Orphan Black: What’s Old is Neolution Again

Orphan Black 3×10 “History Yet to Be Written” is the first time I can think of the show truly living up to its opening credits, by completely mirroring the season 3 premiere. We opened on a technicolor baby shower and close on a family dinner at Bubbles that’s absurdly cheery when you consider the threat that lurks just at the fringes of this closer-knit-than-ever clan. It turns out that Castor and Leda were too busy with their good old-fashioned sibling rivalry to notice that a larger enemy has been biding its time, waiting for the perfect moment to reemerge.

While some have commented that this finale was a bit flat for ending on a sweet, four-generation family reunion in Iceland instead of a jaw-dropping cliffhanger, I liked it. There were plenty of major moves on the narrative chessboard—and by that I mean deaths, some especially wrenching ones—that are turning our attention entirely away from the military and Topside to Neolution, which has effectively been the H.Y.D.R.A. to Dyad’s S.H.I.E.L.D. since maybe as early as season 1. But before I talk about that, I wanted to visit the various cool mirror-image moments.

Orphan Black 3x10 History Yet to Be Written episode review

Mothers and Daughters

Even with Kira sent to Iceland early this season (which was for the best, sorry not sorry), this season was all about parents and heritage. Castor and Leda’s shared goals of discovering their originals dovetailed wonderfully—first in discovering that they’re brother and sister, and then learning that chimera Kendall Malone possesses both male and female genomes.

Something that this show has always done well is present nontraditional ways of being a mother. With most of Leda unable to conceive, each of the clones has no choice but to face the notion of motherhood and being a caretaker, even if it’s something she never planned for.

Rachel, we know, wants to be a mother more than anything, enough to try and harvest Sarah’s eggs last season and instead get a pencil to the eye. After she proves that the old, scheming, self-serving Rachel still exists by swapping herself with poor, unsuspecting manicurist Krystal, Rachel finds that her own plan backfires: She wakes up in a mysterious, Darwin-themed prison with a nifty bionic eye (now let’s see one of the clones try to impersonate her!), little Charlotte who tells her “you’re going to be my new mommy,” and Rachel’s own mother, Susan Duncan. Not surprising, when a throwaway line earlier in the episode mentioned how terrified Ethan Duncan was of Neolution and how they took his wife away from him—not by death as we thought, but by some sort of brainwashing. (Maybe those creepy worms are to blame? More on that later.)

Orphan Black 3x10 History Yet to Be Written episode review

But really the part that got me the most, and I was gladdest to see mirrored here, was in 3×01 when Sarah tells Mrs. S (after learning that she traded Helena to Castor for Sarah), “You’re not my people!” Once we found out that Kendall Malone was Mrs. S’s mother (because of course), we got the extra gut-punch that Kendall was the one who sent Sarah to “my rebel daughter”:

“I couldn’t expect forgiveness. But I wanted you to have her. She’s your blood, too. A little piece of me. All I had left of my foul life to give.”

Gah, my heart.

Castor and Leda

For a season in which the Clone Club had seemed really disjointed, especially with Alison playing Breaking Bad in the suburbs, they came together in a really satisfying way in the end. When everyone piled into Alison’s election school bus, I almost cheered (but was also worried there would be a shootout).

As for Castor, these scenes really crystallized how much they’ve fragmented: Mark is working with Sarah to trick Coady and Seth, who meet their unfortunate end, and Rudy…

In the past few episodes, Helena seems to have finally embraced that she’s pregnant in the concrete rather than abstract sense. We saw how fiercely she protects her “babies” (her fertilized eggs), but she has also had the time now to turn her gaze inward to the “science baby” currently growing in her womb. And yet, it’s refreshing that her delicate condition hasn’t prevented Helena from turning a room full of drug dealers into a bloodbath to facing off with Rudy with only a roll of tape and a screwdriver.

Of course the crazy clones had to duke it out, but more satisfying than the fight was the aftermath. Glitching as he is, Rudy wasn’t in his finest form, and his death was a foregone conclusion. But the way that Helena lies down beside him, to talk him through his final moments, was strangely tender. Even down to their dark final exchanges:

Rudy: “Do you remember your childhood? I remember sleeping, my brothers breathing in unison. We’d sleepwalk out of bed and pile up in a corner like puppies.”

Helena: “When I was nine, I was made to shoot puppy.”

and

Rudy: “We had a purpose, just like you.”

Helena: “No. You are rapist.”

The Cleaner Is In

Orphan Black 3x10 History Yet to Be Written episode reviewYou knew that by casting James Frain as the Ferdinand, the efficient assassin who likes to be dominated by dirty clones, meant that he would show up for more than one episode. But it was extra-satisfying when Sarah reveals that she was playing Rachel during their last encounter, and uses some of that steel to get Ferdinand to agree to their shaky partnership.

What’s ironic is that their connection becomes a lot more concrete when they find out about the Neolutionists—including Ferdinand’s silent right-hand man. No joke, when Ferdinand quietly hefted the baseball bat, I was worried that he was going to go after Kendall Malone or one of the clones, but instead he beats his colleague to a pulp while yelling, “I hate Neolutionists!” Aaand now the Clone Club has a new member who may unseat Helena on the unstable front.

Clone Dance Dinner Party

Last year, everyone was talking about (and reblogging, and reenacting) the Clone Club dance party. But 3×10’s big family dinner, in addition to being freaking adorable, was no less a technical feat. Co-creator John Fawcett shares how insane it was to shoot, especially when Tatiana Maslany was improvising as Helena with herself as Alison over the course of several days. Let’s raise a toast to Beth, sure, but also to Tat herself. (Here’s a behind-the-scenes video of how it all came together.)

Survival of the Fittest for Neolution

The fact that they reminded us of Dr. Leekie and his white-contact-lens-wearing, genetically modified clubgoers in the “previously on…” segment took away some of the surprise, but I wouldn’t have guessed how deeply Neolution was embedded into Dyad. Almost like… a creepy worm that lives in your stomach until you need to spit it onto someone as some sort of biological warfare? Yeah, about as horrifying as that.

It certainly brings a new dimension to Delphine and Dr. Nealon’s conversation from 3×01:

Delphine: “Can I count on you, Dr. Nealon, to put Project Leda above its individuals?”

Dr. Nealon: “Neither of us can afford to play favorites, now can we?”

Except that he totally was! Nealon was the one who held Delphine to something higher than her relationship with Cosima, even as he was prioritizing his own pieces on the proverbial board. That was Delphine’s downfall—focusing too much on the big picture and missing the individual moments in front of her. Much as it pains me to say it, I’m pretty sure she’s dead, considering the finality of Nealon intoning, “You’ll be dead by morning” and, of course, getting shot. I’m almost completely sure she knew who was holding the gun, from the lack of surprise on her face and the way she asked, “What will happen to her?” meaning Cosima. So, who could have shot her—Scott?

RIP Delphine. Just as her and Cosima’s breakup scene in 3×01 twisted all my feels up into a little ball, so did their goodbye, and her final words:

“Give your sisters all my love.”

With a heavy heart, let’s turn back to Neolution. I’ve got to join other recappers in wondering what the hell that worm was. Hopefully not some Yeerk-like mind control tool, but it’s unclear what its purpose could be otherwise. Clearly, Neolutionists are moving a step up from adding tails to their own bodies to trying to pass something on to others. In fact, it may not be all that different from Castor’s own sexually-transmitted biological weapon in terms of aim. And if you don’t remember all of the specifics about Neolution, Bustle has put together a handy primer.

Orphan Black 3x10 History Yet to Be Written episode review

So, what’s next for season 4? Fawcett told Variety,

I want from season four a vibe of season one again. I want a lot of that paranoia back, and Sarah following a first-person mystery, and a feeling of not knowing where we stand again, and having the audience not know where we stand. When Graeme [Manson] and I talked about it, it was like, “how do we give it a feeling of conclusion after three seasons and now push towards our bigger mystery?” We just wanted a reset after season three and a big emotional ending.

What could that big mystery be? A larger plot to genetically alter humans on a sweeping scale? Other, even more volatile, science experiments? It will be interesting to see how the movement of Neolution has grown and changed in the past few years, from a seeming fad of pseudo-science to (I imagine) a much more powerful force.

Natalie Zutter is pouring one out for Delphine, and Pupok, and Rudy, and everyone else who died this season. You can read more of her work on Twitter and elsewhere.

9 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!