Orphan Black 2.1 Review - "Nature Under Constraint And Vexed"

The most amazing thing about Orphan Black is that there are moments where you forget that the primary female characters are played by the same actress. When Sarah dresses up as Cosima to attend to the Dyad Institute's gala, there's a moment where she's talking and you think "Wow, Tatiana Maslany does a great impression of the actress who plays...oh, right." After almost 11 months off from a show with 10 episode seasons, I was incredibly eager for this show to be back already. As a week to week experience, building anticipation throughout the season, it was better than anything else on TV last year. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed binge watching it as much as I did watching in real time, keeping up with the reviews and fandom online, etc. The first few episodes would have gone down easier, as BBC America's decision to feature what was clearly built up as a twist (that the girls are clones) in all of their promotional material made it feel slower the producers clearly intended it to. Still, for as much as most American viewers thought they knew going into the series (even BBC America's earliest promos were built around the series' opening scene where Sarah sees Beth commit suicide), the show had a lot more up its sleeves than what was already given away. Invariably, in discussions of the show, when asked to name the moment that hooked them on the show, fans' answers are always the same:
Sarah is posing as Beth, and gets way in over her head when she's called in to give a statement about her shooting a civilian while on duty as a Toronto (the city is never named, but never really hidden, either) detective. She goes into to the restroom and decides to down the entire contents of a soap dispenser. Why? So she can do this:
It sure seems like the show's writers had this in mind when crafting the teaser to tonight's season premiere. Cornered by who we later learn are agents of The Prolethians, the religious extremists who raised Helena, she's stuck in a diner restroom. The grate she finds is much too small for her to fit into. With nothing else to try, she grabs a fire extinguisher and bangs on the wall. It works just enough for her to get out and get a head start, and it's awesome. As is the entire episode, which is a fantastic piece of business, probably the best one so far. One thing that struck me watching "Nature Under Constraint and Vexed" is that, in theory, there's no real need for one of the clones to be the lead. In conceiving the show, the creators could have set it up in a way where the different clones get something resembling more equal screen time, but they didn't. Sarah is the female lead. She's the catalyst for the story because she saw Beth commit suicide (though we don't know if Beth did it in front of Sarah on purpose), she's the one clone who's not sterile (and may very well not be a clone if we want to extrapolate that piece of information), etc. Sarah has been built up tremendously well. Not that the other clones haven't been fleshed out, but she's a lead who could carry a show where she wasn't a clone and was running from a shadowy cabal for some other reason. I'm not sure I can say the same of the other clones, yet. Thats probably by design, of course, but seeing her stay ahead of Daniel, Rachel, and the rest of the Dyad Institute was exactly what Sarah should be able to do. Like Angela said, she's a grifter. She's street-smart. It's a shame she didn't find a better application for it before, but they didn't magically turn her into a genius superhero. A lot can happen in the next nine episodes, but right now, The Prolethians appear to be the big villains of the season. Even though the men who ambush Sarah at the start of the episode claim to have Kira and Mrs. S and seem more like cultists than Dyad reps, the show does an impressive job of making it easy to forget as the episode goes on. Sarah thinks Rachel has her daughter and foster mother, and the game of cat and mouse where she avoids Daniel and the other Dyad agents before eventually infiltrating the gala quickly makes us either forget about the The Prolethians or think they're with the Institute. Especially when the investigation of the shooting at the diner is taken over by an unnamed (because they're in Canada?) federal agency.
So in the end, there's not a ton of movement on the Dyad end of the plot. Yes, Delphine does betray Cosima by giving a vial of her blood to Dr. Leakee, but Leakee looked genuinely concerned about Cosima getting sick, so she might have good intentions and Cos might be better off. Sarah scares the seemingly unflappable Rachel in her first full episode by shooting a gun just to the side of her head. And Big Dick Paul appears to be on Sarah's side, at least as much as he can be. With Rachel in the picture, I'm not sure where Leakee stands. Of course, he's been around longer, but Beth was set up as the Dyad bigwig here. I guess that for now, he's the Dyad presence in Cosima's stories while Beth (and/or Daniel) fills that role in the bigger Sarah storylines. Sarah finally confiding in Art (which either happened off-camera or will open next week's episode) was welcome after the tease in the season finale. She needs an ally who's separate from the core group of the clones and their families. While it looks like Art won't be able to get her out of jams as easily as he'd like with the influence the various bad guys are wielding, she's a lot better off with him on her side than she is with him trying to arrest her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WMIzmO-Ycw Oh, and Helena's alive. Well, it's that kind of show. Her death felt like the right direction at the time, but if we're really digging into The Prolethians, then yes, of course she has to be back. The character is awesome, don't get me wrong, but the show does feel a little less like anyone can die with her not being killed off. However, in spite of everything Helena has done so far, nothing on this show to date has been creepier than the ending to this episode. One of The Prolethians roughly brushes Kira's hair in the bedroom where they're keeping her...and turns on a video camera. I don't think the show would go anywhere as awful as a scene like that would imply it could, but it's chilling all the same. So if The Prolethians have Kira, do they have Mrs. S, too? It's been strongly implied that Mrs. S was one of the original scientists behind the cloning. She'd be of use to the Dyad Institute (again?), but I'm not really sure how she fits in to the kidnapping right now. Some scattered, more minor thoughts: Why were Art and Angela detaining Sarah again, anyway? They just let her go. There's something so perfect about Alison's gun and drug dealer Ramon being a big box superstore employee who sells out of the trunk of his car while wearing his work uniform. Hopefully we see more of him this season Alison participating in community musical theater was every bit as awesome as I was hoping it would be, but it didn't add much to the plot. Still, I can't wait for Felix to get involved in this side-plot. Speaking of Felix, after this season premier, I guess that anyone who thought Felix was too much of a garden variety gay stereotype will have that feeling amplified by Sarah finding him high in a club while wearing assless chaps. Jordan Gavaris's thoughts on that topic are pretty interesting, for what it's worth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1bLQIv79QA I feel like I'm not sure if I'm supposed to dislike Angela. I really, really dislike Angela. You can follow David Bixenspan on Twitter @davidbix.

Formerly the site manager of Cageside Seats and the WWE Team Leader at Bleacher Report, David Bixenspan has been writing professionally about WWE, UFC, and other pop culture since 2009. He's currently WhatCulture's U.S. Editor and also serves as the lead writer of Figure Four Weekly and a monthly contributor to Fighting Spirit Magazine.