Orphan Black "Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est" Review: She's Got the Power
"I'm not a monkey anymore. I'm a leopard." In our world, an eight-year-old girl telling her mother she's outgrown her ridiculously cute nickname and opted to be a fierce predator instead would probably result from being teased by a classmate at school. But this is the world of Orphan Black, where nothing is ever said or done without meaning, and where nothing is ever as easy or simple as it appears to be on the surface.
Over the course of a season and a half, Kira has proven herself to be an intuitive child and quick thinker, almost to the point where I've often stopped and wondered if Orphan Black's science-fiction story doesn't also border on the supernatural with regard to clairvoyance. Predatory creatures with opportunistic hunting habits, leopards are known for many things—including their solitary nature and their quick speed. They're stealthy creatures with the ability to climb trees, giving them a unique vantage point from which to stalk their chosen prey. They'll consume nearly anything they can hunt and catch, spanning several different species—including monkeys. Gee, if only we knew someone who displayed all of those characteristics. Oh wait, we do!
Last week, I wrote about Helena's unpredictable nature and her proclivity for "solving" most problems with violence. I cautioned against celebrating these bad habits, and this week, after Felix deposited a freshly showered and clothed Helena at Art's thinking she'd be safe with a properly trainer police officer, she proved that I was right to be concerned about her status as Orphan Black's resident wildcard. She devoured most of the food Art had on hand, including sardines with mustard, pickles, powdered donuts, and hardboiled eggs. Then she broke free of her restraints and returned to Maggie Chen's storage unit to collect her favorite weapon—the sniper rifle—to eliminate Rachel. "Rachel is problem. I fix problem," she told Sarah.
Fortunately (or unfortunately?), Sarah was able to use Helena's desire to feel needed and loved as a means of talking her down from her ledge before she could put a bullet through Rachel mid-coitus with Hot Paul—another character who's turned out to be a wildcard, as his loyalties appear to lie primarily with his own ass (and abs). While I'll still never fully trust Helena—she's broken, and much like the leopard, she might never be able to change her spots—this episode belonged to her. From hissing at Felix to cutting the Barbie's hair to make it look like Rachel, we've got give the woman credit for originality; she brings life into a world that could easily give in to its darkness and exist in a grim and desperate reality. Some fans weren't happy to Helena return at the start of the season, but even though I don't necessarily belong to the school that worships at her feet, I expect she'll eventually help Sarah as much as Sarah's going to help her. It's just going to take time before we really see it.
Hot Paul returned this week with allegiances so fluid that I doubt even Kira would be able to pinpoint what's happening there. He appeared to have aligned himself with both Rachel and Leekie this week, but in reality, it's probably more complicated than that. Once Beth's death was out in the open, his role as a monitor was no longer necessary, and he's been shuffled around Dyad since then, first as Rachel's bitch boy and now as her monitor. "It's a promotion," Rachel said, but I think bitch boy to sex toy isn't really a move I'd like to make, personally. However, I will give Rachel a high-five for bringing Hot Paul's abs back in to the picture, because Orphan Black's been failing Sexy 101 this season, what with all the mysterious religious fanatics stealing Helena's eggs, Cosima's illness, and Alison's alcoholism. Yes, those abs are a welcome reprieve from all the darkness that is enveloping the clones.
That said, Paul's actions in this episode were frustrating, but not necessarily surprising. He's doing everything Rachel says, including framing Felix for the murder of a police officer. He's also letting Rachel go all dominatrix on him in the bedroom, which UGH. From where I sit, there are two explanations for Paul's behavior. The first is that Paul's afraid that if he makes a misstep, Dyad might decide he's no longer of use to them and simply put a bullet in his brain. Even if Dyad didn't have information to hold over his head, they can't just let him walk away at this point, given everything he knows. So either he keeps his mouth shut and follows orders, or he's dead. The second possible explanation—and I wouldn't put it past Orphan Black to go this route, though I hope it doesn't—is that Paul is using his close proximity to Rachel to infiltrate Dyad on Sarah's behalf and help her from within.
We've seen no evidence of this—and I much prefer the first option because it makes Paul feel more human, in the sense that it's our nature to selfishly look out for ourselves—but Paul's calm demeanor and steely glare is so hard to read that we never know what he's thinking anyway. He could be thinking about how badly he wants tacos, or he could be strategically planning a jewel heist. The point is, we don't know who Paul's really working for, and we don't know what's going through his head at any given moment. At least Helena's unpredictable behavior is predictable in that everyone knows they need to be on alert around her. In Paul's case, we thought we knew him and could trust him based on his odd connection to Sarah in Season 1, but these days, he's proving to be every bit as mysterious as the religious wackjobs who want to implant the fertilized egg in Helena (or if they can't track her down, Gracie).
I believe I've touched on this before, but one of the things that makes Orphan Black so compelling is the way it paints its characters in various shades of gray. No one is all good, and no one is all bad, which helps make the show's exciting, mysterious world feel a bit more relatable. It'd be easy to draw a line and see the world of Orphan Black as an alternate reality, but the people who inhabit it just feel so, well, human, that it makes you wonder whether there's secretly a clone conspiracy headquartered in Toronto that we don't know about. The show's habit of keeping viewers on their toes by making characters switch allegiances based on their own wants makes it difficult to determine who the real villain is. People we thought were enemies can turn out to be allies, and vice versa. I'm not going to braid Dr. Leekie a friendship bracelet anytime soon, but it's promising that he ignored Rachel and proceeded with the first step in treating Cosima's mysterious illness after also confessing that the clones' original genome was destroyed in the lab explosion we thought killed Rachel's parents.
Leekie is obviously a man of science and no doubt has ulterior motives in circumventing Rachel's narrow-minded desire to get Sarah to heel, but is he an ally? Maybe, maybe not. That's what makes him interesting, and a world in which Leekie uses the clones while they use him adds yet another layer to this already complicated adventure. The fact that the original genome no longer exists explains, at least in part, Dyad's deep interest in Sarah and what makes her special. The reveal that Rachel's father, Ethan Duncan (or Swan Man, as Helena knows him), could still be alive is something I considered last week, but I wasn't sure the series would go there. Now that I know that it is, I'm very interested to discover what he knows and how this knowledge might affect Rachel down the road.
"Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est" translates to "knowledge itself is power," and that's never been more obvious than it is right now. Orphan Black holds power over its viewers by deciding exactly how much (or how little) of this far-reaching clone conspiracy to reveal in each episode. In terms of the story it's telling, not a single character possesses all the knowledge of the show's world, but they can still use what they do know to their advantage, like when Sarah employed her knowledge of Ethan's survival to secure Felix's freedom, or when she realized that the way to get through to Helena was to prey on her loneliness. Having knowledge gives us power, but I feel pretty good not knowing where Orphan Black is headed next, and not knowing what to expect from people like Paul, because that's what makes the series so surprising.
– Poor Felix, man. Caught up in the clone conspiracy bullshit again. I honestly don't know how much longer he's going to be able to take it.
– The Proletheans sewed Gracie's mouth shut when she refused to talk about what happened with Helena. That. Is. So. Messed. Up.
– The mystery of Cal continues. The Dyad Institute began looking into him to see if there was something special about him, too, since he's Kira's father. But it doesn't look like they know much about him, either. He's got a fake driver's license and a gun. Who are you, Cal? And can we trust you? I want to be able to trust you.
– I can't decide which line of Helena's was funnier: "Do you like my hair, Paul?" or "I wanted to write letter" as an excuse for why she stole Felix's pen.
– Do we need to start referring to Paul as Big Dick Paul instead of Hot Paul?
– No Alison this week, which makes sense given that she's still in rehab.
– The Place of Screams does NOT sound like a place I want to go.
– Just doing God's work here:
What'd you think of "Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est"?
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