“Orphan Black” Recap & Review: Season 3, Episode 9, “Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow”

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Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow
Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning
Photo: BBC America

Orphan Black” has never met a twist it didn’t like. And for a show with a very twisty pedigree, the penultimate episode of season three has its fair share. In this episode there were betrayals, ultra-violence, mistaken identity, and a song thrown in for good measure. Just another week in the Clone Club.

Packed between all the twists was a lot of good stuff this week. Episode director Vincenzo Natali (“Hannibal”, Splice) brings a distinct style to the show. He works within the visual vocabulary already established by the previous 28 episodes, but stages the action (or doesn’t stage in one notable scene) in ways that are brutal yet appealing.

As Terry (Daniel Fathers) is beaten and tortured, Natali’s camera is more concerned with moments that represent the brutality rather than subjecting the audience to the complete, horrifying picture. He is also able to raise the tension across multiple scenes just by the simple placement of the actors. He is contributing strong work to Hannibal and, hopefully, he’ll return to the director’s chair here for a few episodes of the upcoming fourth season of “Orphan Black”.

Another great aspect of this episode was getting both Sarah and Helena (Tatiana Maslany) back to what they do best. Sarah is forced to think on her feet, convince a stranger she’s someone she’s not, and break into a house – all in the name of pulling at more threads in the Leda and Castor conspiracies. Helena is able to, once again, become the avenging angel. We don’t see any part of her single-handed take down of Pouchy (Tony Cianchino) and his operation but as she emerges from his garage, we see a familiar sight. Helena, covered in blood, has done all she can for her family the only way she knows how.

Before Helena ends up covered in blood, we are treated to what may be the best “clone-playing-another-clone” scenario Tatiana Maslany as ever pulled off. Helena, pretending to be Alison, successfully walks a narrow line. The scene could have been played as straight up comedy to see the normally feral Helena pretend to be the buttoned up Alison, and is funny to be sure, but what the writing and execution of the clone-as-clone scenes always do is treat both sides with dignity. Juxtaposing Helena and Alison could be done to show what one or the other may be lacking, Helena lacks stability, Alison lacks a certain type of personal freedom. What this scene does accomplish is to show that in actuality, they are both just after the same thing. Alison just probably wouldn’t end up drenched in blood to get it.

The two main twists in the plot both revolve around finding the Castor original. The first comes when we find out who betrayed the Leda clones to the Castor program. The show was working very hard to make it seem like Cosima’s new girlfriend, Shay (Ksenia Solo), was the mole. This week it was even revealed Shay is involved with the military. Uncovering Shay’s military connection was meant to be a red herring but now that fact will need to be explored further, for better or worse.

Before the true mole is discovered, Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) threatens to kill Shay, something that will certainly complicate the love triangle just in time for the finale. The revelation of Gracie (Zoé De Grand Maison) as the mole does make sense in light of her continued loyalty to, and love for, Mark (Ari Millen) and her desire to help find a cure for him and the other sick Castor clones.

The second, and biggest, twist comes in the pursuit of the identity of H46239. Sarah, Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) head to London based on the small section of the deciphered code from last week’s episode. Utilizing her still active underworld contacts, Mrs. S discovers “H46239” refers to a prison serial number. The episode ends with Sarah, Felix, and Mrs. S finding out they are all even closer to the conspiracy than they could have imagined.

H46239 is Kendall Malone (Alison Steadman) and Kendall Malone is Mrs. S’s mother. This means Mrs. S’s mother provided the original genetic material for the Castor project, the program that created the male clones. How can this be? Turns out, Kendall Malone was set to have a twin brother before she absorbed him before they were born. We also know that since Castor and Leda are brother and sister, she must also be the original genetic material for the Leda clones as well. This may all sound far fetched, and it is, but it is precisely the kind of thing “Orphan Black” has earned the right to do.

This isn’t the first time an insane twist has provided the answer to a long standing question and the writers have been pretty successful in providing context and logic to make those twists as believable as possible. A single person providing the genetic material for male and female clones may stretch credulity, but no one will ever be able to accuse “Orphan Black” of playing it safe.

Will the Kendall Malone twist play itself out in the finale or will she be a big part of next season? Is there a remote possibility of a happy ending for Gracie and Mark? What did you think of Helena’s portrayal of Alison? Will Cosima, Shay, and Delphine have an awkward discussion about boundaries? Let me know!