Of course, there’s still the exposition—heck, Sarah’s storyline serves almost exclusively as its own mini-mythology build—but the story unquestionably gets most of its mileage from a series of odd couple pairings that help spice up the usual dynamics.

First of all, there’s the newly-reunited Sarah and Helena. After the events of last week’s episode, the dysfunctional twins take the road in order to find “The Swan Man.” In a nice change of pace, their road trip is much more Planes, Trains & Automobiles than The Defiant Ones. Enjoying her first days of freedom in God knows how long, Helena displays a completely different side of her personality—she farts in her sleep, makes funny shadow puppets, and sings along (badly) to “Sugar, Sugar; by The Archies. It’s a relentlessly amusing partnership that unfortunately, in typical Orphan Black fashion, is severed far too quickly due to the ever-evolving nature of the ongoing plot.

Also experiencing a bit of a shake-up is Cosima and Delphine. Due to her loner-prone, scientist status, Cosima has always tended to be the more insular of the clones. As such, adding Scott (the enthusiastic student with a puppy dog crush on Cosima) to the lab dynamic successfully endows these sequences with a bit more personality whereas, in previous plotlines, they often came across as fairly incidental. What’s more important, however, is the phone call between Cosima and Sarah in the first half of the episode. The scene starts as yet another traditional info exchange between the two but takes a turn when Sarah asks the clearly-distracted Cosima, “Are you going to be alright?” The two proceed to share a quick and subtle emotional connection, the likes of which we have not seen in some time. Sarah reiterates that she would be lost without Cosima’s help, to which Cosima replies cutely, “obviously…I’m the geek monkey.” Considering that Cosima currently stands as the clone with the life-threatening ailment, one would think a little more drama could be wrung out of her predicament. Hopefully, the writers are building towards something with these final four episodes.

After taking a break from her storyline last week, we return to find Alison still in conflict with her rehab stint. Things get all the more awkward when she realizes that one of the institution’s current success stories is Vic, Sarah’s ill-tempered, abusive ex-boyfriend from last season. Though Alison tries to avoid him, Vic attempts to interact with her, going on about how much rehab has helped him move past his issues and embrace a Buddhist-like state of zen. With her options for emotional connections fairly limited, Alison eventually breaks her stubborn façade. Out of all the interactions in this episode, this one feels like the most out-of-left-field. So it’s unsurprising when we find out Vic is actually working undercover for Art’s partner Angie in return for having his criminal slate wiped clean. Speaking of Art, it turns out even the minor (read, non-Tatiana Maslany) characters have an odd couple situation going on. After Sarah departs with Helena, Art is put in charge of Felix, who is still a bit emotionally scarred from his encounter with Paul last week. Though their time together is brief, watching Art attempt to wrangle a booze-guzzling, fidgety Felix does make for a great, amusing visual.

All that said, by far the richest dynamic (and the one the show rightly spends a good amount of time developing) is the alcohol-fueled tryst between Helena and a trucker dubbed “Jessie” (dubbed as such due to the name on his hat). When Alison leaves Helena alone to search for clues, the clone quickly enters the local dive where she fights off a creepy barfly, thus proving she has lost little of her zest for violence. It’s here that “Jessie” (played by, of all people, Suits star Patrick J. Adams) comes to her defense. In a nice comedy bit, Helena gives him a made-up backstory that combines elements of all her clones’ history—she’s a former cop (Beth/Sarah) and scientist (Cosima) who wrecked her relationship with her family due to alcoholism (Alison). The two proceed to bond over more drinks and a few bouts of arm wrestling. It culminates with a drunken slow dance followed by some serious dance floor macking.

After being presented for most of season one as little more than a Psychotic Assassin deformed by fundamentalist religion and self-loathing, it has been intriguing to see Helena get in touch with her more humane side this year. Much like how Joss Whedon would often introduce ruthless, yet charismatic villains in his shows only to subsequently re-imagine them as unlikely antiheroes (Spike, Faith), the writers appear to be doing the same here. Moreover, Adams provides a nice pairing to Maslany’s unhinged Helena and, despite how ill-advised the whole situation is, you can’t help but wish the best for these crazy kids. This makes it all the more tragic when a bar fight interrupts the two’s canoodling and lands Helena in a police station. Here, she is approached by Gracie, who offers her the opportunity to return to the farm; in return, Gracie says her family can make it so that Helena can carry children and become a mother. She accepts the offer.

Well, all this and I have yet to mention Sarah’s plotline. This is mainly due to the fact that I typically find most of the mystery surrounding the clones’ origins and their makers to be one of the show’s least interesting ongoing stories. In any case, Sarah ends up tracking the evidence back to Siobhan. She orders her former foster mother to lead her to Ethan Duncan, who is currently living under the stolen alias of Andrew Peckham. Sarah’s long-anticipated confrontation with one of her creators concludes with the revelation that Dr. Leekie was behind the disaster that destroyed all evidence of Project Leda and killed Ethan’s wife, Susan.

It’s the ultimate irony that Orphan Black, a series that often gets characterized as a “one-woman show,” derives so much of its strength from characters—even ones played by the same actress—bouncing off one another. And then there’ are the assortment of great performances from the likes of Jordan Gavaris as Felix and Michael Mando as Vic, which often go unappreciated. “We’re better together,” Cosima comments to Sarah at one point. This can’t help but feel like somewhat of a meta statement on the writers’ part. In breaking the core clone group into their own separate storylines, several segments of the second season have taken a bit of a beating. “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings” works to not only make up for the clones’ distance from one another, but also opens up the possibilities for intersection and interaction among several different characters. If the show is to continue in any meaningful fashion, such development is an essential method of staving off the feeling of staleness that often pervades such stories. Let’s hope it carries through.

Tatiana Maslany’s Emmy Moment of the Week:
•Pretty much everything involving Sarah and Helena on the road, especially the tent scene where Helena talks to Sarah about motherhood.

Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.