We all know Orphan Black is a terrific show, or, as a presumably British-American viewer of BBC America might call it, “Hella smashing.” But aside from its manifest entertainment value, Orphan Black’s main thing these days is providing indisputable proof of the superiority of binge-watching. Case in point: We’re nine weeks into Season 3 and for the life of me I can’t remember half of what’s happened so far. Something about baby bones and red eyes and talking scorpions? A soap shop? A cult? A lot’s happened, and the fact I can’t remember very much of it miiiight be affecting the stakes. Sure, this is more my own personal problem than Orphan Black’s, but either way I wish I was binge-watching this thing and not watching week to week. Now I know.
Take this week’s episode, “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow”: Sarah, Felix, and Siobhan visited London to find the original Castor clone and I honestly could not remember why. Because genes? Another thing I couldn’t remember is who is actually in charge of what corporations. I know we’ve seen shady Topside representatives before, especially James Frain’s dastardly Ferdinand, but what about the Michelle Forbes character from Season 2? Was she Topside also? Was she Ferdinand’s boss? And where did she even go? And does Topside own Dyad and thus the Leda clones? But Castor is an independent organization? Or is it U.S. Military? I suppose these answers are all an Internet search away, but it’s hard to do that when you’re caught up in the intensity of Orphan Black’s myriad chase and/or torture scenes. No one wants to watch TV that way.
This is all to say that “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow” was a suitably captivating penultimate episode, but so many of its stakes and build-up were lost in the vast emptiness of my short-term memory. Sarah and Felix’s adventures in London yielded at least one major revelation: Siobhan is a rock singer! Also, the original Castor clone was Siobhan’s MOTHER. She had apparently absorbed a male twin in the womb, so she had two genetic lines, meaning she was ALSO the Leda original. That’s right: The girl clones and boy clones all originated from one surly British woman. Now both sides need her for different reasons. But what reasons, again? (I should probably be doing more brain exercises, to be honest.)
The genius of Helena’s character is that it’s not important to know what she’s doing or why, she’ll always be amazing. This week she helped out Donnie (“helped out”) by straight-up MURDERING the drug lord who’d stolen Donnie’s pills and money, and who’d also made the terrible mistake of stealing Helena’s frozen embryos in the process. I loved when she attempted to impersonate Alison — in the show’s most hilariously, intentionally terrible clone impersonation to date — only to switch into murder-mode when one of the goons threatened the lives of Alison’s kids. Next thing we knew, Helena emerged from the building with a severed paper-cutter arm, soaked in blood. Just another one of Helena’s crowd-pleasing, nightmarish, heart-warming moments!
Meanwhile, it finally happened: Delphine’s a villain now. It doesn’t matter how justified she felt in psychologically torturing Shay and threatening to take a razor to her arteries, the fact is that Delphine rushed to vanquish enemies that hadn’t even done anything to her in the first place. Yes, as Cosima discovered in Shay’s file, Shay is former military (or maybe just occasionally cosplays as Cammy from Street Fighter II), and yes, her romance with Cosima coincided with a few key intel leaks. But it was Gracie who’d been leaking Cosima’s info all along (Castor promised to reunite her with Mark if she did). This new ruthlessness on Delphine’s part doesn’t seem entirely organic to the Delphine we’d known in Seasons 1 and 2, but if we’re being honest it’s nice that the show has kept a potentially extraneous character in on the action. The struggle to do the same for Paul resulted in his midseason shrug of a death, so hopefully Delphine can avoid that fate too. Still, we’re a long way from rooting for Cosima and Delphine to get back together, if that’s where the show’s heading. Cosima can do better.
So now, if short-term memory serves, we’re heading for some kind of Castor vs. Leda showdown over who will claim the original clone’s DNA for themselves. Both lines’ health are in danger and at least a half-dozen dastardly characters are currently hard at work scheming ways to shock us in the finale. Will the season come together as satisfyingly as it’s unfolded? Will Orphan Black figure out how to reset this labyrinthine mythology — or at least head in a startling new direction — for Season 4? Hopefully these questions will be answered next week. In the meantime, apparently I have more than a few Wiki pages to read in preparation for the finale. Because phew!
What was your favorite moment from “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow”?
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America.