Previously on Orphan Black, “Ease for Idle Millionaires”
Since Orphan Black is a show about human cloning, and crazy science in general, it was anyone’s guess whether or not PT Westmoreland was exactly who he claimed to be. Last week, Cosima inferred that his age was all just smoke and mirrors, but this week it was confirmed as fact. The enigmatic and arrogant old Father of Neolution is actually just some guy named John. Some guy named John would never have had the adequate importance or appeal to lead Neolution’s cause, so he adopted PT’s identity and manipulated people into doing and following his work. That a generic, mediocre white man is at the top of Neolution’s chain isn’t surprising, but the reveal of this significant detail should have carried more weight than it managed. We didn’t need to feel the same sense of betrayal and rage as the villagers of Revival had upon learning their leader was a child-killing fraud. But, it would have been nice for such a moment to illicit more than just a shoulder shrug, accompanied with an “oh, ok, sure.”
The problem with the scene wasn’t an uncommon one for television. Many shows with particularly multilayered plots will sometimes rely on overly explanatory scenes, instead of trusting their audience to handle subtlety. Exposition and plot development are integral mechanics to storytelling, but they’re best executed when the moving parts aren’t exposed; when the viewer doesn’t even notice the machine at work. The truth of John’s identity came during an extremely inauthentic conversation between he and Susan. These are two people who have known each other for decades – possibly as more than just colleagues – and their dialogue should reflect that. Their back-and-forth was entirely for the sake of the audience and rang false for that reason. When two characters each know a story, there’s no reason for them to talk about it as if they don’t. With just a few small tweaks to the dialogue, this scene could have been the bigger moment it deserved to be.
“Manacled Slim Wrists” had other moments of narrative inelegance, particularly when S continued to keep her Neolution source a secret from Sarah. At this point, it’s a mystery just for the hell of it. S and Sarah’s relationship progressed in such a way during “Let the Children and the Childbearers Toil,” that the logical next step would have been for S to be honest. OB is waiting for the “right” moment to divulge the second source, and for all of this false suspense, it had better be worth it.
Similarly frustrating, and bordering the unnecessary, was learning the reason behind Mud’s unwavering faith in PT. It wasn’t that her experience and resulting loyalty was unbelievable, it’s that it all felt a little clichéd. For a show that consistently excels at giving women such complex characters to portray, Mud’s indebted drug addict feels like a step backwards; a caricature TV has given us one too many times. Would she not have been worthy of our sympathy had she just been a regular woman who got caught up in the impressive illusion of Revival? And why work so hard to provoke that compassion only to have Mud double-cross Cosima, Susan, and Ira? Some combination of the lackluster reveal of John, and the clunky, last-minute background on Mud, made it difficult to care when she discovered the photo of a young “PT” in the 1960’s.
Despite these hiccups, “Manacled Slim Wrists” wasn’t a total wash, thanks to the reappearance of Krystal. There’s always an added vibrancy to OB whenever this clone is around. It’s clear the entire cast has a lot of fun whenever they get to interact with (or portray) her. The dialogue and one-liners she gets are certainly part of that enjoyment – referring to Sarah as, “that Australian girl” was just one of the highlights this time around. But Krystal is much more than just an amusing, perpetually gum-chewing, beauty vlogger; something she continues to prove every time she resurfaces. Though it would be nice for her come to terms with the fact she’s a clone, and be a part of the Leda sestrahood, she’s still been valuable to the cause while remaining on the fringes of that truth.
Krystal’s intuition about Neolution’s connection to Big Cosmetics may have been for slightly misguided reasons, but was nevertheless correct all along. And while she may have had the specifics wrong about why her fellow vlog co-host, Brie, (Cara Ricketts) started unexpectedly shedding hair, she had the right hunch in bringing the news to the secret lab. What unfolds as a result, is proof OB knows how to weave disparate threads in delicate, satisfying ways. The precision given to her entire storyline is in direct contrast to the clumsiness happening at Revival and in the Sadler/Manning household. The way Krystal’s plot effortlessly intersected with both Felix and Adele’s, and Rachel/DYAD’s, is a perfect example of how to move a story along without making it feel mechanical.
Part of that may be attributable to the sheer entertainment value of watching Krystal go undercover. She displayed the subtlety of a brick through a window during her turn at espionage, and every minute of it was fantastic. Regardless of her bluntness, she managed to get important information from her beauty industry contact, Leonard Sipp, (Tom Cullen.) Sipp, the CEO of BlueZone, a company recently purchased by DYAD, spills all the tea after Krystal shows off some of what she learned in all those self-defense classes. The reason for Brie’s hair loss, was due to a face cream she swiped from Sipp’s house, which turned out to be a prototype for a method of dermal delivery systems. A product that works on a cellular level such as this is just what DYAD would be after, and for far worse purposes than hair loss. Perhaps the best part of all, is that Krystal’s anger towards Sipp isn’t because he has ties to Neolution or even that he ghosted her, but because the man dared to mock her beauty vlog. Krystal knows her worth, and though she may seem vapid on the surface, her character’s genuine depth is the kind of female character OB gets so very right.
- The absence of Felix, Alison, Donnie, and Helena is starting to feel like an oversight for this final season. Though to varying degrees, all three of them have been essential players over the past 4 years, and their sidelining isn’t going to sit well for much longer. Here’s hoping the closing four episodes of the series sees all our faves back together in some respects.
- As someone who avoids vomiting at all costs, I consider Kira a hero to willingly take ipecac. Looks like she’s still going to have to put her mother’s hustling classes to use next week anyways, though.
- “There will come a day when you need us.” No matter how obvious the foreshadowing was in S’ line of warning to Rachel, it needed to said and it’s been true since day one. Rachel may have ascended the Neolution ladder to a great height, but there will no doubt be consequences for her misplaced trust in PT/John. Like the rest of her genetic kin, she will never truly be free while a corporation owns her DNA.
- Susan is gone and it seems Ira won’t be far behind her. As messy as the Castor Clone era of OB was, Ira turned out to be ok, albeit a bit dull. I was kind of rooting for Mark to still be alive so those two could at least have each other.
- Tom Cullen is Tatiana’s IRL boyfriend. Can I just admit that I’m jealous of both parties in this relationship? *Heart Eyes*
Orphan Black S5E6
"Manacled Slim Wrists"
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kristian Bruun, Kevin Hanchard, Skyler Wexler, Josh Vokey, Ari Millen, Evelyne Brochu