Preface: Last week I flubbed up and put the location of the show in Britain instead of Toronto. Or rather, my clone made the error. Our apologies.
When we last left Orphan Black’s Sarah, her world was upended when the dread-headed Cosima was revealed. I hope this series continues its cliffhanger endings that continue through the following episode’s beginning; it just makes good dramatic sense. Not a lot of tact behind bitch soccer mom Allison’s admission to Sarah that they are clones, being killed off, presumably, by their mad scientist creator. But tact is best saved for non-clone-related conversations. Cosima says it best by saying they’re “related by nature, not by nurture.” Something tells me that was the line that immediately preceded this show’s conception.
So Allison and Cosima were working with cop Beth, using each of their assets to their advantage. Cosima is a PhD student in Minnesota, so she’s the “smart one.” As a cop, Beth had access to things the others didn’t, so she was the “information one.” And though it isn’t made clear immediately, Allison speaks privately with Sarah, allowing her into their trusted circle, and Allison confesses it’s actually her $75,000 that was in Beth’s account, and currently in Art’s possession. Allison understands that Sarah is a bit of a loose end and knows she might just take the money and run, but hopes the never-ending threat of the clone killer will keep her straight. Anyway, that makes Allison the “rich one.”
While all is well on the tag-team front, it turns out Sarah did a shitty job of hiding the assassinated German Katja’s body, burying it in an active quarry. Fingerprints are the main source of identification, and Sarah manages to work a few miracles to keep the ID hidden for the time being, since Cosima said their fingerprints would be close enough to match them should any of the clones have had a criminal record, which of course Sarah does. While I’m pretty sure clones, since they aren’t just photocopies of an existing being, probably wouldn’t have the same fingerprints, it still makes for good television watching non-cop Sarah blunder her way through police procedures. In fact, it makes for the most intense sequence of the episode, if not of all the current episodes.
While checking on a stolen motorcycle with treads matching those found at Katja’s murder scene, Art and Sarah enter the person’s home. Sarah finds a Bible with one of the clones’ IDs inside and palms it. Not your average serial killer’s home, though there is a Bible verse written on the wall with Bible pages all around it, so it’s not quite an urban aesthetic either.
Boom! All of a sudden, Sarah sees a gunman and dives on Art, a bullet grazing his ear. He yells for her to follow the guy, and it’s a stomach-churning mess to think about just how far out of her element Sarah really is right now. They went to the shooting range, where her gun skills were proven, yet she’s still too afraid to shoot her hooded assailant. The brief foot chase ends with the inevitable “bad guy getting the upper hand,” and Sarah is knocked to the ground.
Just as Sarah is about to get stabbed with a very particular ornamental-looking knife, her attacker garbles out Elizabeth Childs’ name, and Sarah blurts out that she isn’t Beth at all. A pause, and the attacker pulls back the hood to reveal…another clone! Which you should have been expecting, if you’ve been paying attention to this show at all. Sarah stabs the unnamed curly-haired clone in the side with a metal bar, but the woman still doesn’t kill her, saying, “Not yet, not-Beth,” before wobbling away, eventually getting back to the motorcycle and taking off. Meanwhile, Sarah is pretty shaken up and Art feels bad about making her go out on her own. To make up for that, he gives her the $75,000 back.
But her original plan of snatching up daughter Kira and brother Felix is being put aside to do what she knows is right. Mrs. S., foster mom and Kira’s caretaker, is giving Sarah a chance to make things good, and Sarah would rather take that route than the “on the run, hunted by a serial killer” route.
This episode ends not with a cliffhanger, but with a gruesome image. The unnamed clone-killing clone – who seems to be Eastern European based on what little of her accent was heard – is at her home base, pulling the metal bar out of her side, not at all screaming in agony like I would have been. She then drops her wardrobe, revealing her back, which is a mess of scratches, gashes and wounds. Obviously there’s someone higher on the ladder than just another clone, but is that the sadist going to town on this person? And how will that knife enter into it?
“Variation Under Nature” is another solid episode from Orphan Black, which is shaping up to be one of the best mystery shows of the last couple of years. It’s almost a shame that Felix is the main source of humor, as he’s mainly held to “unhappy accomplice” duties, such as babysitting Allison’s kids while they have their meeting. But he managed to get both of the kids cross-dressing, which didn’t please Allison and made the scene work two-fold. The only other problem I have with the show is that it makes Canadian police look like morons for not being able to tell a non-officer is fooling them all this time. I like Art, and I don’t want to keep feeling sorry for his intelligence in this way.
I can easily deal with dumb cops if it means I also get an enjoyably over-the-top thriller. I don’t doubt the convolutions will eventually implode and make a headache out of things, but I also think Tatiana Maslany’s multi-faceted performances will save Orphan Black from its own story. Until next week…