ORPHAN BLACK Recap: “Newer Elements of Our Defense”

     May 9, 2015

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I spent a good deal of Orphan Black season 2 hoping that Sarah, Helena, Alison and Cosima would come together more often, but it turns out, it’s far more fun seeing a Leda sister team up with a Castor clone.

Even though “Formalized, Complex, and Costly” gave the impression that Bonnie Johanssen might have shot Mark dead, “Newer Elements of Our Defense,” immediately confirms that that’s not the case. Instead, Bonnie just wounded him, but why? She clearly had plans to take him with her, so why does Bonnie need him? Does she know that he’s a Castor clone or is this just about getting back at him for what he did to Gracie? We won’t get an answer to that – not yet at least – because Sarah manages to drag Mark away before Bonnie’s Prolethean goons can get to him.

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Image via BBC America

They find a vacant house to lay low in, but there’s still the issue of Mark’s wounds. Lucky the bullet he took to the stomach went straight through, but he’s got another lodged in his leg and only Sarah can get it out. I’m big into horror so very little makes me squirm, but I’m not going to lie, the bullet extraction scene featured some impressive blood and gore that might have made me cringe a little. However, what I appreciate most about the moment is that it isn’t just about shock value. Sure, it’s crazy that Sarah has to scoop a bullet out of her brother’s leg, but the moment is more so about revealing new intel and doing a little relationship-building through that brief but insanely sweet post-bullet extraction shot when Mark rests his head against her.

Mark tells Sarah that his people had intel that Henrik Johanssen stole samples before Project Castor was shut down, so Mark’s been undercover with the Proletheans for over a year trying to recover them. He thought he hit the jackpot when Gracie scored that box from Willard Finch, but Mark didn’t find anything of value in it. But even though Mark completely dismisses the papers in the lockbox as junk (which seemed a bit out of character for a highly trained solider), Sarah immediately assumes the opposite. However, rather than have Sarah run straight to Mark’s motel room to check out what he found, she does exactly what he tells her not to do and calls 911. It may seem like a minor detail, but it’s one that makes you reassess what you just experienced with them. There was a bit of bickering, but the two make a solid pair so even though Mark needs medical attention and Sarah needs to leave to check out the paperwork, her choice to make that call made me stop and think, “I like what’s going on. I hope that doesn’t ruin the progress they’ve made so far.”

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Image via BBC America

Fortunately it never comes to that because before Mark can go any further than saying, “I knew I couldn’t trust you,” Sarah blurts out what she learned from the paperwork. Henrik was actually Ethan Duncan’s lab assistant and he used the samples he stole to make his own clone. From there they head off to Johanssen’s old house and dig up his infant son, hoping that they can pull some original Castor DNA from the corpse. However, before they can make off with the coffin, Rudy arrives.

Even though Rudy revealed a vulnerable side in the previous episode, it was done in a way that highlights that he’s more unhinged and dangerous than most, so the scene during which he stalks Sarah while Mark’s unconscious has a fantastic horror-like quality to it. And even when Mark steps in to stop Rudy before he can hurt Sarah, the moment is still as suspenseful as ever. The conversation between Rudy and Mark is packed with juicy details including the news that Mark is actually Rudy’s superior officer, but Millen doesn’t let exposition break the tension for a minute. It’s a powerful standoff that keeps you guessing until the very end and then leaves you with quite a bit to chew on before the next episode.

Helena finds herself in an especially tense situation this time around as well. Even though her captors are clearly feeding her well, it’s time to take a step closer to breaking out. I find it a little hard to believe that Helena could carve a stake bone into a key using her teeth, but other than that, she does come up with a pretty solid plan to scout the facility without anyone knowing and what she finds is wildly fascinating. Helena stumbles upon another Castor clone named Parsons who’s strapped to a chair with a head brace on. Why? Because Virginia and her team have sawed off the top of his skull to examine his brain – while he’s still alive.

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Image via BBC America

This reveal comes with a bunch of interesting new character details. First off, Helena’s been following the scorpion’s orders pretty closely ever since she woke up in that box. Her decision to put Parsons out of his misery, however, marks the first time we see her disobey that little voice inside her head since. Rather than seizing the opportunity to escape the facility, she decides to do the more humane thing and end Parsons’ suffering. On top of that, Maslany also manages to convey that all the talk finally sunk in; Helena believe she’s been abandon by her family.

But now let’s consider the other side of the situation. This is a terrible thing to do to someone, but we also know that Virginia genuinely wants to save her sons. Could examining a live clone’s brain really have the answer? We probably won’t know for sure now, but it’s well worth considering the possibility that Virginia is only doing terrible things to save as many Castor clones as possible.

We’ve also got poor Gracie who’s stuck going through a pretty traumatic situation without a single person that genuinely cares about her by her side. Gracie reunites with the Proletheans at Jonah Appleyard’s (David Fox) house. Some definitely aren’t thrilled she’s back, but Mr. Appleyard is pretty psyched about her “blessed child.” Trouble is, Gracie loses the baby a few scenes later and Bonnie makes it abundantly clear that now that there’s no baby, Gracie isn’t welcome anymore.

Not only does “Newer Elements of Our Defense” play well all on its own, but it also sets the stage for the next episode especially well. Gracie runs to Art and Felix for help, Sarah winds up in the military compound with Helena and there’s a chance the military scientists might be able to develop a gene therapy. I can’t say I’m all that excited to see Cosima go on her Sapphire date, but otherwise, it looks like we’ve got some pretty powerful plot progression on the way.

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Image via BBC America

Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very Good

Sequencing and Analyzing:

  • “I will be as quiet as church mouse.” – Helena
  • “Stick it in fast, it’ll hurt less.” – Mark “God, you must be one hell of a first date.” – Sarah
  • “It looks like you’ve been mounted by a llama.” – Felix
  • “I don’t need you dying on me, brother.” – Sarah
  • “No one ever expected much from you, did they?” – Mark to Rudy
  • How about those scene transitions in this episode? It isn’t easy jumping from super serious Sarah-centric material to Alison’s antics and then moving over to Helena’s jail cell, but the editors absolutely nail the moves from one location to another here. For example, the choice to cut from Gracie losing the baby to Mark fiddling with his wedding ring with his bloody hands is absolutely brilliant as is the cut between Mark coming down from the pain of having a bullet yanked from his leg and Donnie complaining about carrying a few heavy boxes.
  • The Alison Report: While we do get a phone call between Alison and Cosima, Alison is really just off working on her campaign/drug dealing business again, but this time, it works. Thanks to those stellar scene transitions, it all flows well and Justin Chatwin’s arrival puts an interesting spin on the situation, too. Turns out, those pills weren’t Ramon’s to sell. He was working for Jason Kellerman (Chatwin), a guy who just so happens to be Alison’s former high school fling. It’s a fun spin that I certainly wasn’t expecting. And let’s throw in a little shout out for Gavin Fox’s Lionel as well. He has some fun playing with the henchman stereotype while also rocking some winning comedic chemistry with Maslany and Kristian Bruun.

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