Judas Priest Sestrastar: Orphan Black, “The Redesign of Natural Objects”

“A show like Bob’s Burgers,” my flummoxed roommate commented as he passed by the TV last night, “could get away with juxtaposing dramatic stuff with a rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar. But a show like this? Would never have expected it.” Not a regular viewer of Orphan Black, he was quite impressed with 4×08’s varying tones. I’d say that if Donnie getting threatened with a toothbrush shiv while Alison warbles off-key as Judas Iscariot could draw in someone with no working knowledge of the show, that the cast and crew did a bang-up job with one of the series’ more surreal sequences.

Spoilers for Orphan Black 4×08 “The Redesign of Natural Objects.”

Science has constructed nature as a category facilitating redesign of natural objects, including society. Yerkes saw nature and society in managed capitalist terms. Nature was a problem in test design. Adaptivity meant solving the problem of the rational control of nature on the level of individual organisms and their social analogues—families, labour groups, and other superorganisms.

—Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature

From what we know of Evie Cho’s master plan (more later), she certainly intends to remake society in some sort of idealized and no doubt deadly way. To her, humans are the natural objects, test subjects and pawns for her gene engineering bot implants. Later in that same paragraph there’s also a mention of “making human nature the raw material rather than the product of history.” Now, I’m taking these references more literally than anything else, but I like the idea of human nature being a driving force instead of just a byproduct of what happens to humans. Feel free to make deeper commentary on the episode titles and their source material in the comments.

Orphan Black 4x08 "The Redesign of Natural Objects"

Photo: Ken Woroner/BBC America

Clone Count: 7

Not only do we get so many lovely scenes of Tatiana Maslany having deep emotional talks with herself—girl has endurance, I think every time I see these—but we got an awkward Clone Club conference call! When Sarah and Cosima aren’t bonding over both pushing past their suicidal tendencies last weekMK is looping them in to a secret encrypted video chat with Rachel and Ira (with limited interaction from Susan and Charlotte). Yep, MK has resurfaced, probably because all of Ferdinand’s “well invested” $3.7 million can’t save her from coughing up blood, and she now has a more personal stake in finding a cure. She also shows them that embarrassing conference call with Neolution and Evie Cho’s smackdown of the self-aware Leda clones, making it clear: Everyone is on the same side now. At least, as long as it takes before someone’s agenda supersedes the others’.

Orphan Black 4x08 "The Redesign of Natural Objects"

Photo: Ken Woroner/BBC America

Do You Think You’re What They Say You Are?

I confess, Alison had me going: I really did think she was going to sell out Sarah’s hideout at Rabbit Hole Comics to save Donnie. It’s not as if she and Sarah have been on good terms so far this season (“Bitch!” “Bitch.”); really, Alison has been disconnected from the rest of the Clone Club, even with Helena under her roof (and now no longer). Furthermore, while the Neolution-related stakes haven’t always been as high for Alison, she arguably has the most to lose: her children, good standing in the community, the loss of the safe bubble she’s built around herself. Case in point: In between visiting Donnie in jail—with a still-drunk Adele acting as their temporary lawyer—she’s also lugging costumes to the church because dammit, there is going to be a Hendrix musical revue! It’s ludicrous… and yet, why should Alison have to apologize for futilely trying to hold on to a normal life? For wanting to be a housewife and mom and community theater star instead of letting Neolution define her life like it has Sarah’s and Cosima’s?

Alison Hendrix Jesus Christ Superstar GIF Orphan Black

alison-jcs-2

via Orphan Black Tumblr

The writers and editors did an excellent job of showing us just enough of this taut, tense montage to assume the worst of Alison, without ever letting us in on the moment that Felix would have included her in the plan. Also, did anyone notice how the rehearsal was particularly disastrous while we were cutting to the Clone Club and Duko, but once we found out everything was all right, the number really revved up?

That pastor, though… He seemed really interested in Alison’s moral quandary and in her doing whatever might (whether he knows it or not) harm her sestras. Does he have a crush on Alison, or a hidden eye tattoo under that clerical uniform?

Orphan Black 4x08 "The Redesign of Natural Objects"

Photo: John Medland BBC America

Did You Know Your Messy Death / Would Be a Record Breaker?

Of course, the only reason we had to doubt Alison was because Siobhan decided to go all (in Sarah’s words) “Black Irish shit” and snipe Duko’s ass. Who can blame her? The way he killed Kendall was so brutal it still smarts to think about. And while he—once he’s hooked up to some jumper cables because jeez S—claims that Neolution is threatening to hurt his niece, you can tell that he’s more than just a lackey. He gets some enjoyment out of scaring first Beth, then Alison. If you don’t believe me, rewatch his creepy D&D threats to poor Hell Wizard.

While a few episodes ago Ferdinand escaped getting torched alive, I love that Duko got no such consideration. The Clone Club got the information they needed, and S gets her revenge, simple as a rifle shot to the chest (that poor Scott has to clean up later).

Tell Me What You Think / About Your Friends at the Top / Now Who D’you Think Besides Yourself / Was the Pick of the Crop?

That information, though! We already knew that Evie got Neolution to patent an updated version of the maggot-bot, ostensibly as Parasitology-esque implants to cure whatever ails you, but now we learn that she’s up to “something more.” Mind control? Rewriting our entire genetic code? Making super-soldiers? So many possibilities! Robert Yerkes, namedropped in the Haraway excerpt above, was a psychologist from the early 1900s who also supported eugenics. So, there could be some selective human pruning at play in Evie’s master plan.

Orphan Black 4x08 "The Redesign of Natural Objects"

Photo: Ken Woroner/BBC America

Now Why’d You Choose Such a Backward Time / And Such a Strange Land?

You guys, I’m ashamed to say it took me until the end of this episode to get it. LEDA. SWAN. LEDA AND THE SWAN. (facepalm)

Now, in addition to her glitchy swan, Rachel is also glimpsing a mysterious old guy… The one who programmed her eye? The one who used to own her eye? Maybe he can explain why the swan is alternately alive and has its head severed. More interesting would be if he knows Susan.

When they weren’t busy sassing Rachel, Cosima and Scott reforged their science partner bond by coming up with a potential cure: fertilize a Leda egg with Castor sperm to create embryonic stem cells. Incest aside, apparently it’s better than using Kira’s cells (because Cal’s genes dilute the effect so much). At first I was confused why they didn’t just use Helena’s conveniently planted “babies” but then remembered that they’re fertilized by Henrik’s sperm, which would pollute the sample just as much. So, Sarah gets her eggs extracted off-camera, and then Cosima goes on a FIELD TRIP!

I’m very worried about her going without Scott or anyone else, but I have to hope that things are gonna start looking up for Cosima. Maybe Delphine is also secretly hidden away on this same mad scientist island? Long shot, but a girl can dream.

Orphan Black 4x08 "The Redesign of Natural Objects" Scott

Photo: Ken Woroner/BBC America

Other Thoughts

  • “Yo, Rachel.” “Yo.” THE BEST. So great I had to find the GIFs:

Orphan Black Rachel Cosima yo GIF

Orphan Black Rachel Cosima yo GIF

  • Of course Donnie stumbles his way through the “shank”/”shiv” distinction.
  • “You can keep the mask on if you want, I think it’s funny.” Cosima was so sweet meeting MK!
  • Duko’s D&D monologue was shudder-inducing, but equally unsettling was his use of “say a little prayer” to intimidate Alison. Pop song threats FTW.
  • Rachel cheats at Agricola? Uh oh, don’t let her in the same room as Scott again.
  • “Dude, we are mad scientists. Don’t be a hater.” This is why I have a Cosima Funko POP figurine on my desk at work.
  • Next week: Helena’s back!

Now Natalie Zutter wants to watch Tatiana Maslany as the entire Clone Club sing the opening to Godspell. Tweet at her about musical theater and mad scientists!

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