Orphan Black: “Manacled Slim Wrists” Review

(via denofgeek)

We left last week’s episode with Cosima locked in Westmoreland’s basement and Kira determined to take a more active role in her family’s crusade against Rachel. So of course the clone we start out with this week is… Krystal? With only a few episodes left, it makes sense that she would come back to wrap up her plotline, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it quite so much.

Spoilers below the jump!

Krystal storms back into Clone Club’s life unexpectedly: now a beauty vlogger, she suspects she’s been targeted by Big Cosmetics when a beauty product causes her co-host’s hair to break off. Some research by Scott et al leads them to discover that the company the product had come from was just purchased by Dyad. Krystal has connections to the head of the company, so she reaches out and invites him over. Sarah preps to go undercover as Krystal to interrogate him, but Krystal sneaks away from Scott, determined to handle it herself. And handle it she does: she gets him to confess that the reason Dyad bought his company is because they had manufactured a prototype cream that could be used as a dermal delivery system for all kinds of chemicals, and Dyad was interested in it. This is clearly tied to Westmoreland’s surrogacy scheme, so it’s an important clue.

(via denofgeek)

Elsewhere, in Revival, revelation after revelation is coming to light. First, Westmoreland has discovered Virginia Coady, weaned her off whatever sedatives she was on, and brought her back under his wing. She tries to get under Ira’s skin by telling him that Susan doesn’t care about fixing his glitch—which has been getting worse and worse lately—but that she (Coady) is close to a cure. Meanwhile, we discover that the machine Mud’s been helping Westmoreland with is not for dialysis but parabiosis—basically, he’s taking blood and plasma from the people of Revival in order to keep himself alive. Susan slips something presumably lethal into his drip bag, but is discovered and forced to let it drip into her instead. When Ira comes to collect her to escape, she’s dead in her chair, the hanging bag nearly empty.

Outside the big house, little Ayesha succumbs to her cancer, and, finally overwhelmed by the human cost of staying loyal to P.T., Mud goes to release Cosima. Cosima goes to collect Charlotte and her medicines, but is held up by the people of Revival, who see her as a collaborator. Instead, she shows them a picture Ira slipped her before he went to find Susan: a photo from the 1960s, showing a young Susan Duncan and her student… a young P.T. Westmoreland. Adrift with the news that P.T. is not 170 and has just been using them all for his own research, they let Cosima and Charlotte go and turn their rage on the town.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode. It moved the plot forward in a way that felt appropriately tense, and the stakes have been raised for the next one; a nice change from previous episodes that have seemed a bit unhurried despite being part of the final season. Krystal was a joy to watch, and her takedown of the sellout cosmetics exec was amazing. It’s great to see that the writers do realize that being ditzy, misinformed, or beauty-focused doesn’t mean that a character can’t also be badass, incisive, and resilient. That said, it kind of sucks that we get this message about Krystal now, just a few episodes after one that cosigned the idea that Alison’s housewifelyness made her useless or boring. Krystal may have no idea what’s going on with Clone Club, but she is effective at getting what she wants and uncovering information, and this is because of her career and connections in the beauty industry, rather than in spite of it. The other characters may be mocking or judgmental of her, but the narrative proves them wrong. On the flip side, Alison was only ever useful for the things she did outside the realm of homemaking; her crafting, planning, and mothering abilities were treated as a funny quirk that distracted from or interfered with her Clone Club support activities, both by the other characters and by the narrative.

The one thing that really bummed me out about the episode is the same song we’ve been singing for several seasons now: Orphan Black is bad at race. In Revival, we’ve lost two characters of color in as many weeks: first, the guard killed by Janus, and second, Ayesha, whose cancer was not being cured by Westmoreland, simply manipulated to appear so. Both of these deaths are there simply to spur action from the white characters around them. Coady hasn’t died yet, but she’s an irredeemable villain working on the side of Mr. Patriarchy. And back in… whatever generic North American city this show takes place in, Krystal’s beauty-vlogging cohost is a Black woman, but the roles she plays in the episode are unfortunately problematic. First, it’s her hair that breaks off thanks to the prototype cream, and the reason that she even had the prototype cream in the first place was because she’s “such a klepto” and stole it from the house of the cosmetics exec. And when Krystal sneaks out of the comics shop to scoop Sarah’s attempt to intercept said exec, she gets her friend to flirt with and make sexual overtures toward Scott to distract him so she can escape. I’m sad that after all the critique the show has received, they think including Black characters in roles like “thief and sexual prop who also gets visually humiliated” is somehow an improvement.

(via spoilertv)

Furthermore, it’s not a good look that pretty much all the characters of color in the show are subservient to or victimized by the white patriarchy, whereas all of the people actively fighting against it are white. Krystal’s cohost loses her hair and is used as a prop. Rachel’s got a Black manservant, who does what she tells him after she receives her own orders from Westmoreland. And evil Colonel Sanders himself has a whole village full of people of color whom he exploits, literally using them for non-consensual medical experimentation (a super bad look). Even Art, our one consistent Good Guy of Color, doesn’t really have his own agency; he either does what his white, evil Neo partner says he has to because of blackmail, or what Sarah tells him to do because of his loyalty to Beth. That said, this late in the game, I’m more in the headspace of sighing and throwing up my hands than I am expecting anything to change.

Going forward, though, there are definitely a few things I’m curious about. For one thing, S has remained seriously closemouthed about her source within Neolution, and I’m hoping for a big reveal when the time comes. While everything else was happening with Krystal and Revival in this episode, back at home base, Kira was able to put off Rachel for a short while by pretending to have the flu. But P.T. is pissed at the delay, and sends Rachel to go get her anyway at the end of the episode. I’m glad that Sarah has brought Kira into her world a bit more; while she’s obviously still a child, it’s still not fair that such huge decisions about her body and her autonomy are being made over her head and without her consent, and it was a refreshing touch to see their mother-daughter interactions lose some of the vitriol that’s characterized them over the last few episodes. It’s too bad that this only got to last an episode before Rachel pulled Kira away again, but I suspect it was important to reconcile them so that any rescue attempts don’t get screwed up by Kira’s desire to stay with Rachel.

I’m eager to see what happens with Kira and Rachel, and whether Ira’s glitch leads him to rally against Westmoreland or if he becomes a more chaotic element of the conflict on the island. The show is slowly taking players off the board and moving inexorably toward a checkmate. With P.T.’s deception now revealed, I’m more psyched than ever to see his downfall as the series heads towards its close.

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