Orphan Black Review: “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations”

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

Here’s my review of Orphan Black season three episode “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations.” 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.

The relationship between Sarah and Helena is one of the things I am most interested in when I watch Orphan Black each week. Since we found out in season one that they’re twins, they’ve had a weird bond that they’ve developed over time. First Helena tried to kill her, then Sarah put a bullet in Helena’s chest. In season two, they got to know each other better and even went on a road trip with each other. Sarah clearly has come to care greatly about her sister, so she’s spent this season desperately looking for Helena. “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations” focuses mostly on the two sisters as they are held captive together, and it’s fascinating to see how things have changed between them while they’ve been separated.

Forcing two people into a situation that they can’t escape from so that they can talk is a typical way to encourage character development and understanding. It’s the classic “trapped in an elevator” routine where the characters have no choice but to “talk it out” and reach an understanding. It could be two people who dislike each other or two people who secretly love each other or even just two sisters who need to reconnect, like Sarah and Helena. They’re not in an elevator, of course, but they do have the opportunity to talk. Helena thinks Sarah sold her out and that drives a wedge between them. Although I think Sarah could have explained the situation better (why not mention that you’ve been desperately searching the whole time she was gone??), she does try to fix things with Helena.

Being trapped shows the commonalities and the contrasts in their characters. We can see that they’re both resourceful. In the past, we’ve seen both of them escape from desperate situations and this one is the most difficult yet. But Helena still manages to make her plan work with the help of Sarah. The tragedy of the moment though is that Helena leaves Sarah behind. Despite the moment where it looked like Helena had finally forgiven Sarah, Helena still chooses to leave her sister behind. It’s a surprise for the audience, and it’s an effective one because in the past we’ve always seen the two of them forgive each other. We’ve always seen Helena wanting to be with Sarah even as Sarah wanted to drive her away. This is a big moment for Helena in terms of independence, since she’s never had much of her own before. I’m definitely curious to see how this will affect the sisters for the rest of the season.

In contrast to Helena and Sarah being captive, we have Gracie who is adjusting to her new freedom. After being cast out by her family, Art takes her to Mrs. S and Felix so that they can give her a place to stay for a while. Maybe not everyone is interested in Gracie’s story, but I still am. She just wants a chance to experience the world for once, and it’s fun to watch her do it. Along with that, the plot twist at the end where it’s implied that she’s now sick from having contact with Mark is another new piece of the puzzle to explore. Will Gracie ever be able to truly escape from everything?

I think at this point in the season these quieter episodes work better than something like the season opener that was running at a breakneck pace. Now is the time for quiet character moments, and time for everyone to take a breather and let everything sink in before things kick into high gear at the end of the season. Overall, this was a good stable episode. Almost like the calm before the inevitable storm.

Classified Research Notes

  • The military people are supposed to be smart and intimidating but they managed to let Helena escape her cell TWICE already. Also, classic mistake #1 is never let your prisoners talk to each other. ALSO, and maybe most importantly, why did the security camera move when there isn’t really anything to look at in the other corner of the room?? Be more competent next time, guys.
  • So Cosima’s storyline this episode was just going on a date. It seemed pretty pointless to the plot, so obviously the girl is someone suspicious (especially from the preview for next week). But I do give everyone bonus points for putting Ksenia Solo in that fabulous hat.
  • I still hate Paul. At this point, I don’t even remember why he cares so much for Sarah.
  • So the plot twist that the Castor boys have to write down the names of all the girls they sleep with is super creepy and super fascinating. They make the girls sick?? I’m really sort of morbidly fascinated to see how this will go. (And whether Mark will try to break free again to find Gracie)
  • Discussion question: is Pupok the imaginary scorpion still an effective plot device?

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Just maybe want to butter yourself up and escape a prison cell? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!


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