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Orphan Black’s effort towards humanizing Helena continues with “To Hound Nature In Her Wanderings”. It is an engaging episode in which the writers explore the character in compelling and unfamiliar ways. It is a risky move incorporating a character so distinct and seemingly one note into the greater fold of the show, but it is one that has paid off remarkably. Helena is quickly becoming one of the more sympathetic and affecting characters on Orphan Black. To take the her from such an extreme point and build a narrative that doesn’t necessarily redeem her or dismiss all her wrongdoing, but instead acknowledges it and makes us understand why she did those things and consequently makes us feel something for her is absolutely extraordinary. It doesn’t hurt that they have Tatiana Maslany at hand to convey all the necessary layers and nuances in the portrayal of such a character. It is a joy to watch Helena’s development from slightly crazed, brainwashed assassin, to a lost girl who yearns for family and belonging. It is Helena’s emotional journey that proves the most compelling in this hour and adds a considerable amount of gravity to a tonally mixed (not that that’s a bad thing) installment.
Sarah and Helena get their ‘Thelma and Louise” on for the start of the episode and provide us with some very endearing sisterly bonding. You can tell how happy Helena is to have somebody, finally, but there is also a melancholic undertone to their interactions especially since she points out that if Sarah knew where Duncan was “you would leave me behind.” Sarah doesn’t exactly jump to deny that claim and we along with Helena know there is some truth to her inference. It doesn’t completely invalidate the moments of familial contentment they share together, but it is crushing. There are several moments in the hour that mimic this and work to align us with Helena; the sad way the constructs a fake history for herself using the real lives of her fellow clone sisters, her wanting to go “on vacation” and escape her life, the disappointment in her face when she sees Gracie in the police station instead of Sarah, her asking Sarah if she could perhaps have children, etc. Again her desire to have a family and find a place to belong to is heightened and exploited to inform her actions. She doesn’t try to run away after the Proletheans find her; with Sarah gone, they are the only ones offering any semblance of a family and she’ll take it. It is devastating especially since we have spent this time getting to know the likable and whimsical aspects of her personality (singing “Sugar Sugar”, making playful shadow puppets, getting her drink on, flirting and having fun), there is lightness within her, but now that she is back with the Proletheans, I doubt we’ll be getting more of that.
And with Sarah and Cosima potentially busy with the new information they have uncovered, it will probably be quite some time before they shift gears and try to help Helena. Especially since they explicitly said that they would get Alsion out of rehab as soon as they could. Thankfully this episode’s secondary storylines provide intriguing and entertaining material, unlike last week’s slightly disappointing interludes. Cosima’s slow moving story at the Dyad goes to interesting places. Now that Scott has been added to the team he makes an observation that complicates things and brings up intriguing questions. We are to believe that the unknown female relative is Kira, if so, how did the Dyad get a sample of her DNA or whatever? (Notice the very precise scientific jargon) More importantly, Alison is back! As always, every one of her scenes is greatly entertaining and amusing. While her glib outlook on rehabilitation might not be the best approach for her well being, it does manifest itself in some wonderfully comedic moments. From her completely ineffective unsuccessful attempt to conceal her face when Victor walks in to the therapy session, to their interactions together and her refusal to take his new age philosophies seriously. She is fantastic. Though I have to say that she sure did not waste much time befriending him at all, uncharacteristically so. I mean she has been in rehab for a few weeks now (maybe a week and a half or something) and she hasn’t warmed up to her surroundings or her therapists who have been there the whole time, but she’ll open up to crazy, abusive Victor? Not buying it.
I do buy that he is working for Angie. It isn’t much of a surprise, every time a character is introduced or reintroduced we immediately question his/her true intentions, it is pretty much how the series has conditioned us to think. But it is nice of the writers to not draw out their little deal over time and try to make it this big shocking reveal. It just unravels quite nicely and it will be interesting to see what, if anything Angie learns to use for her cause. She is still the worst, though. Her and Paul have no redeeming characteristics.
Speaking of Paul, he does get quite the talkin’ to by Mrs. S, another character who was missing from last week’s installment and whose presence is eagerly received. She is fantastic, “just like you I got caught up in a struggle I didn’t ask for, only I’ve been at it longer so I’m better at it than you,” she tells Sarah in all her awesome glory. She allows Sarah to have her moment with Duncan and is shown to (at least for now) have Sarah’s back. While she doesn’t have much to do in the episode, she does leave an impression. Also, she was probably able to blackmail or manipulate Paul with this cryptic info about Afghanistan (really, who cares?) but since we don’t see him after their talk, I like to think she shot him in his car and left him for dead. Let a girl dream.
The episode is drives toward the final scene in which Sarah finally meets her maker and some questions are answered. “To Hound Nature In Her Wanderings” is an episode that takes significant time to illuminate the audience as well as some of the characters on Orphan Black’s extensive and puzzling mythology. After weeks of being teased with Project LEDA and the clones’ origins, we finally get some concrete information on the whole thing. And while what Duncan reveals is not entirely shocking or surprising it is good to see that the series will not drag on some of the mysteries just to draw it out over time and end up infuriating fans more than anything. Some might not be satisfied by the answers we get, but that is the nature of the beat in a serialized series. The writers handle the unfolding narrative in a deft way, with these new revelations come a slew of new mysteries and also new perspectives with which to see some characters. Dr. Leekie is a much more ominous character as a result of Duncan’s confession and his disharmony with Rachel is in a way more compelling than ever. This also adds to Rachel’s intriguing and still mostly cloudy past. How did that happy, loving child in that home video turn into this brutal ice queen? We get just an inkling into what made her this way, not enough to fully comprehend her, but enough to keep us interested. And truly, as long as the series continues to write fascinating characters and develop these people we have come to know over time, then the greater mythological aspects of the narrative don’t have to be what drives the show.
What did you think?