Orphan Black recap: Full Contact Reading

Alison gets suspicious about her husband (again), while Sarah makes some new old friends.
Ep. 02 | Aired Apr 26, 2014

JUST UPDO IT Alison, trying and failing to keep it together.

The title of this week's episode of Orphan Black is "Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion," a line taken from Francis Bacon's The New Organon: Or, True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature. We live in an era when science and religion are generally considered at odds -- uneasy allies at best, enemies at worst.

But for Bacon -- a brilliant man living in a time when arguing against Christianity was roughly equivalent to arguing against oxygen -- religion justified science, and science was a vehicle towards achieving a higher state of grace. The full line is: "Only let the human race recover that right over nature which belongs to it by divine bequest; the exercise thereof will be governed by sound reason and true religion." Roughly translated: "God gave us the world; science will give us the power to better control this world; and we will use that power wisely, because we are smart people, and why would smart people ever do the wrong thing?"

Thus: The Proletheans. Or rather, a certain order of the Proletheans led by Henrik, a fundamentalist science-cowboy first introduced in the holy act of artificially inseminating a cow. "The rest is up to the Lord," he explained. "We just helped him along a little bit." Henrik's people live in a vaguely utopian colony that resembles an Amish commune -- 1400 acres, supporting 40 souls -- but Henrik himself is a very modern post-modern thinker.

He played host to Tomas, Helena's handler. Tomas believes in old-time religion: Self-flagellation, phrases like "war for the future of creation." Tomas believes the clones are monsters, that synthetic life is anti-life: Although he most clearly resembles the henchman in a Dan Brown novel, Tomas' paranoia about the future isn't unusual. (He probably prefers organic food, too.) The idea that one of the clones might give birth is a horrific, Book of Revelations-level event. Henrik thinks different. Henrik believes  in the future. As he told Tomas, "A wise man once said: Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." Tomas responded, "Einstein didn't believe in God," which are pretty awesome last words. Henrik's assistant Mark the Alt-Country Fascist put Tomas down; a brand new day is dawning. Whatever the Proletheans used to be, Henrik wants to make them into something different.

Season 2 of Orphan Black seems to be rumbling towards a duel between two very complicated philosophies: The Dyad-Neolutionist sect, a globo-corporate Big Science cult-of-personality; and Henrik's Proletheans, a socio-religious cult-of-actual-cultness. Their aims are similar, maybe; their philosophies rhyme, even if the lifestyle they're aiming for is strikingly different. (Leekie and the Neolutionists seem to be dreaming of a futuristic utopia; to judge by his compound, Henrik would prefer something more Jeffersonian, composed of self-supporting aggro-communities.)

What makes all this especially interesting is how Orphan Black often explores these ideas from afar, through the lives of people who can barely conceive of the dark forces circling around them. What I'm saying is that it's once again time to enter the latest results from our ongoing scientific study into the Orphan Black Clone Status Variable Invasive Hyper-Sequence, and scientifically rank the clones from Best to Least Best:

1. Alison, Who Will Not Be Placated

Alison Hendrix is Keeping It Together. Alison Hendrix has Turned Over A New Leaf. Wine? No, thank you! Indiscriminate best-friend cuckoldry? Respectfully decline! Descent into paranoid fantasies about one's life partner? Inconceivable! Alison Hendrix adorned her family in respectful black and carved her beautiful hair into a respectful undo and sat in the pews at Aynsley's funeral, respectful. The preacher reminded everyone of the old Aynsley, wonderful Aynsley, perfect Aynsley. "She loved Book Club...or, as she called it, Full Contact Reading. She would say almost daily: Be true to who are."

Truer words were never spoken! Alison is being true to herself. She's keeping a clear head. Sure, her old friends aren't being very friendly, given What Happened With Chad. But her new friend Sarah from the theater sure is being nice! And sure, her children are stealing flowers from Aynsley's cold dead hands. But kids will be kids! And sure, Donnie has some strange messages on his phone, "She makes her own choices. Placate her. Come outside. Call ASAP--urgent." But after all, don't all husbands have their secrets? Secrets that they're keeping from their beloved wife, who thought she could trust her deadbeat double-agent wolf-in-chubby-sheep's-clothing husband? Their wife, who's been trying so hard to keep it all together, but now that she thinks about it, she will take the wine actually, thank you, and bring two refills with you, and can you find that nice boy Ramon, I'd like to buy a very ladylike sawn-off shotgun, WHAT'D I SAY ABOUT THAT WINE?

Oh dear. Oh me, oh my, oh gosh. Things are trending downwards here in beautiful suburbia. Focus, Alison, focus! Think about the play. At the community theater, Alison led her cast in that beloved old song:

Now We Must Heed the Call
Cleaning The Brains Up Off The Wall
Sing Sing Sing away the hours!
Shout 'til our throats are sore!

But her throat was sore. It was stress, explained the Handsy Director. "That's anxiety residue," he said, taking hold of her sacrum. "Breathe from here. Breathe from the sacrum." Alison was fairly certain that whatever he was grasping was not her sacrum; nor was he grasping her diaphragm, for that matter. "In...and out," he whispered in her ear. "In...and out."

Thank goodness for noble Felix, beautiful Felix, the only friend a poor downtrodden cloned housewife has anymore in this crazy world. "How are things?" asked Felix casually. Less casually, Alison revealed that her husband was once again probably spying on her, and also she kinda sorta killed Aynsley. ""Are you joking?" he asked. SHE WAS NOT JOKING. "I can't go to jail!" said Alison. "I have two children!"

Felix helped her set a trap for her husband. Alison loudly told someone named "Sarah" that she had to meet her; they met at Aynsley's grave, and the "Sarah" was actually Theater Sarah, not Clone Sister Sarah. Sure enough, there was her hubby, on the phone with Aldous Leekie. This would seem to confirm Donnie as her handler, but I suspect we're being double-fooled: Aldous seemed openly dismissive of Donnie's horrible espionage abilities. Less dismissive was Alison, who greeted Donnie with a cold-steel gaze. "You were worried?" she asked, sarcastic. "That I might do something drastic? To myself? Or to you?"

Oh ho, what fun we have in the Hendrix household! But dark times are ahead for poor Alison. Her confidante Felix left her high and dry, alone in the house with a liar, across the street from her dead best friend's house, dammit Felix she can't go to jail she's got two kids! Won't someone pray for poor Alison?

2. Cosima, Who Was Clever When She Was, Like, Six

Cosima took a meeting with Leekie. Why not? There was an offer on the table for a laboratory. Sure, things at Dyad were a bit awkward; sure, Clone Sister Sarah recently pretended to be Cosima on the way to punching Grand Admiral Rachel. "Colluding with Rachel Sarah to s---kick Rachel? Why would I do that?" asked Cosima, grinning. "None of us ever trusted herrrrrr," she continued, making quote-fingers in the air and generally rubbing Aldous Leekie's face in how awesome she is.

But this lab does sound pretty sweet. Aldous wants to avoid a lab. And Delphine? "I just want to make crazy science with you in our new lab," said Cosima's lady love, "science" clearly imply all manner of euphemism. Intriguingly, the lab is a bit old-fashioned: We watched as Cosima, Delphine, and Aldous walked from the glittering new Dyad building to what looked like a 1930s-era skyscraper, the kind of place they were sterilizing lunatics in the '30s. Cosima doesn't want an obsolete lab. But that's not what they're giving her. They're giving her the ability to email a vaccine to Delhi, where they can recreate it on a 3D biological printer. "Make a list," said Aldous. "Equipment, personnel, Blue Sky."

It's a nice deal. Cosima and Delphine get to do some crazy science mixed in with the occasional make out sesh. They were talking about getting a Persian Rug! Surely, nothing could burst this wonder bubble. Not even...

3. Rachel, Who Takes Insults Very Personally

We still haven't spent much time alone with Rachel Duncan the Proclone, so we don't know for sure if she bathes in the blood of vestal virgins and dyes her hair with the bone marrow of cute Shiba Inu puppies. But we don't not know that. And in the first face-to-face meeting between Cosima and Rachel, Rachel decided to lay down the law. "So. You're gay," said Rachel. Cosima batted that one back at her: "My sexuality's not the most interesting thing about me." Another tactic: "How are you feeling?" That one caught Cosima off-guard; but Rachel knows that she visited her university's GP two weeks ago. She knows about the high lymphocyte count. She knows about the Persian Rug.

But there's one thing she doesn't know. Sarah Manning. The nemesis. The One Who Laid Hands Upon Me. "I want you to tell me why she's different from how we are," she told Cosima. Cosima might have the lab. But she's just renting. Rachel owns her world now.

4. Sarah, Who Just Wants To Make It To Costa Rica

Good news: Sarah and Art are friends again! Real friends, not fake I'm-pretending-to-be-your-partner friends! And better news: Sarah found Kira! Sure, she had to spend some time in the back of a trunk, while some weird guy drove her to a weird place for what one could only assume was a weird purpose. But look! There's Mrs. S! Kira wasn't taken by anyone -- not the Neolutionists, not the Proletheans, not any kooky group with a groovy-cool science name. Mrs. S just tossed her house to make it look like an abduction. She's hanging out with her old network, the Birdwatchers. Look, it's old Brenda! You remember Brenda, don't you, Sarah? Kindly old Brenda, an aging hippie queen with a trustworthy son named Barry! Yep, nothing to worry about here. Mrs. S promised to keep Kira safe; they were planning their extraction to the UK.

Of course, there is that little fact about Project LEDA, and that picture of Siobhan. Mrs. S begged off: "I swear to you, I don't know who they are." Fair enough. Sarah sat down for dinner with her hosts. They reminisced about the funny old times. "Gun-running. The loss of Jamie, Brenda's husband. Sarah went upstairs to talk to Kira. Her daughter told her a story about Mrs. S, rifling through Sarah's birth mother's things. Sarah decided it was time to go.

Barry took a phone call. Seemed that there was some trouble. This is right about when it all went to hell. Sarah tried gunning the truck's engine; Brenda pulled a gun on Mrs. S; Barry ran outside to stop Sarah's fleeing. Mrs. S executed some old-school anarchist jujitsu and slammed several utensils through Brenda's hands. Then she shot Barry, and watched in horror as Sarah drove away. Mrs. S clarified that Brenda didn't know anything about Project LEDA, and then shot her. (Question for the future: Does Mrs. reflect some as-yet-unrevealed third entity in the Neolutionist/Prolethean nexus?)

So Sarah was free at last! She picked up Felix, and together they drove off to warmer climes. They made it to Costa Rica and opened a Papaya shop on the beach, where Felix met a nice young man named Ricky. The End...or is it? (Probably not.)

5. Helena Has A Heart, But It's In The Wrong Place

How did Helena survive a gunshot wound straight through the heart? Simple: Her heart isn't where a heart ought to be. You see, in very, very, very rare situations, identical twins are mirror images of each other. That's an extraordinarily unlikely event -- although, in fairness, we are talking about a show where half the characters are clones, so I guess we oughtn't pick and choose which beliefs we're suspending.

Helena didn't do much in the episode besides slowly recover, but the future augurs intriguing things for the Russian. Honestly, I wasn't all that excited about another season of Helena stalking through the shadows, doing her Homicidal Psycho Russian Assassin act. And it looks like the show is taking her in a very different direction. Henrik believes that she could conceive a child, like Sarah. Henrik clearly wants her to conceive a child -- though precisely how and for what purpose was left up to the imagination. In the intriguing spiritual-scientific cosmology of Henrik's Proletheans, is Helena the new Madonna -- someone capable of producing the next stage of human evolution?

What did you think of the second episode of the season, fellow viewers?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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