Orphan Black and The Scandal of Altruism

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This week on Orphan Black, Cosima’s medical condition scares her good and she decides, with Sarah, to hand over Kendall’s genome in exchange for a cure and one cheek-parasite removal. But Cosima, in all her genius, finds a way through Kendall’s cancer to isolate Leda and Castor genes, making sure Ira remains susceptible to his neurodegenerative disease and the Castor STD locked away for good. All seems to be going well, but it’s not long before Kendall goes missing and the lab beneath the comic shop is rendered useless as a trojan formats Scott’s hard drives and eliminates all their research.

When Evie hears about Susan being kidnapped by Sarah and Mrs. S, she takes Cosima to see Kendall who’s held at gunpoint by Duko, the IA officer who’d been investigating Beth for Neolution. Evie tells Cosima that the Ledas and Castors are obsolete when compared to her designer science going on at Bright Born and that Susan should end her research and make way for the future. After killing Kendall and incinerating her body, seemingly solidifying her coup over Susan, Evie tells Cosima that she had Delphine killed and leaves her to go on with her life.

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A lot took place this week. First, let’s cover the commentary about the science, which kind of touches on a topical point that I don’t think has been discussed on this show or any other in recent years. Back in 1996 when Dolly the sheep was revealed to the world (something that’s referenced in Orphan Black a lot) cloning was talked about regularly as a serious ethical concern. Scientists, doctors and laymen all worried that people would just start duplicating themselves with no thought to the ramifications it would introduce to the world, or to these new organisms for that matter. A lot of references were made (erroneously) to A Brave New World and Gattaca as our potential future by many in the media. But in recent years the current ethical concerns in lab-assisted reproduction is about designer babies, as if gene editing could some day reach the point of genetic checklists where people could make super-babies to fit their idea of the ideal family.

Orphan Black sets up this contrast between the new and old paths of Neolution in Evie and Susan in just about every way imaginable, driving home the point about Neolution as open to evolution in ideology as it is in genetics, and this is done with subtle allusion beforehand, which drives Evie’s coup home with the right amount of impact.

And with that plot point comes a few curious things since Sarah is left with only Susan to trust in order to compete with Evie now that she has the only copy of Cosima and Scott’s research on a Bright Born hard drive.

At some point in Beth’s investigation Evie led her to believe Susan was the enemy. She did so by being honest, telling Beth about Susan’s involvement in running Project: Leda. It was enough to get Beth into a Bright Born gala and lure Susan away to the kitchen where she was set up for an on-the-knees execution. But what keeps Susan alive is a plea to Beth, an almost motherly call to reason by affirming her “love” for Beth and her sisters. This is pretty consistent with what we’ve seen from Susan, but it confirms the creepy slant to the incestuous relationship she’s carried on with Ira. If she loves the Ledas like daughters does she, like Virginia, love Castors as her sons? That kind of undermines her ability to be maternal to the Ledas. So how can Sarah and her sisters trust her?

There were a lot of family moments this episode, like the origin of “chicken” and Mrs. S being unable to act on a problem and be the mother to save the day, leading to a lot of grief processing. Cosima in particular. Even Beth’s suicide is given proper context when she’s convinced it’s the best way to keep the others safe from Neolution. So there’s a lot of death and a lot of learning to deal with it, but it’s Cosima that’s broken down the most.

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Since the second season of Orphan Black, when she had her near-death experience, Cosima been searching for any available avenue of hope. Whether it’s the science that could keep her alive and useful to the others or the expectation that Delphine would show up again, Cosima has always expected that she could exert some control over her situation and turn everything around if only she could apply her intellect in the right way. This episode just eliminated that hope and did away with any lingering cognitive dissonance concerning her situation and her capacity to out think impossible situations. It’s an absurdist crisis of conscience to be that smart and that incapable to do anything to change your circumstance. Ira (confirmed Yale graduate) wrestled with this as well before giving in to grief by attempting suicide, something that’s probably knocking around Cosima’s head as she processes everything.

But there does remain some hope. When Art and Felix pull Krystal away from Duko, they find out that she was a witness to Delphine’s shooting and it’s clear that what comes from her testimony is going to factor into the what comes next.

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

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