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Kristian Bruun (#110 of 11)

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 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 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.

Orphan Black Recap Season 2, Episode 10, "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”

“Men observe when things hit, and not when they miss,” Francis Bacon once wrote, “and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other.” Published posthumously, his “natural history, in ten centuries” Sylva Sylvarum is a pastiche of “experiments” in the philosophy of science, but his aphoristic caution aptly describes the dangers of the episodic review. Weighing the merits of individual installments in a beloved series, particularly one as disposed to bouts of whiplash as Orphan Black, the standout moments tend to linger while the disappointments fade. The second season finale, however, provides an opportunity to reconsider the whole. “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” is best understood as a microcosm of the previous nine episodes: plagued by the same intractable flaws and buoyed by flashes of brilliance, a sloppily written marvel of editing and performance.

Orphan Black Recap Season 2, Episode 9, "Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done”

If you follow these weekly recaps of BBC America’s almost-great drama with any regularity, you know by now that I take Orphan Black’s allusions to the prolific work of English philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon seriously. It may simply be a writer’s prejudicial affection for the clever arrangement of words, but in truth such signposts crystallize both the thematic thrust of the series as a whole and the strengths and weaknesses of each individual episode. Bacon’s complex alchemy of faith and reason is the framework in which Orphan Black situates its suspicion of any system or institution that threatens to elide the personal and the familial. His words frequently reflect the stylistic and narrative messiness (“Governed As It Were by Chance”) or precision (“Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est”) of individual episodes, as though a self-reflexive comment on the episode’s shape. In this vein, “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done” perfectly describes the penultimate entry in Orphan Black’s often inspired, sometimes vexing sophomore season: Pushing the series into previously unexplored terrain, the episode counts among the best hours of television I’ve seen so far this year.

Orphan Black Recap Season 2, Episode 8, "Variable and Full of Perturbation"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, “Variable and Full of Perturbation”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, “Variable and Full of Perturbation”

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.”

Orphan Black Recap Season 2, Episode 7, "Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things"

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Orphan Black Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things”

BBC

Orphan Black Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things”

Family Day at the New Path Wellness Center features neat rows of pastel-colored name tags and, as Felix (Jordan Gavaris) observes, “some kind of public flagellation,” a felicitous setting for the crazed brilliance of “Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things.” The frustratingly inconsistent second season of Orphan Black has been a tale of two series, zigzagging from merely serviceable to wholly magnificent, and “Knowledge of Causes” qualifies as the best of times. Focused, witty, and energetic where “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings” was distracted, self-serious, and flat, this episode is a giddy reminder of the show’s intermittent greatness.