TV

Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 9 - "The Mitigation of Competition"

J.M. Suarez

In many ways, this episode belongs to the two clones that’ve been most isolated this season: Rachel and Helena.


Orphan Black

Airtime: Thursdays, 10pm
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Ari Millen, Rosemary Dunsmore, Kevin Hanchard, Kristian Bruun, Jessalyn Wanlim, Lauren Hammersley, Evelyn Brochu
Subtitle: Season 4, Episode 9 - "The Mitigation of Competition"
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2016-06-09
Amazon

The second to last episode of the season, “The Mitigation of Competition”, covers a lot of ground, as the last few episodes have been doing, while also setting things up for a big finale. The takedown of Evie Cho (Jessalyn Wanlim) was at the center of the episode, but it was the confirmation that Delphine (Evelyn Brochu) is alive that really upped the ante. Although neither Evie’s defeat, nor the return of Delphine, were bombshells, they were still revealed in ways that played to maximum dramatic effect.

In many ways, this episode belongs to the two clones that’ve been most isolated this season: Rachel and Helena (Tatiana Maslany). Rachel and Sarah are tasked with working together to ensure the safety of two mothers, Kendra (Lisa Codrington) and Tabitha (Taylor Trowbridge), who’d been part of Brightborn's birthing program before they escaped. Evie's ambulance goons are also close to finding them, but Sarah’s too reluctant to work with Rachel to really include her in Sarah and Art's (Kevin Hanchard) plans to find the women.

Rachel's increasing frustration at being shut out of the plan leads her to formulate her own. Enlisting the help of Ira (Ari Millen), she blackmails Kendra into going with him just before Sarah and Art can convince her (or the ambulance goons can get to her). That Rachel is then able to directly confront Evie and trick her into admitting Brightborn's infant euthanization program (while being secretly recorded), is almost purely for revenge. She’s still reeling from Evie's pronouncement that no clone would ever have a position of power again, more than she genuinely cares for the well-being of Kendra. Rachel’s been stripped of everything that defined her, but slowly she’s managed to regain much of what she’s lost. Taking down Evie is just another layer falling back into place.

Helena, who left Alison and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) in "From Instinct to Rational Control", comes back in all her glory this episode. She’s been living like the survivalist she truly is, in a place eerily similar to the setting in Rachel's visions, until Sarah alludes to some problems back home. She shows up to Felix's (Jordan Gavaris) at the worst possible time, although her entrance is one of the funniest moments all episode. Already suspicious of Felix and his connection to Sarah and Alison, the appearance of Helena adds even more doubt. Helena’s immediate need to protect flares up once Adele (Lauren Hammersley) starts asking questions (and Adele's hilarious "Did you just step up to me, little triplet?" was perfect), but she leaves Felix to deal with his obvious priority ("I'm going to leave you with your real family for a while."). It's a nice moment for Gavaris, as he nicely communicated his struggle in joining the two parts of his life.

As Helena’s dramatic entrances continue throughout the episode, her in-the-nick-of-time rescue of Alison, in full Mockingjay style, also offers an excellent bit of dialogue between the two (Alison: "Where did you come from?" Helena: "Beavertail National Park. It was very peaceful."). Helena and Rachel’s hero moments couldn’t be more different this episode, yet they both succeed in saving their sisters, as well as in further highlighting the depth of Tatiana Maslany’s range. There could be no two characters more different, and Maslany embodies each fully, making it easy to forget they’re even played by the same person.

The reveal that Delphine's alive has been telegraphed all season, but the fact that only one episode remains this season points to a deeper exploration of her disappearance next season. Her death, and then the possibility of her survival, has run Cosima through the gamut of emotions this season. She's now immersed in her research with Susan (Rosemary Dunsmore) and in the origins of Neolution. Her obvious interest in the island, the cure, and Neolution are converging to tell a larger story, one in which Cosima will surely by the center. How her research and Delphine's return relate to one another remains to be seen, but they're likely to be connected in some way.

"The Mitigation of Competition" sets the stage for what is sure to be a huge finale. Rachel's visions are increasingly dark -- including a slain swan -- but she's more convinced they mean something ("It isn't a glitch. It's the island. There were people there. Someone's trying to show me something, Ira."). The ways in which these visions, Evie's genetic experiments, the creation of LEDA/CASTOR stem cells, and the various personal issues the sisters are dealing with come together is a tall order for the finale. Thankfully, Orphan Black has executed some excellent pacing this season, and built momentum beautifully throughout, setting things up for an explosive end to what’s been an excellent season.

9
Music

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Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

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Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

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Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

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(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

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​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

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