Orphan Black Review: “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

Here’s my review of Orphan Black season three episode “Certain Agony of the Battlefield.” 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.

This episode of Orphan Black hit just about all the right buttons to make it excellent. Instead of drawing out the mystery of the strange illness introduced in the last episode, we were given answers. Along with getting the plot to move forward at a reasonably exciting pace, there were a lot of important character moments as well. “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” went out with a bang and finally did justice to one of the weaker characters of the series. And along with all of these things, the episode was filled with a lot of beautifully shot dream sequences and visions. They really elevated the level of this one.

A good dream sequence is one where the audience doesn’t immediately realize it’s a dream sequence. The episode opens with Sarah waking up in her cell with light cast onto her face from the open door. It seems normal. You could easily think that the captors are letting Sarah out for some sort of experiment. But things start getting weird once Sarah realizes the camp is empty. I thought it was a good choice to have Kira be the person running around in Sarah’s dream because Sarah has such a strong bond with her and, as we find out later, the dream sequence was trying to warn Sarah about Dr. Coady infecting her with the weird sterilization disease. What better symbol to use than Sarah’s own daughter?

The way the opening sequence was shot worked well too. Both that one and Sarah’s other visions later in the episode incorporated good use of jump-cuts to make everything feel disjointed. One moment Sarah may be standing in the hallway and then in the next moment, she is sitting at the kitchen table. That really amped up the dream-like quality to these scenes. Don’t we all have dreams where we start off somewhere and end up in a completely different place without having to experience the process of getting from point A to point B? This may sound a bit confusing on paper, but it was surprisingly easy to follow while watching. Along with the actual camerawork of the scenes, the choice of filming with different filters is also a good one. Some parts of the dream sequences are hazy while other parts are in sharp focus. This sets the tone and helps the audience get a better feel of what’s going on.

Sarah’s visions were not only stylistically good, but also very important for her character. And it gave the writers a chance to bring back Beth again. Since Beth jumps in front of the train in the first episode, we don’t get to know her as well as the other clones. So it’s fitting to see her as one of Sarah’s guides since she’s how the whole story got set into motion. And now that Sarah’s had the chance to grow and get to know her other “sisters,” she now gets a chance to reflect on not being able to get to know Beth. It’s nice to see Sarah get to have a chance to make peace with this.

And Sarah’s later dream featured moments with Paul as well. I know I’ve said I’ve disliked Paul before because his character doesn’t make a lot of sense. He’s a double, triple, quadruple agent and that makes it hard to figure out where his loyalties lie and who he’s working for and allies with. We never truly get a chance to see much of his real character since he’s always putting on an act for whoever he’s with. But this episode finally finally reveals his goals all along. All he wants to do is help cure the Castor boys and take care of Sarah, the one he actually loves. Maybe if they had revealed his motives sooner, the audience could have connected with him better. (Although I have to say that it’s pretty obvious he loves Sarah since basically everything he does is for her) But while I disliked Paul throughout the show, I appreciated the way things went down in this episode. In the end, we see him try his best to do the right thing and stop Dr. Coady’s horrible experiments. And so, he got to go out in a blaze of glory with a bloody hand grenade, taking out all of her research materials. I liked it. But maybe that’s because I’m fond of those sort of crazy redemption sacrifices.

All in all, this episode was solid, both for the way the storyline was set up to move forward and also what it did for character development. Although Sarah’s story was the main one for this episode, we got to check in on Rachel again, along with Felix and Gracie. And Cosima’s story also had a complication with the return of Delphine. The story is moving rapidly along towards the season finale and each episode gets more and more exciting. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Classified Research Notes

  • While Alison and Donnie are certainly the most hilarious part of this show, I’m still waiting for their storyline to connect with the main one this season. Otherwise, why are we wasting screen time on them?
  • Both Felix and Rachel were very fascinating in this episode and I wished we could have had more of them here. It’s not often that we get to see Felix lose his cool, so the scene where he interrogates Rachel is amazing. Jordan Gavaris really sells the desperation that Felix feels about Sarah being missing. (If only Sarah had shown that much desperation while she was searching for Helena earlier in the season). And Tatiana Maslany continues to prove how great she is because I actually felt a little bit sorry for Rachel. She just seems so helpless and different from the strong, demanding person we saw last season. I’m very curious to see what they plan to do with her character from here.
  • I’m also surprisingly invested in Mark for some reason. I can’t figure out why other than the fact that I like how he’s a traitor to the rest of the Castors. If anyone has any thoughts on why they like or dislike Mark, please feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to discuss!
  • Helena ATE her imaginary talking scorpion!!! I think the implication at the beginning of the season was that Pupok was a sort of coping mechanism Helena had when she was mistreated by the people who raised her. But that was when she was all alone. Deciding not to listen to Pupok anymore is a big moment for her character because it shows that she doesn’t need an imaginary scorpion anymore. She’s not alone. She can rely on her sisters now. And once she realizes that, she gets rid of Pupok and shows up to rescue Sarah. I like it. (but I will also miss how ridiculously funny the scorpion gimmick was)

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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