ORPHAN BLACK Season 3 Premiere Recap: “The Weight of This Combination”

     April 18, 2015

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Orphan Black has done a solid job delving deeper into the science and politics while keeping things fairly grounded, but with a concept like this, you’ll always run the risk of taking things a step too far and losing sight of the humanity of the situation. Season 1 was very much Sarah’s (Tatiana Maslany) story, making it effortless to understand and accept this world of clones and synthetic biology, but season 2 took a different approach. I was completely enraptured by the characters from start to finish, but with Sarah on the run, Alison at rehab, Cosima at the Dyad, Helena with the Proletheans and various other key characters in different locations, the show definitely lost focus. I had hoped the introduction of Project Castor would force the sisters to come together and while it does to a degree, it still doesn’t stop the first episode of the new season from getting a bit carried away with setting up future episodes by introducing an overabundance of new ideas, characters and possibilities.

It was made abundantly clear that Helena was going to be in yet another miserable, potentially tortuous situation when Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) handed her off to the military at the end of the second season and “The Weight of This Combination” gets right down to business by letting the devastating reality of her situation sink in using a dream sequence. After being turned into a trained killer, abused, misunderstood, shot and impregnated by the Proletarians, you’d think she’d get a little bit of a break, but no. Instead of eating Babka at her baby shower with her sestras, she’s really locked inside a wooden coffin having a chat with a scorpion.

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Image via BBC America

You’d think Helena’s habit of getting into trouble would grow tiresome, but it works because Helena rarely needs saving. Sure, Sarah is out to do just that, but the scorpion’s “picture a box inside a box inside a box” tease makes for an especially powerful cliffhanger because it signifies that Helena can find her own way out and, as we’ve seen time and time again, she’s not someone you want to mess with when she’s taking matters into her own hands.

Regardless, Sarah practically dismisses the male clones so she can focus all of her attention on getting Helena back. Trouble is, she can’t do it on her own. Thanks to a well deserved promotion for Evelyne Brochu, Delphine is now the new Rachel of Dyad and Sarah decides to use that to her advantage.

However, before Sarah can work something out with Delphine alone, in comes James Frain’s character, Ferdinand, a Topside investigator assigned to assess the security risk posed by Sarah and her sisters. If Ferdinand finds out about what happened to Rachel, they’re all in big trouble so Sarah agrees to pose as Rachel if Delphine will help her track down Helena. Sounds like a solid plan, right? It would have been had Rachel not had a bizarrely political and kinky relationship with Ferdinand. In addition to choking and dirty talk, Rachel and Ferdinand were also working on a plan to kill off the Leda clones via an operation called Helsinki.

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Image via BBC America

Helsinki is aborted before Ferdinand’s accomplice can take Alison out, but that’s where things get a bit complicated and confusing. Apparently Ferdinand and Rachel’s plan to kill the Leda clones via Helsinki was a top secret operation between the two of them – even though he’s a sanctioned Topside “cleaner.” If that’s really the case, couldn’t he have just deemed the clones a security threat, received the official OK to wipe them out and completely avoided the risk of being exposed by Delphine? The whole situation is a bit unclear and we still don’t know exactly what Topside wants with the Leda clones either, so I suspect this is an issue that’ll be explored further in future episodes, but as an introduction to Ferdinand, the whole scenario wasn’t especially engaging and certainly didn’t leave me needing to know more about him.

Meanwhile, Cosima’s recovering, babysitting and scheming. Not only does Delphine’s new duties at the Dyad mean she can’t work with Cosima anymore, but she also can’t have a romantic relationship with her either. The whole “loving the sisters equally” thing is a pretty extreme job requirement, but in a mere episode, Brochu makes it abundantly clear that Delphine is capable of accomplishing quite a bit when she walks into a negotiation (or torture session) with a clear head. As one might expect, Cosima isn’t happy about this and retaliates by choosing to decode Ethan Duncan’s notes in The Island of Dr. Moreau with Scott (Josh Vokey) in secret.

And then there’s Alison who, per usual, is semi-involved in the clone/Dyad/Topside scenario, but is much more focused on a completely unrelated personal project – running for public office. The whole play and rehab thing in season 2 was a little superfluous until Vic (Michael Mando) came into the picture and I fear that the same thing might happen with this storyline as well. There better be a good reason to introduce Marci Coates (Amanda Brugel) beyond the fact that Alison doesn’t appreciate her plan to tinker with electoral boundaries and force her kids into a new school district.


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Image via BBC America

Now for the part that many were likely waiting for, the male clones. I certainly didn’t expect the writers to go nuts and reveal everything about the Castor guys, but I did expect the episode to be about them to a degree. Not only does Sarah brush them off as a problem they can deal with later, but not a single male clone is even addressed by name. It’s been nearly 10 months since that wicked season 2 cliffhanger and we’ve seen quite a few Orphan Black season 3 promos that highlight the Castor clones. After all that hype, I went into the new season eager to see what they were capable of, not to try to decipher the relationship between the Leda clones, Topside and Dyad again.

As much as I enjoyed season 2, there was some serious concern that Orphan Black would never find a next big move, something that would add a smart layer to the situation and raise new questions well worth answering – but then in came Castor. “The Weight of This Combination” makes it abundantly clear that Maslany will continue to command the show and kill it as Sarah, Helena, Cosima, Alison and whatever new clones the writers throw at her, but it fails to suggest that season 3 will break new ground. Perhaps it was a deliberate choice to re-acclimate viewers before focusing on the Castor clones and it works well enough because the episode is engaging and entertaining, but after a season 2 cliffhanger like that, I wanted what I’ve been waiting 10 months for now, not further into the season.

Episode Rating: ★★★ Good

Sequencing and Analyzing:

  • Who’s the voice of Helena’s little scorpion friend?
  • “Two to three weeks ago we didn’t even know Project Castor existed. They were a myth. But now they’re a bomb and shockwaves are coming.” – Delphine
  • “Rachel has powerful friends and you put a pencil in her eye.” – Delphine
  • “No, but you met Alison and Cosima, and the rest as they say at Dyad is ‘series trois.’” Rudy does say series three, right? Regardless, clearly there’s something that makes Sarah and Helena very different from Alison, Cosima, Krystal and the other Leda clones.
  • How about those flash frames during the scene between Mrs. S and Seth? Perhaps whatever is messing with Seth’s head is the Castor equivalent of the respiratory illness in the Leda clones.
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Image via BBC America


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