Orphan Black Review: “Formalized, Complex, and Costly”

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

Here’s my review of Orphan Black season three episode “Formalized, Complex, and Costly.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.

As weird as it is to probably say this, “Formalized, Complex, and Costly” was almost a sort of breather episode after the craziness we were thrown into in the first two episodes. It was easier this time to put the pieces of the story together and follow what was going on. There was a lot of tension in the episode but it wasn’t completely dependent on someone holding a gun to someone else’s head (although that did happen as well). That’s a good thing. Since we didn’t spend the whole episode burning through a too-rapidly-paced plot, we actually got to reveal some important information that moves the plot forward in a new direction.

The thing that probably sold me on this episode was actually the opening sequence. It put us back to the basics of the show: Sarah and Felix sorting out a problem together. Of course, this time it’s a bit different since they’re trying to dispose of Seth’s body. With so many characters, the interactions between Sarah and Felix can get lost in the fray, which is a shame because they were the core of the story from the beginning. This is why it was so fun to see them freak out together as they figure out what to do. And when Art interrupts, it was just like old times again. The opening scene felt like it was high stakes as Sarah and Felix frantically tried to cover up the body. It wasn’t a life or death situation, but it was exciting nevertheless.

A big part of this episode focused on rogue clone Mark and his new wife Gracie. This also didn’t seem like a life or death situation (until the end of the episode really) but it had it’s exciting moments anyway. We didn’t get to see a whole lot of their budding relationship last season, so I appreciated the character moments they got to share here. Because of their backgrounds, they have a lot of things to struggle through. Mark wants to complete his last mission so he and Gracie can live peacefully, and Gracie doesn’t want to be alone to raise her baby. These worries create opportunities for a few tender moments of concern. But their niceties always feel ever so slightly strained, like even the slightest misstep will make everything crumble down. And then it does as Sarah steps into the picture. I should have guessed that Gracie would return to her mother if things went horribly wrong with Mark, but I was still shocked. I’m really interested to see where Gracie’s story will go from here.

Along with Gracie getting more screentime, Art gets a few nice character moments with Sarah as they try to track down Mark. Felix says “Welcome to Clone Club” at the beginning of the episode when they show him Seth’s body and talk to Cosima via Skype. It’s about time! Art has been there from the absolute beginning but it always seems like he’s pushed to the side a lot in favor of developing other characters. Now in season three, he finally gets the chance to admit that he was in love with Beth. The camera work and acting were both great in that scene to convey the sense of loss that he’s been feeling. He’ll probably disappear again for a few episodes to do police work, but at least we got the scenes in this episode.

The big reveal in the episode comes from Cosima and Scott figuring out that the original donors for each clone project were siblings. That’s a very important thing to learn, and it’s even more effective since Cosima gives that information to Sarah as she’s sneaking around on a mission. The writers could have framed it by having the Sisters all discuss it over dinner. Or they could have made it be a last minute reveal, shouted by Cosima while someone’s threatening her life or something. Instead, they chose a combination of both scenarios: Cosima excitedly tells her the news over the phone while there’s a bit of heightened tension from the situation Sarah has put herself in. It’s the right amount of tension for the audience to follow.

Overall, I think this episode was an improvement. The plot slowed down to do some character work and convey some important information before speeding up again at the end to leave us with a thrilling end to the episode. I’m definitely curious to see what will happen next.

Classified Research Notes

  • While Alison and Donnie’s arc is highly entertaining, I’m still concerned that it doesn’t connect to anything else right now. It feels like we’re only checking in on Alison because of the humorous aspect and not much else. The preview for next week looked more promising at least. (It’s a shame Sarah and Felix didn’t consult Alison and Donnie on the proper way to dispose of a dead body.)
  • Speaking of the dead body, I still think Felix really should consider moving. I mean, once you cut open a cadaver and remove his brain in your bathroom, bathing in there seems like a much less appealing option right?
  • I like Paul even less every time he appears.
  • Interesting bit of information that Delphine apparently told Topside that Rachel had died in a plane crash. It’s good to have that cover story so that they don’t have to pull the Sarah pretending to be Rachel thing again, but I’m wondering what opportunity this will open up for Rachel’s character in the future.
  • I know Gracie didn’t have anywhere else to turn really, but I think I’d be a little hesitant about going back to the people who once sewed my mouth shut if I were her.
  • Are you concerned that Cosima was coughing in the lab? Because I am concerned that Cosima was coughing in the lab. 😦
  • How long until Helena inevitably gets to make her great escape in all her usual bloody glory? Because I’m thinking she’ll bust out of that place before Sarah finds her at the rate she’s going.
  • These episode titles keep getting more and more tedious every week.

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Was it an improvement or not? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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