Orphan Black’s Raw Human Material

After three weeks of dragging its feet, Orphan Black finally picks up pace and exposes a little more of Neolution’s plan with a generation of IVF babies, and some interesting territory is covered for the first time.

Sarah takes a break from fussing with her face to remind herself that she’s a mom with a kid who needs attention, but hanging out with Kira’s not enough to keep her from exercising her jealousy when she finds out Gene Connexion, a DNA processing company linked to Neolution, connected Felix and Adele. Her sleuthing didn’t help much since it turns out Felix and Adele are related. On top of her smaller family issues, Art informs Sarah that Alison is being investigated by the Toronto PD for the murders of the Portuguese mafia and a drug operation out of Bubbles, and when she tries to keep a lid on her sister’s drug front she learns that her pregnant twin sister, Helena, has absconded to the woods.

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“Raw Human Material” did a lot of setup for Sarah and Helena that’ll surely be explored in the bottom end of the season, but this episode was all about the science, something Orphan Black’s been missing for a while now.

With Alison’s schoolboard business keeping her occupied and generally tired of hiding beneath the comic book shop, Cosima decides to go with Donnie to investigate Bright Born. Unknown to them both, Krystal Goderich, the naive, manicurist clone who escaped from Seth and Rudy, has been conducting her own investigation into companies linked to Dyad after realizing Delphine helped her escape Neolution when Rachel was sneaked out of the country.

Evie Cho, known Neo and host of the Bright Born seminar, gets a surprise visit from Susan Duncan and Ira who have to intervene now that a Leda is on the premises. Lucky for Cosima, a mistaken identity throws attention at Krystal so she can explore the facility. Dressed in scrubs, she gets dragged into an emergency delivery where she sees firsthand what happens when human experimentation goes wrong.

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Eventually Susan and Ira track down the right Leda, and there’s a conversation between creator and creation. Susan overlooks Cosima’s anger at her playing God again and offers her a deal: the Kendall Malone genome in exchange for a cure.

Science has always been respected in Orphan Black, whether its in the inquisitive hands of Cosima or under the nefarious eyes of Topside. Regardless of which vantage it’s been looked at, all parties want genetic information to help in some way, to fix something that’s wrong. This, however, is the first time the argument concerning bioethics does a complete 180 and blatantly states that the Ledas, like that malformed baby and the women trapped in Bright Born labs, are victims of scientists addicted to their own hubris. This is the end to observations Cosima made about Bright Born, like how all the babies in brochures have facial features that are rare yet considered highly attractive, like how all the model babies have dimples.

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It’s rare in this show to see a harsh critique of experimental science in Orphan Black, especially from Cosima who’s been playing doctor and scientist this whole time to heal herself. The argument has always been personal, about how could a company or a government control the fates of the Leda sisters or the Castor brothers, but never about the science itself. That has always been the thing every group has worked tirelessly to refine. Because of this, there’s also humbling moment when Cosima realizes that even her genius has limits, and you get a sense that maybe, despite the horror that she just witnessed from human experimentation and everything she’s experienced since finding Beth may be the only method available of keeping her alive and her sisters healthy.

I’ve been down on this season up until this point because it felt like once they moved beyond Beth’s origin things were bogged down with an urgent search for parasite removal that all of a sudden doesn’t feel so important. Sarah just sort of deals with this cancer-inducing cyborg bug squirming in her face and not at all worrying if her twin, the only other fertile Leda and a prime candidate for parasite injection, has also been infected. But Orphan Black is back in proper form now that Cosima’s mixing it up with other scientists, and that always leads somewhere interesting.

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

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