[This is a review of Orphan Black season 2, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
Why not just get right to it? We have a new clone! Even though there are just two episodes of Orphan Black season 2 to go, the writers have given us Tony, our 12th clone and the first to identify as transgender.
There’s an inherent thrill that comes with the reveal of a new clone, and Tony's reveal certainly has that effect. Still, his introduction begs the question - did we really need him this late in the season? Where ‘Variable and Full of Perturbation’ leaves off, we’re under the impression that Tony is now on a bus and long gone. If that is the case, what was the point in introducing him to begin with? There could have been many other ways to deliver Sammy’s message that Beth needs to keep the faith because “Paul's like me. He's on it. He's a ghost.”
The need to serve a purpose would have applied to any new clone with any gender identity, but the fact that Tony is transgender makes it even more pressing to give the character a chance to breathe and become a fully realized individual. It’s a hot button issue and if you put it in the mix but give it no real weight in the narrative, it’ll never grow beyond that.
On the one hand, it’s hard not to focus on the fact that Tony is Tatiana Maslany dressed up as a more masculine-looking clone, but she still sells it well, especially alongside Jordan Gavaris. Tony has two main purposes in this episode – to shed light on Paul and to have an effect on Felix.
Of course, there’s something odd about going for a guy who looks just like your sister, but Felix and Tony share a very palpable, curious connection that says a good deal about who they are, what they want and what their priorities are. Tony absolutely has the potential to be a viable player, but if he winds up a one-off character, then there’s really no point to all of this because it won’t go anywhere at all.
Back at the Dyad, things are looking grim for poor Cosima and ‘Variable and Full of Perturbation’ really lays it on thick. The scene during which she joins the game with Scott (Josh Vokey) and the one in which she lets loose with Delphine are particularly enjoyable because it’s so nice to see Cosima having fun again. But that means they also make the ending even more devastating, and sadly, that’s exactly what the show needs at this point. I don’t want an Orphan Black without Cosima, so that turns her situation into a highly effective, anxiety-ridden ticking clock to power us through the end of the season.
Even though Cosima and Tony are the heart of this episode, the situation between Alison and Donnie does get a very satisfying payoff. As hoped, the fact that both now have blood on their hands brings them closer together and lets them tap back into the honest, loving relationship they once had.
Even though Ethan makes a distractingly abrupt transition from loony hermit to eloquent genius, his dealings with Rachel do introduce a number of possibilities, the most curious of which are that Sarah’s fertility makes her a failure, not a success, the references to “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” and the fact that Ethan's notes will give Cosima “unlimited resources” but that Kira will still remain priority number one.
A lot has happened this season, but now it seems as though it’s all converging on two particularly key issues – the need to find a cure and the value of clone reproduction. Both have been building all season long and have become quite riveting and interesting to track, especially considering how they may overlap.
Orphan Black continues next Saturday with ‘Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done’ @ 9pm on BBC America.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.