Orphan Black: “Variable and Full of Perturbation” Review

orphan black season 2Holy Tilda Swinton, folks. If you’ve felt like the last few episodes have lacked that special kind of mind-blowing twist we all have come to know and love from Orphan Black, this week you’re in for a treat. While we still haven’t seen hide nor hair of Helena, and spend next to no time with Alison (our usual source of comic relief), what we do discover more than makes up for it. “Variable and Full of Perturbation” couldn’t be a more apt title. I can’t say any more without running into some serious spoilers, so without further ado, here’s the jump.

We begin this episode following two small-time criminals, one of whom, Sam, gets shot. His partner moves to help him and pulls down the bandanna he is wearing to reveal… Tatiana Maslany! Yes, dear readers, this week we’re introduced to a new member of Clone Club. This character is a trans man named Tony. Sam’s dying wish is for Tony to get a message to Beth Childs. He calls her phone, which Art conveniently not only held onto but seem like he checked regularly. Tony and Art show up at Felix’s place. Felix wants to know what the message was, and Tony wants to know what the heck is going on (and why Felix has so many paintings of women who look like Beth).

Frankly, I’m worried for Felix. He’s consistently tried to take control of the situation by controlling information. Each of the sestras are off mostly doing their own thing, and it seems like Felix has taken it onto himself to be their traffic conductor. He decidedly withholds information about some clones from others, and I bet they all would have called him out on it if they each weren’t so busy with their own problems. The one thing he has going in his favor is that he doesn’t seem to be playing any one clone’s side over another, and I doubt he’s some kind of mole. But in the meantime I’m going to sit here and wait for it all to bite him in the ass.

Listen to Tony, Felix

(x) Listen to Tony, Felix.

Back at DYAD, Rachel informs Delphine that Dr. Leekie had a heart attack on their private jet, which we all (Delphine included) know is a lie. Delphine heads to the place where Sarah and Mrs. S. are holding Ethan Duncan, and informs them that Rachel will get off their back about getting Kira to DYAD if they give them Professor Duncan (which we in the audience know is probably not true). Mrs. S. decides that they’ll think about it. Delphine then heads to Cosima’s lab, only to find herself locked out. Cosima and the ever-faithful Scott start to work on extracting cells from Kira’s tooth. He comments that it’d be easier if they could use bone marrow, and Cosima darkly replies, “I know.” I don’t think she’s that desperate… yet. Cosima comes back to the lab to find Scott and his friends playing some kind of table top Dungeons and Dragons/Risk knock off game. At first she ignores them, but soon can’t help herself and joins in the fun. It turns out Cosima’s a total beast at whatever game this is, and dominates them all. I love the moment of levity in what would otherwise be a pretty grim plot line for her.

orphan black alison


Shifting gears to Alison’s world, we find out that Donnie’s coping with accidentally killing Dr. Leekie by copious amounts of day drinking. She’s appalled that he’d be drinking the day she gets home from rehab. Later that night she catches him packing his bags, intending to leave her. Alison chides him for abandoning his family, and the two have a very long awaited heart-to-heart: Donnie tells Alison about Dr. Leekie, and Alison tells Donnie about Aynsley. Alison helps Donnie get rid of Leekie’s body. It looks like the Hendrixes have finally worked past a lot of the hurdles in their relationship.

Mrs. S. and Sarah decide that they’re better off letting Professor Duncan go to DYAD. Before he leaves their safehouse, he gives Kira his copy of The Island of Doctor Moreau. Later we discover that Kira adores the book, mostly for its highly complex scientific annotations all over the pages. Doctor Moreau is a book by H. G. Wells, and tells the story of a shipwrecked Englishman who meets a Dr. Moreau on an island. Dr. Moreau is performing grotesque experiments creating animal-human hybrids. Our hero tries to drown himself rather than let Moreau experiment on him, but Moreau explains that he’s actually trying to turn animals into humans, that he hasn’t perfected it yet, and any pain he inflicts is nothing more than an inconvenient side effect of his grand experiments. One of the subjects of his experiments escapes, and the subject and Moreau end up killing each other. Our protagonist escapes the island after he burns down the compound and the animal-human experiments revert back to their animal forms. When he returns home no one believes him, so he becomes a hermit.

It seems to me that Ethan Duncan is a bit of a combination between Dr. Moreau and the shipwrecked Englishman, in a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde sort of way. Professor Duncan heads to DYAD and meets with Rachel. Rachel demands that their relationship be strictly professional. She gets to the point and asks him why Sarah is the only fertile clone. With a strange smile, he explains that the clones are actually infertile by design, and that Sarah’s fertility is an accidental flaw. We can’t have prototypes that can reproduce, after all. We’re treated to a few flashes of dream sequence Rachel tearing her office apart with rage. As of now I have no idea if Ethan Duncan is more of an idealistic scientist or a Dr. Moreau.

orphan black scott


Next, Cosima gets to meet with Professor Duncan for the first time. She quickly breaks the news to Scott that the gene sequence they’ve been studying is hers. Scott takes a few moments and just stares at her in utter wonder. For the first time it seems like we have someone who really understands the complexity of the science behind the creation of the clones, and is totally awed by it. When Scott finally gathers himself, he shakes Cosima’s hand and tells her that it’s an honor. I love you, Scott. Cosima’s ecstatic to meet Duncan, but their meeting is short lived. She quickly collapses, spitting blood, and goes into some kind of seizure.

We cut back to Felix’s apartment. He’s been getting to know Tony and trying to ply him with alcohol in order to get him to spill the message. Tony asks all kinds of uncomfortable questions about Felix’s feelings for Sarah, his feelings about Tony being trans, and kisses Felix. Sarah finally makes her way up to Felix’s apartment and literally bumps into Tony. He takes the news about being a clone remarkably well. He’s excited at the prospect of gaining a bunch of sisters, and comments that he’d probably really like “the one with the dreads” (I really hope that doesn’t mean that he’s replacing Cosima in the clone lineup). Felix thinks he’s got all of Sarah’s bad habits. Finally Tony tells us the message he was carrying to Beth. It turns out that his partner in crime, Sam, was ex-military, and a “ghost” like Paul. He wanted to tell Beth to keep her faith in Paul. I’m not entirely sure what any of that means, but I do wish Beth would have gotten the message. It may have saved her.

orphan black tony


So the big thing from this episode is the addition of not only one more clone, but of a trans clone. This is huge; trans characters get next to no representation in any media (including geek media), let alone such positive representation. When a character discovers that she (or he) is a clone, it’s always been the start of some kind of identity crisis, either on-screen or implied. Tony says that he already worked out a lot of his identity issues a long time ago, and knows that he’s the one and only Tony, unconstrained by any kind of categorization. So the fact that he’s trans actually empowers him when faced with membership in Clone Club, something that can’t be said for any of the other clones. Furthermore, all the other characters really just roll with the fact that he’s trans. A little surprising and different, yes, but Sarah and Felix quickly overcome any of those feelings and get to know Tony as a person. While it’s implied that Tony gets on a bus to run away from the cops (and probably some DYAD agents, too), I have a good feeling we’re going to be seeing him again soon. If not this season, then certainly next year.

Next week it looks like we’ll finally get to catch up with Helena and the Proletheans. Delphine’s going to ask Sarah for Kira’s bone marrow, and it looks like Cosima’s going to die if she doesn’t get it. There’re only two episodes left, and I can’t wait to see who’s going to get out of this season alive.

3 thoughts on “Orphan Black: “Variable and Full of Perturbation” Review

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