Orphan Black Review: "Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion"

(Episode 2.02)

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<i>Orphan Black</i> Review: "Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion"

One of the foundational maxims of the conspiracy thriller, a subgenre of which Orphan Black is a prime example, is the ever-popular “nothing is as it seems.” “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” lives up to that phrase, depicting multiple characters double- and then triple-crossing one another—sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

“Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” examines a bit of the fallout from last week’s episode. Shortly after learning that Dyad was not responsible for Kira’s kidnapping, Sarah is shoved into a car and taken out of town. It’s here she learns that Siobhan took Kira back to Sarah and Felix’s childhood foster home for protection. Though relieved to see her daughter unharmed, Sarah remains skeptical of Siobhan’s true motivations, especially in light of her birth mother Amelia’s revelations from last season. Eventually, Sarah discovers that Siobhan’s colleagues are indeed in cahoots with the Proletheans. Unable to betray her surrogate child, however, Siobhan quickly dispatches the others and allows Sarah and Kira to escape.

Sarah’s recovery of her daughter and her subsequent escape from the safehouse certainly highlight just how quickly the show burns through plot points. Had Orphan Black been developed in the 22-episode network model (or even a standard 13-episode cable one), it’s easy to imagine that Sarah’s search for her daughter could easily have occupied another three or four more episodes, with her stay at the house filling up a few more. Instead, wanting to bombard the audience with 10 solid hours of dynamic plotting, the writers have chosen once again to instantly blow up the status quo. Now, not only is Sarah still on the run, but she learns that even those close to her can be compromised.

Not that things are looking hot for the other clones, either. After Sarah impersonated her likeness in order to infiltrate the Dyad headquarters, Cosima finds her relationship with Dr. Leekie more tenuous than ever, despite the best efforts of Delphine to placate his suspicions. Meanwhile, after attending Aynsley’s funeral, wherein the other wives gossip about her sleeping with the deceased’s husband, Alison finds herself moving closer and closer to an emotional breakdown. Her extreme guilt over her role in Aynsley’s death bleeds over into her musical rehearsals, where—of course—the play’s storyline involving a dead body dovetails quite eerily with her own situation. What’s more, she sets another trap for her husband, Donnie, and discovers once and for all that, yes, he is her Monitor; thus, in retrospect, her treatment of Aynsley last season was completely unwarranted. Left with only wine and pills as comfort, one senses that Alison is a train wreck waiting to happen. Amazingly, despite the fact that this reads like a melodramatic tragedy, Maslany and the writers still manage to wring the dark comedy out of what very well could have been a show-stopping subplot.

Then there’s the situation with the Prolethean. One of the major shockers of last week’s episode was that Helena had somehow survived her encounter with Sarah. Here, her continued existence is explained away, quite cleverly, by the fact that all her major organs are a mirror image of a regular human. Thus, Sarah’s bullets missed the girl’s heart. Helena and Tomas, her handler, are then taken in by a separatist group of Proletheans masquerading as an organic farming community. Led by the charismatic Pastor Hank Johanssen, these Proletheans shun the religious extremes demonstrated by Tomas and Helena, choosing instead to embrace a merging of science and religion. “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind,” Hank explains before right-hand man, Mark, executes Tomas Anton Chigurh-style with a cattle gun to the back of the head.

The whole scene plays like a scene straight out of Justified wherein the season’s Big Bad would lay out their philosophy while simultaneously demonstrating their ruthless edge. It’s a great way to introduce a new adversary and, with his disarming smile and folksy demeanor, Pastor Hank feels like the kind of larger-than-life villain that Justified is probably kicking itself for not getting to first.

Watching Orphan Black now as a critic rather than a casual viewer, it’s become evident to me that the show’s structure does not lend itself well to week-by-week analysis. In many ways, each episode plays like a single issue of a comic book, with each installment building on the one before it to form one major story arc. As such, in watching the episodes, you often feel as though you’re getting bits of a larger story rather than a self-contained one that holds itself up for individual judgment. Even shows based on comic books (Arrow, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) tend to at least have some semblance of an episodic story—a villain of the week that must be vanquished, an emotional issue that must be resolved by the end, etc. Orphan Black, on the other hand, appears to gleefully eschew such conventions. Like a shark, it feels as if it must constantly move forward or else risk stopping and dying.

In addressing the consequences of last week’s premiere, “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion” serves to tie up the last couple loose ends from season one and prepare the audience for the upcoming menace of season two. And while this makes for a more muted affair when compared to “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed,” one gets the sense that new, exciting events are never too far off in the Orphan Black world.

“It’s a brand new day,” Pastor Hank proclaims in the show’s final moments. I’m inclined to agree.

Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.