Hiding Doesn’t Work: Orphan Black, “Transgressive Border Crossing”

While this week’s Orphan Black opens with Sarah, Kira, Mrs. S., and Kendall sneaking across Canada’s borders via cargo plane and truck, it concludes with a very different kind of border breached, in a much more insidious and horrifying way: the discovery of one of Neolution’s worms (or “maggot bombs,” M.K.’s nickname for them) lurking in Sarah’s cheek!

Spoilers for 4×02 “Transgressive Border Crossing.”

Was anyone else stunned to realize that all of this has been taking place over less than a year? I hadn’t given much thought to the timeline until I realized that a) Dyad was renting out Beth and Paul’s flat for the remainder of the year; and b) the pregnant Neolution girl from last week would have a baby less than six months old. It makes perfect sense, I just hadn’t given it much thought because of all the crazy shit that happens on this show. One reason that time seems so wacky could be that we’re always going…

Orphan Black 4x02 "Transgressive Border Crossing" television review

Down the Rabbit Hole

The teasers have already set up more than one Alice in Wonderland reference, but it’s right there in Rabbit Hole Comics, the comic book shop acting as a front for Cosima and Scott’s underground lab, which has now also become Sarah’s hiding spot. Mrs. S, Kira, and Kendall are going to a safe house. Kira is understandably upset that Cal seems to not be joining them. I can’t blame her for being scared she’ll never see her dad again, though she shouldn’t be surprised; not a lot of male characters stick around for long on this show. Felix is bulletproof; otherwise, Art currently holds the record for longevity, and he was in and out of the story for a while anyway.

Things get curiouser and curiouser as Sarah meets up with Art to actually take apart Beth’s flat. These two have set foot in here plenty of times before—Sarah called it home for almost two weeks—but it was fascinating to watch them actually dismantle Beth’s life, piece by piece, for evidence.

Orphan Black 4x02 "Transgressive Border Crossing" television review

Clone Count: 6

The Clone Club hasn’t entirely reunited: While Sarah is hiding out with Cosima, Alison and Donnie are keeping a pregnant Helena under wraps… both from the neighbors and from her sestras. It’s suspicious that Alison doesn’t want to tell Helena yet that her twin is back, especially considering how much she complains about Helena taking up space in their home and leaving crumbs all over the craft station. Is she more worried about the Clone Club invading her home life—which has always been the most removed from this business—or is she worried that Helena will leap at the chance to see Sarah, endangering her twin fetuses? Alison clearly feels protective (and jealous) over Helena’s pregnancy; Maslany plays that ambivalence so well, as we know that Alison would have loved to carry her children and give birth to them.

Orphan Black 4x02 "Transgressive Border Crossing" television review

M.K. still hasn’t met up with the Clone Club in person; she and Sarah have a brief meetup at the laundromat via cameras and phones. Speaking of cameras, Sarah and Art get their most unfettered access to Beth from, ironically, the surveillance footage she put up to track Paul. We also get to see M.K. and Beth’s final meeting, the night that Beth took her life.

It’s interesting how this episode put the clones in pairs, which reflects the ongoing motifs about mirrors and cells splitting. No Clone Swaps yet this season, though it was amusing to watch Sarah stumble her way through the meetup with M.K.’s contact, trying at first to pass as Beth and then as M.K., utterly failing at both. If anything, it was most surprising to see Beth don a blonde wig, though we don’t yet know who she was supposed to be. I had a brief moment of Maybe she’s Krystal! but even that seems too farfetched.

Orphan Black 4x02 "Transgressive Border Crossing" television review

Casting Off the Human Shell

The individual can only begin the journey from the ordinary to the extraordinary by casting off the genetically mandated human shell.

These are the brilliant words of Aldous Leekie, from his book that Beth swiped (and then got signed, that cheeky minx). Sarah ambushes Felix, who’s been avoiding everyone’s calls, for a fact-finding mission at the Neolutionists’ club, but really that place is the backdrop for Felix to admit that part of why he’s been less involved is because he’s searching for his birth family. Sarah protests, saying that Mrs. S and she are still his family, but he comes back with, “They’re all yours. You’re related to our foster mom, who’d’ve thought?” I can’t blame him for detaching; suddenly he and Sarah have different stakes and different bonds, despite the same love. Also, if the only reason she comes looking for him is so he’ll sneak her into the club… Well, she probably should give more thought to how much she “uses” her supposed family.

Orphan Black 4x02 "Transgressive Border Crossing" television review

So, Felix is, in a sense, casting off some sort of shell—but the more literal interpretation of Leekie’s quote belongs to the Neolutionists themselves. We still don’t know what the exact purpose of the worms are, but for the first time, we hear the humans referred to as hosts. That’s when Sarah meets up with M.K.’s contact and watches a video (before her cover gets blown): Neolutionists trying to extract a worm from a living human, only for it to send all of his veins jumping and kill him in a self-defense mechanism.

Suddenly, casting off a human shell sounds a lot more fatal.

Hiding Won’t Work

After snatching the contact’s phone, Sarah gets in touch with M.K. at the laundromat. Of course, M.K. continues to lurk behind security cameras, safely ensconced in her own world. Yes, she came out of hiding to contact Sarah in Iceland, but that doesn’t mean she’s looking to join the Clone Club yet. She tells Sarah to hide, but Sarah responds, “Hiding won’t work, Mika.” It’s telling that Sarah adopts Beth’s nickname for M.K. almost without thinking; even though she’s had her part doing Clone Swaps with just about everyone, Beth is the one she’s pulled the most mannerisms and information from.

Orphan Black 4x02 "Transgressive Border Crossing" television review

If Sarah couldn’t hide her loved ones in Iceland, there’s probably nowhere they could stay off the Neolutionists’ radar. Of course, she doesn’t know that Kendall is hiding leukemia from the group; only Scott knows, and Kendall threatens swears him to silence. A lot of people seem to be hiding secrets: Cosima deflects Mrs. S’s question about why she can’t use more of Kira’s stem cells for gene therapy; and when Cosima asks Mrs. S to “tell me if Delphine is dead,” Mrs. S says, “I can’t do that.” Because she doesn’t know, or because she knows?

Back at the laundromat, right as M.K. screeches off in her nearby car in panic, in come the two Neolution gravediggers to corner Sarah. They pin her down, thinking she’s M.K.; when that becomes apparent, the guy sticks his finger in her cheek and identifies her as Sarah Manning.

Um, since when can you identify clones from poking around inside their mouths? Because Sarah has a worm in her cheek. She storms into the safe house in a panic, grabs poor little Kira—because Dyad had them both, and that must have been when they implanted it—and then has Mrs. S shine a flashlight in her cheek. Yep, that is some grade-A body horror right there.

Orphan Black 4x02 "Transgressive Border Crossing" television review

Other Thoughts

  • “Well, I’m completely overbooked, I have no time for Neolutionists.” “That’s different. [Helena is] trained to kill people; we’re manslaughterers.” I know that the writers reserve special little moments for each of the characters—like Helena being adorable and creepy at the OBGYN’s office—but Alison still gets the best lines.
  • “Can you hand me a towel, please, so this becomes a little less Flowers in the Attic?” Well, of the Clone Club; Felix also gets the zingers. The line has a dark side too, though, since Felix is feeling less related to Sarah every day.
  • Alison and Felix’s exchange (“Is that a penis?” “In art it’s called a phallus, darling.”) plus Sarah seeing the bifurcated penis from 4×01 makes me wonder if phallic imagery will be a recurring motif this season.
  • I’m kicking myself for not catching the Dolly the sheep reference with M.K.’s mask.

Photos: Ken Woroner/BBC America

Natalie Zutter has always identified with Cosima, but now feels more like an Alison now that she’s started taking a dance workout class. Talk to her about Orphan Black and clones on Twitter!

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