You know this phenomenon, right? While not as common as the old-time “you decide to watch a second episode of a show you’ve only seen once and it’s the same episode you saw before” (noted in Gaiman’s American Gods), it still exists. You watch a show. You tell your friends how great that show is. Then, when they finally see it, it’s a subpar or highly unusual episode, and fails to convince your friends of the show’s merit.
Despite the ludicrousness of watching Orphan Black from any starting point but the first episode, I suspect someone out there had this happen with the current episode of Orphan Black.
Not that “The Redesign of Natural Objects” is bad, per se. Much happens, and we see more of the show’s latest direction. And not everyone survives, which always makes for an interesting watch. But, after last week’s brilliant, character-driven outing…
…this episode feels a little flat. It has considerable merit, but the production overall feels too “TV,” something the Orphan usually avoids. Of course, your opinions may vary, but my take follows.
Title: “The Redesign of Natural Objects”
Directed by Aaron Morton
Written by Peter Mohan
Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning / Alison Hendrix / MK / Rachel Duncan / Cosima Niehaus
Jordan Gavaris as Felix Dawkins
Kristian Bruun as Donnie Hendrix
Kevin Hanchard as Detective Art Bell
Maria Doyle Kennedy as Siobhan Sadler
Ari Millen as Ira
Josh Vokey as Scott
Rosemary Dunsmore as Professor Susan Duncan
Skyler Wexler as Kira
Jessalyn Wanlim as Evie Cho
Gord Rand as Detective Marty Duko
Lauren Hammersley as Adele
Cynthia Galant as Charlotte
Calwyn Shurgold as Hell Wizard
Noah Danby as Neolutionist Thug
Terra Hazelton as Sarah Stubbs
Ryan Blakely as Reverend Mike
Anika Johnson as Backup Singer / Vocal Coach
Barbara Johnston as Backup Singer / Choreographer
Geza Kovacs as The Messenger
The story hangs on a crucial question: will Alison, currently singing Judas Iscariot for a church production, take her thirty pieces of silver (in this case, her husband’s freedom) in order to save Donnie? We genuinely don’t know what decision she will finally make, and awaiting the outcome of her decision generates more suspense than S’s rifle, Evie’s plotting, or the Neolutionist Thug’s threats. I care about what decision our half-crazy soccer mom ultimately makes.
Evie Cho and associates play too much like comic-book villains, something the show, despite its somewhat fantastic nature, has avoided. We saw cracks and limitations in the original conspiracies: here, our borderline cackling adversaries can readily reach into a prison and a police force. On the other side of the battle, MK has Hollywood Hacker powers, while the still-unfamiliar Adele overplays her drunken lawyer act. The show works best when it balances the distortions and stylizations with plausible limitations and strong character writing.
Effects: 5/6 The effects this week have been limited to Tatiana Maslaney’s multiple parts.
Acting: 5/6 The leads remain strong. The Neolutionist Thug is just a thug; I don’t expect a backstory, but OB usually makes even the most incidental characters memorable.
Emotional Response: 4/6
In total, “The Redesign of Natural Objects” receives 32/42