'Orphan Black': Brother, Can You Spare a Gene?

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[This is a review of Orphan Black season 3, episode 2. There may be SPOILERS.]

It's a new day with new phones ("blue as the skies of Lesbos") in Orphan Black, but yesterday's troubles have followed Sarah Manning and her sisters into their new uneasy alliance with the Dyad Institute. Thanks to the efforts of his creepy mustachioed brother Seth, Castor clone Rudy is on the loose and back to his lady-killer ways in a disturbing opening scene in which a woman's sexy hook-up with Rudy turns into assault when Seth gets involved.

There's seemingly more to this than just Rudy and Seth having fun. The woman later tells Sarah (back in the guise of Beth Childs) that the terrible twins took a sample of her DNA and copied down her ID and contact details into a little notebook, which is seen later in the episode looking quite full. Was there any significance to the woman who Rudy seduced, are the Castor clones trying to fight their own brand of sterility, or is it something to do with Seth's mysterious sickness? It's just one aspect of the fervent plot-thickening that goes on in "Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis."

Our review of last week's premiere noted that Tatiana Maslany's on-screen performance as the Leda clones would be difficult to pull off twice, and seeing Rudy and Seth interact reinforced that. There's a definite awareness, seeing the two together, that they're both played by the same actor and are sharing screen space thanks to camera trickery - a fact that is so easy to forget with Sarah and her sisters. Perhaps it's because there's nothing hugely distinctive about their personalities; Seth is the weird one and Rudy is the evil one, but at least three of the Castor clones are soldiers of some sort and they have only minor aesthetic quirks to help the audience tell them apart.

While Sarah faces the decision of whether to settle into a new home with Cal, Allison comes up with some none-too-legal tactics for her campaign to become school trustee and Cosima finds her condition mysteriously improving, poor Helena is still kidnapped and being subjected to "stress tests" that strongly resemble torture. She and the Castor clones are also subjected to logic puzzles and retina scans, which Rudy passes with ease, Seth struggles with, and Helena has no interest in. The reason behind these tests is unclear - is the military testing to see whether the clones are replicants?

The focus on the Castor clones means that there isn't as much time for the Leda clones and their allies, but this episode does have a gripping climactic sequence in which Rudy shows up at the art studio and paints red X's over his eyes (apparently for no reason other than to look scary) before grabbing hold of Kira as leverage. Rudy, it transpires, is interested in finding the clones' original genome that he believes will help to cure his brother, who is suffering from a programmed genetic flaw similar to Cosima's respiratory illness. It seems likely that this will tie into the search for the clone's original donors, whose identities were concealed by Ethan and Helen Duncan.

From the moment Rudy pulls a gun and Seth pulls a knife it's obvious that not everyone is going to get out of the situation alive, and since both Cal and Kira are involved it seems like Cal's plan for a happy family could be over. It is, in a way, but ultimately it's Seth who takes the bullet when Rudy decides to put his poor, suffering brother out of his misery.

There is a sense that the Leda clones' storylines are going round in circles, with Sarah still trying to provide a stable childhood for Kira, Allison still dabbling in suburban social politics, Cosima still digging into the science behind their inception and Helena in a perpetual state of being kidnapped. With that in mind, the Castor clones seem like an attempt to fulfill for the requirements for new story elements, but so far they're not quite as compelling as the Leda clones. Perhaps that's just one of the perils of being an antagonist.

Introducing the search for the original donors is a solid premise for Orphan Black's third season, however, even if the end result will probably be Maslany and Ari Millen in grey wigs and prosthetic wrinkles. Between that and the other puzzles left to be unraveled, there are plenty of reasons to keep watching.

Orphan Black returns to BBC America next Saturday at 9/8c.

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