Episode Name: ‘The Collapse of Nature’: A Return to the Past
Ever since viewers met Beth Childs in the “Orphan Black” premiere, there has been tons of speculation about what led her to the point of jumping in front of an oncoming train and ending her own life. After chasing stories around the globe and introducing male clones in the form of Castor in season three, the series finally returned to its roots in the season four opener by giving everyone a Beth-centric episode that began to answer some questions while opening the door for many more to come.
It was a fun romp back to the show’s original roots and featured plenty of familiar faces who have long since perished. Without the other clones to distract, Tatiana Maslany managed to pull antsy viewers back into the show, with a darker, scarier tone and portrayal of a deeply damaged character who had no idea how to shoulder the weight of the Leda world. The end result was not only a return to the series’ mythological roots but also a return to the original mystery that captured our attention in the first place. By effectively scaling back on the giant world that co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson have orchestrated and honing in on the beginning, Season 4 managed to open just as strongly as Season 1, while also giving the show a fresh, new feel.
Tatiana Maslany in “Orphan Black.”
Going back to the beginning can only mean one thing for this series: the return of the Neolutionists. The crazy, body-altering cronies were back in full force for the premiere—albeit in the past. While there has been a pause these last two seasons to focus in on the Prolethians and then the Castor clones, these mad scientists have always been in the background waiting for their opportunity to strike back. Season four seems like the prime time for them to make a new move, meaning there should be plenty more genetic mishaps and foul play in the near future. With Sarah being pulled back into it all by the episode’s end, it’s inevitable that she’ll begin to uncover whatever future plans these baddies have been working on in the coming weeks.
Heads or Tails
A shout-out to Olivier, who we haven’t seen since Helena cut off his tail in Season 1 and danced around with it on the club floor like it was a glow stick.
Tatiana Maslany in “Orphan Black.”
Olivier wasn’t the only supporting character making a comeback in the episode. While there were glimpses of Doctor Leekie and other Neolutionist henchmen, it was the return of Dylan Bruce as Paul that kicked off the episode with a bang. Although he died a heroic death attempting to save Sarah last season, the premiere shed new light on his character and what he was like as a monitor to Beth. The parallels between his refusal to have sex with Beth versus that steamy hot sex scene with Sarah in Season 1 were intriguing and telling of the character himself. As much as Beth wanted him to “see her,” it was never love between them. There was obviously something hollow in Beth compared to the spark in Sarah, a difference that not only matter to Paul but should matter to the Leda cause going forward with Sarah (versus Beth) at the helm of the sestras.
Partners in Crime
With a Beth-centric episode meant more insight into Art’s backstory, something that has been sorely needed given his apparent devotion to Sarah and the other clones. Although he alluded to his feelings for Beth in the past the foundation for that relationship was finally laid down in this premiere, showcasing partners who have always had each other’s backs no matter what. Given the fact that Art not only covered for Beth but also slept with her without knowing anything else going on, there has to be a level of guilt there that allows him to continue helping Sarah and the others despite his better judgment. Why else would he put his career—not to mention daughter—at risk?
Speaking of, Kevin Hanchard did a fine job bringing a more fully formed Art to life. If there was ever any doubt about his chemistry with Maslany (and the relationship with Beth that up until now has only ever been verbally recounted), it was all put to bed with
Of course, just because the episode was so singularly focused on Beth doesn’t mean that there wasn’t plenty of time for clone parties. With the premiere came the introduction of M.K., yet another character for Maslany to capture. While the accent and bangs were a little off-putting at first, M.K.’s loner ways and conspiracy attitude eventually set her apart from the other clones, meaning she’ll be inherently more interesting when it comes to interacting with the sestras in the present day where she’s resurfaced. We’re completely fine with her ditching that mask once and for all though. Outside of the sweaty forest scene, we’re calling overkill.
Although there will be plenty of intense clone scenes with the characters fans know and love in the coming weeks, it was nice to take a pause and hit reset following the craziness that occurred in Season 3. The premiere absolutely felt as though the writers were back on their game with a specific plan of where they want things to go, and aren’t necessarily relying on the cool camera tricks and Maslany hype to get by. A series like “Orphan Black” calls for experimentation and pushing the limits in terms of technology and story, but where it really shines is in focusing on the relationships between the core clones, issues of identity and free will, and in setting out a mystery involving shrouded bad guys intent on keeping these girls in a glass cage.
“Orphan Black” airs Thursdays at 10pm on BBC America and co-producer Space in Canada. Next week: Sarah returns home and Felix goes on a journey of self-discovery.
Orphan Black Season 4 Episode 2 spoilers coming