ORPHAN BLACK Recap: “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”

     May 23, 2015

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Behold – answers! Orphan Black has gotten away with posing a significant amount of questions, one, because they’re all especially intriguing and, two, because the main players are so wildly likable and engaging, but I’ve got to say, it’s nice to finally get some answers, and ones that take the narrative a significant step forward nonetheless.

We begin at the Castor military compound – but it’s empty. It’s easy to figure out that Sarah’s dreaming as she chases Kira around the facility and then winds up in a room where she sees Rudy’s blood being transferred into her own body. Even though Sarah soon snaps out of it and wakes up in her cell, she quickly comes to realize it really happened. Virginia pumped her full of Castor blood. Meanwhile, Paul’s in Arlington meeting with his contact who’s played by Tom Barnett and credited as “Benchman.” Paul shows him a Castor notebook and convinces him that Virginia is up to no good, but Benchman insists that he can’t act without evidence, so back to the base Paul goes.

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Image via BBC America

Here’s where we get some pretty significant reveals. It’s been hard to get a read on Paul since day one. In fact, I’m curious if the writers even knew where they were going with the character early on. We found out that he was a monitor in season 1 and that he was working with the military in season 2, but all along, his motives were never quite clear. Was he a loyal monitor/soldier or was he being swayed by how he felt about Sarah? Thanks to “Certain Agony of the Battlefield,” now we know.

Paul is dedicated to finding a cure for the Castor clones, but he certainly isn’t on board with the effort to develop a weapon with their genetically engineered disorder that Virginia initiated while he was gone. Paul’s concerned enough to discuss the issue with his Arlington contact, but when he returns to base and finds Sarah withering away courtesy of Virginia’s little experiment, he’s had enough. Thanks to Mark, Paul gets access to Virginia’s files and scores all the proof he needs. Trouble is, Benchman has been double crossing him.

The rest of the episode plays like an insanely powerful season finale. As soon as Paul finds out that Rudy’s back, he insists it’s time to go, but it’s too late. Before they can make a quick getaway, Paul runs into Miller and snaps his neck, but not before Miller stabs him a whole bunch of times in the stomach. Paul’s got no chance and he knows it so instructs Sarah to crawl into some sort of vent that leads to an exit and shuts her inside before she realizes that he’s not coming with her. Once Sarah’s safe, it’s on to priority #2, the evidence.

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Image via BBC America

In one of the most intense and satisfying scenes of the entire series, Paul faces off against Virginia and Rudy in a room full of research. Virginia and Rudy think that they’ve got the upper hand considering Paul’s slumped in a chair and covered in blood, but soon after pumping him full of bullets, Rudy notices that Paul is one major step ahead of them. He’s got a grenade underneath the towel covering his wounds. It looks as though Rudy and Virginia make it out of the room unscathed, but – BOOM – there goes Paul and he takes Virginia’s research with him.

It’s easily one of the best character send-offs I’ve ever seen – let alone for a character I’ve had almost no interest in since the start of the show. “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” is fantastic, but it does make me a bit upset that the show didn’t require much range from Dylan Bruce up until this point. For the large majority of the show, Paul’s been a frustratingly monotone and wooden character. Here however, Bruce manages to sell him as a strong military leader and also as a person with feelings who’s capable of expressing emotion. Part of the reason the episode’s grand finale is so riveting is because the editors do a stellar job cutting from location to location and establishing a strong build with some help from a spot-on music score, but it’s also largely because Bruce manages to make you believe what Paul is fighting for. I won’t go as far to say that “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” makes up for the weak use of the character in prior seasons, but Paul is still a main part of the show so it’s quite the thrill to see him wrap up his run with meaningful moments that give the character more weight and ensure his sacrifice will not be forgotten.

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Image via BBC America

Meanwhile, back at Dyad, we’ve got another key cast member who’s been a bit underused recently delivering some outstanding work – Jordan Gavaris. Felix has dished out some solid one-liners here and there, but this is the first time we’ve seen him do something important this season. While Delphine and Cosima are busy running tests on Gracie, Felix convinces Scott to take him to Rachel. Little does Scott know, Felix has no intention of playing nice with her. It’s always tough watching one person torture information out of another, but there’s something about seeing Felix humiliate Rachel that made me even more uncomfortable. Felix is a guy who’s known for his kindness and warmth and Rachel is a woman known for her ruthlessness, and it really makes you feel for both characters seeing those roles reversed.

“Certain Agony of the Battlefield” is one exceptional mid-season episode so I’m very curious to see how the writers top it as we head into the tail end of the season.

Episode Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent

Sequencing and Analyzing:

  • “If raising Sarah has taught me anything, it’s how to survive worry. You keep on living.” – Mrs. S.
  • “If the desert doesn’t get her, Rudy will.” – Virginia
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Image via BBC America

  • It’s revealed that Virginia once treated a woman that Rudy brought home, so there is hope for Gracie!
  • Paul says, “When I left, we were trying to cure 6 soldiers.” Seth is dead, Parsons is dead, Miller is dead, Rudy is alive and Mark is alive so that means there’s one Castor clone unaccounted for.
  • “Nut up and lead me to the cyclops.” – Felix
  • The episode does some fantastic things with visions and dream sequences, but the second one does raise questions. First off, is Sarah seeing Charlotte Bowles, a young Leda clone or maybe even a young version herself? And how about Beth? Is something in the real world sparking that vision (like the blood transfusion at the beginning of the episode), did it all come from what Sarah already knew of her or is dead Beth really revealing this information to her? It’s a beautiful moment that plays well, but it’s hard not to wonder about the logic behind it.
  • “We do terrible things for the people we love. Stop asking why. Start asking who, sister.” – Beth
  • “No one is coming for you! Do you understand? Because no one cares!” – Felix
  • “Get me out of this place.” – Rachel
  • The Alison Report: THAT DANCE SCENE. Very few shows can pull off a moment that bizarre, but there’s just no stopping Donnie and Alison. After that it’s no surprise that they won’t leave the drug dealing business even though Jason tries to talk Alison out of it. Instead, Alison wants to take things to the next level by using her mother’s soap store, Bubbles, as a way to launder the money.

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