Orphan Black: “Instinct”

“Instinct” opens where “Human Nature” left off, with Sarah answering the pink phone as her third “twin,” Katja Obinger, lays dead in the back seat of the car– felled by a sniper’s bullet. The voice on the phone asks if Beth knows what’s going on with the German. Sarah replies as Beth, and tells the voice that Katja had been shot. The woman on the phone sounds afraid, and says, “It’s true. Someone is killing us!” She tells Sarah to hide the body, and get hair and blood samples, and she will call later.

Sarah buries the body in a shallow grave while her memorial service continues at Felix’s apartment, with all of her friends drowning their sadness in drink. Vic says he can’t figure out why Sarah killed herself, because she had love. Felix tells him it was his fault, because he’s a crappy abusive jerk. So say we all!

Sarah finds a room key for the Carlsborough Hotel, and an ID card. As she gazes upon yet another stranger’s ID card with her own face on it, Sarah asks the corpse, “Who are you?” She cleans up the car and makes an appointment for new windows.

Orphan-Black-Episode-2-Instinct-orphan-black-34227518-732-412The next morning, Vic is still drinking. “I want to get to know Sarah’s daughter.” Felix of course refuses because Vic is a drug dealer—and abusive. As Vic leaves, Sarah arrives. Luckily Vic is smashed enough not to notice. When Felix sees the blood on Sarah’s neck, she tells him she met the German. He asks if it was another twin, and she says yes but insists upon not talking about it. The more pressing issue, for her, is whether her daughter thinks she’s dead. But she has a little bit of good news! She hands Fee the briefcase with the 75,000 dollars from Beth’s savings account. He opens it – and finds Arthur Bell’s business card with stacks of files, which turn out to be official statements on the shooting of Maggie Chen. He left it for Beth to figure out her story for the hearing. “Beth” arrives home to see Paul moving out. Apparently Beth had been distant for months, even before the shooting fiasco. Sarah is relieved to see him go, and begins rehearsing the official story on the Maggie Chen shooting before a meeting at Feng’s with Arthur.

Felix goes to Mrs. S’s to tell her that the funeral was staged so Sarah could get away from Vic. “Why would you help with such a stupid plan?” she asks. “… Vic’s a dick?” Felix ventures. Mrs. S tells Kira that Sarah will come when she’s ready, but also when Mrs. S says she’s ready. The latter seems to be a huge caveat. I foresee trouble with this sticking point in the future.

At the meeting at Vic’s, Art grills Sarah on the details of the Chen shooting.  As she concludes the story with Art arriving after Beth called in the shooting, Art intently tells her if they find out she called Art before she called it in, they’re gonna start to dig. And if they dig they might find out about the pills, and if they find out about the pills she might crack under pressure, and then they might find out that Art planted the phone to cover Beth’s being a total tweaker. Oh, crap. The plot thickens. To be sure none of the guilt lands on himself, Art decides to keep the money until Beth is cleared.  Sarah does not look happy at the prospect of being Beth much longer.

OrphanBlack_S1_E02_Visiting Felix, Beth’s pink phone rings. She hesitates to answer, telling Felix that whatever Beth found out about the twins drove her to suicide.  She picks up the phone anyways. The same woman as earlier asks “Beth” to go get the German’s briefcase. She decides to comply, and heads to Katja’s hotel, hoping there will be cash in the suitcase.

Katja’s room is completely trashed, and there is a headless Barbie with cigarette burns all over it placed on a table. Sarah looks at it for a moment before searching the room for the briefcase. The hotel staff arrives and presents her with a bill for the damage, which she pretends was from a raging party. Luckily Katja’s card has enough money on it to pay for the damage, and Sarah collects the briefcase and leaves. When she breaks it open she finds a chest x-ray, blood samples… and more ID cards for more twins. The pink phone calls. Sarah assumes it’s Allison. At first, she answers as Beth but then decides to be herself, and drops the Canadian accent. The voice on the phone sounds afraid, and repeats what Katja said to Sarah at the end of the last episode: “Just one, I’m a few. No family, too. Who am I?” Sarah says that phrase doesn’t mean anything to her, and the woman on the phone hangs up. Sarah heads out to the ‘burbs to find Allison Hendrix, another name from among the birth certificates. She tails Allison to her children’s soccer game. When Sarah tells her that she wants answers, Allison replies, “You wait for a call. And hide your ugly face on your way out of here.”

As Sarah leaves, Beth’s phone rings. It’s Art. He tells her the shrink ruled her unfit for duty and there won’t be a hearing, which means she won’t get cleared or get her money. Sarah goes to the shrink and finally winds up blackmailing the doctor by suggesting she could tell everyone about her bad prescriptions. After a successful hearing, Allison calls and tells Sarah to meet her at her house after her kids are asleep. Art tells Sarah she won’t get the money back until after she’s reinstated.

Sarah heads to Scarborough with Felix in tow as back-up. He’s unhappy because he hates the suburbs. Sarah arrives at Allison’s. Allison threatens to shoot her if her kids see her. “Well, I’ve never had a blood relation, but being your twin certainly sucks,” she says. Allison replies, “You really have no idea, do you?” Just then, another “twin” pokes her head around the corner. “Hey. I’m Cosima. We talked on the phone.” Sarah looks distinctly upset, and asks how many of them there are, as “Instinct” ends.

The last two episodes of Orphan Black have had little to no down time as the plot books along at a pace which is swift without being breakneck. I’m consistently impressed with the volume of action that goes on, while still balancing pathos and humor. Typically in a show this busy, I wouldn’t feel as attached to the characters. Yet, the show continues to be grounded in its characters and allows them to drive the plot, rather than the action tramping all over the characters.

“Instinct” continues Orphan Black’s impressive writing and acting, yet after the exposition-heavy first episode, “Instinct” is able to relax and spread out a little, taking its time to tell the story, savoring the characters a little more and giving them space to inhabit their world. I loved the scene where Sarah is at Feng’s, recounting the Chen case to Art. The splicing of her rehearsal with her presentation was an economical and interesting way of getting the point across. The two phones, as well, are handy in managing the story lines in such a way that they feel natural, despite being disparate.

OB102_PreviewCarAnother thing which I find striking about Orphan Black is its placement in a practically normal Toronto. This is not a distant future-city where clones are walking around openly and obviously, and it certainly does not seem to be a place where this sort of genetic engineering is common practice, even industrially –such as cloning of livestock, or something. Whereas science fiction often extrapolates new technologies into new worlds that are not all that recognizable, Orphan Black’s Toronto is in our own time, practically if not actually. This reminds me of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for example, where there is one technology that exists, but in many other ways the world remains unchanged. And yet, Orphan Black is even more subtle than that, because the new technology is undiscussed, illegal, and secretive, and at this point in the story, no longer used. All of these characteristics allow the twin/clone technology to exist without overtaking the world of the story, and allowing Orphan Black to be insulated from typical sci-fi/dystopian tropes that accompany most stories about clones.

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