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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Orphan Black: “Ruthless In Purpose, And Insidious In Method”

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There are no explosive moments in “Ruthless In Purpose, And Insidious In Method.” There are no kidnappings, no gunpoint standoffs, no wild chase scenes, no deaths. There are none of those jaw dropping “did they just do that?!” moments that people inevitably point to when explaining the twisting and turning appeal of Orphan Black—and yet this episode is by far the best of the season. Where the first half of the season was eager to show off how big the world has become, this second half leans on the element of the show that has always been its strongest: its characters.

While last week’s episode benefited from putting a clear and purposeful spotlight on characters the season had sidelined, this week’s manages to bring just about everyone into the story without making it seem like a labored effort. More than anything, the sheer weight of all the lies, trauma, and paranoia come crashing down on everyone right when they need to know who they can trust.

This is especially true for new Leda clone Krystal, whose openhearted confessions immediately set her apart from her more guarded sisters. A couple weeks ago I would have been alarmed if you had told me that this overstuffed season was about to introduce yet another clone, but damn if co-creators John Graeme and Graeme Manson (who wrote this episode together) didn’t convince me Krystal belongs here. Part of this is the unfair fact that after three seasons of watching the show and Tatiana Maslany work its clone magic, the novelty of seeing the clones we already know interact has worn off. Don’t get me wrong: it’s no less impressive from a technical and acting standpoint when new characters interact with new clones, or when multiple clones are facing off in the same frame, but we’re used to it by now. Krystal is instantly memorable for her radically different look, but the script makes sure she is also different enough from her sisters in temperament and sentiment that she (not to mention Maslany) cover new ground. It’s this kind of distinction that has made Ari Millen’s Castor clones pale in comparison to Maslany’s Leda, and not because he has failed to act them well; the women are just more distinct from each other.

Krystal is also one of the better examples of how Orphan Black can take a first impression and demolish it with unexpected empathy (like how Alison emerged from her initial uptight soccer mom role to become a consistent fan favorite). Our first impression of Krystal was that grainy security camera footage Sarah saw, in which she wears a skintight dress, snaps bubblegum with a wicked grin, and makes out with Rudy in an elevator. Then, this episode opens with Delphine getting a manicure and an earful from her, her wide eyes, push-up bra, and vocal fry signaling that “herein lies a bimbo.” But as we spend more time with her Krystal reminds us that there is always a unique heart beating underneath the exterior we’ve seen so many times before. Jordan Gavaris again proves he’s crucial opposite Maslany, as Felix adopts a slick new accent to con Krystal into trusting him, reluctantly preying on her vulnerability before he finally crumbles. Both he and Sarah try to convince themselves that swiping her identity in exchange for Rachel’s cooperation is the only option, and hey, they’re tried and true con artists, aren’t they? But so much has happened since Sarah swiped Beth’s identity without a second thought. They just can’t separate the person from the con like they used to. So as much as Sarah insists that this is the right thing, and that keeping Krystal out of the loop even as this new sister is trying to piece it all together is for her own good, they both know she’s full of shit—and it doesn’t help Krystal, in the end.

As strange as it is for Sarah to keep finding people who look just like her, Felix keeps having to forge new relationships with women who look and sound just like his sister. As Krystal talks about not feeling right, blinking through tears with a sad smile, it’s clear that Felix can’t help but see his sister in there somewhere. Gavaris and Maslany are just wonderful in these scenes together, slipping into a new dynamic that ends with a powerful emotional moment of support that just punches you right in the gut.

Then there’s Cosima, who’s been struggling through a devastating heartbreak, a debilitating illness, and the frustrating realization that she has no idea what counts as thinking clearly anymore. This would be hard for anyone, but as Orphan Black’s resident scientist, Cosima really can’t stand uncertainty. And so she takes a hard line stance that makes everything easier to process: Delphine can’t be trusted. Given all they know and have experienced of Dyad, this is a perfectly logical conclusion. Even Delphine acknowledges in this episode that Rachel was ruthless when she had her position. Whatever history Delphine and Cosima had, they have always felt the weight of the conspiracies around them. Cosima herself has said in the past that the Leda clones can’t trust anyone but each other, and that bond is what she reaches for in this darkness.

The ensuing dance between Cosima and Delphine as each tries to size up the other, be confident in what they think is best, and trust themselves is the most compelling they have been as a pair in ages—even if it is hard to watch. Despite Delphine’s constant pleas for trust, neither of them trusts the other. It’s the very definition of a vicious cycle. Delphine works at Dyad, which Cosima doesn’t trust but needs, and Delphine wants to work with Cosima, but she’s in a position at Dyad that makes secrets necessary to her work. There is just no winning here. The moment when both Cosima and Delphine realize this, staring at each other through tears when they finally talk to each other like people instead of suspects, is heartbreaking. I’ve enjoyed Evelyne Brochu as a sleek villainess more than anyone, but she has rarely had a better moment than when letting go of the icy façade and giving in to Delphine’s despair.


Even Scott gets an emotional wallop of a scene, thanks to Rudy breaking into his apartment and essentially holding his cat hostage. Scott, who has become one of the most pleasant surprises of this season with his steadfast loyalty to Cosima, gets some fleshing out. Scott never wanted to get caught up in the conspiracies of Dyad and Topside and Castor. He just wanted to solve some problems, do some research, and help his friend. But it was only a matter of time until his involvement came back to bite him in a tangible way, and so an unstable Castor clone breaks into Scott’s apartment, makes fun of his sci-fi, and makes sure this nerd knows he has him by the nape of his cat’s neck. Josh Vokey nails Scott’s panic, making it impossible not to sympathize with his dilemma, so when it’s revealed that Rudy got Duncan’s book it’s just as hard to blame him for giving in. Scott once again reminds us of the price that comes with being close to Leda. It doesn’t matter whether you want to be involved in Clone Club or not; it only matters that you’re in it.

Every screener I’ve had for this show opens with a plea to keep the plot twists to myself so everyone can fall down the Orphan Black “rabbit hole” as the show intends. It’s a convenient shorthand for escalating twists, but “Ruthless In Purpose, And Insidious In Method.” really does feel like all the characters are falling, trying desperately to grasp whatever or however they can to stay steady. Sarah grabs the bargain Rachel sets, hoping it’s finally their chance to get ahead of those that conspire against them; Rachel grabs an opportunity to get her freedom at whatever cost. Helena and Gracie reach for each other, knowing what the other has gone through, knowing they need each other. Alison takes the chance to see what giving in to temptation with Jason might feel like, even if just for a second. Cosima and Delphine try not to hold on to each other, fail, and then wrench themselves apart. Krystal grasps for any thread of certainty in her increasingly shaky world, even if it’s a strange man who shows her a shred of kindness and a bit of warmth. But her sisters’ good intentions keep her from being able to grip anything solid, and so the girl they all try to keep out of danger ends up lying on a bed in an induced coma. Krystal could never stay out of Clone Club. She was in it all along.

Stray observations:

  • Rachel Dunan, you wily minx. Of course they couldn’t trust her, but I’m thrilled that Rachel’s a villain worth reckoning with again, even if she doesn’t have her magnificent eye patch anymore.
  • Again, Kristian Bruun makes Donnie so much more fun than that character could’ve been. His slapfight with Justin Chatwin was great, but special points go to Donnie bonding with Helena.
  • Man I hope Shay isn’t a plant, but that folder is definitely not encouraging.
  • I know that accent is Jordan Gavaris’ natural one, but it freaked me out.
  • Next week: Londontown.