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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Black is Back: “Orphan Black” – Episode 1 “The Weight of This Combination”

Orphan Black is a critically acclaimed sci-fi series from BBC America featuring human clones. Its first two seasons garnered rave reviews, and its third season airs Saturday nights at 9/8c on BBC America and SPACE. Our writer, Janna Jeffrey, recaps every episode of the third season here on The Hudsucker. Orphan Black is back!

Beware: As this is a recap column, there are spoilers ahead. Read on if you dare!

Credit BBC America

Orphan Black is always a thrill ride, and the eagerly awaited premiere of Season 3 is no exception. The show picks up practically right where the Season 2 finale ended, and our favorite clones are left to deal with all the remnants: Helena’s kidnapping, Cosima’s sickness, Sarah’s attack on Rachel… and, of course, the big reveal of Project Castor’s male clones. It’s a lot to keep track of, but we’re going to do our best!

The premiere of Season 3 opens up on a baby shower—Helena (Tatiana Maslany, who portrays all the female clones), pregnant and glowing, sits with her new family as they dote on her, cook for her, and celebrate her growing tummy. Of course, this is Orphan Black, and moments of levity are hard to come by; it’s no shocker when the rosiness fades and we discover that it’s all a dream. There’s a horrific moment where a scorpion crawls across Helena’s chest (why, writers, why?!), and then we see where she really is—trapped inside a wooden box in the middle of an empty warehouse. Lovely. Off to the opening sequence!

Fun fact: Ari Millen (Mark and the other male clones) and Kristian Bruun (Donnie Hendrix) have been upgraded to regular cast members this season. Their names are in the opening credits and everything. Both actors are great, so I’m happy to see them there.

The first thing we see after the opening sequence is Rachel in surgery—if you’re squeamish about eyes, I suggest you look away here—so we can see that she’s still alive. Great—just what I wanted. We move on to Sarah, Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and Kira (Skyler Wexler) out by the river, living their lives after being released from DYAD’s captivity. They’re interrupted by Delphine (Evelyne Brocheau), who has a request: Sarah must come talk to one of the Project Castor clones. He’s asked for her specifically. No one knows any of the male clones’ names, or what exactly they want—we just know that they’re dangerous and aren’t above kidnapping and killing for their own benefit. This Project Castor clone vaguely threatens Sarah for a few minutes, essentially telling her that he knows everything about her loved ones and suggests that she count her sisters carefully. This clues her in that Helena didn’t just run away—she’s been taken. We’re all of ten minutes in and I’m already sufficiently unsettled by the Project Castor clones. I like where this is going.

Credit BBC America

Delphine sets up the main action for this episode: With the discovery of the Project Castor clones, someone from Topside is coming to review DYAD’s affairs. The last thing DYAD wants is for Topside to know that their leader just got stabbed violently with a pencil, so Delphine insists that Sarah helps by posing as Rachel until the man from Topside gives the all-clear. After some hesitation, Sarah finally agrees—so long as Delphine helps her find Helena. Delphine agrees.

There’s a brief subplot beginning next, with Alison at her children’s school. She’s helping load kids into buses like the stellar soccer mom she is when she’s approached by a woman named Marci Coates (Amanda Brugel), who wants Alison’s support in running for school trustee. Alison, however, doesn’t like Marci Coates’ ideas, and tells her that she’s been considering running for school trustee herself. I don’t know about you, but given what we’ve seen from Alison in the past two seasons, I wouldn’t want to be the one going up against her! Donnie also shows up, acting incredibly proud of himself for standing up to his boss and, thus, getting fired. Alison isn’t so thrilled about that one, but it’s fantastic to see that Donnie’s still got the spine he grew last season!

Meanwhile, Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) arrives home to find herself accosted by yet another Project Castor clone. This one has a mustache. He’s rough with her and they grapple for a while, but eventually he gets the upper hand and ties her up. He wants to know what happened to Professor Ian Duncan and his research. Mrs. S, being the badass that she is, tells him that Duncan is dead and he’ll have to set foot into DYAD to get his research. Mustachioed Project Castor Clone doesn’t like that and knocks over her chair. Rude.

After Mustachioed Project Castor Clone leaves, Sarah and Felix find and untie Mrs. S. They’re tending to her wounds when she drops a bomb on them—she was the one who arranged for Project Castor to kidnap Helena, in exchange for Sarah and Kira’s safe escape from DYAD at the end of last season. Sarah is not happy about this, feeling betrayed, and essentially tells Mrs. S that they aren’t family anymore. She storms out, with poor Felix left to try and handle their rocky relationship once again.

Credit BBC America

The episode drags a little here—we have scenes where Kira and Cosima sort of discuss death, with Delphine telling Cosima that she’s taken Rachel’s job now and they can’t be together, and with Alison filling Donnie in on her plan to run for school trustee. We see Rachel in the hospital again, unconscious, with Delphine and her doctor talking vaguely about “Helsinki”. It’s all very suspicious. However, with a scene of Felix preparing Sarah to pose as Rachel, off goes the action again!

One of the show’s biggest strengths is Tatiana Maslany’s acting—and her talent is always abundantly clear when she has to play one clone impersonating another. It’s pulled off with skill and an incredible attention to detail; watching her, you genuinely feel as if one clone is playing the other. It’s stunning. In this episode, we get two instances of that—Sarah stepping in to impersonate Rachel, to fool Ferdinand (James Frain) from Topside, and Alison posing as Sarah, who is still supposed to be held captive within DYAD. What’s remarkable is that the reveal of Alison posing as Sarah isn’t given to the audience beforehand—we experience that discovery right alongside with Sarah herself—and we can tell, without being told, which clone it is in Sarah’s attire. The way Maslany holds herself, the way she speaks, the tension in her characters’ faces—we know it’s Alison before we’re told. It’s wonderful work, as always. Plus, Alison is wearing an incredibly hilarious wig that looks almost nothing like Sarah’s real hair. That’s a treat.

Ferdinand talks to both Sarah-as-Rachel and Alison-as-Sarah, trying to suss out if something’s afoot at DYAD. He feels as if something’s off, but he doesn’t pick up on the clone switch right away. Ferdinand is all sorts of creepy and handsy with Alison-as-Sarah, too, and it’s uncomfortable. Eventually he tells Sarah-as-Rachel that he wants to meet with her alone, later that night, to discuss things. She agrees.

There is also a great little moment when Sarah, Alison, and Cosima chat together on the phone—why did it take this show three seasons to give their characters three-way calling?!—to make sure everyone is safe. They say, “I love you” to each other when they hang up. It’s so sweet, especially when you remember how much mistrust and friction there was between them at the beginning of the show!

Delphine stops into Rachel’s hospital room that evening, and Rachel is awake. She’s bandaged and clearly sedated—her facial movements aren’t smooth, she struggles to speak, and her memory is affected. Delphine wants information out of Rachel, and when Rachel stumbles over her words and can’t remember anything, Delphine presses her thumb into Rachel’s bandaged, injured eye until she speaks properly!!!! Seriously, if you’re squeamish about eyes, don’t watch this bit. This scene is intriguing to see—Delphine is far more forceful and in control than we’ve ever seen her before. It’ll be interesting to see what she does with these new responsibilities in her role as the director of DYAD. It looks like she has the potential to get a little scary.

Credit BBC America

That night, Ferdinand arrives at Sarah-as-Rachel’s hotel suite. There’s alcohol, smooth music, a roaring fire… it’s pretty obvious that Ferdinand and the real Rachel had something going on. Sarah-as-Rachel tries to get Ferdinand to talk about Helena, to help her rescue her sister, but it sort of looks like all Ferdinand wants to do is get busy. Sarah-as-Rachel gets a little threatening with her heel near Ferdinand’s crotch—everybody loves Rachel the dominatrix!—and he brings up “Helsinki” again. Turns out that Helsinki was a plan in which one clone betrayed the others, and Topside eliminated (aka murdered) six clones overseas in twenty-four hours. Apparently, Rachel and Ferdinand have arranged to have the same thing happen here, to Sarah and the others. Sarah and Cosima are to be operated on and killed at DYAD, and there is currently a man outside Alison’s house, ready to chloroform her and her family, kill them, and then set a fire to burn the evidence.

Are you kidding me?!?!

Sarah-as-Rachel does a pretty good job at not outright panicking, and instead excuses herself. She slips into the bathroom where she frantically tries to call Alison and warn her… but Alison is too busy working out to hear her phone. However, Alison does spot her outside light switching on for no reason, and slips outside to investigate. The scary chloroform man hides in her garage.

Meanwhile, Ferdinand follows Sarah-as-Rachel into the bathroom and asks her who she’s calling. She pretends it’s nothing, and he’s suspicious. So to divert his attention, Sarah-as-Rachel undoes his belt, pulls it off, and whips him like the proud dominatrix we all know and love. She maneuvers him out onto the bed and winds up on top of him, belt around his throat, ready to kill. Delphine, unfortunately, arrives and stops her. Delphine shepherds Ferdinand away, and he promises to call off the clone murders. The chloroform man in Alison’s garage gets a text telling him to “Abort Helsinki,” so he leaves and doesn’t murder her entire family. Phew. The moment Orphan Black kills off the Hendrix family is the moment I stop watching!

Credit BBC America

We’re practically at the end of the episode now, which means that the show takes us back to Helena, trapped in her box. She’s been in there for almost forty-eight hours now, we’re told. An old woman is watching the box on a monitor, and a figure steps into the warehouse. Helena’s box is opened, and as she blinks up into the brightness, she comes face to face with—you guessed it—another Project Castor clone. How many of them are there?!

Orphan Black started Season 3 off with some real excitement, and more than anything, it’s just made me want to watch more. The show does a fantastic job of laying out new information, tempting you with hints, and drawing you in closer. I’m interested in seeing more of the Project Castor clones and learning about them—they’re sufficiently creepy, and I can tell they’re going to prove real trouble for our beloved Project Leda clones. Ari Millen wasn’t given a ton to do in this episode, but he’s already proven that he can play creepy in a way that’s distinct from how he played Mark, the unsettling Prolethean character he played last season. I’m looking forward to watching him stretch his acting chops more. Tatiana Maslany was, as always, wonderful. It was great to get to see more clones impersonating one another—that’s always fun for the audience. I’m looking forward to seeing more of my favorite Orphan Black characters—where was Art?—and to discovering more about the mysteries of Season 3!

EPISODE RATING: B+

BEST LINE: Felix, discussing DYAD’s constant calls to Sarah for help: “Don’t these people know you never even finished high school?!”

FAVORITE MOMENT: Sarah, Alison and Cosima’s three-way call ending in an “I love you guys.” Sisters!

What did you think of the Season 3 premiere of Orphan Black? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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