Orphan Black

Season 4, Episode 3 - "The Stigmata of Progress"

by J.M. Suarez

3 May 2016

There aren't any huge developments, but there are enough details simmering below the surface to make clear that much is still to be revealed
 
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Orphan Black

Season 4, Episode 3 - "The Stigmata of Progress"
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Ari Millen, Rosemary Dunsmore, Kevin Blanchard, Kristian Bruun, James Frain, Cynthia Galant, Skyler Wexler, Josh Vockey, Lauren Hammersley
Regular airtime: Thursdays, 10pm

(BBC America)
US: 28 Apr 2016

Susan Duncan: Everyone needs a purpose in life. Ours is all in service of the greater good.
Rachel: What is it, Mother? What is our greater good?
Susan: To control human evolution, darling. To create a more perfect human being.

Orphan Black has always had the difficult task of juggling an extremely large cast of characters with a dense sci-fi plot. Three episodes in, and we see Rachel (Tatiana Maslany), Charlotte (Cynthia Galant), Susan Duncan (Rosemary Dunsmore), and Ira (Ari Millen), a Castor clone, for the first time this season in “The Stigmata of Progress”. Balancing Rachel’s plotline—and by extension, all the others just mentioned—while still trying to maintain the momentum created in the previous two episodes by the discovery of an organic implant in Sarah’s cheek, is a challenge.

Rachel’s isolated and still recovering (she’s undergoing physical therapy and her own version of an implant in a new eye), but she’s as sharp and resilient as ever. Even as Ira works on her new cybernetic eye, she carries on full conversations with both Charlotte, for whom she’s concerned and motherly; and Ira, for whom she’s more threatening and belittling. The appearance of Susan is alternately upsetting and comforting to her, yet she’s fixated on Sarah and getting revenge. When Susan reveals that Charlotte’s a direct clone from Rachel herself, she’s enraged by Susan’s detachment, but by the end of the episode she appears almost resigned.

Maslany seems to revel particularly in playing Rachel, as she’s so often contradictory, even within the same scene, but she never fails to remain poised in her own way. Whether sporting an eye patch, a hospital gown, or her more typical impeccable clothing, Rachel’s a force to be reckoned with, and Maslany always makes that apparent.

Although not as insular as Rachel, the rest of the clones are trying to lay low, and while they’re not completely unconnected, they are keeping their distance from one another (as much as possible), or struggling with their own separate problems. However, that seems to be changing as Alison and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) confess the Dr. Leekie (Matt Frewer) murder to Cosima so she can remove the implant from his cheek. Maslany and Bruun together are wonderful to watch, and usually a break from the unrelenting darkness of much of the rest of the series. Donnie’s reluctance to dig up Dr. Leekie’s body is met with Alison’s usual practicality: “Donnie, my sister has a robot maggot in her face. You tell me what the solid plan is” and, as always, she’s hilariously right.

Cosima and Scott (Josh Vokey) seem revitalized by researching Sarah’s implant, and it’s nice to see shades of the Cosima of old. Hopefully, the research will have a positive effect on her, although it also appears that she may be also be drawn into Kira’s (Skyler Wexler) increasingly strange behavior. Even though Sarah checked her for an implant, albeit in a moment of panic, it’s likely that Kira has also been affected by some Neolutionist experiment. If so, Cosima will surely be enlisted to help.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s finally able to track down MK’s contact, Dizzy (Joel Thomas Hynes), to learn more about the implant. He posits that it’s located in the cheek due to its proximity to the brain, while also giving her a lead into a dentist’s office that may offer more information on the implants. The dentist angle quickly goes awry when Ferdinand (James Frain) reappears and kills the dental assistant in the middle of her clumsy attempt to remove Sarah’s implant. An uneasy alliance seems to be in the works, but there’s no chance Ferdinand can be really be trusted, despite his knowledge of Neolution tech.

As if enough isn’t already going on, Felix (Jordan Gavaris) has connected with his birth half-sister, Adele (Lauren Hammersley). Their instant bonding over their love of mind-altering substances notwithstanding, Adele’s interest in Felix’s birth mother (they share the same father) points to something nefarious, but how or if it connects to the larger Neolution plot remains to be seen. Regardless, Sarah’s even more suspicious after meeting her, and Felix continues to dive headfirst into his birth family search and their connections. At this point, Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) stepping in would be a welcome development, as she understands Felix needs support while also being aware of the danger they’re all in.

“The Stigmata of Progress” feels more like it’s setting things up for the rest of the season than the previous two episodes. It doesn’t include any huge developments, but there are enough details simmering below the surface to make clear that much is still to be revealed. Because this is Orphan Black, the revelations promise to be far-reaching, and strange, and ultimately, a test to the clones and their relationships.

Orphan Black

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