“We’re clones. We’re someone’s experiment, and they’re killing us off!”
Well. We’re right back into it then, Alison marching around her house, desperately trying to figure out why Beth would kill herself. And now that she has, what chance does someone like her have of making it through this craziness alive and sane?
Felix, meanwhile, tired of sitting in the car (and being told off by neighborhood watch, at that) gets his first real glimpse of what Sarah’s been freaking out about, coming face to face with firstly Alison, a look-a-like of his sister pointing a gun at him, and then Cosima, sharing those facial cues of Sarah’s but with a style of her own, calmly addressing Sarah as she and Felix leave, telling her to call if she wants information- because Cosima definitely wants that briefcase.
All in all it’s about five minutes of insanity, as you try to work out just how Tatiana Maslany does it, slapping herself, and then looking terrified of herself, and then walking away from herself towards another version of- you guessed it- herself. In the back of your mind, whenever you watch Orphan Black, there is always the question (and the awe that comes along with it) of how is she doing this?
But that’s only an undercurrent, because what’s happening in the plot is so, supremely interesting, too. Alison and Felix go back home, where she pulls out the clone passports, adamantly stating: “That’s not me. They’re not me.” Orphan Black is about clones, yes, but not the type we know. It takes the stereotypical, and reinvents it. Turns it into a show about power, and ownership, and the kind of control (or lack thereof) that women have over their own bodies.
A messy idea that Sarah’s just beginning to think about.
But in the meanwhile, she’s got another role to be playing, because “Beth” has been reinstated, Sarah confusedly following Art out to a crime scene when he says they’ve got a 10:45. AKA: a dead body. Katja’s dead body, that Sarah just burried.
And if forensics can get fingerprints off of the remains of Katja’s body? They’re going to find a match, due to Sarah’s criminal record, as Cosima points out when she frantically calls for advice.
The two later meet up at a bar- to swap over the case for information- and we get to find out a little more about Cosima. Her temperament is a little less collected than Sarah’s, but only when talking about her PHD work back in Minnesota. Otherwise, she’s the head of this operation, wanting to take Katja’s samples to do blood work. She wants to find out the answer to Sarah’s question: do they need to be worried about Katja being sick?
And she brings up another concern, as well: who is the original? Who created the clones? And who is killing them off? Cosima wants Sarah to stay on as Beth to help find that information, with the access she has to certain records as a cop. Sarah laughs though, because why would she help her?
“Help us,” Cosima reminds her. Sarah’s one of quite a few, now. A sentiment echoed when a “Jane Doe” calls Art at the precinct with information on Katja. “She was just one of a few. Unfit for family.” If that wasn’t a clear message for Beth/Sarah, I don’t know what would be.
And things just get worse from there, Mrs. S telling Sarah to stop moving, or she’ll cut off any contact between her and Kira. Although, Sarah does manage to flirt her way into getting her system password reset, deleting notification of the fingerprints- and her pictures- from appearing in the system, before enlisting Felix to babysit Alison’s children while she gets shooting lessons from her fellow clone.
Alison’s the stereotypical, frazzled suburban mother with not enough time on her hands- and, just like the usual stories, a killer always lurking in the back of her mind. Alison sees herself as being trapped, like a rat in a lab, the usual metaphor that’s applied to suburban mothers because of the families and societies that they’re locked into, not their clone heritage. A heritage that Alison is loathe to even agknowledge, admiring Beth because of her professionalism, and asking Sarah not to use “the C-word.” And then she drops the bomb: Alison’s where that seventy five grand came from.
Will Sarah still be able to take the money, now that she knows where it has come from, and that it was being used to fund Beth and Cosima’s activities?
We don’t know, and neither does Sarah it looks like, as she puts off making a decision about the money while following a lead with Art. Someone spotted the bike whose tires match those found at Katja’s crime scene. What starts as a simple drop-by to check out the potential lead, soon turns into a full on action-sequence, Sarah pushing Art to the ground as a shot grazes his ear, before running out after their shooter.
It’s a clever, intense scene, mostly because of the humanity and ordinary fear that Tatiana brings to it. These shots would be fairly regular in a crime drama, but in Orphan Black, they use them to showcase just how out of the ordinary Beth and Art’s job is: and how easy normal television makes a terrifying, challenging job look. Sarah’s completely out of her depth here, and that makes everything so much more urgent, as she chases the shooter. This is the man who shot Katja. This is the man who is chasing the clones. This is the man who is trying to kill her.
Except, it’s not a man. It’s another clone. It’s whom we future viewers recognize as Helena, and she traces her knife down Sarah’s face, ready to make the incision, when-
“I’m not Beth!”
Sarah doesn’t really understand why, but with those words, she saves her own life. Helena realizes that this isn’t the clone she’s after, and confused and wounded from the pipe Sarah stuck in her side, Helena leaves… For now.
“Variation Under Nature” ends with Sarah looking in on her daughter and Mrs. S., the incident with Helena proving how much she might need Cosima and Alison and that seventy-five grand to go towards something to do with their biology, not her escape from this world- and she also sees just how much she’s apart of something now. One of a number.
Sarah’s not alone anymore, and she makes a decision that reflects that.
- Felix wonders about what he just saw: “Soccer mum Sarah? Dreadlocks, science geek Sarah?”
- Art at Katja’s crime scene, cracking quality jokes as her dismembered arm gets bagged: “Nice of them to lend a hand.”
- Sarah breaks the ice with Cosima: “Just answer me one thing… If we’re genetically identical, then do you get that patch of dry skin between your eyebrows?”
- Felix knows how to ask the right questions while babysitting: “Does your daddy have a drinks trolley?” “What’s that?” “…Don’t worry, I’ll find it.”