Orphan Black review: “Variable and Full of Perturbation”

He’s not at all well-wrapped!
–Alison berates her husband over his inadequate homicide concealment skills

Apparently, Orphan Black‘s creators didn’t think their show had induced enough WTF?!? responses yet.

Title: “Variable and Full of Perturbation”

Cast and Crew
Director: John Fawcett
Writer: Karen Walton

Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning/ Cosima Niehaus / Alison Hendrix / Rachel Duncan / Tony Zwicky
Jordan Gavaris as Felix Dawkins
Maria Doyle Kennedy as Siobhan Sadler
Evelyne Brochu as Delphine
Kristian Bruun as Donnie Hendrix
Skyler Wexler as Kira
Kevin Hanchard as Detective Art Bell
Andrew Gillies as Ethan Duncan
Josh Vokey as Scott
Millie Davis as Gemma Hendrix
Drew Davis as Oscar Hendrix

Full cast and crew information may be found here.


A new, and very different clone enters the story, as we learn more about he original project.

Siobhan, Sarah, and Ethan make a deal with Dyad. Ethan announces he has a potential cure—but he has other plans in the works, and has left some key notes with an unlikely ally.

Yet another player may be lurking in the background.

Events turn frightening at the conclusion—and we have little left of this season to resolve matters.

High Points

Suburban Alison and Donnie bond over their involvements with homicidal acts. For all the tension in their relationship, maybe they really do love each other.

Low Point

A couple of small questions: When Rachel trashes the office—are we seeing the event after others have left, or are we seeing her imagine the actions? And, given the caliber of Maslany’s acting, did we need this confusing scene to communicate Rachel’s anguish?

The Scores:

Originality: 6/6 It may have seemed forced in places, but any episode with couples making up over helium and homicide, a tabletop fantasy war in a lab, The Island of Doctor Moreau as a bedtime story, Felix making out with a transgendered clone of his sister, and….

Look, this episode went a lot of different places.

Effects: 6/6

Story: 5/6 I like the sense of unity created among these disjointed pieces, with H.G. Wells’ novel of genetic tampering1 and beast-men as a kind of leitmotif.

Acting: 6/6 Jordan Gavaris is in fine form, and the script gives young Skyler Wexler a chance to stretch herself a little. Tatiana Maslany’s unusual turn as Tony risks overshadowing some excellent performances by Tatiana Maslany.

Emotional Response: 6/6

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6 The most interesting new information may be Tony’s message regarding Paul. Do we have yet another faction involved in this dangerous game, one unknown at present?

In total, “Variable and Full of Perturbation” receives 40/42


1. Wells did not know modern genetics, and his Dr. Moreau tampers with life through vivisection and chemical modification. The novel remains, of course, an interesting cautionary tale, well-suited to Orphan Black.

7 replies on “Orphan Black review: “Variable and Full of Perturbation””

    • Yes, that actress is definitely awesome, especially when you consider her other work.

      • With the introduction of Tony, I’m starting to wonder if/when Tatiana Maslany will take the record for the most characters played by a single actor/actress in a single show. Unless I missed a role she’s now up to nine, which is already past Alec Guiness’ 8 roles in “Kind Hearts & Coronets”, which is the most I could recall from any film or series, but apparently Buster Keaton made it to around 24 in the 1921 silent “The Playhouse”, so some way to go yet… It does appear likely that she already has the record for the most roles in a TV series though.

  1. I thought the bit with Rachel trashing the office and that truly frightening expression at the end were inteded to convey a psychotic episode rather than mere anguish. After all, we know that the clones are somewhat prone to mental issues. I think it will be truly terrible awesome when Rachel loses her tight control of her public façade.

    • Possibly. The downside of doing the reviews week to week is that one can easily misinterpret a scene that is later revealed to have some other significance.

      • I actually find that misinterpretation of yet to be revealled twists to be a good indicator of how well the writers are able to provide curveballs, even to those who are paying a little more attention that those just watching for some entertainment. I’d much rather be watching a show or reading a book where I think something is probably going to happen only to be completely blind-sided with something that was, in retrospect, telegraphed with lots of subtle loaded guns – just not the ones I spotted.

        Anyway, I’m with lost on how to interpret the scene. The inter-cutting of the turmoil with the more placid scene seems to me that it was an attempt to convey Rachel mentally losing it internally, but externally maintaining her facade of remaining in total control. The conclusion I draw is that she is probably balanced on an emotional knife edge and when she inevitably slips it will indeed be both terrible and awesome to see what happens.

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