Orphan Black Review: “Newer Elements of Our Defense”

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

Here’s my review of Orphan Black season three episode “Newer Elements of Our Defense.” 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.

I definitely think Orphan Black has finally stabilized and is starting to hit its stride with “Newer Elements of Our Defense.” Maybe it’s because the Prolethean storyline is a bit easier to follow than whatever’s going on with Dyad/Topside/Leda/whatever. I’m sure we’ll return to them sometime soon, but in the meantime I’m liking the focus on the character relationships again. The central one in this episode is Sarah and Mark, and Mark is the Castor clone we’re most familiar with that it makes their plot more interesting. This episode didn’t hold as many big revelations as last week’s but there were definitely some important developments, so this was a pretty solid one all around.

So surprisingly, Mark didn’t kick the bucket in the last episode because Bonnie is maybe a terrible shot? I don’t know. But either way, I’m happy to see Mark sticking around since he’s the Castor we’re most familiar with, even if we didn’t know his true past during the last season. Mark is also the most interesting of the boys because he’s the outcast, the undercover agent, the one who wants to get away. That’s the kind of narrative struggle I’d like to see more of in the future because it’s a great contrast to Sarah and her sisters. They just grow closer as time goes on instead of further away. (I mean, can you imagine season one Sarah searching so diligently for Helena? No, you can’t.)

The opening part of this episode was really excellent because it automatically grabbed the audience’s attention. We were unsure about a lot of things, like if Bonnie would find Sarah while she was hiding or how Sarah would manage to escape. And then the reveal that Mark was still alive was even more of a shock. And it’s really nice to see Sarah deciding to help him, not only because he might be able to help her find Helena but also because she feels a bit more of a connection to him now that she knows the originals were siblings. At the beginning of this series, the only family Sarah had to rely on was her adopted brother Felix. (Sure there was Kira and Mrs S but she spent a lot of time away from them that season.) Now that Sarah’s discovered her true identity, her family circle has widened and she’s learned better how to care for and support people. Naturally, this extends to even digging a bullet out of Mark’s leg no matter how disgusted she is by the act. What an excellent example of slow and steady character development paying off!

Another main storyline for this episode was one focused on Helena. With the encouragement of Pupok the imaginary scorpion, Helena was trying to find ways to escape. It didn’t really advance the plot forward until the very end when she discovered the lab-rat Castor clone, but it was nice to see Helena being resourceful as always. If Helena’s going to spend half the season locked up, it at least makes sense to see her attempt to escape. And it doesn’t disappoint. I love the absurdity of her gnawing a bone to make a key for her cell. How ridiculous is that!? Those are the kinds of weird things I enjoy seeing in this show. The only thing I’m a little wary about is Pupok. The addition of Helena’s imaginary scorpion friend is fun (and apparently Tatiana Maslany plays that voice as well), but why have we never seen the scorpion before? Helena was held captive last season by the Proletheans and nothing like that was shown. How often does she hallucinate this? Is this supposed to be a weird side effect of pregnancy? I like the scorpion, I really do. I just wish it didn’t feel so… sudden. Maybe it’ll be explained better in future episodes.

The third major focus in this episode is Gracie again. It’s not as big as Sarah or Helena’s adventures, but it’s still important. She’s gone back to her cult family, but she has a miscarriage and loses her baby. The result of this is that they kick her out. Since she was introduced last season, Gracie’s character has gone through a lot. From having her mouth sewn shut to running away with Mark, she’s dealt with a lot of things she never expected. Zoe De Grand’Maison does an excellent job of conveying both Gracie’s naivety and headstrong stubbornness. This storyline might not work as well with a different actress. Her entire story so far though has felt like some sort of set up for something bigger. It’s been slow going, but maybe things will pick up now that she’s been banished from her family again.

This episode was solid because it didn’t try to shove too many characters into one episode, and it also moved at a more sustainable pace. The action was enough to keep the audience’s attention and the tension was thick enough to cut with a knife. The cliffhanger ending of what Mark and Rudy will do to Sarah the “loose end” definitely makes me excited for next week.

Classified Research Notes

  • Alison and Donnie are again hysterical as a couple of bumbling drug dealers (“Is everyone’s lives this stressful??” Donnie asks as they try to hide the pills) but again it’s so disconnected from everything else, I’m wondering when it’ll collide with everyone else’s stories. But still, it was nice to see Justin Chatwin still has a career after that disaster we like to call Dragonball Evolution.
  • I’m even more concerned since Cosima keeps mentioning that she’s much better now. She’s headed towards a relapse, isn’t she? D:
  • Isn’t it cool how Mark and Sarah’s first meeting at the beginning of season two was him attempting to kill her in a diner, and now she’s stitching up his bullet wounds? I like it. I wanna see how long it will continue.
  • The Proletheans confuse me. Does their new leader, the blind guy, have some sort of medical background? Because I was very confused when he was the one declaring that the baby had been lost. Shouldn’t the midwife confirm that? How does he know? HOW CAN HE TELL?
  • Are we gonna lose a Castor clone each week? How many are there??

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Has Orphan Black finally hit its stride this season? Or is it still too complicated? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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