In “Variable and Full of Perturbation,” Ethan Duncan (Andrew Gilles) reads to Kira (Skyler Wexler) from The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells’s 1896 novel about a mad scientist experimenting with the creation of human/animal hybrids. “How does it go?” he asks Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) later, revealing that they read it together in bygone days. “The bit about how he’d be forgiven for hate, but not for irresponsibility?” The allusion to Dr. Moreau is a fitting complement to the Dyad Institute (after all, both interfere with human individuality in the name of some abstract, directionless “science”), but “Variable” is jumbled and strange. Two episodes from season’s end, Orphan Black appears no closer to revealing the puzzle’s final shape.
The most inexplicable and, well, delightful twist in “Variable” is the appearance of Tony, the Clone Club’s first trans man, played by Maslany with the Canadian-accented coarseness of a transient rough. Tony’s long, tangled hair and unfortunate beard belie a loyal, if somewhat randy, soul. It may be a measure of how much Orphan Black has won me over, warts and all, that watching Tony sidle up to Felix (Jordan Gavaris) for a kiss left me so discomfited. A protective pang sounded in my head when I realized that Felix sleeping with his foster sister’s lookalike was bound to end badly. In fact, the sweetest moment involving Tony comes when he’s off screen, as Orphan Black sneaks in a little instruction on the appropriate pronouns. “So, I got it right,” Art says. “She’s a trans clone.” “He’s trans,” Felix replies. “He’s, yeah.”