Orphan Black: 3.5 “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations” Review

Orphan Black this week is weirdly a storytelling episode. I mean, it’s not like everyone’s LET ME TELL YOU THE STORY OF MY LIFE, but everyone is telling little...

Orphan Black this week is weirdly a storytelling episode. I mean, it’s not like everyone’s LET ME TELL YOU THE STORY OF MY LIFE, but everyone is telling little stories—snippets of pasts we’ve suspected but haven’t seen, revisionist histories that tell us so much about the people telling them, and universes contained in a sentence—a word—that can change everything.

That’s some pretty impressive writing there.

And, one of the most central stories is the Scorpion, whose name is Pupok (“bellybutton”—a potential nod to Pupok’s initial appearance in this season),who, throughout this season, has been the psychological manifestation of all of Helena’s abuse and trauma.

Because Pupok isn’t a new friend for Helena. Never has been.

We learn that Helena once lived for four months in a broom closet at the convent, and we see even more clearly that Helena has had to be a planner—hoarding food, finding ways out of tough places, improvising everything if needs be—her entire life.

Pupok has been part of that planning, that surviving.

Plans within plans within plans.

Like boxes.

And, cages.

We can never be certain if Pupok is Helena’s better angels or louder demons or if Pupok is pragmatism, survival.

(I lean towards pragmatism and survival.)

But, one thing is certain, Pupok as the manifestation of Helena’s trauma and psychology and survival instincts paints an interesting picture when Helena chooses not to release Sarah once Helena escapes her cell, which—after everything that Helena and Sarah have done to each other and the misrepresentations of truth that get spun over and over to Helena—I can’t actually blame Helena for not rescuing Sarah, and the fact that Helena had any second thoughts or misgivings—“Moya sestra, she tears at my heart.”—says so much for how Helena’s grown.

(Ya never know. Helena might come back yet.)

Of course, there’s also the argument that this is parable time, and Pupok is Helena showing her ~true nature~ but not really.

Anyone for a rousing retelling of the scorpion and the frog (or turtle)?

(There’s also an argument to be made that Helena couldn’t have escaped if she had released Sarah. We don’t know if Sarah could have scaled the wall like Helena did.)

Really, this was all that Helena and Sarah’s shared time in adjacent cells at the CASTOR-base was: Helena escaping and having the smallest margin of revenge and agency.

I really can’t fault Helena.

But, we all can totally fault Paul.

In the less EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE, AND EVERYTHING HURTS parts of the plot—that has a distinct lack of Alison in Breaking Bad: Suburbia—Cosima is going on her first Sapphire date (which is a bit like Tinder except without the assholier-than-thou dudebros because lesbians), and in probably the most unbelievable, breaks-from-reality moment in the History of Ever, Cosima’s date Shay (Ksenia Solo; TURN, Lost Girl, and Black Swan) turns out to be really cool in that way that screams SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT HERE.

(And, that’s not because of the creeper taking photos.)

Although, the crack about “Are you sure you’re in the hard sciences?” kinda made me see red since it’s bad enough that women in the sciences are devalued by men and society-at-large—especially since the prevalence of women in a field of study automatically degrades its viability and importance—women scientists don’t need to get it from women too.

Over in the other not-horrible-things plot, Gracie finds Art, and Art—because he’s a good guy and is what police officers should actually be like (for the most part)—takes Gracie to Siobhan and Fe.

Because who better than Siobhan to take care of wayward not-children.

Which, these sections with Gracie and Fe, Siobhan and Art, are probably my favorite of the episode because I could really get behind a slice-of-life comedy-drama about the Clone Club—THIS IS WHAT WE DO ON THURSDAYS WHEN THE WORLD DOESN’T SUCK—because Fe and Siobhan teaching Gracie to dance (and getting her drunk?) and just helping someone who needs helping is the absolute best.

And, Siobhan and Art both worrying after Sarah and being the most competent adults to ever adult. Yeah, we could have this.

Of course, nothing is ever nice for long, and Gracie collapses.

Picture A Box Inside A Box Inside A Box.:

  • Can we talk about how “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations” is the perfect name for this episode? Just—everyone is scarred by the events that shape them by default, but this is one of those episodes when those “past frustrations” really came home to roost.
  • And, the title—surprise—comes from the same Eisenhower speech as the rest of the season’s titles (which, yeah, is cool because of the military focus but *sigh*), but the passage reads “Such a confederation must be one of equals, the weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.”
  • The entire passage is just—apt.
  • And, Western Imperialist.
  • Which is very interesting because Orphan Black never shies away from how extremely gross what the Castors (and the military-industrial complex that’s nurtured and formed them) are. It’s very much a “This is what happens when the military goes unchecked and unsupervised.” Just like last couple of seasons have been a hard look at when science and religion go unchecked and unquestioned.
  • There’s nothing like a show that isn’t afraid to subvert and question and hold accountable institutions that we take for granted.
  • Welcome to scifi done right.
  • (Next season will probably be government.)
  • HAS ANYONE EVER CONSIDERED JUST ASKING FOR HELP? Like, hey, Sarah, the Castors are dying. Could you maybe help us out? Hell, Cosima is basically the leading biologist on the Ledas and Castors at this point. She might have been able to help y’all too.
  • WHY DON’T PEOPLE JUST ASK??????
  • What if Shay is Topside’s newly designated Monitor for Cosima? Because I’m not sure if Topside would still be okay with Delphine acting as Monitor when she and Cosima are broken up and Delphine is—what’s the word?—absent.
  • And, wouldn’t that make even more sense since Shay is a holistic healer?
  • The return of the self-harming Angry Angel Helena: “Guilty pleasures won’t help you escape.”
  • “It wasn’t real. [Gracie]’s not one of us.” That doesn’t sound creepy and incestuous at all and what a way to invalidate Mark’s feeling, Coady.
  • Poor Mark. He’s so sad.
  • “Your first logbook. Any intimate contacts, they go in.” So, Mark was a virgin?
  • Also, creepy freakin’ logbook is creepy.
  • (We probably now know why if Mark was a virgin if he knew he could make anyone—especially Gracie—sick.)
  • I SEVERELY QUESTION COADY’S EVERYTHING IF SHE ACTUALLY KNOWS THAT THE CASTORS ARE MAKING PEOPLE SICK.
  • Rudy, such cheek.
  • I think it’s interesting that the Military-Industrial Complex Clones all have Southern accents (mostly).
  • “I’m not someone you can fight, Sarah.” Don’t the Black Hats know that they shouldn’t say this? Especially to anyone from the Clone Club?
  • Felix was a “budding delinquent at six”. Thing High Atop The Thing, I love Fe.
  • Look at Siobhan and Art colluding to save people. It’s like WATCH THE ADULTS ADULT.
  • Ksenia Solo, y’all. Weird that’s she’s not Kenzi.
  • Poor Gracie. Fe, be nice. She’s just a kid, and she’s having a difficult time.
  • Siobhan and Fe teaching Gracie to dance is adorable.
  • Siobhan telling Gracie about her dead husband and showing her that clones are just people is so so so
  • Miller’s such an ass.
  • I am surprised that Helena hasn’t miscarried yet?
  • Seriously, we can all totally fault Paul. “You just had to stay away.” You abducted Sarah’s sister—her twin—you grapefruit. Did you really think that Sarah wasn’t going to try to save Helena? “The army’s just another family.” Sure, it is. If you’ve made that choice for yourself. Not if you’ve been abducted and beaten up and forced to accept it as the only option.
  • And, there’s a big difference in what Helena has done, in the people that Helena has killed, than what the Castors have been doing—what Paul has been doing. Helena was raised and brainwashed and abused into becoming a killer. The Castors are being purposely sent into the world to assault women—probably in some attempt to breed—and are gross and creepy and abusive themselves and are acting as a sort of AIDS urban legend narrative in which a person who is HIV-positive goes out and purposely infects other people. How is this not really freakin’ different, Paul?
  • (Also, what Helena did to Henrik, while awful, is what Henrik did to Helena. It wasn’t right, but it made sense that Helena would take revenge upon Henrik in such a way. Honestly, what Helena did was probably more about avenging Gracie than herself.)
  • But, Paul is developing a conscience? Maybe? At least, having doubts?
  • Yeah, so evidently, Orphan Black is borrowing from Anne Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches—which I’m not sure anyone is going to get that reference—with the entire “the Castors can’t reproduce with ‘normal’ women and kills them because of sex” thing? Okay, we haven’t gotten quite that far along enough in the narrative to have this confirmed, but we know that these women “get sick” afterwards.
  • Also, if the preview for next week is any indication, the Castors may not be able to reproduce with Ledas either.
  • Wtaf, Show.
Image courtesy of BBC America

Trie – Television and Film Editor

Hey, I’m ‘trie (sounds like “tree”). I’m a university-educated mixed media artist, wannabe writer, and the poster child for the nerd-geek-dork trifecta. I’m also a gender queer, pansexual, polyamorous feminist and Hellenic pagan with a social media habit like whoa.
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