Following Orphan Black’s second season finale, I remember becoming excited (if wary) about the implications of its last-minute “boy clone” reveal. The show, after all, had spent a good portion of its second year oscillating between great character work and increasingly confounding mythology that seemed to go no place of merit. If nothing else, the idea of the Leda clones facing off against male clones seemed like a more concise premise, than the nonstop barrage of betrayals that characterized much of Season Two’s plot twists. This resulted in a tad bit of disappointment on my part when the third season premiere appeared to pick up as if nothing of major influence had occurred. Sure, the Castor clone plotline was explored in more detail, but the episode also featured Sarah making a reluctant agreement with Dyad, clones masquerading as other clones and Alison getting involved in suburban shenanigans. Most of these are stories I actually like, but I was worried it meant the show would be relying on old tropes, instead of breaking new ground. Like the premiere, “Transitory Sacrifice of Crisis” is a bit of a mixed bag, in how it both pushes the show into unfamiliar areas, while also leaning on old reliable ones like a crutch.
Right off the bat, we are treated to one of the freakiest scenes in the show’s history. Rudy, one of the murderous Castor clones (the scarred one with the Tintin hair) takes a drunken girl back to his hotel room. In the midst of their subsequent sex scene, Rudy’s “brother” Seth (the mustached one) climbs into bed with them and starts getting in on the action. “We were taught to share,” Seth says when the horrified girl eventually notices. While definitely upping the creep factor on the Castor clones, the scene also does seem to clash about with later scenes which seem designed to establish a more sympathetic side to the clones—namely, that Seth (as indicated by a Blade Runner-esque test administered by Paul) seems to be suffering from some kind of physical and mental “glitch,” a condition that greatly parallels the ovarian-disease that plagued many of the Leda clones.
Word of the “clonecest” incident eventually reaches Sarah courtesy of her police ally Detective Art Bell. Against Bell’s wishes, Sarah ends up approaching the victimized girl and asking questions in a desperate attempt to find any info regarding Helena. It’s a scene that reminds us that once, long ago (i.e. Season One), Sarah was actually pretending to be a cop and working with Bell. Moreover, it’s also a visual cue that Sarah is, in many ways, back in a similar position to where she was in Season One—“grasping at straws” to figure out some grand, complex mystery.
Certainly, Helena is in need of help at the moment. For one, we see her being subjected to the same cognitive, Blade Runner test as the Castor clones. Unaware of how it works, however, she follows the advice of the “talking” scorpion that’s following her around and decides to simply troll the questions (i.e. the test-giver asks a question involving mangos and she responds “Where are these mangos?”). It’s a nice moment of levity that is much needed, as this subplot also features an extensive scene of Helena being brutally waterboarded. Orphan Black has never been a show that shied away from upsetting scenes and, indeed, some of the show’s most memorable sequences have involved highly disturbing material. Nevertheless, between the clonecest up top and the extended torture scene here, the episode can’t help but feel a little reliant on shock value.
Luckily, we are treated to a healthy amount of comic relief via the misadventures of Alison and Donnie Hendrix. It’s unfortunate that, structurally, this storyline (as with all Alison storylines) has yet to yield any real significance to the stories around it, but it’s so damn entertaining that I choose not to hold it against the show. As established last week, Alison has decided to run for school board to shut down a move to rezone the school area. Unfortunately, with Donnie recently out of a job, they are struggling financially and have no money to spend on a campaign. She gets a flash of inspiration, however, upon meeting her old drug dealer Ramon. Ramon will be heading off to college soon and Alison proposes a plan to effectively “take over” his business. After all, she reasons, most of Ramon’s clientele are the suburban housewives she already knows. Granted, this sounds like much more of a stumbling block than an advantage (it would certainly make transactions more awkward), but it’s a set up for some hopefully great plotlines down the line and, in any case, watching Alison negotiating prices with Ramon is a joy in itself.
The episode ends with Rudy and Seth invading Sarah’s safe house, holding baby daddy Cal and Kira hostage at gunpoint. They demand information about the original Duncan-designed genome sequence, presumably as a means of curing Seth’s lethal glitching. It’s a tense, effective sequence, but I will admit to tensing up (and not in the good way) when Rudy began dragging Kira away. “Not this shit again” was the exact phrase that popped into my head. Fortunately, the scene actually ends with Seth having some kind of physical breakdown and Rudy being forced to euthanize him before taking off.
Realizing she’s putting her family in jeopardy by pursuing Helena’s case, Sarah sends Cal and Kira away to a place where they will not be discovered. I’d be hard pressed to say I’ll miss them. While Kira provided an emotional center for the closed-off Sarah in past seasons, her newfound circle of allies has made this original relationship feel a tad superfluous. The creative team was wise to let loose some of the show’s dead weight before it became a real issue. That and, of course, it prevents yet another “Kira gets kidnapped” plotline.
“Transitory Sacrifice of Crisis” ends up suffering from some of the same issues that befell the season premiere—eighty or so percent of the episode concerns the incremental progress of (thus far) disparate plotlines with a suspense-filled sequence thrown in as a proverbial treat. And while some of these set-ups promise exciting things to come (Alison’s career as a politician/drug dealer, the complicated nature of the Castor clones), other subplots (Helena’s torture, basically anything involving Paul) just end up being momentum-killers. At this point, it’s difficult to tell whether the show has actively become less intriguing or my enthusiasm for it has naturally waned in lieu of its off-repeated story beats. The good news is that these early episodes now seem to be working at (albeit slowly) steering the series into a slightly new direction, using familiar plotlines as a means to ease the transition. If true, here’s hoping this strategy works at reinvigorating my initial obsession with the show.