Orphan Black "Governed As It Were By Chance" Review: So Many Enemies, So Little Time

By Kaitlin Thomas

May 11, 2014

Orphan Black S02E04: "Governed As It Were By Chance"

The first rule of war is and will always be, "Don't mix your camouflage." But the second rule of war is to know your enemy. Right now, Sarah and the clones have so many perceived enemies, it's difficult to tell which one is the greatest threat at any given moment. There's Rachel and the Dyad Institute; there's Henrik and the Proletheans; there's Angie, whose drive for answers is getting her ever closer to discovering the truth; there's the sickness weakening Cosima; and for a few terrifying moments in "Governed As It Were By Chance," there was Helena. (There's also the argument that the clones are their own worst enemies, especially in Alison's case, but I'll get to that in a bit.)

Many Orphan Black fans adore Helena because she enjoys jello and carries sugar packets in her pockets. I get it; she's like a child. But like, a child who's also a crazy murderer. I like the challenges Helena poses as a character, and the role she plays as the "mirror" of Sarah, but she hasn't yet done anything to prove that she deserves to be pardoned for her crimes. I was very concerned when Henrik and his religious science freaks wanted to use her body for their own agenda, because she was being held against her will and forced into unfortunate circumstances she didn't have any control over—she's a clone, but she's still a human being who deserves the same rights as everyone else. However, I don't necessarily think we should just accept her and open our arms to her because she's been on the receiving end of some terrible developments. And I think there are some fans of the show who look at Helena as if she's a lost puppy without a past that involves being a serial killer.

Helena was raised by Tomas and the Proletheans, who molded and manipulated her into the screwed-up person she is today. She was told she was the original and led to believe it was her duty to kill the rest of the rest of the clones because they were abominations. And after the events of the Season 1 finale, Sarah had every reason to fear for her life when Helena followed her to Rachel's and slashed Daniel's throat. Not only was Sarah super surprised because she thought she'd killed Helena, but Helena had also just murdered Daniel like it was no big deal (it was a big deal). And then she slunk toward Sarah like a hunter toward her prey. Of course Sarah, whose arms were bound, would be terrified in that moment. 

And I would've been, too, because Helena is a wild card. We saw how easy it was for her to feign death only to turn around and attack Gracie (although we later found out she didn't kill the girl, only rendered her unconscious) in order to escape. And then we saw her slice up Daniel without a moment's pause. All I'm saying is, I think we should still be on alert when it comes to everyone's favorite Shakira-haired wannabe. That's not to say she won't join Sarah and the rest of the clones and eventually be redeemed in some way, but she's still too unpredictable and she still poses too much of a danger at this point.

Now, I say all of this knowing that the Proletheans did not, in fact, impregnate Helena. This storyline has been the most confusing and complicated one of Season 2 thus far, because we're still in the dark about the Proletheans' endgame. But does it really matter that they took something from Helena, instead of the other way around? Either way, she experienced something terribly invasive that happened to her against her will. If Henrik had forced himself on her, I think Orphan Black would've found itself in a controversy it never wanted. It feels wrong to say that what the Proletheans have done is better, but it's probably the lesser of the two evils. And now they're making babies in petri dishes or test tubes or whatever. If they'd impregnated Helena, they would have been more limited, but by taking this road, they have control and possibly the ability to do it again. 

What's more, this storyline confirms that Helena shares the same ability to have children that Sarah does—which we all assumed anyway given their twin status—and raises the question of how many times the Proletheans could do this. And more importantly, it raises the question of why they're doing it? What exactly is it that they want? 

But let's table the whacked-out fanatics for now and discuss what's going on with the other clones. After tumbling from the stage during her opening-night performance in the musical last week, Alison woke up in rehab with a broken (sprained?) arm/wrist! Unlike the others, Alison's greatest danger is indeed herself. To the public she's calm and collected, if a bit uptight, but on the inside she's a mess. We all love Ramone and his car trunk full of goodies, but Alison's pill-popping, drink-guzzling days are what landed her in her current predicament. Donnie might be an asshole who's threatening her with legal action, but to be honest, rehab is the best place for Alison to be right now. 

Alison's paranoia and neuroses, while often funny to us, are actually what's threatening her wellbeing day after day. She's not dying like Cosima. She doesn't have people trying to kidnap her children like Sarah. She's not being used as a lab rat like Helena. She signed her contract with Dyad so she could feel safe and normal, but her guilt over letting Aynsley die, especially now she knows that Donnie is her real monitor, has caused a pretty serious downward spiral. I'm not sure how long the writers can keep her locked up in rehab and haver her still be integral to the overarching story, but she does need to fix herself. Hell, she doesn't even know that she fell off the stage during the musical. "The people got their money's worth," is all Felix told her about the performance. Oh, Fe.

Speaking of everyone's favorite foster brother, he and Sarah teamed up to do a little snooping in Mrs. S's house (while Mrs. S was trying to get information out of Carl, the man who brought Sarah to her door all those years ago). It was nice to see Felix and Sarah working together after he bolted last week, but their relationship is far from fixed. At least the pair discovered some old newspapers that revealed Mrs. S knows more about what's happening than she's ever let on (duh), but her interactions with Carl (not the sexy ones) prove that she doesn't know all that much. The newspaper article at least led to the revelation that Rachel was raised by the two scientists in the Project LEDA photo. As Cosima pointed out, this probably means Rachel was raised self-aware—the only clone to have been—which is why she feels elite to the rest of the Clone Club and why she's willingly working with Dyad and Doctor Leekie. 

This also means that, had Amelia not bolted and given up Sarah and Helena for adoption, they could have been Rachel. They wouldn't have become wards of the state or been taken in by religious fanatics. They would have lived what appeared to be a pretty nice life until their scientist parents died in a lab explosion. It's another brilliant example of the way Orphan Black addresses the "nature versus nurture" argument and the question of how we're shaped by our environments. Rachel had the life Sarah and Helena were supposed to have, and while there were clearly advantages to that life, was it better? Will knowing this affect Sarah going forward? Will she come to resent Rachel in addition to simply hating her for being a bitch? Or will she realize that the life she's had with Mrs. S, Felix, and Kira, while not picture-perfect, is actually the more desirable one? I'd love to see the series address these questions head-on, because as I mentioned last week, Sarah has done nothing but run from her life since the moment we met her. Maybe this new development will help her see that her life can actually be considered pretty good. You know, once she puts all her enemies in their place. Rachel is cold and narcissistic, and that probably has something to do with how she was raised. She's not exactly the type of person you dream about being as a little girl. And she was shacking up with Daniel, who was her monitor. We learned so much about Rachel this week, guys, and she wasn't even present. And as I mentioned above, knowing your enemy is the second rule of war.

Orphan Black's success often lies in what's left unsaid, allowing the show to dole out small clues at perfectly structured intervals. "Governed As It Were By Chance" is a perfect example of that. The pace of the series, as well as its ability to mix the dramatic, the mysterious, the dark, and the humorous, continues to be its greatest strength. There are so many storylines running parallel to one another that no one would fault the series if it got lost in them, but it's currently managing just fine. Hell, it's not just managing, it's thriving. Season 2 has proven to be just as exciting as Season 1, even with all the different plots. The writers put Art's investigation on the back burner for the past two weeks, but he still feels integral to the story as he stakes out the religious fanatics and their homestead. He also bought Helena some time to escape this week. And even though he probably only appeared on screen for two minutes, it was enough to remind us he's still there, working the whole thing from a different angle. 

The series' complexity continues to keep me more than interested and on the edge of my couch week after week, but if there's one place it's failing, it's Cosima and her illness. I think this is purposeful, and it looks like we're finally going to dive into her storyline next week, so I'll give it a pass for now. But considering she's going to die if she doesn't find out what it is and how to stop it, I just wish there was more time each week to explore her progress. Let's hope the rest of the season makes it (and her) a priority.


– "Twenty years ago you brought an orphan to my door. 'Put her in the black,' you said. 'As black as it gets.'" Oh look, the writers finally found a way to explain the title of the series!

– Last week, Cal rammed the car with Sarah and Daniel in it in order to save Sarah. So far I've really enjoyed Cal's character. He's... calm in a way that literally no one else on this show is. I know Sarah is keeping him in the dark about the truth of the situation for his own good, but I have to wonder how long that can last. He's already taking care of Kira while she's off trying to solve the mystery of her life, but if she keeps asking for favor after favor from him without giving him anything in return, he's just going to blow up like Felix.

– I can't wait for Mrs. S to join the team with Sarah and the rest of the clones. She's an asset! But I do like that, just like Art, she's doing her own investigation. All of this has to come together nicely at some point.

– "I don't believe I have ever done 'the nasty.'" Alison Hendrix, ladies and gentlemen!

– LOL at the image of Helena wearing a wedding dress and running through a field with her crazy hair. I should have submitted that to FTW vs. WTF this week.

– Hot Paul is back next week! 

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  • 3Jane May 15, 2014

    It's past midnight here so I don't have time to read the comments yet. regardless, I wanted to comment on Kaitlin's review.

    i'm one of these Helena fans that you speak of, and one of the reason is that her character has developed throughout the series. She's slowly become more independent-minded, so that now we see not a spread of the clone-killing Helena we first met. She's a clever girl, and she's overcoming her upbringing.

    I think the writers explained the title "Orphan Black" in Series 1 when Mrs was explaining to Sarah where she came from (possibly not the whole or true story); that she was a child "in the black".

  • 3Jane May 15, 2014

    * shred not spread
    ** Mrs S not Mrs

  • ThePeanutGallery May 13, 2014

    Sarah seeing Helena appear in Rachel's apartment wearing dowdy, dirty wedding dress covered in blood was one of my favorite images of this episode. Sarah was already panicked, tied up and in-pain, and Helena appears . . . and hugs her. It's also a good image because Kira refers to Helena as Sarah's "angel", as did a different child early in the first season. But Helena, if anything, is a lost soul capable of terrible violence and maybe she'll have a redemptive story arc not unlike Sarah's, since both have a history of hurting people. Although arguably Sarah's theft/grifter past isn't as bad as Helena's murdering her fellow clones, even if her environment (nurture) made her into a lost soul. And, you know, she was raised by people who don't think she has a soul. And she's not a lost puppy even if she feels like a girl-child raised by wolves.

    I'm looking forward to Art and Mrs. S's story lines merging with clone club investigation and seeing how it interacts with the big bad of the show, especially since I'm not sure who the big bad is (Dyad? Proletheans? I love not knowing.) I wonder if the Dyad Institute and Proletheans will end up in a major battle with the clones in the crossfire.

    Allison's storyline is great, but so far it's just dark humor. Rehab is a safe place for her on multiple levels since 1) she needs it and 2) it keeps her away the main conflict(s).

  • AmandaJustice May 15, 2014

    Even though I agree that rehab is the safest and most constructive place for Allison to be now, I'm actually wanting her to get more involved in the clone situation. I know that's not what would be good for her mental health but I want to see Allison as a character develop beyond uptight, crazy soccer mom who just wants to be normal. I feel like she could kick so much ass in her own way and it's a shame she's not more active in the clone story line. I'd also LOVE her and Helena to meet. And Rachel :D

  • ThePeanutGallery May 15, 2014

    One of the questions with Allison is why she has issues with drinking/drugs. Would breaking beyond the suburban soccer mom-mold and taking charge of her life--including kicking ass in the story line--channel her uptight energy into something productive? And YES, a Rachel-Allison showdown would be amazing! Two tights of uptight clashing together.

  • c07111 May 13, 2014

    Roger Cross of Continuum made an appearance.......this show just gets more awesome by the minute. Glad Paul is back next week, he's been missed. Cal has done an amendable job of covering Sarah's butt, but I kind of love the tension of Paul and Sarah more. Plus, I keep expecting Cal to appear in armor with sword or serenade Sarah with a well written country ballad.....the actor is on two other favorite shows of mine. Cal seems nice and honorable, but there is just no room for nonsense like that on this series.

    And what was the deal with Art just letting Helena run pass him like she was lost pet? Don't get me wrong, I love Helena but that scene had me scratching my head in confusion. Art seems to be the only one not interested in the clones and that's kind of suspicious in a series dedicated to clones. He was more interested in Proletheans and what they were up too. Wonder if Art is already well versed in Project LEDA.

  • WildPict May 12, 2014

    This episode was just so...wow. While the Prolethians are just icky, Gracie is the one that freaks me out the most. The rest of the family is willing to follow their leader, but Gracie can only think to kill Helena for just existing?! That girl is another Tomas in training. I mean, WTF? Helena would've been justified if she had killed her instead of just knocking her out.

    I think it's fascinating that Kira knows that Helena is Sarah's guardian angel. Kira also feels at ease with Cal, so I guess he's okay. But he's definitely had some sort of past with Dyad. I just hope the cops don't think that he killed his cop friend, because they'll be gunning for him, not just looking to talk things out.

    Allison and Felix could have their own spin-off and I'd watch.

    I guess Mrs S isn't who I thought she was. Oh well, she's still pretty badass, and probably former IRA.

    Sarah needs to sit down for a few minutes with Art and bounce some of this mess off of him. He's a great sounding board and has some good insight that can help put some of this freaky info into perspective.

  • KMRao May 12, 2014

    I don't understand why everyone is suspecting Cal at this point. We haven't seen anything to support this suspicion until now. I think you ppl are suspecting him just for the sake of it. We know that Dyad didn't know about Sarah's existence until Delphine revealed it to Leekie. So we can safely assume Dyad had no role is setting up Cal and Sarah few years back unlike other clone's monitors. Regarding the look on his face you ppl are talking about, all I saw was a little surprise that such big corporation is hunting Sarah. I think most of you are over analysing his little pause.
    I'm not saying Cal is a good guy with absolutely no relations to Dyad. He may have some regarding his drone tech. All I'm saying is at this point we don't know if he's related to Dyad or not and also there's nothing pointing in that direction either.

  • 3Jane May 15, 2014

    "I don't understand why everyone is suspecting Cal at this point. We haven't seen anything to support this suspicion until now."
    That's exactly why we should suspect him, don't you think?

  • jjafargi May 12, 2014

    Great review, Kaitlin! Btw, I believe the smuggler's name is Carlton, not Carl.

  • thekaitling May 12, 2014

    Let's just call it a nickname then.

  • ludoTV May 12, 2014

    Strong episode and lots of action and plenty of new info to get a better headache....

    • I suspect a lot of the time Cal's calm because he is smoking pot... Remember his now-dead policeman friend said he knew it?
    • I hope Kira stays with Cal. He is probably the dad, has money from his old 'Silicon-Valley tacoon' days and seems like a nurturing figure who could hide Kira away and keep her away from trouble while Sarah, the other clones and Mrs. S fight the Dyad & the Prolethians... Battling so many enemies is not very conducive to child rearing and honestly it does not look good on Sarah to put her daughter at risk by having her on the run
    • I get that Helena is scary and unstable though her fighting back to Gracie was totally justified. She is a child that was socialised in all the wrong ways but who wasn't cheering when she killed Daniel? Sure she can't ever be trusted fully but I do expect she has learnt a few things inc. that the Prolethians are the worst, Tomas was wrong in a lot of his ideas and Sarah is something of an ally....

  • richardwinters31337 May 12, 2014

    Paul isn't near the man Cal is!!!! What are the chances Cal has impregnated Sara again ??? Would love to see Helena and Sara working together to bring down Dyad and the religious group. Allison is a time bomb ready to go off!!! I hope Rachael and her group get the blunt of the explosion. Helena will take car e of the religious group. Count on it.

  • 3Jane May 15, 2014

    Impregnatnated? I can't see Sarah being as passive as to "be impregnated".

  • danni333 May 12, 2014

    I'm more in awe of Tatiana Maslany every week, her ability to portray these different characters is just phenomenal. You can instantly tell which character she is (like Alison waking up dishevelled), not only that, it's the nuanced portrayal of Sarah as Beth, or Sarah as Cosima etc that is also just brilliant. I love the pace of this show and where it looks to be going, it continues to be one of my favourite shows because it encourages asking big questions and it just so complex! I love it!

  • bristow18 May 12, 2014

    Much as I love Hot Paul and have been invested in Paul/Sarah, I couldn't help thinking that Sarah should just leave all this mess behind and run off with Cal and Kira. Cal is just plain nice and has been so supportive of Sarah's crazy shenanigans. Also, I never want to see Sarah Manning sobbing with such complete despair, ever again. It broke my heart.

    Art just needs to make a frowny face and say a few words rudely and he's automatically cool. So is Henrik in his own creepy/detestable way. I don't know why I like that guy. Was sorry to see Daniel go too. There was such potential for future villainy in that character.

    I completely agree that we should be wary of Helena. Calling Sarah 'Seestra' and hugging her/not killing her does not redeem her of Killing Katja and all the others.

    Allison and Felix are just perfect. The whole 'shaving armpits' bit had me off my chair.

    Looking forward to Hot Paul this week.

  • 3Jane May 15, 2014

    I don't think Helena killed Katya and all the others. Her weapons of choice are melee weapons.

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