Orphan Black: 401 “The Collapse of Nature” Review
Reviewed by Connor Johnston.
There are very few shows I can think of that would be in a strong enough position to open a season by barely featuring any of its main characters and instead focusing on a prequel storyline regarding a character whose total screen time thus far amounts to less then a few minutes. There can be no question that it was a risky move, but one that due to the encapsulating talent of Tatiana Maslany, the sheer likeability of Beth Childs and the pitch-perfect writing of Co-Creator Graeme Manson, Orphan Black pulls off effortlessly. Regardless of the abnormal setting and focus, “The Collapse of Nature” has launched Season 4 of Orphan Black with an episode that is as intriguing and familiar as ever.
Sarah’s entry point into the mystery, it was Beth’s suicide that set in motion the events of the entire series. As such, Beth Childs is a character whom we’ve only really been able to speculate about prior to this episode – whose personality and motivations for taking her own life have remained more-or-less untouched since the show’s very first episode. In focusing on her story we are once again swept up in the gripping enigma of her character: What did she discover? What overwhelmed her? What would push her to the point of walking in the path of a train and ending it all? The episode also sought to establish her strained relationship with Paul and depict the breakdown of their marriage with great effect, as well as exploring the attraction and intimacy shared between Art and herself. The tragedy of Beth’s life is of course that we are unconsciously counting down towards her eventual demise, which builds the episode’s sense of drama superbly.
Through Beth’s eyes we also meet a new clone in the form of the over-cautious, guarded and slightly deranged Mika or ‘MK’ – on the run and presumed dead by Neolusion. Though playing second fiddle to Beth for a great duration of the episode, MK’s debut leaves a strong impact on the audience, with Maslany once again proving her incredible ability as a character actor to create yet another separate and distinct personality to her line up of clones. Though we’re not aware of the extent of MK’s presence in the series, it is clear she will hold quite a large influence in terms of combatting Neolusion.
Speaking of the science organization, it too makes a re-entrance into the narrative while channeling the ghosts of Dr. Leekie and Olivier to provide a greater context for their actions (both in the past, and in the future). Introduced as orchestrators of Neolution’s wrong doings, both Evie Cho and Detective Duko appear to have a larger role in terms of the series’ narrative which will no doubt take a more concrete shape in the coming weeks. The climax of this week’s episode comes in the form of Beth mistakenly causing the death of Maggie Chen, sending her spiraling down into the state of depression and hopelessness she was when we first met her in Season One.
Crossing forward into the present day, we learn that Sarah and Kira’s safety is heading towards its abrupt expiration. Rewardingly this is the moment in which the prequel storyline and the events of the coming season interweave, with MK’s reappearance and her inside knowledge over Beth’s death and Neolution’s plans motivating Sarah’s return. With that, Orphan Black makes its triumphant return while remaining to be one of the most innovative, diverse, gripping and groundbreaking dramas of our time. The real strength of a show is made transparent when its fourth season can afford to take the risk of looking to its past and using it to construct a future. If the rest of the season can build from the excitement and originality of “The Collapse of Nature”, it seems once again we are in for quite a treat.