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“Governed As It Were By Chance” is undoubtedly the best episode in Orphan Black’s second season run, with an entertaining mix of suspense, action, plot development and compelling character moments, it is near perfection. The hour is packed with an abundance of incredibly fantastic moments: Helena escaping the compound and eventually coming to Sarah’s rescue, Mrs. S reuniting with Carlton and being awesome, Alison in rehab, the characters uncovering more about Project LEDA, etc. The pacing is relentless but not overbearing, there is something of value in every scene and while the moments of tension and suspense are a plenty, the show gives us time to breathe and decompress between each one developing a nice balance. And who would’ve thought that an episode with such little Alison and Felix material could ever be so undeniably amazing?
Alison and Cosima’s storylines remain in the background as Sarah continues to actively pursue the project LEDA mystery and while I have not exactly loved the lack of clone interaction, this approach works increasingly well. Alison, as usual, provides a bit of comic relief and cuts some of the growing tension in a good way. That Archer-like cut from Sarah and Felix discussing her rehab stay, “I think it would be good for her, help her get back some of her dignity,” to Alison taking a humiliating ‘tinkle’ for drug testing is great as is her entire bemused experience in the rehab facility. And Cosima’s scenes mostly serve to support Sarah’s struggle. She is available as a resource for Sarah and is a handy tool for the writers to expose necessary information about LEDA as well as Susan and Ethan Duncan. Also, Cosima’s health continues to deteriorate as her cough becomes more prominent and reminds us of her own urgent struggle, which will surely become a more central plot point.
But it is Sarah, along with Helena who command the majority of the episode in exciting arcs that have Sarah chasing questions about her mysterious origins while at the same time being pursued by Daniel and the Dyad, and Helena finally escaping the creepy Prolethean compound. Their scenes are the most exciting in the episode and the writers constructed the story so that the two narratives would meet in a truly surprising but logical way, giving us one of the more compelling and unexpected scenes of Orphan Black’s history. For so long Helena has been an antagonizing figure, a threatening and menacing force working against Sarah. Her personality is so extreme and insane that it has always been difficult to see her as anything other than a brainwashed monster, but when she steps into the plastic shrouded ‘operating room’ and experiences those gruesome and troubling flashbacks, there is a humanity present within her that has not been revealed before. It is amazing how much this episode makes us care for her and sympathize with her situation, even root for her, despite the evil things she has done in the past (I mean, she brutally killed her birth mother in the season one finale). In that room, as she remembers what was done to her, she is vulnerable and disturbed and as she escapes we realize how lonely and lost Helena really is, especially now. It only makes sense for her to seek out the only family she has left, even if that person tried to kill her last time they were in the same room.
Sarah and Helena’s reunion is THE moment of the episode. What a superbly acted and executed scene. The use of off-screen sound as Helena fights and kills Daniel is extremely effective. Tatiana Masnaly’s horrified expression says so much and is much more terrifying than anything happening behind that wall. And the reveal that it Helena is the attacker is appropriately shocking. Sarah’s utter terror and dread are palpable when she realizes that Helena is her dark guardian angel, come to save her from Daniel. And even more disturbing is the twisted, embrace between the sisters, Helena creepily holding on to a terrified and inconsolable Sarah. It is such an outstanding scene. It is unbelievable how good Tatiana Maslany is, I know that it has been said time and time again, but each week she is given a new challenge and each week she triumphs with incredible skill. She keeps getting better, how? Also many props to the special effect department for making that scene so seamless, especially as the clones embrace, it looks absolutely flawless.
“Governed as it Were By Chance” is an exceptional episode of Orphan Black. Suspenseful, scary, funny, intriguing, compelling, it is everything one would want in an hour of television, and amplifies all the great qualities that epitomize the series. This isn’t just your average science fiction show; Orphan Black gives us a fully realized universe with incredibly rich and compelling characters under extraordinary circumstances. While there is a considerable amount of intrigue generated by/from the built in mystery/conspiracy, the most engaging material derives from the beautifully realized set of characters, without which, the show wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.
What did you think?