What Happens in Helsinki Does Not Stay in Helsinki: Orphan Black, “From Instinct to Rational Control”

I’m not sure we quite make it all the way to rational control on this week’s Orphan Black. We certainly start with instinct—namely, Sarah’s instinct to stay alive, even if that means hastily patching things up with Felix so he can infiltrate a fertility clinic for her, making hacker Dizzy an honorary member of the Clone Club Sidekicks Union, bringing in Mrs. S to defuse a bomb, giving Ferdinand valuable information (everything short of the location of their safe house), and snapping at Alison and M.K. to get with the program. Fittingly, the most rational character in this episode is Rachel, who is considering different (but equally daunting) stakes when it comes to genetics and cures, and who is called upon to make an unemotional choice.

Spoilers for Orphan Black 4×04 “From Instinct to Rational Control.”

Nobody likes their partnerships this week, but they’re all necessary evils: Donnie and Felix, Sarah and M.K. and Ferdinand, Rachel and Susan Duncan. No wonder several characters peaced out; the combinations and subsequent complications were getting a bit too thorny.

Clone Count: 8

Just when Clone Club looked like it would be reuniting (and maybe even inducting a new member), it fractured. M.K. and Sarah finally meet in-person, but then M.K. finds out that Sarah has thrown her lot in with Ferdinand, against whom she has quite the vendetta. More later, but it reveals two new clones: Niki (deceased) and Veera, M.K.’s true identity. Considering how they left things, M.K. probably will stick to sending creepy messages in her sheep mask online instead of staying in meatspace. Then there’s Helena, who realizes what a burden she has been on the Hendrixes—not just in terms of eating all their food and messing up the craft room, but how painful it is for them to see her pregnant. So, after burying her “science babies” in the ground (aww), she hits the road again.

Meanwhile, Cosima and Alison continue to serve Sarah’s plotline, while Rachel plays mind games with her mum over Charlotte‘s fate.

Orphan Black 4x04 From Instinct to Rational Thought television review

Carry That Weight

Before we get to the episode’s big reveal about just what Helsinki means, we’re taking a trip to the fertility clinic. After getting mistaken for Beth at a coffee shop by Neolutionist Trina, Alison discovers that Trina was a “carrier”—but of the bug or a genetically engineered fetus, it’s unclear. Alison thinks that delivering Leekie’s head has her and Donnie set for Clone Club contributions, but Sarah snaps at her, “Pull your weight for once!” Way harsh, considering that Alison just dug up a dead body and god forbid she want to focus on the other commitments of her normal, non-clone life. Yet, with Sarah growing increasingly panicked about the bug burrowing deeper into her cheek, I also understand why she lost her cool.

The fertility clinic scenes provided an unexpected mix of humor and pathos. On the one hand, you have hapless Donnie not realizing he and Felix are supposed to be a married couple, then overcompensating by imitating the Will & Grace reruns he probably glimpsed once. (When Alison mutters “Oh Lord and butter, Donnie, stop chewing the scenery,” is she more annoyed about him blowing their cover, or about him being a bad actor?) And him getting locked in the masturbation room with only gay porn for reading material was funny enough, but enlisting his wife for some “Air Italia” roleplaying was almost as entertaining as Alison and Donnie’s twerking scene last season.

But then Alison has to intercept her old friend Portia, now mysteriously pregnant after IVF failed, in order to keep her from catching Donnie at the clinic and to find out just what the hell is going on with her womb. While we know that it’s a fact-finding mission, those are undoubtedly real tears from Alison, who wants a biological child more than anything. We don’t usually see her as anything less than chipper and scarily determined, so this vulnerability was welcome.

Also unexpectedly sweet was Helena’s goodbye to her science babies, which she buries in the Hendrixes’ backyard. She wishes she could keep them, she says, “but I have your twins in my belly. When they are grown, I will tell them about you and our adventures.” Ack, right in the feels.

Orphan Black 4x04 From Instinct to Rational Thought television review

Helsinki Hangover

M.K. seems ready to meet up with Sarah… until she finds out that Sarah’s semi-trusted source is Ferdinand. At first her aversion to aligning herself seems like her regular anti-Topside paranoia, but then we find out that M.K. is actually Veera Suominen, who stars in the Orphan Black limited series comic Helsinki. After discovering her true nature, she flees her “uncle” (actually a handler) and meets up with Niki, another clone and “[her] only friend.” But Ferdinand kills Niki’s family and tries to off Veera in a car crash; she pulls back her hair to reveal to him (and to us) her heavy facial scarring. And so, cue her revenge fantasy of revealing herself to Ferdinand, having made it through the fire, and then subjecting him to the same fate.

Thankfully, Sarah tracks M.K./Veera down and tells her that for all of his reprehensible actions, they still need Ferdinand to get the bug out of her face. Not surprisingly, M.K. doesn’t care, and gets ready to torch the place before leaving Sarah to her choice: save Ferdinand, or don’t.

Orphan Black 4x04 From Instinct to Rational Thought television review M.K. Veera Niki Helsinki

A Bug in the System

After studying the Neolution bug implant—which has been feeding off Leekie’s dead body, encased in a tumor—Cosima finds out what it does: gene editing! So, last week’s fan theory about Sarah turning into some sort of super-soldier might not be too far off.

Speaking of genetics, Susan Duncan subjects poor Rachel to an agonizing thought experiment: When Rachel pushes her to try immunosuppression therapy on Charlotte, Susan challenges her to instead come to the conclusion that matches last week’s Neolution theme of working toward the greater good. Whether she’s trying to prove to her mother that she’s as hard as ever, or trying to take Susan unawares, Rachel finds the answer she wants: Treating Charlotte probably wouldn’t save her anyway, and she’s more valuable as data for Rachel and, yes, Susan’s “real” child Ira. Yes, it’s what Susan wanted to hear; but the fact that she follows up that admission with a) the reveal that she knows about Rachel’s secret messages to Ferdinand, and b) the brutal “as you wish, we won’t treat Charlotte” made me dislike her even more. I was half expecting her to have Charlotte hidden to hear Rachel basically throw her under the bus… although how did Susan Duncan find out about the messages if Charlotte didn’t report back to her?

A Bright(Born)er Future

Alison’s emotional espionage is not for naught, as she gets out of Portia the real reason for her miraculous pregnancy: BrightBorn Technologies, the Neolutionists’ newest game. With a creepy intro video narrated by Evie Cho, BrightBorn promises to help you pick the best possible child. The truth is, I’m surprised it’s taken Orphan Black four seasons to get to such a sci-fi-but-not-sci-fi plotline—it fits uncannily well with our current discussions about genetics and fertility.

And I guess this answers (or at least begins to answer) what Trina is a carrier of—I’m guessing some futuristic Neolution experiment.

Orphan Black 4x04 From Instinct to Rational Thought television review

Other Thoughts

  • I’m fascinated by M.K.’s strict three-minute increments for holding secretive conversations, brushing her teeth, and making a bomb. Wonder if it might be OCD or something related to the car crash.
  • And what does M.K. stand for, anyway, if Mika isn’t her real name?
  • But here’s something I don’t get: I understand that M.K. wanted Ferdinand to die agonizingly, watching the candles melt down to the gas she’s splashed around Beth’s place… but why would she make it so easy for him to escape? She tells Sarah that if she’s smart she won’t save Ferdinand, but she doesn’t follow it up with any threats about “If you do this, we’re not allies” or anything. It took some of the danger out of the scenario.
  • Of course Mrs. S can defuse a bomb. This woman is so badass.
  • “Cops! You think you can solve everything with a cup of coffee.” I’m not sure which cops Trina has met…
  • Much as I love Clone Club, there’s something a little sad about M.K.’s only friends being fellow clones—first Niki, then Beth, now no one (seeing as Project Leda clones find themselves in dangerous situations more often than not). She doesn’t have a brother like Felix, a husband like Donnie, a partner like Art, just constant reflections that get taken away.
  • That said, I don’t think it was necessary to bring Dizzy into the fold and tell him that M.K. and the others are clones. The only reason I can think of is if they’re setting him up to be Sarah’s love interest, but just bring back Cal instead.
  • Does Ferdinand actually want to grow old and powerful with Rachel, or is he just using her? I did love the line “Rachel was a foodie, too, and only a fluffy frittata would she abide”—that part sounds right.
  • 10/10 would watch an Alison Hendrix musical revue.
  • “Who’s the science now, bitch?” <3 Cosima.

Photos: Ken Woroner/BBC America

You have three minutes to tweet at Natalie Zutter about Orphan Black… go!


Back to the top of the page


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!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.