Orphan Black S1 Ep3: Variation Under Nature

And then there were nine

Having taken on Beth’s identity, Sarah turns detective and comes face-to-face with Katja’s killer.

Like its star Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black shifts into a new guise and goes into police procedural mode as Sarah-as-Beth helps track down the assassin who shot Katja.

NYPD Black

After the dark and heavy tone of the opening episodes, there’s a welcome playfulness about this one as Sarah struggles with Detective 101: shoulder holsters, police radio codes, buttering up the helpful IT guy.

Only at the end are we reminded of her jeopardy when she narrowly escapes a confrontation with Katja’s killer: another clone – that’s nine now – this one blonde, apparently eastern European and a religious fanatic.

Elsewhere, another mystery is resolved as we learn that Beth’s $75,000 was provided by soccer mom clone Alison to fund their investigations, while Cosima reveals she is a PhD student in evolutionary developmental biology. Handy.

When Art returns the cash to her, Sarah initially considers running but decides to stay to prove she can be a fit mother to her daughter.

Anyone for a game of 20 Questions?

Orphan Black continues to ask as many questions as it answers – not least, how many more clones are there and why are they being hunted down?

If the reveal of Katja’s killer as yet another clone was a predictable twist, her background remains shrouded in mystery.

Why is she killing her fellow clones? What’s the reason for the decapitated doll’s head? Were those cuts all over her back self-harm or inflicted by someone else? Is the evident religious fanaticism indicative of some kind of cult or perhaps mind control?

Beth taught Alison to shoot, and she in turn teaches Sarah, who proves to be a natural. The clone assassin is also highly skilled. Cosima is a scientist. Do the clones all have some form of enhanced physical or mental ability? And, if so, what is Alison’s?

And finally, why does boyfriend Paul keep returning home to surprise Sarah-as-Beth? Is he keeping an eye on her? Is there more to him than meets the eye?

I liked this episode a lot. It filled in some of the blanks while offering us a sly and lightly comedic take on police procedurals. In trying to maintain a credible facade as Beth, Sarah ties herself up in knots to progress some lines of investigation while hindering others. Somehow she fails to raise any suspicions.

Hopefully Orphan Black can continue to balance its increasingly dark main plot with occasional forays into cross-genre parody. To the show’s credit, every episode so far has offered something a little different.

Clone count

Sarah: Mother of Kira, foster-sister of Felix.

Beth: Police detective, deceased.

Katja: German, deceased.

Alison: Soccer mom, handy with a gun.

Cosima: Dreadlocked PhD student at the University of Minnesota.

Unknown: Blonde-haired assassin of eastern European origin.

Others: Danielle (French), Janika (Austrian), Aryanna (Italian) – possibly all dead.

Orphan Black reviews

1.1 Natural Selection

1.2 Instinct

This review was originally posted on Metro.co.uk.

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2 Comments on Orphan Black S1 Ep3: Variation Under Nature

  1. Not quite as impressed this week. I liked the way Sarah found herself in an investigation that she has to hamper and assist at the same time, but overall I didn’t like this as much. Still, and despite the crossdressing kids, Felix toned it down a bit.

    • Yeah, this week’s episode started to shake off some of the initial plot gadgets such as the cash and wanting to snatch Kira and run, and started to focus on its central conspiracy thriller plotlines. I did like the playfulness – light without going into fully parody mode – with the procedural genre. More of the same in a different genre next week …

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