'Orphan Black' - 'Let the Children and the Childbearers Toil' Tackles Mothers and Daughters

Rescuing Kira from Dyad is the focus this episode. (BBC America)

Almost halfway through the final season, Orphan Black continues to showcase the complex relationships of the sisters and those closest to them.

Orphan Black

Airtime: Saturdays, 10pm
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Subtitle: Season 5, Episode 4 - “Let the Children and the Childbearers Toil”
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2017-07-01
Ira: I don’t know how you can work for him and his insane vision.

Susan: Ira, do not mistake me. The vision is mine, as well. Our feud is only about the means.

Helena [about Kira]: She’s an old soul. You should share our horrors with her.

Sarah: God, I don’t want her dealing with what we do.

Helena: But she will have to, you know this.

“Let the Children and the Childbearers Toil” brings to the fore relationships between mothers and daughters in all their varied permutations. Orphan Black has always focused on sisterhood as the main unifying theme in the series, understandably, but it’s also often interconnected with that of mothers and daughters. Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) is at the center of much of this week’s action, masterminding several plays all at once, while also cementing her relationship with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany).

Mrs. S has always been a protector, and her connections have been integral to hers and Sarah’s and Felix’s and Kira’s and all the clones’ survival time and again; this episode is an excellent showcase for those survival skills. She quickly but ably sets up a scenario to act out with Sarah in order to gain access to the credentials of a doctor who could lead them to a Neolution defector. Though not explicitly stated, it’s obvious that much of Mrs. S’s intel came from her secret meeting with Delphine. Still, she keeps Sarah in the dark about her source as they playact a dysfunctional mother/daughter team who have it out in a bar in front of Dr. Elizabeth Perkins (Sarah Orenstein).

Impersonating Dr. Perkins and her assistant, Mrs. S and Sarah head to Cedar Ridge, a psychiatric facility, and find Dr. Virginia Coady (Kyra Harper), formerly in charge of the Castor operation, sedated and being treated under the name Alex Ripley. Coady reveals that Susan (Rosemary Dunsmore) put her in Cedar Ridge and she explains that while their initial experiments on humans were horrific, and Susan had “no stomach for the wet work”, they were successful with one child, until he began growing tumors and deformities (“And we created a monster.”). Their opposite views on how to continue their work led P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie) to separate them -- Coady to Castor, Susan to Leda -- and as far as he knows, she’s dead.

This revelation ties directly back to Revival. The mysterious presence in the woods is this human experiment gone wrong. He escaped from Westmoreland’s basement lab and now only Mud (Jenessa Grant) is able to get close enough to bring him supplies periodically. She’s also trusted by Westmoreland to administer some kind of medical treatment to him. Cosima discovers Mud’s role and the man in the woods when she follows her, though Mud warns her away from all of it. Whether Cosima is able to get more information from Mud or just confronts Westmoreland directly remains to be seen, but she’s clearly through with being kept in the dark.

Meanwhile, Kira (Skyler Wexler) continues her sessions with Rachel and has begun cutting herself (as was alluded to a couple of episodes ago) because she “wanted to see how fast I could heal”. She finally reveals what happens during her time with Rachel and though it sounds benign enough, Mrs S, Sarah, and Felix know better. Kira’s own rebellion against Sarah mirrors Sarah rebellion against Mrs. S growing up, an effective parallel that’s at the center of much of the episode’s interactions. It’s even useful in framing Sarah and Helena’s brief meeting.

A standout scene, Maslany plays the dynamic between the two perfectly -- both strong and often impulsive when threatened, yet never more vulnerable than when their family is in danger. Helena’s pregnancy has sidelined her to a degree this season from the action, but she never fails to articulate the larger themes in the simplest terms. When discussing her babies she says: “Miracle babies. Like us.” It’s a straightforward reminder of the sisters’ inherent survival abilities, and the children to whom they pass on those abilities.

Mrs. S’s work doesn’t only extend to finding Coady, but she also enlists Adele’s (Lauren Hammersely) help in following the Neolution money and learning more about the operation. Felix isn’t necessarily happy about bringing Adele into everything, but Mrs. S makes it clear that now’s a time for family and Sarah agrees, “We have to trust S now, more than ever.” This episode also marks the return of the Susan and Westmoreland working relationship. They agree to work together, though Susan warns him about Rachel’s role, saying she’s “too damaged for this responsibility”, but he doesn’t seem too concerned yet. They toast “to the future” and Orphan Black is one episode closer to the end of its run.

“Let the Children and the Childbearers Toil” deftly covers a lot of ground -- the Neolution plot and the mystery of Westmoreland, revealed to be an early eugenicist, still have plenty to reveal -- yet the relationships are always at the core of the episode. Mothers struggling to understand their daughters, daughters becoming their mothers, and the twisted relationships that arise from artificially creating life purely as an experiment, are all integral to the show’s larger themes. Orphan Black understands the emotional underpinnings to all the scientific questions it poses, and that’s what makes it so easy to invest in. Almost halfway through the final season, it continues to showcase the complex relationships of the sisters and those closest to them.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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