Orphan Black Season 2 Premiere Review: Personal Property

By Kaitlin Thomas

Apr 20, 2014

Orphan Black S02E01: "Nature Under Constraint and Vexed"

When a TV series' freshman season is as successful as Orphan Black's was, there's nearly always a discussion of whether or not the series can maintain the same level of quality, the fear of a sophomore slump. Orphan Black quietly debuted last spring with Doctor Who as a lead-in, but it wasn't until approximately halfway through the season that critics and fans alike started to praise the series' complex central mystery and star Tatiana Maslany's excellent performance(s). And the Season 2 premiere, "Nature Under Constraint and Vexed," made a very good effort to prove Season 1's success was not a fluke. The episode resumed the show's complicated story so seamlessly that it really felt like a continuation of the first season rather than the beginning of another. It also managed to introduce new characters and set the table for new storylines in Season 2 without neglecting any ongoing plots. And it did all of this by coming out swinging (literally) and never letting up on the twisted, exciting action and drama that made the series so addicting in the first place. Everything we love about Orphan Black was present in the premiere. Well, mostly: Paul wasn't shirtless, but we'll deal with that later.

"Nature Under Constraint and Vexed" picked up right where Season 1 left off, with Sarah having recently discovered that Kira and Mrs. S were missing. She assumed they were taken by Rachel and the Dyad Institute as a means of getting her to cooperate—which was probably a reasonable assumption to make, considering Sarah told Rachel she was coming in, and then Cosima discovered that Dyad had patented the clones, and then Sarah told Rachel to suck it. Dyad was the most obvious culprit, which meant Sarah was on the warpath for most of this episode, even going so far as to impersonate Cosima to infiltrate a fancy Dyad event so she could confront/threaten/pistol-whip Rachel. But as it turned out, while Rachel might be a bitch, she wasn't behind Kira's disappearance. Resourceful and clever as she is, she simply saw an opportunity to get to Sarah, and she took it. She's a sneaky one, that Proclone.

Knowing that Dyad doesn't have Kira presents a whole new set of problems for Orphan Black to tackle. For one thing, we should all be giving Mrs. S even more side-eye than we were last season when that Project LEDA photo appeared. Also, if the Neolutionists don't have Kira and Mrs. S, it's likely that they were grabbed by the Prolethians, a.k.a. Helena's religious fanatics. The battle over individuality is right at the heart of the series, but Orphan Black also deals with the idea of science versus religion, and it looks like Season 2 is going to dive even deeper into the religious crazies after spending much of Season 1 introducing us to the scientists. Given that the Prolethians came after Sarah in the opening scene of the premiere, and factoring in that final scene involved a man taking Kira's photograph in what looked like a moderately shady motel room, it seems more likely that they're behind Kira's disappearance. Although, with that said, I don't know that we should count out Mrs. S being deeply involved in this conspiracy. Sarah and Helena's birth mother Amelia was insistent that Mrs. S wasn't who she appeared to be before Helena shanked her in the Season 1 finale, so the possibility that she's Sarah's monitor, or that she was involved in the original cloning experiment, is still on the table. We shouldn't count her out just because there are religious whackjobs after the clones, too.

The premiere spent most of its time focusing on Sarah and her attempt to find Kira, but since Orphan Black isn't just about Sarah, the episode's timeline was a bit confusing. Both Sarah and Cosima's stories seemed to pick up almost immediately following the events of the Season 1 finale, but with Alison's storyline, it felt like only a short amount of time had passed. Alison said she wasn't drinking anymore when Felix showed up at her door at 4am asking to borrow a gun for Sarah, but we saw her boozing away her guilt over letting Aynsley die. According to the rest of the premiere, that was less than 12 hours ago. Are we supposed to believe she's suddenly wrapped up in her community theater musical ("Oh my God. Not Cats?"), making costumes, and attending rehearsals? It's absolutely like Alison to throw herself into a new project now that she's signed her contract and thinks she leaving the clone stuff behind, but my God, that woman works fast.

As for Cosima, she's diving deeper into the clones' biology now that she's facing her own mortality. She and Delphine spent a romantic evening in Felix's bed drawing blood samples while 47 flickering candles watched over them, which I hardly think is pragmatic, but what do I know, I don't even have enough money to buy 47 candles. Cosima still doesn't completely trust Delphine even though she helped her figure out how to decipher the synthetic bit of her genome. And since Delphine turned around and handed over one of Cosima's blood samples to Dr. Leekie after Cosima expressly stated she didn't want the blood samples in the hands of the Dyad Institute, Cosima probably shouldn't trust her. The flip side to that, though, is that Delphine did it because she's invested in Cosima's life and well-being (I'm still not convinced of any romantic feelings) and doesn't want to see her die from whatever disease is plaguing the clones. 

Delphine is eventually going to have to choose a side in this battle between the clones and Dyad. She can't keep straddling the line. If we learned nothing else from Sweet Home Alabama, we should at least remember that it's not possible to ride two horses with one ass. Delphine will have to choose: the science, or the person? It's going to be a tough decision, but I just don't see how she can continue to have it both ways. Plus, it's not as if the Dyad Institute is holding something over Delphine's head the way it is with Hot Paul. She's free to ally herself with whichever side she chooses. And speaking of Hot Paul, he's become Rachel's bitch boy, doing her bidding and chauffeuring guests around. He was the least developed character in Season 1 save for Art, and probably my least favorite character for most of the season, but as his feelings for Sarah grew, and as we saw him attempt to protect her from Dyad, he became one of the more interesting non-clone characters. He's still struggling to protect Sarah, and I assume his presence inside Dyad will become more important as the season goes on, but right now I feel every bit as betrayed by him as Sarah does. If there's any hope for Hot Paul, though, we saw it when he smugly told Daniel that Sarah's smarter than Daniel thinks she is, and again when he let her leave Dyad after confronting Rachel. 

Orphan Black had a lot to prove in "Nature Under Constraint and Vexed." A lot was riding on this premiere, and I think the show was successful in replicating the action and anxiety of Season 1, even while introducing new characters and enemies for the clones. If the episode floundered at all, it was probably in the scenes involving Art and Angie tracking the clones. Now that Sarah is no longer impersonating Beth and her presence at the police station isn't commonplace, those storylines don't mesh as well with the rest of the ongoing plots. In a way, this works in the series' favor, because Art is still on the outside looking in; that's reflected in how his arc doesn't quite line up with the rest of the action. But it also makes it hard to care about whether or not he wants to help Sarah. I do want Art to eventually join Sarah's fight, if only because I'd like to spend more time with him and get to know him as more than just "Beth's former partner." He's so close to this conspiracy, even playing a small role in the Maggie Chen case, so here's hoping he dropkicks Angie (she's the worst) and joins the clones.


– By now it should go without saying that Tatiana Maslany's ability to portray several different characters is mind-blowing. But watching Maslany play a clone who's impersonating another clone is even more mesmerizing. Last season we saw Alison pretend to be Sarah and Sarah pretend to be Alison, plus all the Sarah-pretending-to-be-Beth stuff. Now we've seen Sarah pretend to be Cosima, and it's truly spectacular how she manages to bring out both characters in those performances. There are enough subtle nuances that you can tell it's not just Cosima, but rather Sarah impersonating Cosima, which means that in this episode alone, Maslany portrayed six different characters, basically. Mind. Blown.

– Helena's alive! I couldn't find a way to work this in above, and I suspect the reveal will become a bigger storyline next week, so I'm comfortable leaving it here in the notes for now, but OMG HELENA IS ALIVE! We all thought she was dead, but there she was, strolling into the hospital and telling the nurses her sister shot her. The question of how she survived is sure to have an interesting answer. Do you think it's similar to how Kira wasn't seriously injured after being struck by a car? Helena shares Sarah's DNA, after all. I'm just glad that crazy psycho is still around. I'm going to eat some jello to celebrate.

– Felix continues to be Orphan Black's greatest asset. From his ass-less chaps to his reaction to Alison's hand-delivered gun-in-a-flower-arrangement (complete with homemade card!), he's truly the gift that keeps on giving. 

– Rachel mentioned a Supreme Court case characterizing the legal status of natural versus synthetic DNA, which was obviously a nod to the real Supreme Court case that ruled on the matter of human cloning just days after the finale aired. She also mentioned that Dyad is moving forward with a new round of patents. I don't know how much I truly care about that becoming an ongoing plot. I'd rather see how the clones being patented affects each clone. Sarah already told Rachel, "You don't own us," and Cosima made a big deal about this being her biology and what she does about it being her choice. Those ideas are more interesting than what Dyad is doing.

– If Orphan Black doesn't eventually recreate this scene from The First Wives Club with Sarah, Alison, and Cosima, it'll really be missing out on some truly great stuff.

– Of course Alison has a guy who sells her pills and handguns in the parking lot of Econo-Mart. Of course she does.

– "How's your mother?"

– "I'm not going to apologize for my heart."

– "I was supposed to ask you something ... Oh, can we borrow a gun?"

What'd you think of Orphan Black's Season 2 premiere?

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  • hoytfamayl Jun 25, 2014

    Season Two is not good, whereas Season One was - One took a while to get up to steam but it was gripping by the end. This season is just a meandering, pointless mess. I couldn't even be bothered watching the last episode and it's getting near the end - frankly, I don't care anymore what happens. Take it out and shoot it, this series is done.

  • chrnow May 19, 2014

    How did this get a second season! It has got to be in my top 5 worst shows ever!! Just when I thought the plot couldn't get more ridiculously stupid, it kept doing so. I only continued watching to see how far the stupid would go and a second season is taking it beyond a joke. No way I'm wasting more time on this nonsense!

  • AJ8472 May 05, 2014

    One of the best shows ever! , and Tatiana maslany's performance is indeed stellar and mindblowingly good!, man that woman can act!!

  • Drop-dead-gorgeous Apr 27, 2014

    Oh, Felix, you are pure gold! Just give him his own show already!

  • hoytfamayl Jun 25, 2014

    Yeah roger that! He's the only interesting thing left anymore, apart from Tatiana's amazing performance(s).

  • virgo091085 Apr 26, 2014

    I thought at first Alison's character was going to be the weakest. But now I really enjoy her and her great comedic timing. Her and Felix together of course just raises the fun.

  • marcusj1973 Apr 24, 2014

    I was late to the party and binge watched season 1 of Orphan Black just prior to the season 2 premiere. It took the better part of the season for me to fully embrace story lines, but MUCH less for me to embrace Tatiana Maslany. A great lead actress playing a strong female role (rare these days) with a solid story line...? Yup, I'm in. PLUS, it's Canadian...OPA!

    It's really nice to see that season 2 is looking like it hasn't lost a step. Even better is that it looks like we'll be getting more of the Prolethians. We've seen plenty of Dyad's extreme dogma so showing the opposite extreme is nice with our clones balancing in the middle. I'd be lying though if I wasn't concerned about our girls being even further over their head trying to fight off two very powerful organizations.

    Speaking of things that concern me...Cosima and Delphine. Oie! Through most of the first season, Cosima was the pragmatic one. The cautious one. And even as she knew in advance that Delphine couldn't be trusted, she acted (IMO) completely out of character and basically blew up either entire underground status. Stupid, necessary to advance the story, but stupid none the less. Fine, lesson learned, now we can move forward. Wait, what?!? Now she's giving Delphine her blood and pinky swearing her to secrecy?!?!? UGH! Though it did allow me for a mental giggle after Cosima said, "I promise both of you guys that I'm not going to get fooled again."

    I hoped for Delphine to betray her again and happy to see I didn't have to wait long. While I like the character just fine, the sooner she sacrifices herself for Cosima the better cause I've already had enough.

    The other thing causing me concern...super healing. Kira gets smoked by a car and is fine. Helena takes a rebar to the liver and a bullet centre mass and is fine. One of the most endearing things about this show is that unlike many other David and Goliath battles, David is just an ordinary dude. These girls aren't super soldiers or have a vast network of contacts. They're street kids and soccer moms and college students. I'm REALLY not a fan of them having some clone super healing power. Being vulnerable is a big part of their character and is why Helena is the way she is. Making them resistant to all but bullets to the brain and oncoming trains takes some of that away.

    That said, those are two secondary plot points to what is looking like Orphan Black's introduction to top teir TV. And leading the way is Tatiana Maslany. Watching Nina Dobrev be Katherine playing her version of Elana is so fun to watch. Maslany takes that trick and turns it up to 11. Seeing Sarah play Cosima or Allison play Sarah is something I will never tire of. SOOOO GOOD!

    I'll say it again, Felix is the best sidekick ever...though I'd still like to see him have an arc of his own outside the girls.

    "Alison said she wasn't drinking anymore when Felix showed up at her door at 4am asking to borrow a gun for Sarah, but we saw her boozing away her guilt over letting Aynsley die."

    I took that as a "starting now" sort of comment and not something that she'd decided and done a little while back. Unless my timeline is off, it's likely a decision she made when her husband said they could put it all behind them and fix their family.

    "I do want Art to eventually join Sarah's fight"

    Pretty sure he's in the loop after Sarah showed up at his place. They teased that once, I can't see them doing it again. Plus, he kinda has to. These girls don't really stand a chance without some level of police contact and with the Beth cover busted, they're going to need some inside help if they're to stand any chance.

  • 3Jane Apr 26, 2014

    "I'd still like to see [Felix] have an arc of his own outside the girls."

    Me too. The way he sits around outside the circle of girls, watching like a spare thumb, awkwardly saying trite lines, just makes me cringe. He's capable of much more.

  • BranislavIvkovi Apr 23, 2014

    oh just give her an emmy, an oscar, a globe, a grammy - just shower tatiana with all the prizes, she definitely deserves it. nice start of season 2.

  • WildPict Apr 23, 2014

    Okay, now that I've had my Orphan Black fix, I'm feeling muuuchh better now. ;p

    I loved that this episode started where last season's finale ended, it makes the continuity that much easier to follow. I was devastated watching Sarah frantic over her missing daughter. But I'm far more intrigued about the religious creeps, they looked far more genetically artificial than our favorite clones do. And their creep factor was off the chart. The way they killed the waiter, who was just helping someone who looked pretty wrecked at the time, was so cold. I was so glad that he was able to take one of them with him, even if it was involuntarily.

    Felix was just too cool in those chaps, he had me rolling. And the way he just was there for Sarah, especially after she told him about Kira, was absolutely perfect.

    Allison, what can I say? But I would like to know where you've hidden your bomb shelter?

    Why is Paul so cozy with Rachel?!

    And what is Angie's deal? I do NOT trust her, and I'm even thinking that she might be one of the bad guys, maybe one of the religious nuts. Art needs to drop her as a partner, especially since she's already shown quite a bit of hatred towards Sarah.

    Helena's alive??!!! Her ability to survive must have something to do with Kira surviving that accident. Which means that Sarah probably has that same ability. This is really going to stir some serious chaos into the whole mix!

    OMG, I'm so happy this show is back and as awesome as before!

  • natesjokes Apr 22, 2014

    I took the opportunity to re-watch the first season about a week ago so it was still fresh in my mind and I'm glad they picked up where they left off with the second season.

    Sarah pretending to be Cosima was fantastic. I kept forgetting it was actually the same actress.

    So glad that Helena is still alive. I'm guessing that their DNA makes them heal faster or something.

  • KateSullivan Apr 22, 2014

    What I actually really liked about the faking Cosima thing was that really impressive acting choice was that Sarah couldn't do Cosima as well as she can do Alison (and funnier because Cosima's way of talking is a lot more like Tatiana Maslany's actual way of talking)

  • natesjokes Apr 24, 2014

    hah, exactly, it seemed so forced. Even the body movements.

  • jjafargi Apr 22, 2014

    Actually, it was explained that Allison and Ainsley were in the theater company rehearing together long enough for Allison to know Ainsley's part backwards and forwards.

  • 3Jane Apr 26, 2014

    Good point jj.

  • jjafargi Apr 28, 2014


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