Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 8 - "The Redesign of Natural Objects"
Orphan Black continues to nimbly balance a great deal without ever feeling bogged down or overstuffed.
Orphan BlackAirtime: Thursdays, 10pm
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Ari Millen, Rosemary Dunsmore, Kevin Hanchard, Kristian Bruun, Skyler Wexler, Josh Vockey, Gord Rand, Jessalyn Wanlim
Subtitle: Season 4, Episode 8 - "The Redesign of Natural Objects"
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2016-06-02
Scott: Have you thought about how insane you are? Jumping in a chopper to a mad scientist's private island?
Cosima: Dude, we are mad scientists. Don't be a hater.
Scott: Now you're really scaring me.
Cosima: Where's your sense of adventure, Scott?
Scott: I just want you to find a cure.
Cosima: We will.
Two episodes to go, and Orphan Black's ramping up the action and moving forward in ways that are both exciting and inevitable, especially since things appeared so dire only a few episodes ago. "The Redesign of Natural Objects" is interested in reminding us of just how strong the bond between the sisters is. Even in a season when they've been separated for long periods of time, or overtly hostile to one another, ultimately they'll sacrifice over and over again for each other.
It's a lesson that works well because the clones, and their relationships, have grown and evolved by great leaps in four seasons. The tension in the show comes now comes from how they'll handle things together, not from wondering when they'll betray each other. It's a welcome distinction that a lesser show may not have made.
Dealing with the arrest at the end of "The Antisocialism of Sex", this episode opens on Donnie (Kristian Bruun) in prison (using the first of two excellent music cues this episode with "I Fought the Law [and the Law Won]"). Donnie's his usual self, regardless of setting: initially overly cocky and then quickly put in his place. The fact that he's in prison and now under the literal watchful eye of a Neolutionist prompts much of this week’s action, and offers an opportunity for Alison (Tatiana Maslany) to prove her loyalties.
It's been a tough season for Alison, and her only consistent support has been Donnie, so when she's threatened by Duko (Gord Rand) to give up Sarah's location in exchange for Donnie's safety, it's a real risk. That S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) is after Duko at the same time to avenge Kendall's (Alison Steadman) death only further complicates matters, but it also makes the eventual trap they collectively set for Duko perfectly orchestrated. There's no doubt that Duko won't survive the episode, not only because S would never allow him to live, but also because MK was able to dig up enough evidence of his illegal activities to make a case for his death and/or disappearance in the remaining two episodes.
Duko's death doesn't come before he imparts some information to S, namely that Evie Cho (Jessalyn Wanlim) plans to implant her bot technology into an unsuspecting public under the guise of gene therapy. Duko's unaware of her reasons why, but it's enough information to move them in the right direction. Enough good things can’t be said about Kennedy, but her showdown with Rand's Duko is such a perfect encapsulation of S's steely toughness and her emotional core. When she delivers her final line to Duko ("This is for my Ma") it's filled with so much resignation and anger and feeling that it's impossible to not empathize with her.
As this episode brings the sisters together again, Sarah and Cosima are at the center of the new plan to find a cure. MK (who's sick herself) helps them with an untraceable online connection to Susan (Rosemary Dunsmore) to try to work together, but it’s only when Cosima realizes their only real hope lies in creating embryonic stem cells that a plan forms. By using Sarah's eggs to be fertilized with Ira's (Ari Millen) sperm, they bring together the two halves of Kendall's DNA, and in turn offer viable experimental genes with which to work. In essence, LEDA and CASTOR are reunited to work together for a common cure, however strange and unpalatable that may be. Cosima chooses to travel to Susan to work on the cure together while Scott (Josh Vockey) stays behind. His refusal to work with Rachel is understandable, but it also leaves Cosima alone in an environment that could very easily become hostile.
"The Redesign of Natural Objects" can't be discussed without acknowledging the brilliant Jesus Christ Superstar number that scores some of the more crucial moments of the episode. While a community church musical rehearsal isn't typically the stuff of high stakes, Alison’s rehearsal takes on all the importance of "Superstar’s" lyrics as Donnie's fate's decided and a weight's lifted. It's not only great fun (plus an excellent showcase for Sarah Stubbs' [Terra Hazelton] amazing pipes), and often hilarious, but also such a clever illustration of Alison's arc this season. Maslany never seems to have as much fun as when she's playing Alison at her most ridiculous, and a cape-clad Alison fully immersed in a musical theater performance may be that moment.
With only two more episodes left, some questions remain unanswered. They're as varied as: will a cure finally be found, to what do Rachel's visions of swans (and a strange man [Percival Westmoreland?]) mean, to wondering if Alison's priest is working for someone else. Regardless if their answers are revealed this season or next, Orphan Black continues to nimbly balance a great deal without ever feeling bogged down or overstuffed.