Orphan Black: 203 “Mingling Its Own Nature With It” Review
Reviewed by Adam James Cuthbert.
There’s already been a strong underlying theme of family in Orphan Black: both literally, and figuratively speaking; in the bonds that exist between people, connected by their affinity. In this week’s episode, the theme feels especially pronounced. An interesting diversion I found in the episode was the title of the play that Alison stars in: Blood Ties, symbolically reinforcing the central theme of the episode, and the series as a whole.
The identity of the unknown clone also afflicted with the respiratory symptoms is revealed to Cosima in the form of a video journal recorded by said clone. Jennifer Fitzsimmons, a teacher and swim coach, contracted the disease six months before Kajta Obinger. Experiencing difficulty with her breathing, she reported to her hospital, who found polyps (abnormal growths of tissue that project from a mucous membrane) in her lungs. As her condition worsened (coughing up blood), she was contacted by Leekie. At the Dyad Institute, the medical treatment failed to cure her: she died only recently. Unlike the other clones, Jennifer was blind to the truth: her boyfriend (monitor) kept her in the dark. Examining her corpse in the morgue, Delphine and Cosima discover growths lining the walls of Jennifer’s uterus. Cosima suspects they could be the cause of Jennifer’s infertility, with the growths spreading from the uterus to elsewhere in her body. She deduces that Jennifer’s condition was autoimmune (where the body fails to recognise healthy cells and tissue as ‘self’, thus leading to an immune response against them). (After viewing the episode, I conducted my own research, such is my investment in the series. Uterine polyps have no definitively known explanation, but they appear to be affected by hormone levels. It’s possible that this was the trigger for the disease to manifest.)
This raises the question of Alison’s infertility, however: do the clones (with the exception of Sarah, and possibly Helena) share a common biological flaw (and thus all potentially suffer from the same disease, albeit in different stages of severity); or is there another reason altogether? From the glimpses we have of Jennifer, as Cosima watches the journals, she’s portrayed sympathetically. The final lines she speaks, from a bed in the Dyad Institute, are haunting and evocative: “I’m going to die here.” In terms of the overarching theme of family, it expresses itself, in the scenes with Cosima, as a dark mirror: Jennifer is the shadow of Cosima’s probable future, unless her own condition can be ameliorated. When the sheet is pulled back off Jennifer’s corpse, Cosima is clearly shown to be discomfited. Her characterisation here, face-to-face with a grim portent of the future, is movingly portrayed by Maslany.
Helena receives a larger role this week, as Henrik advances his agenda. Before the audience of God (so he believes), and the other Proletheans, Henrik binds himself to Helena (who appears to be sedated) in a ceremony intended to welcome Helena into their family. (My immediate conjecture would be that he plans to rape Helena, in order to impregnate her, and thus conceive a child; but that would be reprehensible by any means.)
The focal point of the episode is the introduction of Kira’s father Cal. Cal was one of Sarah’s “marks” during her vocation as a con artist. Cal worked for a company that manufactured “mini-drone pollinators for areas where bee populations gave crashed”, but his partners forced him out, selling their technology to the military, who converted the pollinators into weapons. Cal is another well-realised character. He’s shown to have a good heart, allowing Sarah and Kira to stay another night in his house, for Kira’s sake, with a firm moral compass: this is a man who, judging from his past, won’t have innocent blood spilled on his hands.
Cal’s presence, completing the family unit of mother, father, and child, leads me to discuss, what I felt to be, the highlight of the episode: Felix, and his relationship with Sarah as the consequence of Cal’s entry into the series. Jordan Gavaris is a talented actor, but the dramatic potential of Felix has often felt underutilised. In a way, the episode functions as a catharsis, and turning-point, for Felix, as he leaves Sarah and Kira, asserting control over his life. Gavaris responds accordingly, delivering a captivating and emotive performance. At first, Felix is furious that Sarah lied about not knowing the identity of Kira’s father. In his indignation, he calls out Sarah on her fatal flaw: her impulsive behaviour. Felix’s dialogue (“You are a bloody wrecking ball. You are an exploding cigar”) is terse: the imagery it conveys violent and self-destructive, illustrating the extremes of Sarah’s mentality and lifestyle. Once Sarah explains herself, that she had Kira’s best interests at heart, Felix relaxes, tearfully swelling up. He realises that “[there] is no place for me here.” It’s a powerful moment, which Gavaris captures with gusto.