Orphan Black, S4 Ep1, The Collapse of Nature


Orphan Black kicked off season four last week, and when the cast and creators talked about going back to the beginning at WonderCon, they sure weren’t kidding – almost the entire episode was a flashback centered around Beth. Although in some ways it was interesting to fill in a few of the missing puzzle pieces, I was honestly left feeling underwhelmed.

Full disclosure – as I said at least once in my recaps last season, I’ve never been particularly interested in learning more about Beth. And while I’m not opposed to seeing her in flashbacks, much of this episode felt like it was checking off the boxes of things you’d expect to see, and there were none of the OMG did that really just happen?! moments that I’ve come to expect from Orphan Black.

Beth (TATIANA MASLANY)But anyway, right off the bat we’re introduced to a new clone, MK, who wears a sheep mask and has been passing tips onto Beth. (So far MK’s mannerisms and ways of speaking remind me a lot of Helena, especially how they’re both somewhat childlike, so I hope she becomes more of her own character as we get to know her better.)  MK had followed a couple of Neolutionists into the woods and saw them bury a body. When Beth went to check it out with Art, they discovered it wasn’t your everyday dead body – the man’s right cheek was cut out and missing, he was wearing one white contact lens, and his penis was surgically bifurcated. (If you’re like me and didn’t know what bifurcated meant – it means it was split in two. Why??)

Beth’s investigation, with some help from MK, takes her first to Club Neolution, and then to see Dr. Leekie. Many of these scenes were where I felt they were checking off those boxes I’d mentioned earlier. Bring back Olivier and Leekie – check! (Okay, I wasn’t expecting to see Olivier and his creepy tail again, but his appearance felt more like a “let’s do this because it’s a flashback and we can” than “let’s bring him back because he’s actually important.”) Quick phone calls with Cosima and Alison, check! Tie it all into the Maggie Chen shooting, check!

Though yes, the Maggie Chen shooting is a big deal, so on one hand I’m glad we got to see how that played out. And I hadn’t expected the weird worms to pop up in the flashback, so I’m interested in learning exactly what those are. But I’d always assumed that Chen’s death was less than accidental, due to her connection with the Proletheans, so finding out it really was just an accidental coincidence felt somewhat anticlimactic.

Throughout the episode we see how rocky Beth’s relationship with Paul was, and the scene in the kitchen where she tries (and fails) to seduce him provides an interesting contrast to Sarah’s successful attempt way back in the pilot. But what I found most interesting was Beth telling Paul, “We’re not gonna solve our problems at all, I can’t breed,” and his assurance that that doesn’t matter to him. Were they once happy enough together to be trying for kids? Was her infertility what started the downward spiral in their relationship, or were there already other factors in play? What were they like together before MK convinced Beth that Paul was a spy? I think it would have been much more interesting to go back even further in their relationship, rather than just see the problems we already largely knew about.

And though he only had two brief scenes, I was also really intrigued by Beth’s friendship with Raj, specifically her casual comment about “This Paul shit I’ve been telling you about?” and how Raj was comfortable and familiar enough with her to immediately ask if she was going to break up with him. Was Beth only cultivating that friendship so she could eventually use Raj to borrow surveillance equipment? It’s interesting that she’d talk to Raj about Paul when she seemed determined to shut Art out when he tried to talk to her about all her issues.

Beth (TATIANA MASLANY) and Art (KEVIN HANCHARD)At least, she shut him out until she went to see Art at his place later on in the episode. Last season, Art’s confession to Sarah that he’d loved Beth felt off to me – more of something the writers decided to stick in than something they’d been hinting at since season one. So their hookup in this episode didn’t really ring true for me either. Beth telling Art to see her, echoing what she’d told Paul, was definitely kind of heartbreaking, but I just can’t buy a romance between them.

It’s not until the very last scene of the episode that we return to present time. Sarah, still off hiding in the snow with Kira, wakes to a phone call from Art. MK is with him, and she has a warning for Sarah: Neolution is coming. Run.

A few more random thoughts on the episode:

  • Felix’s brief appearance probably held my favorite line of the night: “That was a performance.
  • The little bits of Alison that we got, from “How do I put bullets in this thing?” to her thank you card to Beth (“for all that you do”) were all golden
  • The most significant aspect about Leekie’s scenes seemed to be introducing Evie Cho, who I suspect we’ll be seeing more of this season
  • Did we know that Art was divorced? Or that he has a daughter?? Because I was surprised by both of those things
  • This is more about the new after-show, After the Black, but the “Set Secrets” segments were easily the weakest parts – I almost laughed when they played back the intense scene between Beth and Paul in the kitchen (“Why are you doing this?” “You realize how paranoid that sounds?”) only to have the pop-up talk about how the writers stole Beth’s couch

So, what did you think of the premiere? Were you more excited to see Beth than I was? Anyone have theories yet about the cheek worms? Leave your comments below!