‘Orphan Black’ Introduces Another New Clone in ‘Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method’
This week, Orphan Black finally reintegrates Alison and Donny’s sitcom with the rest of the plot — sure, that doesn’t seem like major news in the face of Crystal, the latest Leda clone, or that oh-my-god-are-you-serious Ocean’s 11 ending, but it is kind of a big deal. So far this season, Alison and Donny have remained on a suburban island, and if not for the two of them giving us pretty much the best, most insane Orphan Black scene of all time, I’d want to vote them off.
Season 3 is keeping very, very busy, and “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method” is no exception. Meet Crystal Godrich, the latest Leda clone:
You may remember that the Castor boys kidnapped her and pulled one of their weird threesome attacks on her, which we saw earlier in the season, but we presumed that she was out of the picture now entirely, or maybe even dead. Nope! Crystal is alive and well, and exceptionally bubbly.
Meanwhile, Alison and Donny have adopted both Helena and Gracie, and put them both to work in their new business. And this week in unlikely ‘shipping:
But there’s something much bigger and far more complex at play in “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method.” Coady and Rudy aren’t dead, and they’ve got a contact inside Leda (Rachel and Dr. Nealon, of course — who else?). Rachel agrees to decode the book if Sarah will steal Crystal’s identity to help Rachel escape Delphine, but clearly no one has learned anything here because everyone agrees to this plan against their better judgment.
Crystal gets two visits this week: One from Delphine, pleased that Crystal has rationalized her attack and posits no threat. And the second from Felix, who drops his accent and plays it straight to help Sarah steal Crystal’s identity. But Crystal isn’t as daffy as she seems, and after a little snooping, Felix discovers that she’s been doing some independent investigating — and it’s likely not long before she makes a few unfortunate discoveries about Castor and herself.
Rudy pays Scott a visit to try and obtain the genetic information, and he really does make for a great Bond villain:
This is also further proof that Rudy is a horrible person: he’s threatening Scott’s poor asthmatic cat.
The rest of the episode plays out like one of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s movies: Delphine catches on to the Island of Dr. Moreau and what it means, and takes the book away from Cosima and Scott before they can let Rachel decode any more of it. But Cosima made a secret copy (and lies to Delphine about it, further fracturing their already broken relationship) and Scott sneaks Rachel out of DYAD so she can continue her work unencumbered at Mrs. S.’s house.
There’s a lot of double-crossing at play here, with Delphine and Nealon aware of the escape plan, and Nealon working at odds against Delphine to aid Castor and help Rachel escape. It’s beautifully executed, making the final moments of the episode highly effective: Crystal has been placed in an induced coma, where her eye will be removed and given to Rachel, who waits in a separate operating room with Coady nearby.
While the execution is pitch-perfect, “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method” isn’t without problems — the episode itself isn’t terribly flawed, but it represents an overarching issue with Orphan Black: the concept of “high stakes” doesn’t really exist here. The episodes are wholly engaging and individually suspenseful, and Orphan Black is the kind of show that’s sort of perfect for binge-watching with each episode ending in a cliffhanger. But when the biggest threat to the series is the loss of characters like Paul, it’s hard to buy into any real threat.
The series psychs us out with the promise of Coady and Rudy’s deaths, only to bring them back two episodes later. Cosima’s life was threatened with that beautifully composed bloody bathtub scene at the end of last week’s episode, only to open this week’s episode feeling pretty much totally fine. It’s not that I personally want Cosima to die — she’s such a lovable character, but that’s exactly why she might need to die at this point. We need to lose someone that really matters. Orphan Black introduces new clones and characters just to send them packing or eliminate them entirely.
It either doesn’t understand what “high stakes” actually are, or it refuses to do its own narrative — and its audience — a service by killing someone everyone loves. Losing someone like Cosima would be incredibly effective. We’re three seasons in, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that no matter how dangerous and deadly this entire conspiracy is, no one we care about will actually die. The Leda clones are superheroes. But is this a series about superheroes?