ORPHAN BLACK Recap: “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations”

     May 16, 2015


All hail Tatiana Maslany! Her performances have been spot on since day one, but there’s really nothing like seeing an episode that focuses on Sarah’s insanely unique and dynamic relationship with Helena.

“Scarred by Many Past Frustrations” begins at the military base with Helena suffering the consequences of her choice to kill Parsons rather than escaping. Pupok isn’t pleased with the state that Helena is in, so shuffles from Helena’s cell to the one next door revealing her new neighbor, Sarah. Whereas Sarah expected a warm welcome from Helena, Virginia and the Castor clones have dug their claws in too deep and Helena refuses to trust her sestra anymore. However, when Paul arrives and admits that he’s the one who sold Helena out, you can see that the truth is sinking in, teasing the possibility that Helena might open up to Sarah again. A little later on, Sarah seemingly breaks through by explaining how she lost nearly a year with Kira due to her selfishness.


Image via BBC America

Helena agrees to let Sarah in on the plan and Sarah takes one for the team by taking a punch to the face and getting the opportunity to steal a pair of tweezers from medical. Helena uses them to unshackle herself and break a bar on her cell door, and then that’s where the butter comes in. Helena breaks open the stash of little packets she’s accumulated from her meals, oils herself up and then slips through the tiny hole in the door she created. Sure, one could ask, isn’t it a big fat coincidence that there was a loose bar on the door and that the guard wasn’t looking at the security monitor as Helena was crawling out of her cell? Perhaps, but for the most part, it’s an especially tactful and believable escape plan. On top of that, it’s also a plan that winds up shedding a lot of light on the status of Sarah and Helena’s relationship.

Orphan Black has dropped quite a few hints regarding Helena’s state of mind, but when you’ve got such an unhinged and impressionable character trying to sort out her own feelings while also managing a little voice inside of her head, she’s going to be extremely tough to track. I did think that there was a chance that Sarah really did manage to get Helena back on her side again, but doing so through a single speech would have been too easy and, sure enough, Helena reveals her decision to leave Sarah locked away in one the most intense scenes of the episode.

Sure, all of the Leda clones embrace a stereotype – Sarah’s the tough one, Cosima’s the smart one, Alison’s the uptight one and Helena is the crazy one – but Maslany does an incredible job of making them so much more than their cookie-cutter designations, and it’s as evident as ever during this episode. For most of “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations,” Helena is hellbent on manipulating Sarah and getting back at her for selling her out, but then you get these brief reaction shots of her where it’s very evident that Helena still feels for her sestra. As for Sarah, one moment she comes across as the most resilient and feisty one of the bunch, but then she’s put in the middle of a downright terrifying situation where there’s seemingly no way out and she’s absolutely crippled by fear. Maslany’s ability to show off that kind of range while still making Sarah and Helena feel like cohesive characters is what makes their back-and-forths so incredibly captivating.


Image via BBC America

Another relationship that’s becoming more and more interesting to track is the one between Virginia and Paul. As I pointed out last week, I’m definitely intrigued by Virginia’s determination to save her boys and the pain she’s willing to put them through to do so, but poor Paul’s been on the show since day one and hasn’t really done anything of interest at all. The large majority of Paul’s big reveals have been total dead ends as far as his own personal arc goes, but perhaps the opportunity to step up, save Sarah and perhaps even put Virginia’s efforts into question could finally add some layers to the character.

The situation between Cosima and her Sapphire date, Shay (Ksenia Solo), is a toss-up as well. As far as this episode goes, it works and serves as an appropriate and necessary balance to the darker material Sarah and Helena are dealing with, but Shay’s success will come down to what the writers decide to do with her in subsequent episodes. Based on the spy camera point-of-view and that brief tease in the episode 6 preview, it’s pretty clear that it isn’t a coincidence that Cosima met Shay on that dating app. Is Shay good? Is she bad? Is she playing for one of the teams already established or a brand new one? I’m eager to see how the scenario progresses.

And the same goes for Gracie, too. Felix does give her a tough time at the start, but it absolutely warmed my heart to see him, Art and Mrs S. embrace her. But then, of course, all the drunken fun comes to a screeching halt when Gracie doubles over in pain in the middle of their dance session and it’s revealed that anyone who sleeps with a Castor clone contracts some sort of illness. What is this illness? Is it deadly? Who knows? Is this the reason Virginia has the Castor clones keep track of the women they sleep with? Probably, but why the hair samples? It’s a very curious situation that I look forward to exploring more.


Image via BBC America

Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very Good

Sequencing and Analyzing:

  • “You killed their lab rat. What did you expect? Cheesecake?” – Pupok
  • I kind of hope we get to see what Rudy does during his free time.
  • “Shut up about the butter.” – Helena
  • “You, baby Jesus, come up the stairs with me.” – Felix
  • “To a rat a small hole is like a door.” – Helena
  • “Hello dirty Paul.” – Helena
  • “I was always taught they were less than human, abominations.” – Gracie
  • “In Siberia when planning escape you take weak person with you. They are called sandwich because you eat them.” – Helena
  • “I wasn’t about to leave you alone with Rosemary’s baby, was I?” – Felix
  • “Sarah, I think you’re institutionalized, too.” – Helena
  • “I love alcohol!” – Gracie. Sure, a lot of folks have their first experience with alcohol a little younger than they should, but that’s a lot of gin and juice Felix and Mrs. S are happily giving an 18-year-old. But still, it was nice seeing Gracie smile and have fun for a change!
  • That’s quite the book of sexual partners Parsons accumulated there.
  • “My sestra. She tears my heart.” – Helena