Orphan Black: 202 “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” Review
Reviewed by Adam James Cuthbert.
This week’s episode was problematic for me in several aspects, which I will address in time. It’s not uncommon for a show to occasionally miss the mark: to misjudge character development (for example), leaving the viewer feeling underwhelmed and dissatisfied. Although the episode fulfils its ultimate purpose, setting the characters off for the next stage in their respective journeys, it’s handled in such a manner that it fails to distinguish itself, or generate much impact.
The episode commences with Helena abruptly awakening in the hospital, having been placed in medical care. A nurse answers a police officer’s questions, as she examines Helena. The officer, drawing up a report, notes that Helena’s “scarification” is “angel wings”. It’s a potent symbolic mutilation, linking back to the previous series and Helena’s indoctrinated belief in her own divinity. Symbolically speaking, Helena has cast herself in the ‘role’ of an angel without wings, being mortal and human. It’s later revealed that Helena survived being fatally shot by Sarah due to a rare congenital condition that can be found in identical twins: situs inversus, meaning that her internal organs are reserved. This places her heart, for instance, on the right side of her body. (Presently, I’m indecisive about Helena’s survival: it depends on how the character continues to be developed later in the series.)
The Prolethean known as Mark (the same cowboy who had approached Sarah in the cafe, killing the cafe owner) absconds with Helena on the orders of Henrik Johanssen, the pastor and seeming leader of a local community of Proletheans, who vouchsafes Mark with this responsibility. Mark is fostered upon by Henrik and his spouse Bonnie like a surrogate son. The episode presents a brief insight into Henrik’s domestic life, and his everyday activities as a farmer within his rustic environment (compared to the technological sophistication, and corporate milieu, associated with the representatives/employees of the Dyad Institute), such as aiding a cow to be able to fertilise offspring. Henrik, as portrayed here, is another intriguing and potentially deep character, and his interactions with Tomas (Helena’s spiritual counsel, who has also survived, having been freed by Henrik’s people) stand as the highlight of the episode. The dynamic between Peter Outerbridge (Henrik) and Tomas (Daniel Kash), stimulated by their characters’ differing attitudes towards science and Helena, is riveting, which is why I feel that reintroducing Tomas only to kill him off in the dénouement occurs at the expense of further development.
The episode depicts Tomas in a state of conflict. Tomas has tended to Helena’s spiritual welfare since she was twelve. After she is hospitalised, he finds himself praying for her soul, although he automatically refutes the notion that she possesses one (“Abominations have no soul”). This reinforces his perception of Helena as inhuman, a sentiment accentuated when he claims that any child that Helena would conceive would be a “monster”. The episode also shows Tomas to flagellate himself, using his trouser belt. It’s a detail that grounds Tomas within a fundamentalist religious mindset. In contrast, Henrik is shown to be pro-science (having “steered [his] faith through science at M.I.T.”). He espouses a philosophy that cites Albert Einstein: “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” While Tomas remarks: “Einstein didn’t believe in God”, Henrik’s statement acknowledges the dual relationship between religion and science. Although they are in conflict with one another (a conflict embodied in the show’s rivalling antagonistic organisations), they nonetheless can benefit from, and develop/enlighten, each other. Henrik’s interest in Helena seems to stem from her status as the identical twin of a uniquely fertile clone, as he voices the possibility of Helena herself being capable of reproduction. The theme of conflict also surfaces in distinct contexts regarding Sarah and Helena respectively. Leekie, in conversation with Cosima, expresses his concern about avoiding a “war”, started by Sarah. Tomas, meanwhile, cautions Henrik: that his “‘new order’” should “appreciate” that Helena represents a “war for the future of creation”. It’s interesting to speculate the notion of the clones as biological weapons of a sort, in the eyes of the Proletheans. Whereas the Dyad Institute holds the clones as a breakthrough for science, the Proletheans’ interest is decisively more aggressive here.
Furthermore, the Proletheans are shown to have deceived Sarah about holding Kira hostage: she was never in any danger at all. In actuality, Sarah’s foster mother Mrs S fled her home with Kira, but not before making their departure look like an abduction. This leads to one of my chief problems with the episode. This twist retroactively negatively impacts both the finale of the first series and the preceding episode, in my opinion: it means that the stakes involved for Sarah are less exigent; there’s less of a tension, therefore, underlying Sarah’s personal journey; to recover her daughter and secure her safety. It also raises some questions. Sarah is eventually brought to Mrs S by her ally Benjamin who captures Sarah, placing her in the boot of his car, after Sarah (with the assistance of Art) traces Kira’s last-known location to a motel, where she was staying with Benjamin. Firstly, why even pretend to kidnap Sarah? If Benjamin was working for Mrs S, and Kira was under Mrs S’ protection, why didn’t Benjamin simply explain the reality to Sarah? If Benjamin was the one taking the photograph of Kira at the end of the previous episode, presumably for a passport photo, just how quickly did Mrs S arrange for a passport for Kira for their flight to London (it’s only the next day)?
We also learn more about Mrs S, and Sarah’s history. Mrs S leads Sarah to the home of the “Birdwatchers” (where they first arrived in America from England), Mrs S’ old network, who once helped them to disappear, and who she has entrusted to do so again. The Birdwatchers, Brenda and her son Barry, have planned on hoodwinking Mrs S, intending to deliver Kira over to the Proletheans. Mrs S coldly murders both mother and son with a shotgun. The episode would appear to confirm Mrs S’ involvement with Project L.E.D.A., since she reveals to Brenda that Sarah is part of the project, supporting Amelia’s statement that Mrs S is not the person she would claim to be.
Finally, I want to discuss how the nature of the revelation about the clones is disclosed to Art, since he is now privy to the truth. The mystery behind Sarah and her lookalikes, and a desire to uncover the truth, was the impetus behind Art’s changing relationship with Sarah. Rather than an extended scene, I would suggest, showcasing Art’s reaction to this information, the writers decide to gloss over his discovery, and any potential impact it might have had at the time, with Art merely summarising his opinion: “Yeah, well, I’ve over it.” It’s an unfortunate decision, since it results in there being little payoff to the build-up of his discovery, becoming a dull affair. The writers don’t seem to appreciate an emotional investment in Art and Sarah’s relationship, launched in a new direction, instead more interested in moving the plot ahead.
Overall Verdict: 7.5/10