Orphan Black Season 3, Episode 6
“Certain Agony of the Battlefield”
Posted by Kayti
Orphan Black took a risk in its sixth episode of the season, taking a relative breather to draw a long-deceased clone back into the fold: Beth Childs. No, we’re not getting Zombie!Beth, but rather a version of the deceased clone in Sarah’s fever-induced hallucinations. This Beth appearance could have been an awkward, convoluted plot device, but it was actually pretty awesome. We never really had a chance to get to know Beth. She jumped in front of a train in the opening scene of the series. However, she has been an integral part of the story, a presence shaped by her abrupt absence and in the thoughts of the people she left behind.
For Art, she was the partner he loved and the reason he stays so committed to helping Sarah and the other clones. For Cosima and Alison, she was a sister and friend. For Sarah, she was the first step to Sarah figuring out who she is and starting to face that, rather than run away from it. For the show, she was the mystery who propelled this entire plot into the overdrive state it has remained in since its opening moments. She is the inciting incident and a character I didn’t even realize I wanted to reflect upon until Orphan Black gave us that opportunity.
In so many ways, this episode belonged to Paul, which is why the focus on Beth made so much sense — especially in retrospective after knowing Paul’s fate. For Paul, Beth was the person he carried with him for the ways in which he failed her. Though Paul has never been my favorite character, I was so into this episode’s exploration of him because it gave us this larger rumination on the beginnings of this mess. Paul was one of those characters who did more with his death episode than he ever could have done continuing on this show. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he has been one of the weakest characters in this admittedly ridiculously strong ensemble (that mainly consists of characters played by Tatiana Maslany). That was why I was so shocked when his death hit so hard. I wasn’t devastated to see him go, but Hot Paul was given something in his death that he never had as a living, breathing character: clarity.
From the beginning, Sarah has never really known where Paul’s loyalties lie — and neither have we. (Frankly, I’m not even sure Paul entirely knew where Paul’s loyalties lay.) In his final actions, Paul is a hero. He saves Sarah. He tries to stop the illegal experiments Dr. Coady is conducting. He destroys research that could help Dr. Coady (and some shady government fellow) create a weapon. Oh, and he professes his love for Sarah. For a show that sometimes kills off characters with an awkward, accidental gunshot to the head by a bumbling Donnie, this is quite the heroic goodbye. Good for you, Hot Paul. (Also, the actor is going to be on Heroes: Reborn, so he will be OK.)
Paul’s death is also a defining moment for Dr. Coady’s character. She has been another ambiguous character in a sea of ambiguous characters. In the last few episodes, we’ve gotten some major answers about how far she will go for science — and the answer is way too far. Way too far. She will perform experiments on the men she calls her sons. She will conduct secret human trials that result in the sterilization of girls who have no idea what they are signing up for — that is when they are actually “signing up” in that they actually agree to have sex with one of the Castor clones. As we know from Rudy’s exploits, the sex is not always consensual, adding an even grosser level to an already gross experiment. Dr. Coady seems to be trying to create some kind of weapon using the Castor clones’ sexually-transmitted illness as the source. Her theory? We could end wars by sterilizing the female half of the enemy population and killing the brains of the male half of the enemy population. This is a horrific aim, made even more horrific by the manner in which Dr. Coady is going about developing this weapon. One also has to wonder how much she even cares about curing the Castor clones or if that is just a cover to get their cooperation. Is this all about creating a weapon or does she also care about what happens to her boys? Based on the way in which she sawed open Parson’s skull, I have my doubts about her commitment to these men — another way in which her loyalty to this project differed from Paul’s misguided, but somewhat noble motivations.
While Paul and Dr. Coady is busy facing off for the future of the Castor clones, Sarah is mostly out of commission due to Dr. Coady’s experiments on her. When the good doctor pumps Sarah full of Rudy’s blood, Sarah manages to fight off the illness (proving once again that, amongst the Leda population, she and Helena are genetically special). The show takes the opportunity to reflect on Beth. I have to admit, when Sarah started hallucinating conversations with the dead sister-clone she never had a chance to know, but whose life she initially stole in Orphan Black’s early episodes, I wasn’t so excited about the narrative diversion. By the end of the episode, however, I was totally on board. It not only gave us some much-needed context for Paul’s sacrifice, it gave us a chance to better understand this character — or, at the very least, Sarah’s perspective on this character. Beth has had a few mentions this season, a reminder that she tried to protect and save the Leda clones before Sarah came on board. Their hallucinated conversation — the way Sarah apologized to Beth for not trying to save her — was unexpectedly moving. Sarah considers Beth part of her family, even if they never really met. All of the feels.
The relationship between Sarah and Beth wasn’t the only clone dynamic that got some attention. Helena came back for Sarah. The sister spat is over!
Helena has chosen her family — she has chosen trusting Sarah — over her own vision of individual survival, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Helena/Sarah dynamic is so often presented as Sarah looking after Helena. This season, it has been about the lengths to which Sarah will go to get Helena back — but Helena saves Sarah, too. In this moment, Sarah needs her sister to physically help her escape from Camp Castor, but she also needed someone to be there for her emotionally, too. After everything that Sarah has been through the last few days — getting taken by the Castor clones, being betrayed by Helena, being experimented on by Dr. Coady, losing Paul — she needs her sister to choose her, to protect her. We don’t often see an emotionally-vulnerable Sarah, but we did in this episode. I keep going back to the scene in the med room when a sick Sarah reaches for Paul’s hand.
Sure, this could have been a ploy to garner Paul’s sympathy and play on their past connection, but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like Sarah was sick and tired and scared and just wanted someone to be on her side. Sarah is so often the protector; it is easy to forget that she needs protecting, too. That’s why it was so gratifying to see both Paul and Helena choose her. It was also gratifying to see Felix desperately trying to find his sister from back home. For someone who hasn’t always been the best at family, Sarah has managed to create a pretty amazing one.
This theme of family continues to be Orphan Black’s cohesive, feels-inducing strength. With such a crazy plot, Orphan Black needs these emotional through lines to hold it together. Found family has been that through line, and the development of that theme has been what has made Season 3 my favorite yet. I am constantly worried upon the start of a new season that this show won’t be able to maintain its ridiculously paced plot. It should all fall apart, but it doesn’t and, at least for me, that comes from the strength of this theme. Found family is one of the recurring themes that has always made Joss Whedon’s TV shows so enduringly compelling and it’s a theme that has only become more important and relatable in the modern era (or maybe that’s my lack of temporal perspective talking — maybe humans have always felt like this). We are taught to prioritize productivity and social status over less tangible, more intrinsic values like compassion and generosity and, you know, actual human connection separate from its worth as a networking tool. Within this mad framework, we form new connections and slap together communities based on our workplace or whatever meetup groups happen to catch our eye that day. We are lost boys and girls, no longer able or willing to return to the homes that have seemingly changed shape in our absence, but not quite sure how to exist without those homes. Orphan Black mirrors this new framework for family: an overlapping, messy combination of those we have grown up with (Felix and Mrs. S.), those we share some kind of biology with (The Clone Club), and those who have been hurt or confused by the world in similar ways as ourselves (Gracie) — all bound together by loyalty, love, and a commitment to one another.
You know who’s not part of the found family? Rachel. She doesn’t get an invite to The Clone Club because when she wasn’t busy planning Sarah’s ovariectomy or smashing the potential cure to Cosima’s illness, she was plotting the general extermination of her sister-clones. Still, if serial killer Helena gets a chance at redemption, then so does brain-damaged Rachel, and I have to admit that I felt things for her character in this episode. Like, maybe Felix could have tried the carrot before he went straight for the stick when trying to convince her to tell him where Castor might be keeping Sarah?
For this reason, I was glad that Orphan Black reminded us of that time that Rachel drugged Felix so that she could steal Kira. It made Felix’s callousness more understandable. Still, Felix has always been one of the most compassionate characters on this show and one-eyed, inarticulate Rachel is a sad sight.
The scene that saw Rachel crying as she stared at a photo of herself with her father really did me in. Can Rachel be part of The Clone Club’s found family? Like, maybe they could give her a trial period? See what happens when someone shows her love and compassion in the wake of her brain damage? Anyone else kind of hoping for a redemption arc for this character or is it just me?
Meanwhile, Delphine is doing her best at throwing away any redemption arc work she did in Season 2 and, guys, it’s really hard to watch.
Delphine’s major flaw has always been that she will do lots of questionable things for the right reasons. Right now, she seems to be playing Rachel 2.0 because she wants to save Cosima and her sisters. But she is going to lose Cosima (and potentially her soul) forever if she doesn’t start letting Cosima in and being honest about what the heck she is up to. Narratively, I am have always enjoyed the ambiguous nature of Delphine’s character. (Let’s not forget that she came into the clones’ lives as Cosima’s monitor. It was very shady, you guys.) But, as someone who is rooting for Cosima’s happiness, it’s been really hard to watch Delphine pull away. As much as I love Ksenia Solo…
…I know that Cosima’s heart is still stuck on Delphine — aka the lady who is apparently stalking her ex-girlfriend under the guise of work or whatever. Make some changes, Delphine. Or this is not going to end well.
Also, this hilariousness happened. There are no words…
What did you think of Season 3, Episode 6 of Orphan Black? Sound off in the comments below!