Season four of Orphan Black has been the ultimate refocus. Our clones are back together after being scattered to the wind, and with that reunion has come a new sense of purpose. Tatiana Maslany has been at the top of her game for every single character (not that she ever wasn’t), and despite containing the stakes, the tension has never been higher. While exploring the ethics of genetic tampering, Orphan Black is also digging into the complexities of family and how even the strongest relationships can become strained to their breaking points over time. The premiere was a stripped-back look at what fans loved about the show in the beginning, and that idea has continued on through the entire first five episodes. If viewers left after a confusing third season, they are missing out on some truly human sci-fi.
In “Raw Human Material,” this season’s fifth episode, Sarah has not-so-slowly started to unravel. With the Neolutionist bug still in her face, she can’t help but feel like a ticking time bomb. After a failed correspondence with M.K., a clone who knows way more than she lets on, Sarah is forced to bide her time while she waits for Cosima and Scott (Josh Vokey) to finish their tests on the bug that was removed from the skull of the decaying Dr. Leekie (Matt Frewer). On top of feeling useless at the safe house, she and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) are still at odds. Felix is tired of being the sidekick, and is instead spending time with his biological sister, Adele (Lauren Hammersley). The two may share DNA, but Sarah has plenty of legitimate misgivings about the American.
The startling revelation that Kira (Skyler Wexler) is an empath/clairvoyant is sure to add a new level of trouble. The fact that she can feel all the emotions of both the Leda and Castor clones will not go unnoticed by Susan Duncan (Rosemary Dunsmore). The decision to make Duncan, the clones’ creator previously thought to be deceased, was an excellent call made by show runners John Fawcett and Graeme Manson. With her “distinguished grandmother” persona, her evil is a calculated one, and her personal connection, as the adopted mother of Rachel, makes her an even greater threat.
All is not well with Team Hendrix, either. Helena has fled, feeling guilty for endangering the Hendrix family and for her ability to get pregnant while Alison could not. Hopefully the wildest clone will return soon, because her own bizarre brand of sweetness will be keenly missed. After Alison, Donnie (Kristian Bruun), and Felix went undercover last week to look into BrightBorn, where infertile couples are given genetically enhanced pregnancies. Donnie and Cosima infiltrate BrightBorn a second time, posing as a gay man and his surrogate.
Over the past two seasons, Bruun has become the unlikeliest of MVPs on Orphan Black. While all kudos should be given for Maslany’s countless performances, Bruun’s interactions with each of the Leda clones are all wonderfully layered. Between twerking with Alison, taking care of Helena, and his well-meaning mansplaining to Cosima, Donnie’s transition from an unwitting villain of season one has been a delight to watch. While at BrightBorn, Donnie runs into Krystal, the blonde clone from last season, who is out for revenge. After being kidnapped and her boyfriend murdered, Krystal is tired of being afraid and is looking for the people behind these crazy genetic enhancements.
Unfortunately, despite never skipping leg day, Krystal is terrible at espionage. After being removed from the facility and running into Ira, last of the Castor boys, things are not looking great for the sunniest clone. Things are looking dire for Alison as well, as the cops have info regarding her former drug trafficking gig, and Sarah is pissed at her willingness to weaken their tenuous operation, leading to a falling out. Our Leda clones are going to have to be honest with each other if they aren’t going to get taken down by internal friction.
However, the clone facing the biggest challenges this week is Cosima. She’s still unable to find a cure for the disease that is killing her (and the other clones), and when she’s in BrightBorn, she gets a firsthand look at the dark side of these genetically enhanced pregnancies: a baby is born horrifically deformed, much to the distress of its mother. A horrified Cosima is then faced with Susan Duncan, who pulls out “for the greater good” monologue ripped from The Villain’s Handbook, explaining that the Project Leda solution is vastly superior than anything that BrightBorn or the Neolutionists cook up. Despite Cosima’s initial protestations, Duncan provides her with a compelling offer: hand over Kendall (Alison Steadman), the original, for testing and containment in exchange for a cure for Cosima and her sestras. If you weren’t convinced of Duncan’s evilness yet, her making out with Ira, a clone that she had groomed from birth, probably sealed the icky deal.
That is a difficult offer for Cosima to refuse, but any interaction with the Duncans has only bred disaster for the sestras in seasons past. Plus, this new revelation about Kira will no doubt make her even more valuable, so if Cosima decides to align herself with Duncan, Sarah will likely fight against her. War has been a constant in the lives of these women for years now, but they’ve at least always been on the same side. It would be heartbreaking for Clone Club to turn on each other, but the seams are starting to show.