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ORPHAN BLACK 4×04 Review ‘From Instinct to Rational Control’

Spoilers ahead through Orphan Black Season 4 Episode 4.

All right, my guys, it’s that time of the week again. This episode was an interesting one. The unravel continues at a slow but steady pace for Orphan Black Season 4. We get a couple of significant character developments, some rock-solid answers on this biotech worm business, lots of pregnancy talk, and an introduction to a little something called Brightborn. If you haven’t caught up with us yet, check out my previous recaps here and here. Now let’s get into it.

RECAP: Episode 4
‘From Instinct to Rational Control’

We open with a brief glimpse of MK; she’s building explosives and hacking DYAD in her trailer. As you do.

Ferdinand and Mrs S meet up with Sarah, and Ferdinand tells them that Susan Duncan will have the answer to Sarah’s worm-tech situation. He has an encrypted message from Rachel and he wants Sarah’s ‘source’ (MK) to decode and trace it so they can find the whereabouts of Rachel. I still don’t believe that Ferdinand can be trusted, but Sarah agrees to give up her source for a lead on Neolution.

ALT= Orphan Black screenshot of Tatiana Maslany as MK

After having coffee with her bestie Sarah Stubbs, Alison is ambushed in a cafe by Club Neolution member Trina, who thinks Alison is Beth. Trina is furious that Beth went to ‘Lifespring Fertility Clinic’ because Trina told her things in confidence and didn’t want Beth to continue investigating. She called herself a ‘carrier’, which must mean that the baby she’s currently very pregnant with has something to do with the clinic. Alison calls Sarah to raise the alarm.

Sarah answers just as she and Felix have kissed and made up. Felix is now informed and onboard about the freaky worm tech business and agrees to keep Adele away from the situation to protect her. Sarah begs Alison to investigate the clinic.

Meanwhile at the Hendrix house, Donnie sits down with Helena and tries to explain that Alison is feeling fragile and finding Helena’s pregnancy hard due to his and Alison’s fertility issues. He asks Helena to tread carefully around his high-strung wife. After Donnie leaves, it becomes apparent that Helena took him to mean that she isn’t welcome in the Hendrix house anymore, so she packs her things and runs away, leaving her cryo-container of science babies buried in the back garden.

Alison can’t go into the clinic in case they recognize her as Beth so she recruits Donnie and Felix and invents an elaborate cover story for them, complete with fake IDs. She waits in the carpark while they attend a consultation. Felix takes offence to Donnie’s over-performative gay-dad-to-be persona so Donnie tries to dial it back. Convincing the clinic of their authenticity requires submitting sperm for sampling; Donnie can’t get off to the gay magazines he’s handed so he phones Alison to er … help him out.

Felix: “Donnie, do you have any gay friends?”

Meanwhile Sarah heads back to her worm-video friend (who’s name was revealed somewhere along the way to be Dizzy) so that she can get in touch with MK and show her the message from Rachel. MK agrees to decode Rachel’s message, but as soon as she discovers that Sarah and Rachel’s contact is Ferdinand of Topside, she immediately bails on Sarah and cuts off contact.

ALT = Orphan Black screenshot of Felix and Donnie sitting together and pretending to be a coupleAlison’s friend Portia spots her in the clinic carpark. The two chat and Alison admits her grief over not being able to have children, but uses Portia’s sympathy to gain information about the clinic’s top treatment program ‘Brightborn’. Alison passes the info to Donnie and Felix, who enquire about the program during their appointment with Dr Bosch. Bosch is surprised they’ve managed to hear about Brightborn, but agrees to introduce them to it.

Sarah wants Dizzy’s help to find MK, but he’s tired of being kept in the dark so Sarah explains the clone thing. Dizzy cracks them open both a beer in response. He thinks he knows where MK’s home plate might be so they set out together to find out. Arriving at the junkyard they find MK’s trailer, but she isn’t there. Dizzy employs his hacking skills to her computer in hopes of finding info on Neolution’s location. Sarah finds a picture of MK with another clone, blond like Krystal but clearly someone different.

Over at Neolution, Rachel and Ira discusses Charlotte’s illness. The girl is confirmed to be the youngest to develop symptoms. Susan is willing to consider treatment for Charlotte … but if they don’t treat her, Charlotte could serve as a test subject – and considering that Susan appears no closer to a cure, that research could be valuable for everyone involved. Susan leaves Rachel to choose the girl’s fate.

Susan: What would you do? Let the disease advance, or intervene?

Rachel: Is this a test?

Susan: It’s a decision. One of many we’d have to make every day.

And speaking of tests, Cosima and Scott have finally got their hands on their subject. A tumour has formed around Leekie’s cheek-worm. Once removed, Scott discovers that the tumour is coated in green-flourescent proteins so it glows in the dark. Cosima concedes the worm-bot is introducing foreign DNA and the glowing shit is what was being used to track gene expressions. It could be changing Sarah’s DNA.ALT= Orphan Black screenshot of Tatiana Maslany as Sarah reading a newspaper clipping

MK lures Ferdinand to Beth’s house. When he arrives he finds MK on a computer screen wearing her sheep mask. He sits down to talk with her, only to discover that his chair is rigged with an explosive that will detonate if he stands up. MK arrives in the flesh to face off with him. She begins to reveal all that she knows about him; meanwhile Sarah is over in MK’s trailer with Dizzy discovering the same information.

MK reveals burn scars on the side of her face to Ferdinand, simultaneously revealing herself as the only survivor of the Helsinki clone kill of 2006, then named Veera Suominen. She tells Ferdinand that her best friend Niki died there, the blond clone whom Sarah saw a photograph of. Cosima calls Sarah to explain what they’ve discovered about the worms, just as Sarah puts two and two together and races to stop MK.

Ferdinand: I understand. This is your revenge fantasy — you’ve been playing it in your head for years.

MK: You killed six of my sisters. Murdered 32 of our friends and loved ones.

It might be too late — by the time Sarah gets there, MK has doused the room and Ferdinand in gasoline. Sarah explains about the worms and says that Ferdinand is an asset who can help her remove it, but MK doesn’t care, she’s only here for revenge. She forces Ferdinand to give her his bank password to complete a transfer of his entire funds: 3.7 million dollars. MK disappears once again, leaving Ferdinand alive but shaken, and Sarah in disbelief over being so used.

Sarah: What about our sisters that are still alive?

MK: I’m sorry.

Back at Neolution, Rachel tells Susan that Charlotte should not be given treatment, reasoning that the data gleaned from her suffering will prove to be more valuable than her life. Beneath her steely facade Rachel seems mixed about the situation, asking Susan if that was the answer she wanted to hear. Susan deflects the question and tells Rachel that she’s going away to follow a new lead on the whereabouts of the original, Kendall Malone. Erasing any hope of a relationship-repair between mother and daughter, Susan tells Rachel that she knows about the notes between her and Charlotte and that Rachel contact Ferdinand, a clear threat behind her statements.

Finally, Felix takes the Brightborn package he and Donnie received to Cosima. They play the DVD introduction: a woman in a white lab coat named Evie Cho, CEO and founder of Brightborn, explains fertility the Brightborn fertility treatment. Neolution has gone mainstream with reproductive technology that engineers stronger and healthier babies. “We’re making the world a better place,” says Evie coolly, “one baby at a time.”

EPISODE REVIEW

This episode brought some great reveals to the table that have left me desperate for Episode Five. I’m loving this Brightborn thing and I’m curious to see where it leads. Trina calling herself a ‘carrier’ was one of the most intriguing moments at the start of this episode’s unravel. Brightborn is a branch of Neolution, which means that Susan Duncan is somehow involved. The question now is what exactly is up with these Brightborn babies, and are they dangerous?ALT = Orphan Black screenshot of MK, Ferdinand and Sarah in a confrontation

Last week, a commenter reminded me that when Delphine was introduced she mentioned to Cosima that her area of study was host-parasite relationships. I hoped that meant that this episode would see Cosima trying to track down Delphine to get her to help out with the worm research, but I was sadly wrong. However, it’s not too late for that to happen. They still need someone to get this biotech out of Sarah’s face without doing any harm, and maybe Delphine will turn out to be the only one who can do it. I don’t know. I’m just hoping that that tidbit of information will resurface and become relevant in the near future, because four-seasons-deep foreshadowing is one of my favorite things. But host-parasite relevancy or none, where the heck is Delphine? We’re encroaching upon the halfway mark of this season; any longer and I’m gonna call this cliffhanger unacceptable. The tension has pretty much worn off at this point. I need to know.

I was proved wrong on my predictions about how Sarah and Felix would fight and make up, which I am glad about. However I’m still disappointed with how Season 4 is handling Felix’s characterization. Sarah and Mrs S told him not to bring Adele close to the situation, which means either A) we won’t really see her again and his subplot is going to dissipate, or B) Adele will get roped into the situation anyway and Felix will default to being a supporting branch in Sarah’s story. I don’t like either of these options, I hope there’s a third. And if there isn’t, I hope that Felix’s role in the main story is important enough that he gets to develop his own arc within it.

ALT= cover art of Orphan Black comic Helsinki, featuring a woman with a burn mark on her faceNow, about MK and Helsinki. If you’re having trouble remembering exactly what Helsinki means and how it’s been featured in the series previously, there might be a reason for that. Firstly, mentions of Helsinki only began filtering through in tiny drips in early Season 3. This recap over at Bustle should refresh your memory on Helsinki, and what it means to Topside and Dyad. Secondly, Helsinki featured in an expanded-universe mini comic series that was release late last year during the season break. I only found out about it recently, and if you’re a casual Orphan Black fan like me you might not even know it exists. The comic appears to only be available for purchase, but you can check out a preview of the first comic to get a vibe here. The 5-issue miniseries follows a Finnish orphan named Veera, a teenage clone who became self-aware and found other clones like her. Fans who had read the comic were quick to pick up on the fact that MK’s appearance and skills were similar to Veera’s, so for some the reveal in this episode may not have come as such a surprise.

All right, all right, I’ve talked about Brightborn and Helsinki enough, and even though I mentioned Delphine and the biotech thing I kind of sidestepped a very important plot point and you’ve probably been wondering when I’m going to address it — Cosima thinks the worm is changing Sarah’s DNA??? Yikes. With one question answered, two bigger ones have opened up: in what way are Sarah’s genes changing, and why? If we’re lucky we’ll find out in the next episode. I think it’s safe to say that this information is beyond concerning, considering that Kira (who did not make an appearance in this episode) had a weird dream (or vision? god help us) in the previous episode about the other clones burning Sarah alive because she was changing. Yeah. Feel free to add an entry to TV Tropes’ Nightmare Fuel.

Anyway, shake that out of your system and let’s sum up. In short, another consistent episode for Orphan Black. Consistent in both the good and unfortunately the bad. Hoping for some better writing for Felix and some answers on Delphine, but otherwise this season has been great so far. A smart pinch of humour over on the Felix/Alison/Donnie side, a jab of heartwrench thanks to Helena thinking she isn’t welcome at the Hendrixes and running away; and plenty of intensity over in Sarah’s corner of the field, as usual. Could use a little more Cosima imo. No sign of Krystal, who’s also still meant to make a Season 4 appearance, but we did get a glimpse at a new character, Evie Cho, played by Chinese-Filipino-Canadian actress Jessalyn Wanlim. TV has lately continued to do a shitty job of including Asian women (if this doesn’t make you angry, go break your own heart by watching Arden Cho struggle to explain to her fans that “there isn’t always room for everyone” in a sad attempt to justify Teen Wolf‘s dismissal of her storyline and why she’s left the show), so I hope that Orphan Black steps up to plate and delivers. Evie Cho is the CEO of Brightborn, so there looks to be plenty of room for her to develop into a feature character. I can’t wait to see where all of this goes.

Orphan Black reviews continue next Monday with Episode 5, ‘Human Raw Material’. 

Images courtesy of BBC America and IDW.

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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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