Previously on Orphan Black
This premiere was masterful in so many ways. In taking us back to the days leading up to Maggie Chen’s death, it simultaneously fleshed out and added depth to past stories, while laying a ton of groundwork for the season ahead. It was very much a parallel to the series opener, where we first entered the world through Sarah’s eyes. This time, we step into Beth’s perspective, who knows a little more, though not by much, than her sister-clone did at this stage. Beth was the one who brought the present day Clone Club members together, and the opportunity to get to know her better was both long-awaited and much appreciated.
Of course, some details of Beth’s life were reiterated. The second-hand accounts from the characters that knew her told us she was intelligent and tenacious. Something she quickly proved in her meeting with Aldous Leekie. No matter how slyly he evaded her questioning, she knew something didn’t smell right and continued to push on. Her heavy use of drugs and rocky relationship with Paul were things Sarah learned early on. Though it’s safe to say we didn’t know just how bad things were between those two – the scene in which Beth begs Paul to truly look at her, to be honest with her, was so heartbreaking. We also understood her to be somewhat of a leader in the Clone Club. Her bond with Cosima and Alison is definitely different than what Sarah has built, though. While there was a hint of a distant familial bond, Beth’s attachment feels more professional; Alison had money (and clean urine,) Cosima had science.
What we didn’t know about Beth was how she, presumably, came to be on the path leading to the discovery of her true identity.
Meet M.K., the newest clone for Tatiana Maslany to showcase her impeccable acting chops with. Though M.K.’s accent and (understandably) paranoid lifestyle slightly resemble that of Helena’s, it’s still mind-bogglingly easy to forget that Maslany is playing ALL the parts. M.K. was able to convince Beth that Paul was her monitor, and gave her a lead on the shady death of a Neolutionist. As Beth follows the lead, she enters the world of the Freaky Leekies and sees a lot of things she probably wishes she hadn’t. Like a bifurcated penis, which I’m grateful they didn’t try showing us. Unfortunately, it does get worse. By digging deeper into the Neolutionists, Beth finds herself in a situation that we know will be the beginning of her end.
Beth receives a call from Trina, a young woman she met while investigating Club Neolution, who’s worried about her boyfriend. He’s been taken to a secret location to have an implant removed from his cheek, and, unbeknownst to Beth, it’s the same two people who were burying the body of M.K.’s original lead. Beth spies on the operation, which involves removing what looks like a maggot from the young man’s face, and recognizes a third person involved; a detective from her precinct. The shock that this conspiracy goes much deeper than she could have imagined causes Beth to blow her cover. In the ensuing panic to get away, Beth accidentally shoots a civilian, Maggie Chen.
Her first thought is to call Art. He convinces her to cover it up, which makes complete sense because he’s so deeply in love with her. This is something we knew from last season, but it’s also extremely evident based on how he has her back at every turn throughout the episode. Judging by the way their hookup earlier that night started – she asks him to look at her just like she did with Paul, except he seems to genuinely see her – I’m guessing Beth was pretty in love with him, too.
We know their cover up worked, for the most part. I wonder how much of it had to do with the fact that the shady detective/Neolutionist was the one who took Beth’s statement? Either way, this turn of events has pushed Beth even deeper into her depression. Feeling regretful that she ever brought anyone else into this world, she turns to the one who brought her there. M.K. finally agrees to meet with her in person, and it’s with her new sestra that Beth seems to find some solace. Though only after taking stock of what her new life may look like. Speaking of sestras, did anyone else catch the striking parallels between M.K. and Beth, and Sarah and Helena? Brilliant.
In the end, everything comes full circle. Present-day M.K. finds Art so he can get her in touch with Sarah, to warn her that the Neolutionists know where she is, and they’re coming for Kendall.
Though there may have been a slight learning curve for those of us who didn’t remember all the juicy details of season one, this feels like the perfect spot for this story. It served as a fantastic refresher on the Neolutionists, and bolstered the excitement for their, fairly likely, return as the antagonists for this season. (Though I could do without seeing Olivier buy jewelry for his tail.) Where lesser shows would have indulged in this backstory much, much sooner, here the waiting has certainly paid off. Tenfold.
Oh, and props to the writers for making so many cameos possible. Felix being interrogated at the same place Beth works may feel a little contrived to some; it was a little tricky how they didn’t see each other once, but I loved seeing his face again.
Orphan Black S4E1 = 10/10