Orphan Black Season 3, Episode 3
“Formalized, Complex, and Costly”
Posted by Kayti
Orphan Black stepped up the Castor clone narrative in Season 3, Episode 3 (“Formalized, Complex, and Costly”), but at what seems to be the cost of Mark’s life. For those keeping track at home, this is the second subsequent episode that a Castor clone was killed. Not cool, Orphan Black. Not cool….
“Please, I love her.” “Not like her mother.”
OK, Mark better be alive! I mean, it wouldn’t be the end of the TV universe or anything if he died, but I am still on the fence about the inclusion of the Castor clones on this series and Mark’s character goes a long way to quelling those fears. Are the Castor clones an unnecessary distraction from the characters and storylines we really care about? Or, conversely, are the clones’ inclusion an exciting, compelling expansion of this fictional world that will pay narrative dividends in the long run? For me, Mark goes a long way towards bridging those two possibilities. He is the Castor clone we have known the longest and arguably the most sympathetic of the lot — at least so far. It is telling that, when Helena meets the other Castor clones, she (awesomely) calls them the “Mark-faced boys.” At first, this is how I saw them, too. Mark is the Sarah of the Castor clones, our way in as a viewer. Sure, he has his flaws (like, a lot of them that sometimes involve torturing farmers to death accidentally), but we still have some kind of connection to him.
I also kind of found myself rooting for the messed up love story between Mark and Gracie just a little bit.
Anyway, back to Mark. We didn’t actually see him die, so I am still holding out hope that he pops up out of that cornfield in the next episode, joins forces with the Leda clones, and becomes a force to be reckoned with. Then, when he probably eventually dies, at least it will be after his character has had more of a chance to develop and after we’ve made a (fingers crossed) successful transition into this Castor clone-included world. Sure, it will hurt more, but my disappointment over the potential death of this character in this episode was partially informed by the slight affection I have for him, but mostly informed by my belief that his character is a relative linchpin within the context of this narrative.
“The last thing we need is another violent mess.”
However, if I had to choose between keeping Mark or Gracie around, I would choose Gracie. She has a been surprising, strong-willed character ever since we first met her in Season 2. It will be interesting to see if her perspective on the abominations has changed since Helena helped her escape in Season 2, she became impregnating with a clone child, and she inadvertently married a Castor clone. Gracie showed some badass moves in this episode, taking charge and finding a way to retrieve the information from her father’s old friend. If only her independence had lasted through her interaction with her mother. It’s understandable that Gracie would fess up to her mom, especially given the clone bombshell Sarah just dropped on her. But, again, I really don’t want Mark to be dead. I was also intrigued by Sarah’s mention of Gracie as family.
“Next time she’ll bite your head off.”
“Scott, a good lab partner should be metaphysically empathetic.”
Cosima may be feeling better physically, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious existential aftereffects of her almost dying. We saw hints of these in previous episodes when she questioned Kira about her potential part in bringing her back from the brink of death and, again, in last week’s episode when she spoke of other forces at work in the universe. This week, Cosima spouted philosophy while she sawed open Seth’s skull and removed his brain for further analysis. This definitely ranked amongst my absolute favorite moments of the ep. Sure, Felix’s commentary and Scott’s squeamishness provided some humor, but this scene was still very dark. Cosima muses aloud: “God, is this all we are? I mean some neurons and axons and a few pounds of grey matter? Yeah, but like when he died, you think what he saw, it was just a temporal lobe trip? Or did his soul actually say: I’m outta here. I’m outta this dimension.” All good questions. Another good question: How dark is Orphan Black willing to go with Cosima’s storyline? Because, right now, it kind of feels like the calm before another storm.
“You’re more valuable than you know.”
“The boy clones are our brothers.”
This was a cool reveal, but I’m not sure if I care about it as much as the show thinks I do. It will certainly make finding the original genetic donors easier, but I’m waiting to see how it does or doesn’t affect the Castor and Leda clones’ relationships to one another. Though the Leda clones became very loyal very quick based partly on their genetics, Orphan Black has never been a show to define family as those who are biologically related. The Leda clones bond because they have a similar purpose and struggles. They trust one another because no one else can understand what this is like. No one else is risking as much as they are — the rights to their very selves. Sarah, Cosima, Helena and Alison don’t have much patience for Rachel, even though she is also technically a “sister,” because she is working at cross purposes. Even Helena, the sister who was killing the other sisters is allowed to be in The Clone Club because she has recently chosen to protect her seestras. Although, this example is further complicated by the fact that Sarah seems willing to forgive more when it comes to Helena as they are not only genetic duplicates, but twins. This means something to Sarah. Gracie’s role as a surrogate mother to another clone potentially means something to Sarah. What will the information that the Castor clones are their biological brothers mean to Sarah? What will it mean to Cosima and Alison and Helena? What will it mean to the Castor clones?
These last two questions are particularly relevant because it is Helena who is currently surrounded by these Castor clones and interacting with them on a semi-regular basis. Also, this interaction just got even more awkward…
So far, they have shown little affection for Helena, treating her much like the Proletheans did: as something to be experimented on. The only family the Castor clones seem to recognize, outside of one another, is Dr. Coady. This week, we saw Rudy demonstrate that he is completely loyal to his “mother.” Do all of the Castor clones share this same love for their the good doctor, or is Rudy a particular case? Furthermore, does Dr. Coady know that the Leda clones are her “children”’s sisters? Would this change how she interacts with Helena? Again, this revelation has some potentially far-reaching consequences — both scientifically and emotionally — but we will have to wait to see it play out.
All in all, “Formalized, Complex, and Costly” was a pretty stellar episode. I could have done without the (presumed) death of another Mark-faced boy (in this case, actually Mark), but Orphan Black continues to pull me in regardless. I’m not sure what kind of sacrifice this writer’s room has to make to the TV gods season after season to keep this quickly-plotted, high-stakes show compelling without everything falling apart, but I’m willing to volunteer my TARDIS leggings to keep it going. (Just kidding. I’m keeping the leggings. But, seriously, Orphan Black, keep up the good work.)