Orphan Black, Season 3 Episode 3: “Formalized, Complex, and Costly”

“You are not my family” – Prolethean/Castor clone Mark

At the heart of Orphan Black is the idea of family. As the early seasons of the show explored the nature/nurture dichotomy, and landed on the nurture side, with some nature thrown in, the question of what it means to be family is the key to Orphan Black‘s third season. This week we learn that the Castor and Leda clones are genetically related – that they’re family. Sarah tries to tell Mark this, and that was his response. Because one of the best things that Orphan Black has done is create bonds between characters that are closer than any blood ties. Sure, all of our Leda clones have the same genetics, but they chose to build a community, which also includes Felix, Sarah’s foster brother, as well as Art. Alison and Donnie can’t have their own biological children, but they’re making the best effort they can to ensure that their children have the best education possible, even with questionable methods. A piece of Rudy died inside when he had to kill Seth, but it was even worse to see what he was going through. The woman the Castor clones call ‘mother’ isn’t their biological mother any more than Mrs S is Sarah and Felix’s mother, but those bonds are there. Family is also why Helena has faith that her sisters didn’t abandon her.

We travel through several families this week, beginning with Felix, Sarah and a body in a bathtub. Then Art comes along to let Sarah know he has a lead on Mark, and it’s not long before he’s shown the body. Any other show would have had Felix and Sarah spend two thirds of the episode hiding Seth’s body, but Orphan Black doesn’t mess around. “Please don’t tell” quickly led to “I’m going to introduce you to Cosima so you’re distracted from the dead body in the bathtub”, and it worked pretty well. Art was able to talk to someone who knew Beth, who wasn’t just his partner, but the woman he loved. He can tell Sarah that because she’s Beth’s family, and since Beth was his partner (despite the fact that it was more complicated than that), she was his family too. So Art and Sarah go on the road to find another family, in Gracie, Mark and the weird Helena child Gracie’s father planted in her, and Sarah cares enough about Art to make sure that he doesn’t lose his job because he’s travelling across the country to look for Castor clones.

Sarah not only finds who she’s looking for, she also manages to destroy another family in the process. Mark tells Gracie that he’s on a military mission and that he needs some of her father’s things, but he neglects to tell her that he’s also a clone. It seems that despite being on a mission, he actually cares for her, but not enough to tell her the whole truth. When Sarah and Art talk to the Prolethean midwife, she overhears a conversation they had, and lets Gracie’s mother know where she is. Because I didn’t find the Proletheans very interesting, I just assumed the rest of them died in the fire, but apparently not. Gracie returns to her mother, who then goes and kills Mark, because he could never love his wife the way her mother does. When someone you care about betrays you, it hurts all the more, and you seek comfort in those you can trust. The only person Gracie has left that she can trust is her mother, who was more family than Mark ended up being.

Over at the military base, Rudy is reprimanded by his mother for killing Seth. It seems that the Castor clones have no idea where their original sequence is; Mark was sent to the Proletheans to find it, while Rudy and Seth went to find Professor Duncan’s research. My question about Mark’s mission is if Gracie’s father had known about the male clones, would he have recognised Mark? I’m slightly annoyed the Proletheans have come back into this, I was happy to deal with just the military and Dyad, but the show has gone and kept something it could have gotten rid of. That’s not neat storytelling. If it uses the Proletheans to explore these ideas of family along with the Clone Club and the military, it’ll be useful, but if it’s just there to serve the plot, I’m not really interested. When Rudy tells his mother what happened to Seth, he breaks down in her arms. Never mess with a mother’s love is what we learned this week. Mrs S gave up Helena to save Kira; Gracie’s mother killed her husband, and military mother is torturing Helena in order to save her sons. These actions are criminal, but they come from a common place.

Over on the science side of the show, Cosima and Scott analyse Seth’s brain and find something that is causing them to ‘glitch’. I was right in my suspicions that the male clones have a neurological problem that’s similar to Cosima’s illness, so all of our clones, sestras and Castors, are looking for the same thing from Duncan’s research: answers and a cure. Still, the Castor mother was brutal when she told Paul that Helena wasn’t ‘defective’. They literally tortured Helena for no reason. I’m pretty anti-torture, but it was upsetting to watch her get waterboarded last week, and it’s given a passing mention this week. It’s a thing that happens all the time over in that military base, and therefore it’s okay. But when Helena’s sisters find out what’s happened to her, they’re not going to think that.

Other thoughts:

  • Art: “It’s a dead body, not a bag of weed.”
  • It took me ages to watch this episode because I was having trouble with the SBS On Demand player. I’ve been watching Netflix all day, so I have no idea what the problem is.
  • The most interesting thing about the Castor clones is that there are definite stages to their illness, and Seth was at Stage 5.
  • Where is this military base?
  • Cosima gets philosophical: “Is this all we are?”
  • Delphine doesn’t appear this week, and we see that Rachel is undergoing exercises to regain her proper neurological function, and that Delphine has faked her death in a plane crash. Isn’t that what Rachel said about Dr. Leekie?
  • Alison and Donnie are doing their thing out in the suburbs, and pretty well at that. I’d just like them to tie into the rest of the story some more. I’ll watch them anyway.
  • Donnie: “We should’ve become drug dealers years ago.” Alison: “Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs”
  • “I need to cut something” – I can’t remember who said this
  • Helena: “You are the ugliest Mark yet”
  • “One day, I’ll kill you all” – Helena is still the best, and why doesn’t she get more screentime? I’m sick of her being a captive.

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