Orphan Black is a show that depends heavily on the element of surprise, as any good thriller does. You may think you know what’s happening, but how the show gets to the outcome is half the fun—the best episodes tweak viewer expectations and narrative convention. This was part of the issue in the last two episodes. The plot was either going in odd directions, or it was taking really unnecessary steps to get there.
But in “The Redesign of Natural Objects,” in one respect, we already know what’s going to happen. Sarah and Mrs. S are on to Duko from the start, thanks to Mrs. S trying to hunt him down, so there’s very little concern about him succeeding in his plans. Instead, the show derives real tension and emotional stakes from the question of whether or not Alison knows she’s helping them. She’s clearly tempted (and with good reason) to trade Sarah’s wellbeing for Donnie’s, and we see her tell Duko where to find Sarah without ever seeing her communicate with Felix about what’s happening. Throughout the entire sting, we’re not scared for Sarah’s wellbeing. We’re scared Alison has betrayed her. And it says something about the type of show this is that that’s the bigger concern than the murderous, unpredictable Duko.
It’s the product of seasons of character building. The Alison of Season 1 would have turned over Sarah without a second thought. And even within this season, that relationship has been fraught. Even beyond the fact that Alison and Sarah are wildly different people leading very different lives, Alison has been the odd one out this year, trying to put up with Helena and deal with the ramifications of her drug lord days, while Sarah and Cosima are basically roommates at this point. And the show holds out as long as possible before we know for sure Alison is in on the plan.
Of course she is. She’s not going to betray her sisters that easily, but more importantly, Alison is not an idiot. But Evie Cho might be. She’s been with Neolution for a long time, and she thought she could take down Clone Club with just Duko? They’ve outlasted Leekie, Dyad, and a host of other villains, with essentially no money or resources. Just their cleverness, the motivation provided by the constant threat of their own imminent deaths, and the fact that they operate as one feverishly loyal unit. If the price of being reminded of that is having the music from Jesus Christ Superstar in our heads for days, it’s probably worth it. Not only do we get reminded that the sisterhood will always take priority, we see a really courageous side of Alison, the clone least likely to be taken seriously. It took nerves of steel to do what she did, and an intense faith in Sarah, all while pretending everything was fine. That pastor is totally up to something, though, right?
The plotting of M.K.’s return is also handled well. There’s actually a pretty compelling reason for all of the clones to be working together, but the show has rarely used it, other than Sarah and Alison’s expected desire to help Cosima. It doesn’t make sense for MK to come back to the group, until one brief, nonverbal scene explains it. Whether she decides to betray them, as Rachel clearly is going to do, remains to be seen.
Speaking of Rachel, who’s her new buddy? Can he see her? Doesn’t he think his metaphor is a little heavy-handed? It’s generally always entertaining to see Rachel thwarted (sorry, Rachel), but at least with Sarah Manning, she knew what she was facing. Why hasn’t she asked Susan where the eye came from? Susan doesn’t seem to know something is happening. And does the dead swan represent what’s coming to all the clones, or what will happen if Rachel works with them?
It’s a little late in the season for someone new to be added to the ever-widening circle of players, but since Evie Cho is obviously (well, hopefully) about to get a pretty severe comeuppance, are we getting a glimpse of Season 5’s villain?
- Poor Hell Wizard. Did they really have to wait to spring the trap until Duko smashed his face into a counter?
- “Yes, I’m sure you’re very excited about your contribution, Ira.” Clearly, Rachel has bigger fish to fry, but if she wanted to hang out insulting Ira all day, that would be very welcome.
- Alternatively, watching her attempt to use normal slang while talking to Cosima is also a satisfactory use of her talents. That “yo” just oozed utter disdain.
- Things we learned about Duko just before he died: he has a niece, he’s super crooked, and he’s quite the D&D fan. Has D&D ever been used so threateningly?
- Which brings us to the other amazing Rachel point: she cheated at Agricola! Why even bother to cheat under those circumstances, Rachel?
- Worth mentioning: Sarah Stubbs has some pipes.