Orphan Black: 205 “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” Review
Reviewed by Adam James Cuthbert.
“Ipsa scientia potestas est”, or “Knowledge itself is power”, originating from Sir Francis Bacon’s Meditationes Sacrae (1597), inspires the ostentatious title marking the midway point of the second season. In the context of Bacon’s literature, the knowledge is that of God’s, with respect to the power of God (and thus better translated as “Knowledge is His power”). In Orphan Black, the scientists behind Project LEDA effectively aspired to the status of God (a well-worn trope in science-fiction, Orphan Black instils its factors of novelty: the presence of monitors, for example, simulating the omniscience of God). There is an alternative, more general, interpretation of the maxim however: that knowledge increases one’s influence, thus power. Both interpretations come into play within the episode, which is an average affair, at the juncture of major developments to come.
The episode opens with the aftermath of Daniel’s death the morning after. A shot of Leekie looking onto the street below is followed by a reverse-shot of Leekie reflected in a framed photograph that has been smeared with Daniel’s blood, showing the extent of Helena’s violence. A cut follows, and we see that Leekie holds the LEDA photograph in his hand, as the door to the apartment opens. It seems rather slipshod of Sarah that she didn’t recover the photograph before she fled Rachel’s apartment with Helena. Rachel enters, accompanied by Paul, demanding to see Daniel’s corpse. The plastic sheet covering the corpse is lifted, and Rachel closes its open eyes. Leekie acknowledges Daniel’s loyalty. Rachel doesn’t appear too deeply affected by his death.
The episode takes time to explore Rachel’s character deeper, as Paul becomes further entrenched in her life when he is assigned to be Rachel’s new monitor. Rachel has had a lifelong history with Leekie. After the death of her adoptive parents, Leekie acted as a guardian to Rachel. Rachel later says to Paul that Leekie has a propensity to become attached to his subjects, including herself. He is unable to maintain enough distance “[to make] the hard choices.” She is motivated by her own feral drives. She is sexually aggressive, later treating Paul as a sex object. In an interesting act of cross-cutting between clones, the episode visually stresses similarities between Rachel and Helena, with the characters representing the ends of a psychological spectrum: both behave in an animalistic manner, for example. Whereas Rachel was self-aware of her identity as a clone from youth, Helena was kept in darkness. Rachel plots her revenge against Sarah by instructing Paul to frame Felix for the murder of a police officer, Paul planting Felix’s fingerprints onto Daniel’s gun. The plot is enjoyingly simple, but there is a lack of an emotional weight in its execution, that failed to properly engage this viewer. Dylan Bruce’s performance doesn’t convey the sense that Paul is a man conflicted: between incriminating an innocent man, and his duties to Rachel.
Cosima, meanwhile, learns that Leekie’s stem cell line has produced test results that could cure her sickness. From Leekie, she learns that the lab explosion, which killed the Duncans twenty years ago, also destroyed the original genome. With it all record of synthetic sequences embedded in Cosima’s DNA was lost. This enabled the Institute to previously surmount the viability issues of the cloning project. Through Helena, Sarah and Art discover that Rachel’s adoptive father may possibly be alive. Sarah utilises this serendipitous discovery to influence Leekie. She proposes to exchange information on the “Swan Man” for Felix’s life.
There are a couple of moments which enliven the episode. Henrik and Bonnie’s treatment of Grace is arresting in its mercilessness, not only locking their daughter in a cell with her lips sealed shut, but prepared to have her bear Helena’s child as punishment. There’s a touching scene between Mark and Grace, wherein Mark subtly confesses feelings of love for Grace, giving Grace a kiss which surprises her.
Dialogue Greats: “The entire project is essentially an orphan.” – Leekie