Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 3 - "The Stigmata of Progress"

J.M. Suarez

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

Orphan Black

Airtime: Thursdays, 10pm
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
Subtitle: Season 4, Episode 3 - "The Stigmata of Progress"
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2016-04-28
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.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.