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TV REVIEW: Orphan Black “Variable and Full of Perturbation”

BY The Screen Spy Team

Published 7 years ago

By Clinton Bell

Orphan Black’s eighth episode of the season kicks off with one of its most surprising moments so far—the reveal a new, trans-gendered clone. Tony, who takes testosterone shots to achieve a more masculine appearance, is certainly not what I expected the next clone to be like. While I admire Orphan Black’s fearlessness in the ways it handles its gay, lesbian, and now trans-gendered, characters, “Variable and Full of Perturbation” spends too much time with Tony, a character of little importance. For now anyway.

I want to wait until the end of the season before saying anything concrete about Tony and his relation to the story as a whole. Tony’s reason for being in this episode is to deliver a message about Paul. That’s it. While I’d be stunned if Tony completed disappeared from the show after this—given his connection to Sarah—his role here amounts to what I’d expect from a one-time guest appearance. The show botches Tony’s introduction by spending most of its time focusing on his gender identity rather than what exciting new things he brings to the show. We’ll have to wait and see how the show decides to use Tony in the future, but based on what we got here, I can’t say I’m excited for more.

And as excitement goes, “Perturbation” contains very little of it. What we have here is an excessively busy episode in desperate need of coherence. Orphan Black has a great ensemble cast, but it is problematic here, due to there being too many storylines for one episode. Somehow this episode made Sarah seem like a supporting character on her own show. Given how close we are to the end of the season, I’m surprised the show has slowed down so much. The Proletheans are completely absent for the second consecutive week. Why?

The episode does, however, make progress with Cosima’s storyline, as her illness takes a turn for the worse. Cosima spends most of the episode in a relatively joyful mood (or pretending to be, anyway), playing games with Scott and his friends, and sucking on helium with Delphine. But the episode ends on a grim note, with Cosima collapsing and coughing up a lot of blood. While I haven’t been enthralled by this particular storyline much this season, it emerges as the best part of a frustrating episode. Going forward, I hope these final two episodes focus on major events such as Cosima’s illness and the Proletheans’ plan, and ignore things like Alison’s decision to let Aynsley die.

Because the biggest problem with “Perturbation” is that it boils down to a string of mini-episodes, lacking the cohesion of earlier season 2 installments. And sadly, part of the problem may be that the show has too many characters. I love these characters and this cast, but I think this episode fails to establish a balance between the mini-adventures and the big picture. “Perturbation” does not offer the high-octane craziness we’ve come to expect from the show, nor does it provide the hearty laughs that last week’s episode gave us.

I don’t quite understand what the goal of this episode was. Most of its big moments are dedicated to characters learning surprising things that we already knew (Alison and Donny’s murder confessions, Delphine learning of Leekie’s death), and it also introduces a new character that comes off as mostly unimportant.

Even though the show stumbles here, I’m optimistic about these final two episodes, mostly because of how good the season has been overall. The good news about “Perturbation” is that it doesn’t derail the show in anyway. Its complicated story is still mostly clear, though Tony’s message about Paul adds a murky layer to the whole thing.

“Variable and Full of Perturbation” is the weakest hour of the season, but it’s not something the show can’t recover from.

Additional notes:

– Still no word on a season 3 renewal. Yikes.

– It’s cool that the show appears interested in exploring gender identity. It isn’t a subject that many shows touch on.

– The amount of attention paid to Donny the last few weeks leads me to suspect that he’ll either die this season, or become a regular, main cast member next season. If there is a next season…

 

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