Orphan Black

Season 4, Episode 4 - "From Instinct to Rational Control"

by J.M. Suarez

10 May 2016

The clones may be connected in purpose, but they’re dangerously unconnected to each other.
cover art

Orphan Black

Season 4, Episode 4 - "From Instinct to Rational Control"
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Ari Millen, Rosemary Dunsmore, Kristian Bruun, James Frain, Joel Thomas Hynes, Cynthia Galant, Josh Vockey, Jessalyn Wanlim
Regular airtime: Thursdays, 10pm

(BBC America)
US: 5 Apr 2016

Sarah: Your friend Niki died. Beth died. What about our sisters that are still alive?
MK: No, I’m sorry.

“From Instinct to Rational Control” continues to delve deeper into this season’s newest additions, particularly MK (Tatiana Maslany), while also juggling the many clones and their separate issues. Orphan Black has been setting up a great deal in these first few episodes, but what comes together most clearly this week is MK’s real motivation for her secrecy and paranoia, as well as her larger plot for revenge.

Although it was already alluded to in her flashbacks with Beth, MK’s suffered a great deal of loss, yet the extent of her trauma is only just revealed. She’s been carefully compiling information on those with any connection to the cloning program for years, and when Ferdinand (James Frain) comes on her radar in connection to Rachel and Sarah, she sees an opportunity.

Ferdinand has always been a despicable character, but his somewhat slimy charm has been at the forefront for long enough now that his past as a Topside cleaner has taken a backseat to his obsession with Rachel. However, once MK (whose real name is Veera Suominen) confirms that he killed six clones (along with all their friends and family), including her best friend Niki, Ferdinand’s status as truly evil bad guy is once again without question. He barely escapes with his life—- thanks to the help of Sarah and Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy)—but all his money’s gone and he’s lost his potential lead in locating Rachel. The never-ending cycle of revenge that’s central to much of Orphan Black‘s story, continues here and will surely drive Ferdinand and MK for some time.

Apart from all the background on MK, much of this episode remains focused on the implant in Sarah’s cheek and it’s many possible ramifications. Sarah’s always been an impulsive, sometimes volatile character, but her fear over the implant has pushed her patience to breaking point. She’s snapping at Alison, completely unsupportive of Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and revealing herself as a clone to Dizzy (Joel Thomas Hynes), all in an attempt to speed up the process of finding a way to remove the bot. Maslany plays Sarah’s stress and impatience perfectly, and her performance this episode is particularly wonderful when contrasted with her portrayal of Alison.

As Helena’s pregnancy has continued to dominate much of the action in the Hendrix household, Alison has had to revisit all of her fertility issues, and it’s clearly taking a toll. After Sarah tells her to start pulling her weight and investigate Lifespring Fertility, Alison enlists the help of Felix and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) to pose as a couple seeking fertility treatment. Although she’s unable to go in herself (because Beth’s already known there), she does take an opportunity to find out more from a friend whose treatment has been successful. Alison’s vulnerability may be in the service of information, but there’s no doubt that she’s sincere in how much she’s struggled with not being able to conceive. Maslany is able to project a great deal of feeling in a character who’s most often played for laughs (and this episode offers an epic Alison/Donnie moment that’s simultaneously disturbing and hilarious) without feeling disingenuous or jarring.

Alison’s discovery, and by extension Felix and Donnie’s request for further information regarding Brightborn’s treatments, sets them on the path to Evie Cho (Jessalyn Wanlim), the founder of The Brightborn Group and what appears to be another villain for the season. Incidentally, Felix and Donnie pretending to be a couple is used to excellent effect in that the show purposefully calls out Donnie’s stereotypical playacting as a gay man right away. Felix quickly shuts down his ridiculous behavior and proceeds to spell out quite succinctly why it’s both unnecessary and insulting, all the while never vilifying Donnie or turning into a “very special episode”. Orphan Black’s consistently matter-of-fact and progressive attitude in all matters of gender and sexual identity is such a part of its makeup that it never feels forced or out of place; rather, it’s another example of the show’s quietly groundbreaking work.

Sarah and MK are spiraling; Alison, Donnie, and Felix are infiltrating a fertility clinic with nefarious purposes; Helena leaves yet again without talking to her sisters in a misguided attempt to spare Alison further pain; Cosima and Scott (Josh Vokey) analyze the bot from Leekie’s corpse and realize it could be used to alter genetic material; and Rachel attempts to manipulate Susan Duncan (Rosemary Dunsmore) to no avail.

“From Instinct to Rational Control” keeps the clones connected in purpose, yet in many ways they’re drifting from one another personally. Their individual issues are all known to one another (to some degree), yet the stakes of the larger picture are so high that they’re all essentially on their own. It’s a dangerous place for them to be, not only because they’re more vulnerable that way, but also because separation has always been a last resort and ultimately, one that works to their detriment.

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