Orphan Black: 106 “Variations Under Domestication” Review
Reviewed by Adam James Cuthbert.
This week, Alison’s paranoia that her husband is her monitor reaches new levels of instability. She spontaneously and violently whacks him over the head with a golf-club, places his downstairs, binds him to a chair, and proceeds to confront him with what she sincerely believes to be the truth. Events are complicated when Alison’s neighbours arrive in the household for the monthly potluck.
Lies, cover-ups, and violence become recurring themes in Orphan Black, manifesting in multitudes. While Alison is forced to assume her duties as hostess (and getting increasingly inebriated at the same time), Sarah impersonates Alison to continue the interrogation of Donnie, repaying Alison, who had previously impersonated her. Donne scolds Alison for her irrational behaviour. Sarah is quick to defend her: “Your wife is the rock of this family.” The conjugal relationship, therefore, sees the wife being treated less like an equal to the husband. Sarah appears to intimidate, and indeed humble, Donnie. At night, now untied, Donnie confesses to Alison she does bind the family together. He reveals to her that the contents of his locked box were mementos from his time with a former college acquaintance, with whom he engaged in affairs. When she contracted Lupus, he lost contact with her. He breaks down in tears. Whether or not this is the truth remains to be seen; although Sarah herself believes Donnie is innocent. She contrasts Paul, a professional, ex-military, who was recruited by the unknown syndicate for which Olivier works, with Donnie, Alison’s high school sweetheart.
On the subject of Paul, Dylan Bruce clearly relishes the substantial character development. He delivers an engaging and measured performance: he and Maslany have good onscreen chemistry. The episode touches on Paul’s professionalism, showing him to be capable, intelligent, and ruthless, ranging from spying on Sarah’s movements via tracking device, to effortlessly disarming and assaulting Vic, reversing their positions of power, with Paul becoming the one threatening the other with a weapon. Paul is shown to not entirely believe Sarah’s story that Beth is deceased. When he discovers an asleep Alison, he thinks she might be Beth: the lack of a scar proves him wrong.
We also spend more time with Cosima, and her burgeoning friendship with Delphine, which brings out a different side to the character. At one point, she and Delphine behave frivolously. The duo attend a lecture by Doctor Aldous Leekie, who advocates “neolution”, an opportunity for “self-directed evolution”. His science, the endgame being the creation of super-humans from present mankind, evokes the relationship between science and science-fiction: accomplishing what was once deemed impossible, and what may be possible in the future. Suffice to say, judging from first impressions, Leekie is a strange individual, slightly sinister.
Overall, enjoyable as always, with intriguing new developments.