The Helsinki Orphan Black Comic Impacts Season 4

After the last episode of Orphan Black, where a deal was made with Ferdinand, Sarah agrees to give Mika Rachel’s message with the intent of locating Susan, who’s perhaps the only person who can remove the parasite without killing her. Unfortunately for Rachel, Susan has known about her outside contact. As punishment for this insolence Susan coerces Rachel to agree to let Charlotte’s condition go untreated so that when the child dies her body can be used for research that could help the mature Ledas.

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Meanwhile, Cosima and Scott, still hiding out in their lab beneath the comic shop (run by a former Dyad security guard. Just found that out ourselves), study an excised tumor from Leekie’s face to study a parasite that’s been feeding off his decaying flesh After Alison ripped up her garage to get the dead scientist out. Helena has also left the Hendrix house, feeling like she’s become something of a burden to her sister and a reminder of her infertility.

Coincidentally, fertility chases Allison down anyway when she’s cornered by Beth’s Neolutionist informant who confuses her for the dead cop who poked into her life and the fertility clinic that got her pregnant. This gets Mrs. S to broker peace between Felix and Sarah, so a solution could be found for Sarah’s parasite problem. Felix and Donnie pose as a couple looking into IVF treatments, and it’s there that they’re introduced to the Bright Born project, some off-the-books option most patients aren’t supposed to know about.

Sarah finally gets impatient enough that she recruits Dizzy (again) to tracking Mika down. When they finally do, Sarah learns that she’s been betrayed by her sister who used her phone to lure Ferdinand to Beth’s apartment. After tricking him into sitting on a pressure-plate bomb,  Mika confronts Ferdinand about his role in the Helsinki affair which killed a great deal of the European Ledas. Sarah begs Mika to spare Ferdinand since he’s the only one who can help. But Mika is operating on her own agenda, and after she gets him to hand over his 3-million-dollar fortune she disappears.

Mrs. S is able to get Ferdinand off the bomb without exploding and they agree to an uneasy alliance, but Sarah is troubled further when she learns just what the parasite is doing to her.

M.K. (TATIANA MASLANY)

M.K. (TATIANA MASLANY)

This was a good example of integrated media. Sci-fi shows have done this a lot–release a comic between seasons or as a promo for a new show–but they’re generally origin stories about the main character, which Orphan Black already did. The first run of comics they released were short bios for Sarha, Helena, Cosima, Alison and Rachel. Helsinki was quite different.

Helsinki took place in 2001, when the Ledas were 17. Veera, who we now know as Mika, a play on her serial number (3MK29A), believed that she had a twin named Nikki when she uncovered what she thought was child pornography her uncle had collected on her and this unknown sister (turns out he was her monitor). This leads to Veera, Nikki and all the European Ledas to discover that they are clones and get the attention of Rachel and Topside. Without spoiling the reasons why, Ferdinand was the one sent in to eliminate six European Ledas. While Katja managed to disappear, Veera has spent the last 15 years trying to locate him by investigating Topside.

While you can’t expect a lot from integrated media, though sci-fi shows continue to use it as the best form of exposition, the comics are a good supplement for seeing how Topside handles clones still under their control and what they’re willing to do to keep their project secret. If you’ve seen The Island or THX 1138 you have an idea of how Ledas not part of the project, kept purely for research purposes, are treated.

We also get another look into the cultist behavior of Neolution. Cosima and Scott discover that the parasite had actually induced Leekie’s body to form a tumorous mass. Why is that? Leekie’s body had rejected proteins the parasite had been introducing to his body, proteins that were effectively performing gene therapy that could’ve altered his body. This plays into the Bright Born Group, which is run by a known Neolutionist, which promises to provide high-tech births that will “make the world a better place one baby at a time.” If these two projects are actually linked, it would make sense why Sarah, one of two known fertile Ledas, would be implanted while her sisters were not. But is the gene therapy there to really build stronger, healthier babies? Could it address Sarah’s dormant genetic and make her as sick as Cosima? Prevent her from getting sick at all? Or does Neolution have even bigger plans for the whole of humanity?

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These are some pretty interesting developments that set up interesting events further down the line, but there’s something that’s puzzling. With the exception of the first episode this season, where Beth was really fleshed out and explored, there hasn’t been any actual focus on the clones. Any of them. We’re a week away from the middle of Orphan Black’s current season and pretty much everything that has happened has taken Sarah from event to event, from discovering she has a parasite to wanting it taken out. But Orphan Black’s strength, which we talked about last week, has been ignored. In fact, characters seem to be shoved aside without much reason. At this point Orphan Black is moving in a new direction that’s making some people wonder if it can sustain the momentum needed to keep people watching, an audience that has built up its fandom around them clones themselves? That remains to be seen, but it’s obvious that this feels like a fundamentally different show.

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Written by Daniel Rodriguez
Daniel Rodriguez is a freelance writer and author from New York City.
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