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Orphan Black: "Governed By Sound Reason And True Religion"

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After the perfectly calibrated runaway train that was the season opener, “Governed By Sound Reason And True Religion” sends the train chugging back up a hill. Where “Nature Under Constraint And Vexed” gleefully threw caution to the wind, this follow-up necessarily brings everything back down to earth. It’s a filler episode that sets up the main conflicts of the season. That’s not to say it’s stagnant, since it still features several genuinely shocking moments. It’s still Orphan Black, after all. But it’s hard to know how to feel about “Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion” when so much of it hinges on, “just wait and see.”

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This holds true for much of Sarah’s plot, which finds her falling upon yet another conspiracy. Mrs. S’ background with “the Birdwatchers” and her involvement in Project Leda remain unclear.  We don’t know who she’s working with, what she’s been doing for however many years, how much she knows about everything else, and most pressingly, whether she’s working for or against the clones. All we know is, she’s always known Sarah’s a clone, Kira doesn’t trust her, and that she’s capable of some truly fucking horrific violence if her pinning a woman to a table with knives through the hands is any indication. Maria Doyle Kennedy does her best work yet in this episode even if we don’t know what her motivations are yet. Her face clouds over just slightly when Sarah shows her the Project Leda picture, shakes just slightly when Sarah stares at her in shock from the truck. At this point, all we can be sure of is that Mrs. S believes she’s on Sarah’s side, and she stepped aside and let her and Kira escape to prove it.

While Sarah tackles the big picture, Alison spends the entire episode confirming that Donnie is her monitor. It was surprising that she learned it this early on, but it’ll be fascinating to know what she does next. Learning that Donnie is her monitor is an earth-shattering realization for Alison. Every single thing she’s done since we met her has been to preserve her family and return her life to “normalcy” (whatever that means). The only thing keeping her together after Aynsley’s death was the idea that she had finally won her life back. For Alison, the worst part about finding out she’s a clone was not knowing what that actually means. She values precision and order above all else, which is why she signed Leekie’s contract. It was clear, it was iron-clad, and it even had a code of conduct! Living by real, defined terms was such a relief for Alison; discovering that the contract is just another layer of deceit could very well destroy her. Making things worse is that she’s also lost the only person she thought she could trust. Not Donnie—Felix.

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In an otherwise strictly plotted series, Alison and Felix’s unlikely friendship has been a delightful sidebar. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that them getting closer was never part of the long term plan, and that it was only written once they saw how good Jordan Garvais’ languorous Felix is opposite Tatiana Maslany’s chirpy Alison. Their scenes together have become the show’s most reliable sources of comedy, and their kindergarten classroom freakout session this episode is no exception. It’s a mark of how far they’ve come that Alison’s reaction to Felix crashing her musical rehearsal is, “oh, thank God.” They’re so comfortable with each other at this point that Felix doesn’t even blink when Alison finishes one bottle of vodka only to pull out another, or when she begs him not to tell Sarah or anyone about Aynsley’s death. He’s the only person she can be truly honest with, which is no small feat for someone as aggressively guarded as Alison. So while I understand that Felix doesn’t want to tell her much about where he’s off to with Sarah and Kira, it feels awfully cold when he tells her to focus on her musical and “play possum” to deal with her husband monitor. Alison plays her suspicions incredibly close to the chest this episode—which is especially surprising given her record of glue gun torture and passenger seat adultery—but now that Felix has left her, there’s no telling what form her breakdown might take. (A safe bet says “drinking and rage,” but I could die happy if it included an impassioned Alison Hendrix cover of “Let It Go.”)

I do hope that Alison losing Felix and Sarah means that she might draw Cosima back into her orbit. We’ve never seen Alison and Cosima interact one-on-one. I get the feeling that they avoided it even before Sarah was in the picture, since Beth seemed to be their lynchpin.  Even aside from wanting to see Alison wrinkle her nose through a cloud of pot smoke, though, I really just want Cosima’s storyline to loop back in with the other clones. Even when she’s not all the way in Minnesota, Cosima’s always felt separate from the others. While Sarah and Alison are fighting tooth and nail for their families, Cosima fights for their biology. The show’s spent so much time developing her dynamic with Delphine that there hasn’t been any room for her to develop relationships with Sarah and Alison beyond their basic clone loyalty. Speaking of, Rachel handing over Sarah’s genome sequence is a bold move. Even aside from what Cosima might find, it could become a massive intrusion of trust. Whatever the outcome, though, Cosima’s upcoming Dyad lab probably means she’ll have more face-time with Rachel, who’s her opposite in just about every way. Unfortunately, this interaction follows this episode’s pattern of setting up potentially fascinating dynamics rather than exploring them outright.

Thinking about it now, though, Cosima and Rachel meeting reflects this episode’s preoccupation with mirror images. Cosima and Rachel couldn’t be more different; even physically, it’s jarring to see Cosima’s bouncing dreadlocks and Rachel’s meticulous bob occupy the same frame. Still, they’re linked in a way Sarah and Alison will never understand by their mutual need to unlock the secrets of their genomes.  Felix and Alison don’t make any sense as friends on paper, but their bond came out of a shared love of obliteration and disdain for plebes. And then, of course, there are the literal mirror images of Sarah and Helena. As per Rachel’s suspicions, these two are looking more and more like super-clone anomalies, between Sarah’s ability to reproduce to Helena’s ability to heal. (This also means Kira is probably definitely some super Miracle Child—by far my least favorite science fiction trope.) The show’s always had fun juxtaposing Sarah and Helena, so the reveal that they’re mirror images of each other isn’t quite as surprising as it might have been. In fact, Tomas gasping that Helena’s heart “is on the wrong side” is so clearly a metaphor that it’s almost a groaner. We get it—Sarah could’ve been Helena, Helena could’ve been Sarah, they’re total opposites while being exactly the same. Again, the fallout of this realization is going to be a lot more noteworthy than its reveal.

Since most of the action in “Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion” favors setting up dominos more than knocking any down, it’s fitting that the most interesting part of the episode is actually an underlying theme that Graeme Manson and Karen Walton’s script takes care to include, but never quite make explicit. No matter where the clones turn in this episode, they meet men who lay claim to their bodies. We see it with Cosima, when Leekie grabs her shoulders and the camera closes in on her face over him, making us feel as claustrophobic as she does in that moment. We see it with Alison, when her musical director uses the pretense of breathing exercises to grope her. We see it with Sarah, when the Birdwatcher’s lackey grabs her from behind and forces her into a trunk. We see it with Helena, over and over and over again.

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Helena has been physically objectified and repurposed more than any of the clones. The religious fanatics she grew up with saw her as an abomination rather than a person, and while the “family” on the farm sees potential for greatness in her, they still refer to her as “it,” or in strict medical terms that deny her humanity. “Governed By Sound Reason And True Religion” works hard to underline the fact that Helena’s just a body to these people. The camera’s slow pan over to Tomas self-flagellating over Helena’s unconscious body is a deliberate mislead; his grunts and sighs sound more sexual than spiritual. Then we see Tomas’ mirror image in Henrik, whose faith runs just as deep even as it flows in a different direction. There’s no question what he intends to do with Helena as he sermonizes about the biological advances she could represent. The first time we met him, he was fertilizing a cow; to him, fertilizing Helena is just the next logical step. It’s horrifying, but it’s not surprising. The clones’ are battling for the right to control their own miraculous bodies—and the fight is far from over.

Stray observations:

  • Poor Art always gets shunted to my stray observations, but Sarah filling him in on Clone Club makes him a hell of a lot more interesting, so he’ll probably make into the actual review soon. I hope so, anyway—Kevin Hanchard is doing such great work with what he’s got (“yeah, well, I’m over it”).
  • I know everyone’s anxious to meet Kira’s dad, but I’m totally perplexed as to why we haven’t met Alison and Cosima’s parents. Wouldn’t they be the first people to poke for answers?
  • I have a feeling that Cosima insisting that her sexuality isn’t the most interesting thing about her isn’t true—at least genetically speaking.
  • However good Maslany is, it must be said that the only way to describe Rachel Duncan’s accent is “generic British villain.”
  • Jordan Garvais is particularly fun in this episode, especially as Felix tries to tell Alison that watching Aynsley die wasn’t so bad. (“…are you joking? No, okay.” “She wore a scarf in the kitchen!”)
  • Aynsley’s tombstone: “The song has ended, but the melody lingers on.” Oh boy, does it.
  • Bless Alison for going to a funeral as Holly Golightly.
  • Alison, campaigning hard for queen of my heart: “I think I need to keep drinking, and then I’ll have an idea.”
  • Cosima, making said queen of my heart decision difficult: “I was ‘clever’ when I was like, six.”