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Orphan Black (#110 of 24)

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 10, "History Yet to Be Written"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, “History Yet to Be Written”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, “History Yet to Be Written”

Midway through the season finale of Orphan Black, Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) arrives at a nondescript warehouse to meet the “chimera,” Kendall Malone (Alison Steadman), genetic template for both Castor and Leda, mother to Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), and embittered, sharp-tongued ex-felon. Undeterred by the sniping, Cosima induces Kendall to provide the necessary medical samples with a nod to sorority. “So,” she asks gently, “could you give a sister a little blood?” The knowing look they exchange in this rare, genuinely heartfelt moment, far subtler than any speech, returns Orphan Black to the notion of kinship that’s marked the series from the start, which is that family is more than the sum of nature and nurture. In this, “History Yet to Be Written” emerges as an almost wistful hour, to be filed, after a truly disheartening season, under “too little, too late.”

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 9, "Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 9, “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 9, “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow”

“There’s only one way this could go,” Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) tells Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) at the beginning of tonight’s Orphan Black, as the trio settles in for a day at what must be London’s dodgiest pub. She’s referring, of course, to her plan to find and kill the Castor original, though her words might also be taken as a warning: Nearly three full seasons into BBC America’s declining sci-fi thriller, the last-act twist that marks “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow” manages to seem both inevitable and contrived, the culmination of thematic interests the series has long since abandoned. The episode thus emerges as the perfect hermeneutic for this most miserly and ineffective season of Orphan Black, a mixture of old ideas and new developments straining to hold our attention, an insolvent phantom itself.

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 8, "Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method”

Tonight’s episode of Orphan Black takes its name from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s description, in his 1961 Farewell Address, of the “hostile ideology” of communism: “global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method.” Setting up Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) to pursue “the Castor original” in London, marked by the misuse of a new clone, Crystal Godrich, by all concerned, it’s indeed an hour of cold-blooded calculations, embracing the realpolitik of expedient alliances, but from where I’m sitting there’s no ideology in sight. If “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method” improves on the dire “comedy” of “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate,” it nonetheless fails to suggest much more than madness in the method, as Orphan Black resumes its retreat into the realm of pure plot.

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 7, "Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 7, “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 7, “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”

Be careful what you wish for. In my recap of last week’s “Certain Agony of the Battlefield,” I pleaded for more “multilayered texture” to “lighten the mood,” and as if part of some cruel trick, tonight’s episode of Orphan Black obliges with an hour of paper-thin comic contrivances, all topped with a generous sprinkling of mawkish sentiment. Absent the narrative crutch of imprisoned sestras and Castor conspiracies, “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate” must stand on its own two feet, and the fact that it stumbles so badly doesn’t bode well for this shambolic season’s looming finale.

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 6, "Certain Agony of the Battlefield"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”

Wracked by high fever, Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) slips into delirium midway through “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” and comes face to face with the origins of Orphan Black. Infected via blood transfusion with the Castor clones’ STD, she passes through a tunnel in her mind’s eye only to greet Beth Childs in a gauzily lit kitchen of the afterlife, where she receives a message from her late “sestra” to the tune of the straining score. “We do terrible things for the people we love,” Beth says, referring to the impenetrable Paul Dierden (Dylan Bruce). “Stop asking, ’Why?’ Start asking, ’Who?’” Thus freighted with delusions, dream sequences, flashbacks, and musical interludes, “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” strings together a series of arresting images, but by the time Paul unwraps a grenade from his palm in the final minutes of the episode, these flickers of style add up to little more than a placeholder for dramas still to come.

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations”

The final act of “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations,” which, as it happens, is an appropriate description for viewers who’ve struggled to connect with Orphan Black this season, is nothing less than a salve. After two weeks in the weeds, “Newer Elements of Our Defense” offered, as I wrote, glimmers of hope for a return to form, and the conclusion of tonight’s episode makes good on the promise in spades. Beginning with the soused, lighthearted dance party among Felix (Jordan Gavaris), Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), and the scantily clad Gracie Johanssen (Zoe De Grand’Maison), “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations” speeds through tonal registers and narrative twists, devoting particular attention to the relationship we’ve come to care about most, that between Helena and Sarah (Tatiana Maslany). Reaching into the characters’ pasts and pressing forward with ruthless betrayals and shocking revelations, the episode may turn out to be a one-off, but it roped me back in with a reminder of what the series is capable of. “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations” is vintage Orphan Black.

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 4, "Newer Elements of Our Defense"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, “Newer Elements of Our Defense”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, “Newer Elements of Our Defense”

Picking up where “Formalized, Complex, and Costly” left off, in the field where Prolethean matriarch Bonnie Johanssen (Kristin Booth) shot her daughter’s husband, Mark (Ari Millen), at close range, tonight’s episode of Orphan Black finds the sestras (Tatiana Maslany) forging several unexpected alliances. Though the current season remains bloated with frantic subplots, it appears that the series has begun to heed President Eisenhower’s warning, in the passage from his Farewell Address to which the title alludes, against the “temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.” Bending the narrative to Maslany’s performance by focusing on the Clone Club’s familial and romantic attachments, past, present, and future, “Newer Elements of Our Defense” offers a glimmer of hope for a return to form. “I know you don’t trust me,” Sarah tells Mark, as if speaking to viewers disappointed by the previous two episodes. “I’m all you’ve got.”

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 3, "Formalized, Complex, and Costly"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 3, “Formalized, Complex, and Costly”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 3, “Formalized, Complex, and Costly”

“Formalized, Complex, and Costly,” President Eisenhower’s description of the technological revolution that accompanied World War II and the Cold War, is an apt title for tonight’s episode of Orphan Black, which hardens the narrative lacquer smeared across “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis” by throwing its full weight behind the ties between the Castor clones (Ari Millen) and their genetic “sestras” (Tatiana Maslany). There’s now no escaping the fact that the series is more or less bound to play out the curdled dramatics of the two groups chasing down their own origin stories, hemmed in all the while by Proletheans, corporate science, and military might. “Welcome to Clone Club,” Cosima says to Det. Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) early in “Formalized, Complex, and Costly,” but on the evidence of the third season so far, it may be time to bid Orphan Black farewell.

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 2, "Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 2, “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 2, “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis”

Tonight’s episode of Orphan Black, “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis,” comes all too close to the grievous error of which its title warns. Alone, the phrase, cribbed from Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, may suggest light at the end of the tunnel, but in context it’s the very sacrifices we make on the altar of expediency that set us up for disaster down the line. “To meet it successfully,” Eisenhower says of the Soviet threat, “there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle.” Suddenly consumed by the need to explain Project Castor, by its crisis of narrative, Orphan Black seems increasingly willing to jettison the rich characterization of the “sestras” in favor of constructing conspiracies, and “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis” may be the show’s worst episode to date.

Orphan Black Recap Season 3, Episode 1, "The Weight of This Combination"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 1, “The Weight of This Combination”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 3, Episode 1, “The Weight of This Combination”

“You’re a legend, Sarah Manning.” So one of Project Castor’s menacing clones (Ari Millen), imprisoned by the Dyad Group, pays his respects to the former con artist (Tatiana Maslany) in the season premiere of Orphan Black, as the genetic “sestras” of the series confront yet another amorphous enemy. It’s the subtext of the scene, however, that suggests both the strengths and the weaknesses of tonight’s episode, for the Castor clone’s greeting might also be taken as an acknowledgment of Maslany’s incomparable talents. “The Weight of This Combination” once again offers evidence that hers is the best performance on television, but it remains unclear if Orphan Black can keep pace.