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ORPHAN BLACK 4×05 Review ‘Human Raw Material’

Spoilers through Orphan Black Season 4 Episode 5. 

 

Welcome back, Clone Club. It’s time for Episode 5.

EPISODE RECAP:
‘Human Raw Material’

Our girl Krystal is back! Y’all, I have been watching this show for 4 Seasons now and you’d think after 34 episodes I would be used to the fact that Tatiana Maslany plays all the characters. But I swear to god, I was sitting here looking at Krystal on my screen and I thought, we saw her at the start of Season 3, and then towards the end, and now she’s back again for Season 4 – that’s quite a demanding schedule for such a small role for a supporting actor… and then I realized Erin you dumbass this is the same actor you’ve been watching in every single episode. How does Maslany do it?! We are so blessed to have her. She is an angel on this good earth. Keep singing her praises. Every time someone compliments her acting a rescue kitten gets re-homed and a butterfly lives for one more day. I can feel my skin getting clearer already.

Anyway, Krystal is back and she’s kicking ass in the gym. She’s preparing herself to do battle all right, from self-defense training to internet research on Dyad and those creepy “twins”.

ALT text=Orphan Black screenshot of Krystal (Tatiana Maslany) learning self defence

Over in the safe house Sarah and Kira are finally in the same frame again and hanging out. Kira is pretty much waiting for Sarah to say she has to leave, but Sarah insists she’s going to spend the day with her monkey. Look, I love you Sarah, but on a scale of 1 to Krystal’s abs your promises aren’t very solid. Shall we take bets now, readers? You can all have 10 bucks if Sarah lasts out the episode without jetting.

Sarah leaves the room literally two seconds later (she’s still in the safe house so hold onto your dollars for now), where Mrs S directs her to a lovely little Neolution family tree that Alison has constructed. Sarah realizes that Alison has put “Geneconnexion” as one of the branches beneath the Brightborn Group. Geneconnexion is the name of the company that Felix used to find Adele. Mrs S is literally me and is like, NO. NO SARAH, IT’S A COINCIDENCE. DO NOT INVESTIGATE. 

Sarah—classic Sarah—instead goes straight to Felix (she took Kira with her, bet’s still on) and tells him that Geneconnexion is related to Neolution, creating immediate and intense conflict between the two of them. Sarah’s jealousy over Felix’s relationship with Adele reaches breaking point when Kira meets Adele and takes an immediate liking to her. Determined to resolve this her own way, Sarah calls Scott and secretly asks him to conduct a DNA test on Felix and Adele, to prove if they’re really siblings or not.

ALT text= Orphan Black screencap of Kira greeting Felix with a hug

Cosima and Alison have been conducting the research on Brightborn together, but on the scientific community side of things Cosima is coming up short. Brightborn is extremely secretive. She goes with Donnie to the Brightborn orientation to try and find out more. Arriving at the facility, the woman at the front desk mentions to them that they’ve picked the right orientation weekend because Evie Cho herself will be making an appearance. Oops. Cosima does her best to hide her face behind Donnie as they listen to the orientation welcome, during which Evie Cho describes her long history of medical issues that led her to gene therapy and eventually to conducting her own research and work on embryo enhancement. Cosima is mystified.

Donnie: “I’m gay, but I’m not like super gay so, maybe don’t play the lesbian angle too much?”

Cosima: “I’m just gonna let that one … slide.”

Who should show up at Brightborn but Krystal, on the damn ball and right behind the rest of the LEDA clones in tracking this Neolution web, or so it would seem. She doesn’t quite have everything figured out — she knows that something shifty is up with this Brightborn place and it has something to do with the “twins” and Dyad, but she hasn’t yet worked out how she herself fits into the picture. In other words, she’s not yet a self-aware clone. But I doubt her naivety will last much longer.

Krystal: “I am so excited for my own little Brightborn baby.”

Evie Cho gets a notified that Susan Duncan has arrived and leaves the orientation. She fails to spot Cosima, but sees Krystal at the front desk on her way out, and assumes that she’s the runaway clone Sarah. She reports immediately to Susan and offers to round up the clone but Susan wants to see for herself first.

While Cosima goes exploring with the tour Donnie bonds with moms and babies and lays eyes on Krystal, promptly losing his shit and almost throwing the baby he’s holding out with his own bathwater.

We then jump over to the police department, where Art Bell and Detective Duko (the Neolutionist who overtook Beth’s case) remain in conflict. Duko approaches Art with one of Alison’s campaign flyers and comments on the resemblance to Beth, which Art denies. Duko goes on about how the Hendrixes are drug dealers and suspects for murder. Art brushes it off but alarm bells are ringing in his head and as soon as he gets rid of Duko he calls Sarah and demands an explanation, who in turns agrees to handle Alison.

Sarah: “Please tell me you’re not drug dealers.”

Alison: “Former.”

As Sarah confronts Alison over the drugs Alison confesses that Helena has disappeared, sparking a fight between the two of them until Alison pulls the plug by hanging up.

Back at Brightborn, Susan ventures across Cosima instead of Krystal. Unaware that she’s talking to Susan Duncan, Cosima inquires about the Brightborn contract. She’s noticed that all of the babies in the material have dimples and questions Brightborn’s genetics policy, but Susan brushes it off and says that babies with dimples are more likely to be photographed. Cosima isn’t quite so easily convinced. Susan leaves to report back to Evie and Cosima slips away with Susan’s stolen keycard to try and find her way into a lab.

Donnie catches up with her and raises the Krystal alarm, but Cosima only sends him back to deal with the problem while she goes to investigate the lower levels of Brightborn.

Sarah had invited Felix for dinner at the safe house, but instead of showing up alone he brings Adele. Dinner is full of conflict and ends abruptly when Scott calls in the middle of things and confirms that yes, Felix and Adele are indeed siblings. Felix is satisfied but hurt that Sarah didn’t trust him and Sarah is heartbroken that Felix’s family isn’t just her anymore.

ALT text= Orphan Black screenshot of Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning

Krystal has wandered off into the depths of Brightborn and finds herself in a massage clinic. As she’s stealing bottles of lotion from the display table Donnie winds up behind her and pretends to be an employee, which backfires when Krystal requests a massage. Donnie obliges, leading Krystal to get comfortable enough to explain that she thinks Brightborn is up to something shifty and illegal. Donnie says too much and accidentally reveals that he knows who Krystal is. She freaks and launches self-defense-mode, knocking Donnie out cold before making a break for it.

Susan reports back to Evie and says that the clone isn’t Sarah but Cosima. They send an employee to nab her, but the employee chances upon Krystal instead. Krystal is brought in to see Evie and Susan but throws a fit of panic when she recognizes Ira, and is quickly shuffled out.

Meanwhile the un-caught Cosima finds some scrubs to disguise herself and makes her way into the lower levels looking for a lab. Instead, she finds rooms where pregnant volunteer test subjects are being cared for. Two nurses come bolting down the hallway carting a woman who appears to be going through a frighteningly painful and distressing labor. Cosima gets pulled along with them and is forced to assist in the birth.

The baby that is delivered has severe birth defects, and is taken away. Cosima is horrified; this test subject from the ‘carrier’ volunteer is far from the beautiful and perfect enhancements that Brightborn boasts of.

Susan Duncan arrives and introduces herself to the reeling Cosima. Pulled into a confronting meeting with Susan and Evie Cho, she challenges their questionable experiments. Susan asks Evie to leave the room. Susan argues that her creation of Cosima and the other clones is justified because her experiments will unlock the mysteries of the human genome. Cosima refuses to work with Susan and won’t give up Kendall for more clones, but Susan tries to convince her that sharing the original’s genome is the only way that Cosima has a chance at finding a cure.

Cosima: “Look at me, I’m sick. I never gave permission for any of this.”

Susan: “No one gives permission to be born.”

Kira and Sarah have a heart to heart. Kira explains that she has a strong connection to all the clones and can emphasize with them to the point of knowing their innermost emotions. Kira comforts Sarah, saying she can feel her too, and gives her kiss on the cheek. The bet is over, you can take my money and my tears.

In the closing scene, Ira and Susan take a dive in the Brightborn facility swimming pool. As they discuss how close they are to getting their hands on a clone cure, the final shots reveal that the two are in a romantic relationship. Yikes.

EPISODE REVIEW

This was an all-around excellent episode, I can’t believe how much I have to talk about! We sat back on major players Alison, Helena and Rachel (the latter two did not make an appearance at all), and honed in on Cosima and Krystal instead. Cosima has always been my favorite but after this episode I’m loving Krystal almost as much. Her character is fantastically written; although she comes across as a typical blonde bombshell, has a tendency to overshare and a clear kleptomania problem, the fact that she’s managed to get this close to Brightborn on her own research alone is extremely impressive and shows that she’s much more intelligent than meets the eye. She isn’t quite on the money yet (she thinks Brightborn’s shifty practices are about stem cells) but I imagine that in the next episode we’ll either see her getting told she’s a clone or she’ll become self-aware herself. Susan Duncan called her naive and harmless but Krsytal has already proven that untrue. She found her way to Brightborn and knocked Donnie the fuck out with one hell of a karate chop to the neck. He even hit his face on the massage table as he went down. Ouch.

It felt so great to see Cosima get out of the basement lab she’s been trapped in all season and get back to her curious, investigative self. Her arc rivals only the beauty and tragedy of Helena’s, and in this episode we saw a lot of Cosima’s story come to a head. She finally meets her other creator, Susan Duncan. You can let this gifset speak for how highly Cosima once regarded her creators, but reveal after reveal has left her horrified at the origin story of her own existence. The labor scene in this episode was one of the most intense and upsetting moments I think we’ve seen in all of Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany’s acting was at its finest here and in her confrontation with Duncan. My little gay heart is so broken.

Speaking of which—we were given a break there for a while, but with this episode we were reminded that Cosima is still dying. I’m terrified for where this season is going to leave her. I’ve expressed my concern for the fate of Delphine after each episode so far, but now that we’ve got Cosima back in the limelight with still no sign of Delphine I’m getting concerned for another reason. I just hope that Orphan Black is above the happy lesbian reunion followed immediately by sudden death that we’ve seen so much of on television lately. The quality of this show and the respect it does have for its LGBT characters eases my nerves a little, but I’m gonna be sitting here with my fingers crossed for a while yet. Prayer circle, anyone?

So much in-fighting in this episode, though. So much. Sarah was having it out with just about everyone, from Felix to Alison to Art. You gotta wonder if it’s got anything to do with that face-worm that’s still chilling out in her cheek. I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for Sarah when it comes to how she’s handling things with Felix. I understand that she’s under a lot of stress but the cause of conflict between them both rests on her shoulders. She’s the one pushing buttons and by extension pushing him away. And even though Felix and Adele were confirmed to be siblings, I doubt that Geneconnexion’s connection to Brightborn is a red herring. I want to trust Adele but I’m not 100% convinced she’s harmless, so I am with Sarah a little bit on that one to be perfectly honest.

On the flip side, Sarah and Alison fighting is kind of entertaining. The way they “bitch’d” each other with out knowing was so funny. I’m mad at Alison for not telling Sarah about Helena sooner though, and also being shitty and unconcerned about it. The woman is super pregnant and she ran off with nothing but camping gear! No points for you, Alison.

Okay, so I thought we’d had enough surprises in this episode what with Krystal showing up at Brightborn and the scary labor scene but whoa, that ending was a major WTF moment. Not sure I’m sold on the necessity of showing Susan and Ira’s romantic relationship. I feel like it was already vaguely implied based on how much time they spent together and that was enough. Like, we already knew they were twisted, I didn’t really need to see them making out in a pool did I? Shuddering for days.

To cap off: great writing in this episode. Well-paced development and well-balanced character focus. Let’s end this week with a round of applause for Tatiana Maslany, who showed off not just some incredible acting chops but impressive arms and abs as well. A+.


All images courtesy of the BBC

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Erin Latimer is writer whose specialties include film analysis, television and gaming reviews, and re-examining movies from her childhood through a lens of feminist fan practices and queer theory.

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