Previously on Orphan Black, “Let the Children and the Childbearers Toil”
Flashbacks can be a fairly risky form of storytelling. When used inadequately, they often feel like a lazy way for writers to fill in the gaps on two-dimensional characters, or spoon-feed the audience to make sure everyone is on the same page. Perhaps worst of all, a flashback may be used with the intention of making parallels or connections with the present day story, but wind up serving no other purpose than filling an episode’s runtime. Even the best of shows have been guilty of this – The Leftovers and How To Get Away With Murder have definitely crossed the line when it comes to spoon-feeding, and Orange is the New Black mostly gets it wrong when showing us a character’s backstory.
On the flip side, flashbacks can be an integral and highly satisfying aspect of a TV show. The Handmaid’s Tale used this narrative device to build the world of Gilead to great effect, and This Is Us hardly ever fails to unite its dual timelines’ plots in meaningful ways. Somewhere in the middle, is Orphan Black; a show that doesn’t always include flashbacks but always gets them right when it does. One of the best episodes of the series to date was the season four premiere, when we finally learned more about Beth. Her backstory seamlessly set the tone for a season-long theme of going back to the beginning. Two weeks ago, the glimpses into Alison’s past were used perfectly to propel her present day story of needing to learn who she is, apart from clone, wife, and mother. In “Ease for Idle Millionaires” a flashback to Cosima discovering her DNA is someone else’s property and telling Delphine (the first person to ever know) that she is sick, was a beautiful way to set the tone and establish a motivation for the entire episode.
At the heart of that flashback are three factors: Cosima’s despair that something she loves so dearly (science) has been used against her, Delphine’s insistence that Cosima is more than just her DNA, and the problematic qualities inherent to their budding relationship. Throughout the episode all of these elements are explored and progressed, and their relationship, in particular, was finally given the moment of honesty it was both deserving of and desperate for. All of this, while also continuing to move along the plot with the most burning question: what does Neolution want with Kira? It would have been easy to include Sarah’s reaction to the reveal that Rachel has been finding surrogates to implant with Kira’s eggs – and one can only assume that’s going to be an epic mix of heartbreak and rage – but it felt far more appropriate to focus on Cosima’s. It gives us another avenue within which to explore the inner battle she continues to fight between her fascination and disgust of Neo science.
With the exception of the Leda cure, Cosima’s investigation into Neolution always uncovers new suffering. In “Ease for Idle Millionaires,” after following the crazy science being conducted on Aisha, she exposed its link to Yanis and to PT’s so called “fountain.” With that bit of information, she forced her way into getting a seat at the literal Neolution table and eventually learned of their plans for Kira’s eggs. What makes Cosima so compelling, is that she continues to be true to herself and “defy them” at every twist and turn; she continues to push on for the truth. What’s confusing, and perhaps predictable of a man like this, is that PT would expect any less from her. He’s the one who gave her full access to the labs at Revival with the hopes she would work for him in the future, so why is he so surprised that she’s figured out so much? Did he really think she would just work on the cure and then sit around twiddling her thumbs for the rest of the time? For such a science genius, he’s pretty stupid.
PT underestimates Cosima’s capacity for humanity, as well, and proceeds to prove his lack of any by killing Yanis when she refused to pull the trigger. It’s a shocking moment; somewhat reminiscent of the time Cosima was forced to witness Kendall Malone’s death, and elicits just as many tears. If there was a weakness to the episode, though, it was the surplus of time spent on tracking Yanis is the woods, and the lack of it spent helping the audience understand why his death would be an ethical choice. Still, Cosima’s dilemma works for two reasons: it’s emblematic of her character and, more relevant here, the tie-in with the flashback. She knows firsthand there is more to a Neolution test subject than what is on the surface, or even at the core of their biology.
Cosima’s endless strength is likely something she’s always had, but it’s also clear Delphine’s words to her from the flashback have made an impact. She’s managed to hold on to her wit, intellect, and integrity, no matter how much pain her journey has brought. For this reason (and others) it’s really too bad Delphine is still shady as shit. As much as we want those crazy kids to make crazy science together, it’s impossible not to feel uneasy every time Cosima shares a new discovery with Delphine. Especially when that information always seems to make its way back to someone it shouldn’t. However, it was refreshing to see Delphine be so candid with Cosima about herself and their relationship. As they acknowledge their issues and decide to accept them, the original flashback comes back to bookend the episode in a most delicate way. Their relationship still needs a lot of work, and likely won’t make any significant progress until they can both sever ties from Neolution. But, it’s hard to deny the profound chemistry (there’s a science pun in there somewhere) that’s unmistakable between them. Here’s hoping they won’t let PT divide them as he has done with so many other women.
- So, Delphine is just one of the people feeding S information from inside Neolution. Is the other person Ira? I honestly forgot he was even working for the good guys because, well, a Castor clone is just easily forgettable.
- Last week I speculated that Sarah was going to start being honest with Kira fairly soon, but I didn’t expect it to come in the following episode. There are still a ton of blanks to fill in, but teaching Kira how to hustle Rachel feels very natural on Sarah’s part.
- Rachel is such a petulant baby. She picks on the weak (her mother) and, because she certainly can’t insult the woman’s intelligence, she makes an insensitive remark about Delphine’s looks. I really wish Rachel didn’t always look SO good. Cosima looked great in that suit, but Rachel was definitely best dressed at the costume dinner party from hell.
- For those of you who recognize Mud but didn’t feel the need to IMDB her, I did it for all of us. Turns out, she played Ofsamuel on The Handmaid’s Tale. She’s the one who said, “Oh, I hate stonings.” I also discovered that Rita from THT played Marci Coates, the woman Alison ran against for school trustee in Bailey Downs.
Orphan Black S5E5
"Ease for Idle Millionaires"
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kristian Bruun, Kevin Hanchard, Skyler Wexler, Josh Vokey, Ari Millen, Evelyne Brochu