[This is a review of Orphan Black season 3, episode 6. There may be SPOILERS.]
It’s election time for Alison Hendrix as she makes her move to conquer Marci Coates in the race for School Trustee, but the people of Bailey Downs might think twice about voting for her if they were aware of the snafus in organization and time management that plague poor Alison in ‘Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate’. Not only does she plan the takeover of Bubbles and a meeting with the local crime lord for the same day as the all-important candidates mixer, she also puts $30,000 in an envelope that’s identical to the one with her election paperwork.
In short, everything is in place for another entertaining farce in which Cosima gets drawn into imitating Alison, Donnie’s nose is on the line, and Felix is in the middle of everything trying to coordinate the clone madness. Strangely, the School Trustee drama is actually more tense and compelling than much of the military prison action of the past few episodes.
That’s not to say that Sarah and Helena are completely left out of the episode. They’re taking a short break in a bar with Siobhan, with Sarah attempting to deal with Paul’s death and Siobhan trying to regain Helena’s trust. Naturally Helena believes that the best way to work out their issues is by punching each other in the face until they both feel better – an approach that turns out to be quite effective.
Back at Dyad, meanwhile, Scott is left to fend for himself when Rachel (who is still pretty scary, even with only one eye) is brought to the lab for tests, opening up a golden opportunity to secure her help in decrypting the code in her father’s book. Since Delphine has become the new Rachel, however, this has to be done under the cover of Scott introducing Rachel to his tabletop gaming hobby.
One of the reasons that ‘Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate’ is such a strong episode is the fact that we get to see all of the Leda clones, not only separate in their own little worlds but also interacting with one another. While the pretence for Cosima showing up at the candidates mixer is a little flimsy (she needs Alison’s pee), it’s an effective way to tie Alison’s storyline back into the overall clone drama after she’s spent much of the season floating free.
It could be argued that this week’s story cleaves a bit too closely to the formula of the Orphan Black season 2 episode ‘Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things’, in which Sarah had to pretend to be Alison during Family Day at the rehab center. Yet even the second time around, it still works. Tatiana Maslany’s performance as Alison is brimming with so much measured intensity that it’s hard not to root for her as she tries to keep her plans in order against a growing tide of disruptions.
Justin Chatwin also turns in a fun performance as Jason Kellerman, Alison’s high school sweetheart and local bad boy. With Dylan Bruce permanently out of the picture and Michiel Huisman temporarily so, it seems as though Chatwin is taking over the role of charming eye candy. No wonder Alison’s mother is so keen on Jason becoming the new Mr Hendrix.
Another reason that ‘Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate’ could be mistaken for a season 2 episode is that the Castor clones don’t appear at all, though their DNA gets the occasional mention. It’s a shame that season 3’s storyline hasn’t worked out better, since the idea of a group of male clones is certainly compelling. As mentioned in our previous reviews, however, the Castor boys just aren’t as diverse and interesting as the Leda clones, and as such their presence isn’t really missed.
It was interesting (and illuminating) to see Alison’s relationship with her mother explored, from her very conservative suburban outlook (after being introduced to Cosima, she dismisses the clone claim by stating that Cosima is clearly “mulatto“) to her overly critical attitude towards her daughter. She may be a bit of a cliché, but those interactions really help to add new layers to Alison’s characterization. They also make a pretty compelling case for nurture over nature.
Orphan Black returns to BBC America next Saturday @9pm with “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method.” Watch a preview below.
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