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“Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done” is an outstanding hour of Orphan Black and an ideal precursor to what is shaping up to be an intense and compelling season finale. Full of intense drama, engaging character moments, surprising developments and the occasional comic scene (courtesy of the Hendrix family adventures in body disposal) the episode provides us with everything that is fantastic about the show. The second season has been an increasingly entertaining endeavor, with only a couple of underwhelming episodes (each of which have their own redeeming qualities), which has expanded the universe in unexpected and intriguing ways.
One of the most entertaining and successful ways the writers have expanded and explored this world is by delving deeper into some of the lesser-known characters, which this episode is a great example of. The first season did an amazing job in establishing the main characters; Sarah, Alison, and Cosima are very distinct personalities with many layers to them, and we have come to know them quite well in this short period of time. While the second season has focused on exploring how these characters (whom we know so well) behave in extreme situations, it has also done an amazing job in helping us get to know other characters further. Both Mrs. S and Helena, characters who were intriguing yet practically one-dimensional in the first season have gotten their time in the limelight so far (to great effect) and in this installment it is Rachel who gets some serious development. And it is absolutely fascinating and horrifying.
We have always known that Rachel is a disturbed individual (no one that appears to be so devoid of emotion is alright) and throughout these past episodes there have been inklings indicating her less than sound mental state. Her cold demeanor has been slowly crumbling before our eyes as we learn about her past, her relationship with her parents and Dr. Leekie, her desires to be a mother, and her weird psycho-sexual relationships with her underlings (Paul, Daniel). This has all been working to indicate her instability as a person, but nothing could have prepared us for the level of insanity she shows in this episode. Rachel is a full-blown psychopath and its kind of awesome.
Said awesomeness comes, mainly, from Tatiana Maslany’s performance who, yet again, does an amazing job with a challenging personality. She gradually reveals the disturbed individual hidden under that emotionless mask in such a nuanced and efficient way; it is seriously frightening to see Rachel in her creepy screening room laughing manically, so disturbing. Maslany’s measured performance throughout the episode allows for the seemingly over the top scene to succeed and impact the viewer despite its inherent campiness. Most importantly, it is one of the series’ specialties to almost completely undermine the audience’s preconceived notions on a character. It did so with Helena earlier in the season and now with Rachel. Helena used to be just a crazed, brainwashed assassin, but now we understand her as an emotionally and psychologically stunted woman searching for some kind of belonging. And we had Rachel pegged as an unfeeling, high-power executive uber-bitch, but has unraveled into an obsessive psychopath. Orphan Black’s ability to always keep us on our toes and surprise us is what makes the show so much fun to watch.
Speaking of Rachel, we know crazy she has many resources to obtain what she wants and she will exploit them to do so. Which leads us to the very well executed twist in the episode in which Rachel devises a plan to kidnap Kira. It is so well constructed, not only by Rachel, but also by the writers. The sequence is facilitated by the fast paced style of the show, which prohibits us from questioning the course of events, since there just isn’t time to do so until it is all over. Also, I am just so relieved that Rachel planted the message on the computer so that Delphine would see it because I was getting ready to berate the writers on that. Rachel would never let something like that slip! Thankfully it was all part of her master plan, which could not have gone better. It is a testament to how well-made the show is and how good the performances are that such a switcheroo could convince not only the characters, but the audience as well. And it is only upon second viewing that one catches the subtle hints and clues that communicate the deception. Not only is “Sarah’s” behavior too calm and collected when she comes back, but Maslany is able to portray Rachel’s anxiety and nervousness while impersonating Sarah. Every time she turns her back to a character there is a slight look to the side or subtle expression that tells us everything, but we don’t catch it. It is quite remarkable.
Rachel’s storyline is not the only high point of the episode. There are countless memorable moments in the hour. Every single scene in Alison and Donnie’s storyline is pure perfection from their difficulty wrapping up the body in plastic to their argument of what to do with the body (“Do we have a boat? Have you ever seen Dexter? I mean, random scuba divers are finding everything!”) to their much needed, post-disposal romantic liaison. And finally (or so we hope) the Prolethean storyline is coming to and end, starting with the total destruction of their compound in the final moments of the episode. This is definitely the best material concerning the Proletheans in the season, not only because of the fact that it seems like this part of the story is winding down, but also because it finally gives us some concrete answers and explanations. We, like Helena, have been kept in the dark concerning the group’s beliefs and aren’t entirely sure what their intentions are. “Haven’t you been listening to anything my father says?” asks Gracie and Helena responds with a perfect, “Not really.” Ha! Neither have we, honestly because every time their leader speaks it basically consists of religious, science, cult-y nonsense designed to appear meaningful but really has no substance. Nice to see the writers acknowledge that we don’t really know or care much about the Proletheans and their biological endeavors. We do care about Helena and it is very satisfying to see her break out, again. Also, I appreciate that the writers, while they have done an impressive job in making us sympathize with her, remind us that she is still quite unhinged and will do insane things like preform cruel and unusual punishment on the Prolethean dude, and thoroughly enjoy it.
“Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done” is an exceptional episode of Orphan Black; every scene, every moment is valuable and adds to the narrative and the overall enjoyment of the installment. As usual, so much happens in the hour, so many interesting developments and character moments that make it an incredibly rich viewing experience. Nothing feels superfluous or out of place and it sets the stage for a potentially exciting and anticipated finale.
What did you think?