Orphan Black S1 Ep6: Variations Under Domestication

Pot luck and hot glue

Sarah and Alison deal with unwelcome gatecrashers while Cosima is introduced to the charismatic Dr Aldous Leekie as relationships continue to grow.

After last week’s focus on advancing the conspiracy thriller element, this episode has a rich seam of comedy running through it, as a neighbourhood party forces Sarah to impersonate Alison and the two are repeatedly mistaken for one another. All the while the main drama is taking place both downstairs – as the pair take it in turns to interrogate Donnie with the aid of a hot glue gun – and upstairs, where Paul intervenes when Vic threatens Sarah.

Sisterly bonds

After Donnie was set up to look like Alison’s monitor last week, Sarah concludes it must be someone else. He confides in Alison that the contents of his locked box were letters from an old flame.

Sarah-as-Alison breaks character during her questioning of Donnie to encourage him to patch up his marriage. Having started out with nothing in common, adversity has forged a bond between the two ‘sisters’ such that Sarah takes the time to help repair Alison’s most important relationship.

Who is Aldous Leekie?

At the same time, Cosima’s growing attraction to Delphine overrides her suspicion. Delphine introduces her to Dr Aldous Leekie – played by Max Headroom’s Matt Frewer – the father of a radical theory of ‘neolution’, with whom we later discover she is collaborating.

Uniting against a common foe?

Paul meets with his boss Olivier, but conceals Sarah’s identity from him. After he rescues her from Vic, she admits to him that they are clones, leading him to offer her a glass of scotch from a regular bottle rather than one he had drugged. The two seem to have established a degree of trust and a resolution to work against the conspiracy.

The calm before the storm?

Another strong episode. Humour abounds, with the head-spinning switches between Sarah, Alison and Sarah-as-Alison, and the counterpoint of the madness which has engulfed Alison’s life set against the suburban mundanity of a neighbourhood pot-luck party. Tatiana Maslany’s ability to shift seamlessly from one role to another is now so routine as to be taken for granted.

Even in its darker moments, there’s a playfulness to much of this episode which provides a welcome suspension of the tension which has built up over the last few installments. One suspects the stakes are about to be raised very high, very soon.

This week’s big questions

If Donnie isn’t Alison’s monitor, who is? Nosy neighbour Aynsley? Or is Donnie’s story about his secret girlfriend an elaborate cover? If he did lose contact with her after she contracted lupus, who has he been speaking to furtively on the phone?

Why did Delphine arrange for Cosima to meet Leekie? Are his ideas on ‘neolution’ connected to the cloning experiment?

Why did Paul have no choice but to be Beth’s monitor for two years? And why is he disregarding his orders and protecting Sarah?

What’s happened to Helena? Or, for that matter, Art?

Orphan Black reviews

1.1 Natural Selection

1.2 Instinct

1.3 Variation Under Nature

1.4 Effects of External Conditions

1.5 Conditions of Existence

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

2 Comments on Orphan Black S1 Ep6: Variations Under Domestication

  1. I didn’t think it was that funny, I’m afraid. I agree that they were aiming for humour, and I applaud the ambition of a show which can mix up the genres in the way that Orphan Black is evidently trying to do, but I don’t think it worked. They could have covered all of that in half the time.

    • I thought it was okay, but equally on reflection I think the comedy was almost plot filler to give the writers a chance to establish Aldous Leekie’s credentials as the Big Bad.

      I suspect this will be the last moment of playfulness now as we head full tilt into the meat of the cloning mystery.

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