TV

'Orphan Black': "Ease for Idle Millionaires" Allows Maslany's Portrayal of Cosima to Shine

Cosima's brilliance and compassion are at the forefront of the latest episode (Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/BBC America ).

"Ease for the Idle Millionaires" pulls at the complex and interconnected plot threads, while giving Maslany endless opportunities to showcase her talent.


Orphan Black

Airtime: Saturdays, 10pm
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Evelyn Brochu, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Skyler Wexler
Subtitle: Season 5, Episode 5 - "Ease for the Idle Millionaires"
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2017-07-08
Amazon

"Ease for the Idle Millionaires" marks the halfway point for Orphan Black’s final season, and it's a jam-packed, exciting, and moving hour that points to all that makes the series such a standout. Although featuring Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) and Rachel, among plenty of other non-clones, Cosima is at the center of the episode. Where "Beneath Her Heart" used flashbacks to reinforce Alison's strength and single-mindedness when put to a task (in this case, protecting her sisters), this episode uses the same technique to emphasize Cosima's inherent compassion and selflessness.

Much of the episode, as well as her backstory, revolves around Cosima’s curiosity. Her scientific mind is the perfect outlet for her natural interest in the world and the things happening around her, but she's also an innately empathetic person. Cosima represents the opposite side of the Neolution experimental mindset. Regardless of her curiosity, she never channels that inquisitiveness into hurting others.

Indeed, her curiosity is in direct opposition to that practiced by P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie), Susan Duncan (Rosemary Dunsmore) or Virginia Coady; her interest and her research has a natural stopping point when it encroaches negatively on others, particularly without their knowledge. Perhaps no other exchange exemplifies this crucial difference more than when Cosima learns that the man in the woods was once an orphaned boy named Yanis (Andrew Musselman) who was experimented on, imprisoned, and ultimately murdered in front of her by Westmoreland by the end of the episode.

If Cosima’s rejection of Neolution's approach is central to the episode (and the series), then Delphine's (Evelyn Brochu) constant working behind the scenes to secure Cosima's (and her sisters’) freedom is key to her being able to do so while also moving her own research forward. In a show where the main romantic pairings are either doomed from the start because of so many lies and secrets (Paul and Beth/ Paul and Sarah), played more often for comedic effect (Alison and Donnie), or just plain dysfunctional (Rachel and Ferdinand), Cosima and Delphine have been the romantic heart of the series since the beginning. While they're frequently separated -- often frustratingly so -- their devotion to one another, and by extension their combined dedication to Cosima's sisters, has been strengthened time and time again. So when Delphine pleads with Cosima to defy those who would destroy her and simultaneously vows "I will always work to protect you. And you will win," it's a declaration that calls back earlier moments, and cements their relationship.

The centerpiece of "Ease for the Idle Millionaires" is an awkward dinner at Westmoreland's. Crashed by Cosima and including Delphine, Rachel, Susan, and Ira (who’s hidden the knives), the dinner is filled with subtle threats, angry revelations, and Westmoreland's signature dismissive pronouncements ("What a delicate balance you have. The clinical and the humane"). What's most revealing about the dinner is Cosima's fearlessness in divulging her discovery of LIN28A, an isolated gene that heals itself, and Westmoreland's confirmation that it's the main source of research at Dyad involving Kira (Skyler Wexler). Kira -- and if the theory that it skips a generation, then Helena's babies too -- have the gene and Rachel's working on inseminating thousands of women with it. Ultimately, Westmoreland is looking for a way to extend his own life, although he couches the research in broader, grander terms.

Meanwhile, Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) continues her search into the background of Neolution and its main players. Scott (Josh Vokey) and Hell Wizard (Calwyn Shurgold) are leading much of the research behind the scenes and helping Mrs. S to connect Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and Adele with Delphine in Geneva, where's she’s jetting off to next. Delphine does find the time for a visit to Mrs. S's, where it's revealed that she wasn't the source behind Coady's location (which now makes that mysterious informant even more intriguing), but she warns Mrs. S that time is running out before Rachel begins her true experiments on Kira. Sarah has also decided to be much more honest with Kira about everything involving her and her sisters, in exchange for more openness from Kira about her sessions with Rachel.

Orphan Black is moving quickly now; it's understandable, as the end of the series is closing in. Although every episode continues to reveal more and more, with only five episodes left, there's still so much left to resolve. One thing that the series can count on, though, is Maslany’s stellar presence. This episode features her Cosima, who’s filled with so much genuine compassion for those closest to her, as well as those she barely knows; Maslany expresses that emotion beautifully. She's gentle, she's furious, and she's defiant, but it all comes from the same place, and Maslany is able to distinguish the way those emotions manifest themselves in Cosima, as opposed to how they're expressed in Sarah or Helena or Alison. It's a riveting performance.

In essence, "Ease for the Idle Millionaires" pulls at the complex and interconnected threads running through the series, setting the stage for the final half of the season, while also giving Maslany endless opportunities to showcase her incredible talents.

8

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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