Orphan Black Review: “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method”

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

photo credit: @OrphanBlack

Here’s my review of Orphan Black season three episode “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method.” 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.

Lies, lies, lies. The characters in Orphan Black are often lying or concealing the truth. The whole series is based on that premise. The clone conspiracy, with layer after layer of deeper and deeper intrigue, works by hiding in the shadows and keeping the truth covered up. This episode was excellent because it continued to tangle up everyone’s web of lies while still pushing the plot forward. So I thought this might be a good time to examine the question: how does lying affect a narrative?

Throughout this whole season, no one has known who to trust. In particular, Cosima has been mistrustful of Delphine because of her position in Dyad. Everyone is afraid of the mysterious organization hanging over their heads: Topside. Because Cosima doesn’t exactly know where Delphine stands within the groups, she made the decision to conceal Duncan’s notes from her. I think this has been a great demonstration of Cosima’s character and how she deals with problems. She doesn’t open up and trust people very easily, especially since she felt betrayed by Delphine. (Remember that the whole basis of their relationship began under false pretenses. Delphine was just Cosima’s monitor until she actually fell in love.) Even in this episode after Scott loses the notes to Rudy, Cosima decides to lie to Delphine about having another copy.

Instead, Cosima and Sarah place their trust in Rachel. Which turns out to be a terrible mistake. Just like everyone else, Rachel is playing her cards carefully and lying to people. At first it seemed like Rachel was going to help them out as long as Sarah got her Krystal’s identity. (Krystal is the clone from the season opener, finally making her debut.) It looked like Rachel was in league with Cosima and Scott because she had no other choice. But the end of the episode reveals that Rachel had been pretending to work with them whilst actually planning her escape with Dr. Nealon. This reveal worked excellently at the end of the episode because it was believable and unexpected. Believable because, of course, Rachel would still be able to manipulate things in her favor, and unexpected because there wasn’t too much foreshadowing toe give the twist away. The only brief moment in this episode would be when Nealon goes to speak to Krystal. But the significance of that part isn’t shown until we see that Krystal is the stand-in for Rachel and that Nealon has put her into a coma.

More often than not, the audience watching a show will know when a character is lying to other characters. That information will be revealed somehow so that the audience can watch with the knowledge of what’s really going on. Since we know all the truth of what’s happening, it makes it easier for the audience to process what’s going on. We are like an omniscient observer, just waiting for the truth to reveal itself to the other characters. But with the Rachel/Nealon alliance in the end of the episode here, we as the audience didn’t expect it either. This is a different way to experience a show and it makes the impact of the reveal even more shocking.

It’s these kinds of things- the intrigue and the rapidly shifting alliances- that makes Orphan Black worth watching every week. There was, of course, a lot more lying and deception throughout the rest of the episode. But we already know that Alison is a drug dealer, and that Helena is hiding a container of her frozen eggs, and that Krystal is a clone that is unaware of her true nature. We watch those storylines so that we can see how the characters react, how they conceal the truth and lie with or without shame. But it’s also fun when the audience is fooled too. It’s shocking to see that Delphine thought she was pulling all the strings in Dyad, when actually Rachel still was along with Dr. Nealon. Lies are a wonderful way to affect the narrative of a series, and Orphan Black is a series that’s really a pro at spinning lies.

Classified Research Notes

  • I’m guessing that Dr. Nealon is actually the Castor mole (along with maybe Rachel) simply because he showed Rachel the Castor horse symbol way back during the first or second episode this season. And the conversation with Dr. Coady seemed to imply that the two groups aren’t as separate as we’ve previously thought.
  • Now that Helena and Gracie are boarding with Alison, I guess this is where the two storylines are finally going to intersect. Also, it’s just hilarious to see Helena wearing Alison’s suburban mom clothes.
  • Speaking of Helena and Gracie, I really love that they are sorta besties now since their friendship started with Gracie attempting to smother Helena to death. (“You will be auntie to my baby, yes?”)
  • Tatiana Maslany is amazing. It’s crazy that she can play so many characters and still make them all easily distinct from each other. Krystal was so fun in her brief appearances so I hope that they figure out what happened and rescue her soon.
  • Jordan Gavaris: also amazing. It was fun to see him get a chance to be more useful to the plot and go undercover. He even got to use his native accent! I’d still like to pitch a Felix and Art buddy cop spin-off where Felix gets to hustle people for info all the time and Art just grumpily frowns in disapproval.
  • Best quotes of the episode: “She’s crazy-pants. I’m not on board with assassin boarders” –Donnie, on Helena; “If we’re gonna go roadtripping to steal some poor clone’s identity, then I’ve only got one demand. I get to choose the music” –Felix; “Can you… can you go faster?” “This is top speed.” –Scott and Rachel

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Just want to go get a mani-pedi now? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


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