Orphan Black

Season 4, Episode 2 - "Transgressive Border Crossing"

by J.M. Suarez

27 April 2016

"Transgressive Border Crossing" jumps between the various characters and their individual issues, yet it also manages to frame their connectedness effortlessly.
cover art

Orphan Black

Season 4, Episode 2 - "Transgressive Border Crossing"
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kevin Blanchard, Kristian Bruun, Skyler Wexler, Alison Steadman, Josh Vockey
Regular airtime: Thursdays, 10pm

(BBC America)
US: 21 Apr 2016

Sarah: We need to know what we’re up against, MK.
MK: No, I can’t talk to you anymore.
Sarah: Why not?
MK: Because it will kill you. It will kill you like it killed Beth.

With no break in the action from last week, “Transgressive Border Crossing” picks up right where “The Collapse of Nature” left off. Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), Kira (Skyler Wexler), Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), and Kendall (Alison Steadman) burn their current safehouse and escape before the Neolutionists arrive.

Elsewhere, the rest of the main clones, and Felix (Jordan Gavaris), appear to be living their regular lives: Felix is painting in the nude, Alison’s crafting and scheduling, and Cosima’s sick and depressed, though continuing her research with Scott (Josh Vockey). As this is Orphan Black, it quickly becomes clear that appearances don’t tell the whole story, familiar though they may be.

Much of this episode’s spent catching the audience up on its main characters—last week’s premiere was essentially a long-form flashback episode—as well as bringing the current MK arc to the forefront of the larger story. While “The Collapse of Nature” was a much more self-contained episode, “Transgressive Border Crossing” jumps between the various characters and their individual issues, yet also manages to frame their connectedness effortlessly. The connection established between MK and Sarah last week continues here in all its secretive and paranoid glory.

MK may have reached out, but she’s still wary of Sarah (and by extension, the rest of the clones) mainly because she feels responsible for Beth’s death, and because that death affected her so personally. Maslany gets the chance to portray Beth again this week, and there’s an especially moving flashback with MK that sheds more light on not only Beth’s state of mind before her suicide, but also makes clear the depth of their relationship from MK’s perspective. Beth was her lifeline, and when she died, MK was thrust back into the isolation from which she’d slowly progressed. It’s a heartbreaking scene, for MK’s tearful pleading (“Please don’t leave me. I need you.”) and Beth’s resigned goodbye (“Watch the others for me.”), particularly as it takes place immediately before Beth kills herself.

In many ways, Beth and MK are both new characters to explore this season, even though we met Beth right at the beginning of the series. She’s hung over much of the series, but mostly as a mysterious figure that no one could fully explain. This season seems to not only be introducing a new, integral clone in MK, but also fleshing out one of its most intriguing, yet underused, clones.

Sarah’s meeting with MK does lead to Sarah being cornered and nearly the latest victim of the cheek cutters, until they realize she’s not MK. It’s a chilling sequence because of how quickly Sarah’s at their mercy, and because it also leads to the discovery of one of the implanted worm-like creatures in her own cheek. The fate of the other clones, and even Kira, being implanted with the same creature, is still to be determined, but Sarah will surely go into hyper-protective and aggressive mode to discover its purpose and punish those responsible.

As the Neolutionists retake center stage as the big baddies this season, Dyad’s quickly explained away as having folded and no longer in the clone business. While it’s not an unwelcome development to have some of the forces working against the clones simplified, the quick exposition explaining them away did feel jarring and a bit too convenient. However, the Neolutionists remain a worthy opponent—strange, menacing, and ruthless—and this season could turn out to be especially strong because of it.

Apart from the imminent Neolution threat, Cosima’s condition continues to worsen. Coupled with her worry and depression over Delphine’s (Evelyn Brochu) disappearance (it remains to be seen whether she’s really dead, as was intimated at the end of last season), Cosima’s vulnerable to a degree we’ve never seen before. Mrs. S’s presence is a wonderful addition to this episode, especially in contrast to Kendall’s (Alison Steadman) more brusque approach, as she comforts and listens in a way that shows she’s developed real individual relationships with the clones apart from Sarah. Kennedy’s warmth comes through beautifully, and she brings some lovely moments to the episode.

Although not as pressing this week, Felix is pulling away from Sarah, and the rest of his surrogate family, as he pursues finding his birth family. The identity of his birth parents could further cement his connection to the clones, or it could continue to create distance. Most likely, it’ll be the former, but for now he’s pulling away.

Similarly, Alison’s dealing with her own personal struggles independent of the larger threats the clones have had to contend with in the last few seasons. Helena’s recent pregnancy (described in perfect Helena fashion as “a little tired and many farts”) has brought up Alison’s infertility insecurities, and she’s lashing out by continually complaining to Donnie (Kristian Bruun). In what may be one of Alison’s greatest rationalizations to date, she says, “Helena’s trained to kill people. We’re manslaughterers.”

“Transgressive Border Crossing” continues the first episode’s more back-to-basics approach, while adding more complications and further setting things up for the rest of the season. Orphan Black remains exciting, tragic, and consistently funny; this season appears poised to deliver on all three elements.

Orphan Black


We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media