Orphan Black: “Ease for Idle Millionaires” Review

(via denofgeek)

If two weeks ago was an Alison-centric episode, and last week was mostly-Sarah-plus-everyone-else, Cophine fans can rejoice this week. “Ease for Idle Millionaires” showcases Cosima working out just what’s going on behind the scenes at Camp Revival, and the answers are horrifying. The last few seasons of Orphan Black have been too complex for its own good; it’s hard for the un-obsessive viewer to keep track of all the plot threads. Luckily, this episode stays fairly straightforward in its reveal of P.T. Westmoreland’s nefarious plans, allowing more time to consider what they mean for Clone Club.

Spoilers after the jump.

The episode opens with a flashback to Cosima and Delphine’s discovery that Clone DNA comes with a Neolution patent. Cosima believes this means she’s forever lost any hope of true freedom and autonomy. Let’s lay aside the question of whether or not such a patent would ever hold up in a court of law (talk about the most boring show finale ever). If Neolution does own Cosima’s body, does that also mean they own whatever she creates, discovers, or dreams? Delphine consoles her with a passionate embrace, insisting that they can never own her intellect, her humor, her passion: Cosima’s humanity. Delphine promises that she’ll do everything she can to protect Cosima, if Cosima also promises to never stop defying Neolution by living her life with that passion. The flashback is a pertinent reminder that this is the foundation of the Cophine dynamic, and it’s explored later in the episode.

Cosima studies the DNA and treatment results of the residents of Revival, while the denizens of the cult hunt down the “bear” in the woods with Mud’s reluctant help. Cosima learns that Westmoreland discovered a gene that seems to act like a fountain of youth — the same gene in the mouse given to Kira by Rachel. People at Revival are cured not through typical cancer treatment, but gene therapy, and it seems to be working. Delphine’s returned from gathering samples in Sardinia and is called in to give information to Westmoreland about Cosima, and she warns Cosima that if she pushes too hard, she’ll put Kira in danger. But that doesn’t stop Cosima from blurting out her knowledge in order to be invited up to the big house (along with Delphine) for dinner.

What follows is the weirdest dinner party at the big house. Westmoreland literally offers Cosima a “seat at the table” as they banter about science. Cosima plays her whole hand, showing that she knows what gene they’re studying, that they’re studying it in Kira, and that there have been failed experiments. She loses her confidence when he asks her about her parents (they don’t have the slightest idea about anything Clone Club). Westmoreland reveals that Delphine told him about Cosima breaking into his basement and discovering where the “bear” (a genetically-modifed human) lives, and promptly dismisses Delphine to Geneva. Cosima’s allowed to “see her out,” and Delphine has a chance to explain that it was the only way for her to be allowed to leave, so she can help Felix and Adele set up whatever they’re setting up in Geneva.

In this brief moment of privacy, Delphine insists again that she will always try to protect Cosima (even without Cosima’s consent) and Cosima will always push too hard. It’s how their relationship works, and if Cosima wants out, she can have it. Cosima kisses her, reaffirming her commitment to their relationship. Cosima remarks that, “This is what he does, he divides women,” and Cophine resolves to not let that happen. Westmoreland is powerful and manipulative, and information is his favorite weapon. It’s clear that Cosima, while brilliant, doesn’t have the same shrewdness characteristic of Rachel, Allison, or even Sarah. Cosima is the passionate romantic of her sisters, and her relentless pursuit of the truth (whether that be scientific or humanistic) is both her superpower and her greatest weakness.

Cosima returns to dinner, but the “bear” in the woods has come home. Men tell her and some of the other dinner guests (Ira and Susan Duncan) to hide behind a locked door until the coast is clear. Cosima ventures out towards the scary noises anyway, descends the basement stairs despite Mud’s warning, and discovers the horrors below. She sees Westmoreland and meets Yannis, the “bear” in the woods. Yannis was just an orphan in Latvia, discovered to have the gene, and was scooped up by Westmoreland for his nefarious experiments. Yannis’s genes helped create the Leda clone line, but he’s outlived his usefulness. Yannis is wounded, terrified, and clearly suffering, and Westmoreland tries to goad Cosima into killing him with a revolver. Cosima can’t bring herself to do it, citing their shared humanity. She gently approaches Yannis, trying to reassure him, when Westmoreland shoots him himself. Westmoreland then locks Cosima in Yannis’s cell.

In many ways, P.T. Westmoreland functions as a symbol of the patriarchy. As we pointed out in our review of the premiereOrphan Black has always been about challenging patriarchy. Westmoreland is clearly meant to embody that societal force. In the dinner party scene, the characters around the table represent a twisted family get-together, with Westmoreland as the paterfamilias, Susan Duncan as the mother, and Delphine, Ira, and Cosima as the children. A paterfamilias was the male head of a whole household in ancient Rome, and had absolute powers of life and death over everyone, including his wife. When we see Westmoreland trying to force Cosima to execute Yannis, and then killing Yannis himself, he’s brandishing his power. His search for the “Fountain of Youth” gene is another exercise of his quest for power over life and death. He wants all the people around himself, mostly women, to be at his mercy.

On one hand, having a character embody such a pervasive societal concept can help illumine its dangers. Patriarchy hands some men the kind of power a paterfamilias has, and it’s easier to understand through Westmoreland. On the other hand, like Saika said, the danger of having a single character be “the patriarchy” is that it may send the message that defeating the harmful effects of the patriarchy is not all that different from defeating a melodramatic evil villain. It’ll come down to how the show decides to handle the way our heroes respond to his master plan. So far we’ve seen how he controls and manipulates other humans, especially women. Rachel has to appease him to remain in control of DYAD. Susan has to appease him in order to stay connected to the project at all, and alive. Everyone is ultimately expendable to him, because his interests are more important than anyone else’s humanity. Westmoreland wants to remain in control, as long as he can, at any cost. Similarly, the patriarchy ruthlessly treats humans like objects, unless they are the most powerful players in the game. 

via vox

The B-side of this episode centers around Kira. Kira wants to know more about all the sneaky, big-picture stuff her family’s been hiding from her. Sarah strikes a deal with her. If Kira explains everything she can about her special psychic abilities, Sarah will explain about all the “adult stuff” she’s been up to. Kira’s been a side character for so long, and treated more or less like a beloved object (or sexy lamp). But Kira’s growing up, and starting to exercise her own agency. She wants to go with Rachel and consent to her experiments because she’s desperate for knowledge about her special abilities. We’ve seen that this desire can be dangerous; Kira cut herself with a pocketknife to see how long it would take her to heal. Kira very much still needs guidance and protection.

The most crucial reveal of this episode is how Westmoreland and his cronies don’t just want to study Kira’s DNA. They want to harvest her eggs, and about 1300 “hosts” are preparing for implantation. There’s no way Kira is in any position to given anything resembling informed consent. And even if she were old enough and informed enough and wanted to make such a “donation” to Rachel’s science team, there’s nothing stopping Neolution from putting a patent in the DNA of all of those humans, too. Generations of patented humans are finally within Neolution’s grasp, plus all the therapies their genes and genetic tissue might offer.

This episode sets up the series to once again focus on issues especially relevant to women. Orphan Black is at its best when it asks these big questions and offers a few different answers. We saw this in how it treated the question of fertility and motherhood. Helena is pregnant and mourned all her “babies” that died in cryogenic suspension. Rachel desperately wanted children but wasn’t biologically capable of having them, and Alison adopted. Cosima’s never expressed a desire for children and Sarah’s both had an abortion and fiercely loves her daughter. Now we’re circling on questions about basic humanity and human freedom. Orphan Black is about humans attempting to control other humans, and humans fighting to live lives of successful self-determination. We’re going back to our roots, and it’s a sign that the finale will be good.

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