Previously on Orphan Black, “Clutch of Greed”
Alison’s role in the Clone Club has always been a little less defined than her sestras’. Beth could access useful information thanks to her job in law enforcement, Cosima’s scientific knowledge has been vital to understanding more about what these women are and in finding a cure, and Helena is the muscle. Sarah, well, she’s the main character and has therefore become the clone that’s constantly thrust into dangerous circumstances in order to keep her and her families safe. Even MK, like the cold-hearted Mr. Frontenac tells Alison, “had more value,” likely because of her expertise in technology.
This Odd Man Out-ness has been evident throughout the series. Much of the focus on Alison’s character has been about her life in the community of Bailey Downs. Previous episodes centered on Alison have often felt somewhat separated from a season’s main plot, and in ensemble episodes she and Donnie have been used as the comic relief more than a few times. To be clear, these aren’t negatives – Alison has had some terrific storylines – they’re simply examples of how she’s slightly detached from her sestras in this regard. It’s never been a problem for Sarah, Cosima, or Helena because Alison is always there for them when it counts. Sharing a unique biology such as theirs, and agreeing they should have the freedom to live their lives despite it, makes for one hell of a bond, too. However, it’s been hinted at once or twice that Alison struggles with her place in all of this. In “Beneath Her Heart” it becomes clear she’d been experiencing identity issues long before that identity had anything to do with being a clone.
Through flashbacks to a time in Alison’s life when she still believed her physical similarities to Beth were a mere coincidence, we see those issues come to light. Wanting to escape Beth’s calls for a night, and her looming need to acknowledge the C word, (not that C word!) Alison says yes to trying mushrooms for the first time (and probably her last) with Aynsley and Chad. Yes, that Aynsley, who Alison doesn’t yet despise enough to let choke to death on a scarf caught in a garbage disposal. Their night is all fun and games and, like, have you ever just really, truly stared at your hands, man? But then Cosima shows up. At first, it’s hilarious. We’re treated to a firsthand perspective of how the hallucinogens are distorting Alison’s perception of Cosima; she’s even more animated than usual. And the way Alison reached for Cosima’s nose ring, personal space be damned, was highly amusing. Unfortunately, the trip takes a dark turn from there.
Sitting in front of a mirror, Alison questions her entire life. Why was she born with this face, of all the possible faces? How, when her life could have gone anywhere, did she wind up “microwaving mini-pizzas and chauffeuring kids to circus camp”? Perhaps most heartbreaking, though, is when she tells Donnie “sometimes, you look at me so strangely, it’s like our entire life is a lie.” Alison didn’t even know how right she was and Donnie’s reaction is proof he at least had some conflicted feelings about his monitor position. Luckily, Aynsley pulled her friend out of the bad vibes zone, and Orphan Black filled in a few gaps in their relationship. They were more than just neighbors; they bonded over that grey area in life where a person outwardly has everything, yet wonders if they don’t have some larger purpose. High as kites or not, these women clearly had a meaningful connection – which only makes Aynsley’s death even more tragic.
In present day, Alison is still questioning her purpose. She’s essentially worthless to Neolution and the activities in Bailey Downs have continued on without her guidance. It wasn’t a great time for her to find a forgotten bottle of Lorazepam. Alison attempts to keep her head held high and offer her assistance at the Church Fall Fun Fair, but she’s immediately reminded of just how unwelcome she is. From there, her day turns into complete chaos. A disheveled looking Chad suggests it was their affair that caused his wife’s death, and when she tries to come clean about what happened, he says she should just move on. She runs into her old dealer, Ramone, and barely hesitates to get drunk and stoned with him in his truck. And, she inadvertently causes Donnie to overdose on the aforementioned Lorazepam. It’s a small miracle she didn’t slip on a banana peel, fall into a dumpster, and come out with spaghetti in her hair.
When Donnie passes out during his Highland dance routine, the crowd starts whispering about the Hendrixes being a family of alcoholics, and Alison reached her patience limit for the day. She calls out the hypocrites who bought drugs from her, and berates the community for tossing her away like trash after she gave them so much of her life. Her reputation, her identity in this space has always been of great importance, but what is it worth if these people would so easily cast her aside? Thankfully, Felix had arrived and stopped Alison before she could say anything too revealing. However, he’s also there with the news that Maddy has found the graveyard in the Hendrix garage. And this is where Alison reaches her limit for feeling useless.
Knowing a thing or two about just how much weight appearances can carry, Alison guesses Rachel wouldn’t really want her and Donnie to go down for murder. All roads lead back to Neolution after all, especially since one of the bodies is a Castor clone. So, Alison delivers Leekie’s severed head and calls Rachel’s bluff. It’s easy to forget these women have never met before, and this is quite the introduction. Alison approaches Rachel in a way Sarah and Cosima never have, and it’s a worthy first step in proving to herself, and Neolution, that she does have significant value and purpose. It’s not enough, though, and we later see a tearful Alison tell Donnie she needs to go away for a while. She’s desperate to discover who she is and that journey has been a long time coming.
While it’s certainly possible that Orphan Black will follow Alison on this adventure, it seems like a side story that’s better suited to any season but a final one. So, it would appear “Beneath Her Heart” is the last time we’ll see our favorite homemaker for at least a little while, and it feels very bittersweet. As with any of the main clones, you want Alison to find true happiness, but it’s unfortunate she can’t do so while remaining part of the main story.
- Alison and Donnie’s duet was maybe the sweetest thing that’s ever happened on this show. They actually sound great together, too! Is there anything Tatiana can’t do?
- The last time we see Kira, she’s sneakily removing a pocketknife from her drawer. (Why she even has that is a discussion unto itself.) Is her plan to see if Rachel was telling the truth about the mouse? Or, does she believe Rachel and want to see if her own body has a similar ability to regenerate skin? Either way, I appreciate the attempt to keep the mystery of Kira moving along.
- I can’t quite put my finger on how, but there is some kind of connection between Kira and the main plot. This mouse can continuously hit the restart button, and Alison, though not for lack of trying, is a woman who can’t seem to find peace with the skin she’s in. Also, she says this: “I’ve been rattling around my own skin for some time, and I think I finally popped loose.”
- Does Donnie have a penis piercing? If not, what did Felix mean by “the weirdest people get one” when Donnie flashed the audience?
- I know Art is doing more than his fair share to protect the clones, but I really wish he pulled the trigger and took Maddy out. She continues to be way too mustache-twirly-evil for my taste.
Orphan Black S5E3
"Beneath Her Heart"
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kristian Bruun, Kevin Hanchard, Skyler Wexler, Josh Vokey, Ari Millen, Evelyne Brochu