Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 9 - "The Mitigation of Competition"
In many ways, this episode belongs to the two clones that’ve been most isolated this season: Rachel and Helena.
Orphan BlackAirtime: 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
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.