‘Orphan Black’ Gives Us a Lot to Take in With ‘Certain Agony of the Battlefield’
There is so, so much going on in this week’s Orphan Black. So much much-ness. “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” is not only the most eventful episode of Season 3 thus far, but it’s an important episode which marks a turning point, as sides are chosen and Dr. Virginia Cody’s real aims are finally revealed.
The sixth episode is a lot to take in, even with two viewings — it’s emotional, thrilling and packed with punches. “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” opens with Sarah in that space that’s not quite sleep and not quite awake, where her current reality informs her subconscious. She sees Kira, who leads her into their twinkling blanket fort from home, but once inside, Sarah sees herself in one of the medical tents, being given a blood transfusion courtesy of Rudy. When she awakens, she’s horrifically ill, and by now we know the cause. Ahem:
Is it weird that I find this attractive? ...And now you know everything you need to know about me. Moving on!
The sexually-transmitted Castor disease is more than a simple STD metaphor — it’s one that speaks to the reality of rape, of the deeply affecting and painful traces left behind by the assailant, of the way those traces become embedded in a woman’s body, effectively destroying something inside of her. In this case, as Cosima discovers when she examines Gracie again, the reproductive system is wholly destroyed.
Cosima does more research at Delphine’s urging, and the discovery is stupefying. The Castor clones are transmitting the same protein that destroys the reproductive system of the Leda women. As Dr. Cody confirms later, both sets of clones share the same protein, but where it affects the epithelial tissue of the Ledas, it attacks the Castors’ brains. How’s that for a metaphor on gender differences?
Dr. Cody has been sending the Castor boys out into the world to have sex with various women as a form of human experimentation, to test out this crippling STD. Paul discovers this and immediately puts the base on lockdown — this isn’t what he signed up for. He signed up to save the lives of six soldiers (three of whom are dead already) and has been unwittingly aiding Cody’s horrific human trials. Cody’s goal is to use the STD to help wipe out entire races of people (Heil Cody, I guess) in order to create world peace.
Felix also pays a visit to the institute, giving Delphine a fierce greeting:
And convinces Scott to take him to Rachel, who also gets an appropriately cold greeting. Felix, master of shade:
Fee’s visit with Rachel is nerve-rattling, not only for her, but for us as a viewer. It’s difficult to see this aggression from Felix, which is informed by his desperation. He torments Rachel, taunting her and painting an eye over her bandage, aggressively wheeling her around the room and making frantic threats. Jordan Gavaris’ performance this week is insanely good.
Although the stuttering Rachel has no information about the Castor project (at least none that she can remember clearly in her current state), she does provide a potential key to unlocking Johansson’s work — she’s been painting the same symbols found in Johansson’s copy of The Island of Dr. Moreau, the book which contains the genetic code for both the Castors and the Ledas, if only they could decipher it.
It would also appear that Rachel has had some time to reflect on her life and her choices. Stripped of her power and defenses and left with a semi-scrambled brain, Rachel has been reduced to a shell of her former self. She’s also regressed, as displayed by her childlike paintings. We don’t know what’s going on in Rachel’s brain, but it only takes one line in this week’s episode to tell us just where she’s at, when she begs Felix to get her out of Dyad.
Back at the base, Sarah has another hallucinatory dream, one in which her younger self leads her into a kitchen, where she shares a very intense and emotional exchange with Beth. There’s such a wild range of emotions on display here as Sarah grapples with her guilt-wracked subconscious. In case you were wondering if she’d simply forgotten about the death that started this whole thing, she hasn’t. Beth, acting as her subconscious, tells Sarah that she’s not asking the right question — it’s not why, it’s who.
Rudy returns to find Paul in command and another Castor dead — R.I.P., Miller, whose name I only just learned during this episode. Rudy immediately stages a coup, resulting in Cody’s release and Paul’s capture, but not before Paul can secret Sarah away to a tunnel, where he tells her that it was never Beth he loved; it was Sarah all along. And it’s at this moment that Paul’s impending death becomes a certainty.
Cody and Rudy take Paul to their lab where all their research is stored, but as they prepare to kill him, he reveals a grenade in his lap. The explosion consumes everything — Cody, Rudy, the research, all of it.
And while all this has been going on, Helena has been doing a little soul-searching out in the desert, which involves our favorite food enthusiast devouring Pupok (and thus that part of herself) and trudging back to base to retrieve Sarah in the nick of time. Seestras Forever.
Oh, and this happened:
Because we love you, we dedicated a whole post to GIFs of this entire scene. You’re welcome.
- This week in Sarah Is Special: just as Sarah is immune to the reproductive problems caused by the mutated protein in the Leda DNA, so is she immune to the similar Castor protein. She may be the key to curing Gracie and who knows how many other women.
- I guess now we know why the Castor boys were taking locks of hair, and it wasn’t to bring to their stylists for reference.
- So we’ve lost five Castor boys: Seth, Miller, Rudy (presumably), Parsons (the one that begged Helena to kill him), and Abel (Johanssen’s failed attempt at a Castor clone). Paul mentions saving the lives of six soldiers, and I don’t think he means Abel. Is there a sixth Castor we haven’t met yet?
- Speaking of which, with so many of these Castor clones dead, I’m starting to feel like there’s not much point to a lot of this. They die so easily!