[This is a review of Orphan Black season 3, episode 6. There may be SPOILERS.]
Many strange things have happened during the winding road of Orphan Black‘s science fiction-infused plot, but by far the most bizarre sight so far is Alison and Donnie Hendrix celebrating their newfound success as drug dealers in a display of dancing, spanking and twerking. It really makes you wonder what’s going on behind the curtains of all the millions of quiet suburban homes out there.
Surprisingly, this scene is not one of the many dream sequences featured in ‘Certain Agony of the Battlefield,’ as Sarah is given a dose of Castor blood and receives a series of suspicious invitations to venture down dark tunnels with lights at the end, first from Kira and then from a young Leda clone. Back in the real world, Sarah is shivering and vomiting in the infirmary and Major “Big Dick” Paul Dierden is less than happy with both this and his discovery that Dr. Coady’s research includes sterilizing random unlucky women. It turns out that Coady wasn’t content with just curing her boys; she had to have ambitions for ending all war with genetic weaponry or some such nonsense.
Paul’s discovery of the Castor clones’ little black books and what they mean leads everything to come to a head in this episode, as civil war erupts in the military base with Sarah, Paul, Mark, and Paul’s trusted soldiers on one side, and Coady, Rudy, and the remaining soldiers on the other. Paul has been a pretty bland character ever since he first arrived on the scene, so the fact that ‘Certain Agony of the Battlefield’ pulls out all the stops to try and make him sympathetic should probably have been a warning sign that something terrible was about to happen to him.
Back in Toronto, Cosima is enjoying long mornings in the love nest of her new lady friend Shay, and Delphine returns having perfected the art of being the new Rachel (i.e. being blonde and haughty). Rachel herself is still trying to master the art of talking and painting at the same level as a five year-old, but her recuperation is interrupted by an unpleasant visit from bad-cop-Felix. He isn’t able to get much out of her, but another tiny piece of the genetic puzzle slots into place when Scott realizes that Rachel might know how to decode Ethan Duncan’s book of scribbles.
The Toronto story thread was probably the least interesting of this episode, if only because nothing much happened in it beyond digging up answers about the Castor clones and their tricky DNA. At this point Alison and Donnie’s little Breaking Bad drama seems to be there for pure entertainment, and it’s working. It’s genuinely fun to watch these two start up a crime empire in between taking their kids to karate classes and running for School Trustee.
All the action in this episode, however, lies in the military camp and is what makes ‘Certain Agony of the Battlefield’ easily the most exciting episode of this season so far. The stakes are upped dramatically when it looks like Sarah is going to die, Helena does a U-turn and eats poor Pupok as a symbolic (and tasty) gesture, and Paul breaks out of his soldier boy routine in the name of love – a decision that ends badly for him.
Paul’s death is genuinely moving, but it also features a few too many clichés to be have much impact. From the way he closes the grate behind Sarah after she escapes and ignores her pleas, to the moment he shows up in Coady’s lab and it’s immediately obvious that he’s holding a hand grenade, the whole thing feels a bit too cookie-cutter. Still, it’s a respectable way to go and it gives Sarah a whole new reason to want to take Rudy down.
One pleasant surprise in ‘Certain Agony of the Battlefield’ was seeing Tatiana Maslany slip into the role of a clone that we haven’t seen for a while (for obvious reasons). Beth, who so far has only appeared briefly before jumping in front of a train and in old video footage, is a character who has largely been present in the form of various characters’ memories of her.
An imagined scene in which Beth confronts Sarah over the theft of her life and boyfriend is a nice call back to the first season and allows Maslany to once again flex her talent for slipping into different roles with ease. Moving forward, it would definitely be nice to see the Leda family (and perhaps the Castors too) grow a little bigger.
Orphan Black returns to BBC America next Saturday @9pm with “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate.” Watch a preview below.