ORPHAN BLACK Review: “The Scandal of Altruism”

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Airtime: Thursdays at 10PM on BBCAmerica
Episode: Season 4, Episode 6 (S04Ep06)

Tweetable Takeaway: Major changes on #OrphanBlack this week: devastating losses, secrets revealed, and a new Big Bad!


This episode of proved to be the best yet, not only because it contained some truly to-die-for scenework, but also because it starts weaving together all of this season’s storylines plus the Beth flashbacks together in a synthesized, dynamic way. This is the episode in which we get the information that leads us to Beth’s suicide in the pilot — and learning her motive for jumping in front of that train is every bit as satisfying as I’d imagined.

evie cosima orphan black

We start with Beth, in a blonde wig, undercover at Brightborn. Susan Duncan’s cautioning Evie Chung to get her shit under control before there are more test subjects. Beth bumps Susan and stains her outfit then ambushes her in the restroom and pulls a gun on her.

Hot damn the Susan and Ira of it all is creepy! And in this episode Susan introduces her as her assistant?!! What kind of benefits package did those two negotiate?!!! They’re meeting Ira’s original to find a cure for the genetic disease. Susan’s nervous Ira’s getting sick. Meanwhile, on the Clone Club side, Cosima breaks the news to Sarah that she may not be able to find the cure in time to save her own life. She and Sarah are at a standstill — they don’t want to give Kendall to Susan and Evie, because then they’ll have the cure for Castor as well, and since Castor is basically a human biological weapon, saving them goes against the Clone Club’s moral code. However, they need Brightborn to get the neb-worm out of Sarah’s cheek and possibly unlock answers to the Leda/Castor disease.

Krystal (she informs us this episode it’s with a K) shows up at Art’s precinct to report her Castor twin assault. Art, suspicious, comes over and intercepts after fielding a seemingly innocuous ambush by his co-worker Duko. Krystal’s got some harebrained ideas about what Brightborn is up to, (namely: human trials on stem cell cosmetics) but fortunately hasn’t figured out she’s a clone. Art realizes she has to keep Krystal isolated from the rest of the precinct, who will see she’s a dead-ringer for their fellow Blue Blood, Beth.

Sarah surrenders herself to Brightborn and meets Susan Duncan. She means business — she wants answers on what the neo-worm in her cheek is doing. Evie Chung explains the devices do different things for different subjects. Leekie’s was treating a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s. Sarah’s, however, is making her sick, because her body isn’t responding the way Brightborn wants it to.

Kendall Malone tells Siobhan she has leukemia — which might actually save them all. In a truly genius turn that proves how thematically grounded every story point of this show is, Cosima explains that cancer cells themselves are clones of their original white blood cell, and by isolating the cancer cells, Cosima can give Brightborn a cure for Leda without giving them the cure for Castor. Susan accepts Leda’s terms, under the condition she be present at the drawing and Cosima hands over her research. Ira, heartbroken by Susan’s betrayal of him, baits Sarah by telling her she’s not the first Leda to make it this far and Sarah correctly guesses they’re talking about Beth.

We’re back to Beth, holding Susan at gunpoint in the bathroom. A riveting scene, perhaps the best written of the whole season, ensues, in which we learn Susan knows exactly who Beth is and has watched Beth her whole life. We learn that Beth’s adopted father apparently molested her when Susan apologizes to her and says they “tried to screen for those tendencies.” Susan bargains for her life by saying her replacement might not protect the girls the way she is. We see in Susan’s own twisted way she thinks she’s been mothering them. This scene reveals a lot about both Susan and Beth’s characters to us that makes them both more complex and flawed — i.e. human — and therefore more lovable.

Cosima prepares her research to hand over to Susan. It’s a weighted moment. She and Scott don’t know if this is indeed a win (although I highly doubt, knowing Cosima and Scott’s characters, that this is the only copy of this hard drive. Just saying.) Siobhan and Sarah square off about Sarah selling Kendall out behind her back. This is a nice parallel from the beginning of the season when Sarah and Siobhan fight about Siobhan selling Helena out behind her back — except this time, Kendall agreed to it.

Siobhan, Scott, and Kendall Malone meet Susan at Felix’s apartment to draw the sample. Felix, who’s blue because Adele went home, lets them use the space. Meanwhile at Brightborn Cosima insists on assisting with Sarah’s extraction so the Brightborn gang doesn’t pull any funny business. Simultaneously, Cosima and Evie pull the neb-worm out of Sarah’s cheek, even though it almost leaks Nickelodeon-tastic green toxic blood into her mouth. Sarah is an OG so she stays awake through the whole thing.

As Kendall leaves, she tells Siobhan to watch Susan Duncan — it’s not over. Sure enough, Kendall and her security team are ambushed getting into their van. We dont’ see who it is — we just see Sarah find Kendall’s cigarettes in a pool of blood after the fact. Sarah destroys the sample and holds Susan and her bodyguard at gunpoint. Scott, watching this standoff in terror, remembers Cosima’s still at Brightborn. There’s one chess piece left on the board. Evie Chung gets word Susan Duncan’s gone dark and they take Cosima hostage.

Art calls Felix in to handle Krystal, posing as “Inspector Dawkins” from Scotland Yard. Krystal maces Felix as he’s trying to tell her the truth. Felix basically “Men in Blacks” her ass and tells her what she wants to hear, that her suspicions about stem cell makeup are true, to get her to keep quiet. In a thrilling twist at the end, Krystal reveals she saw Cosima get shot.

felix mace orphan black

Susan’s maintaining that she’s not the one who took Kendall. She’s got nothing to gain from harm coming to her. But Sarah figures out who does have motive — Ira. She and Benjamin bust into Susan’s loft, where they discover Ira, mid-O.D. in the bathtub. Sarah tries to keep Ira alert to learn Kendall’s whereabouts, but he can’t do much besides vomit on her.

This is one time Sarah’s wrong! Ira didn’t take Kendall — Art’s co-worker Duko, the one who looks like he just walked out of a screen test for ARGO, did!

Scott discovers there’s some kind of Trojan horse that’s hacked into his computer system and wiped her base. He calls Sarah and Siobhan, freaking out. Sarah grills Susan about who could be behind this coup and Susan says ominously “The Engineer.”

Whom, pre tell, is The Engineer????

Enter Evie Chung, aka The Engineer, showing up to a remote location with an imprisoned Cosima in tow. They’re destroying all the evidence. Susan remarks that now she knows how Beth got the gun to kill her. Evie put it in her hand. She’s been after Susan’s job all along.

To prove this, Beth gets into Evie’s car and pulls a gun on her. She figures out Evie just wants to take Susan’s place. Evie says Beth knows too much. Neolution will come for her and her whole squad. The safest thing she can do for the people she loves is to kill herself.

Evie’s motive is to perfect the human genome. Clones are obsolete now that they have the bots to fix people. Da Vinci robbed graves to study anatomy, she reasons. In the future she’ll be known as a pioneer.

evie cho orphan black

She implores Cosima to turn around as Duko shoots her, setting the van with her body inside alight and leaving the rest of the increasingly sick Leda and Castor clones without a cure. Evie tells Cosima Delphine is dead and tells her to tell Susan the original is dead and tell Sarah it’s over or Beth died for nothing.

Beth beats the shit out of Evie in the van and has a surprising standoff with Duko. She asks him if it’s true — if everyone she loves will be destroyed by what she knows. He says yes.

Episode serves three important purposes: we know why Beth killed herself, and a new sympathetic vigilante heroine— Cosima — is born. Finally, a new big bad — Evie — emerges, and she may be even scarier than Rachel, Leekie, and Susan combined. Evie’s a more volatile villain in my opinion because she is so detached from the humanity of this process. Leekie was attached to Rachel. Rachel, we learned finally, felt something for someone too, Ferdinand. And in this episode we learn that in Susan’s mind, her grand Leda experiment was a manifestation of her own maternal instinct; she felt an attachment to all the clones. Evie scares me because she does not give a f*ck. She tells Cosima flat-out she doesn’t need the Leda clones anymore now that she has the neo-worms. She’s able to maintain a purely transactional relationship with the clones and commodify them in ways that the villians before her could not. With that in mind, however, the fact that she spared Cosima’s life is either a huge plot hole or a setup that wasn’t properly dressed. The idea of creating a fragile vigilante character out of Cosima is a smart, tried-and-true storytelling staple: Aeschylus started it with Electra, his fragile vigilante in The Orestia. Having Cosima witness Kendall’s murder and then learn of Delphine’s, leaving her broken with her life literally up in flames behind her, has been an effective icon of tragedy for millenia; I hope they let the throttle out at the right speed on Cosima’s revenge. It’s also refreshing to see the emotional drive of the Clone Club shift from Sarah to Cosima and really give her mortality stakes for the first time; she’s such a likable character that it refreshes the audience’s investment.

This episode did such a great job of closing out plotlines and relationships that had already served their purpose while planting seeds for a dynamic rest of the season. It also answered a question that’s been nagging me since Episode 401, which is why are we talking so much about this damn neo-worm and what threat does it pose to the clones. A solid setup leading us into the autumn of Season 4. I’m on the edge of my seat for the Cosima vs. Edie showdown.

Best lines of the episode go to Kendall Malone:

  • Kendall to Susan “I’d spit, but you’d probably bottle it.”
  • Kendall to Cosima “No tears, Cosima. Those shites ain’t worth the salt.”
  • If we had touched base with Alison/Donnie/the hunt for Helena in any way at all, this A- would be an A.

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Ellen is a writer mostly because she can’t be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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Ellen Duffy | Contributor
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