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Orphan Black Review: “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”

Maya Reddy ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Starting “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” off with Sarah’s (Tatiana Maslany) fevered dream may have been somewhat jarring, but it mirrors nicely with how the season premiere began
with Helena’s slightly more pleasant fevered dream. It also offers just the right amount of plot information on what sort of tests are happening to Sarah for the viewer to feel an immediate investment in this episode. And that’s a big thing that happened in “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”. Co-creator, John Fawcett, has referred to this episode as a kind of “mid-season climax” (http://www.ew.com/article/2015/05/22/orphan-black-creator-crazy-twerktastic-episode), and they definitely succeeded in bringing all of the energy and surprises into “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” that one would find in a season finale.

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After the credits, opening the episode on Paul (Dylan Bruce) sets the stage for Paul as a leading character in this episode. For a character that has spent much of his time on Orphan Black waffling back and forth on which side of Cloneclub he stands on, this episode gives us his perspective fully. Which was a good call because it offers an extremely moving send-off. We finally get to see how much Paul really knows because frankly his earlier persona of always being one step ahead of Sarah was pretty boring and offered little insight into who he was. In his last moments with Sarah, we finally get some honesty out of him as he tells her how he really feels, and as someone who has had little investment in the relationship between Paul and Sarah, this viewer still found it completely heart-wrenching.

Sarah struggles internally in this episode, as she fights the Castor virus. We see the return of the mysterious Beth along with the rightful anger towards Sarah and Paul in her fevered dreams. Again this struggle really brings to fruition everything that’s happened since the first episode of the series. Beth is not only what brought Sarah to her sisters, she also was the connecting dot between her and Paul. Sarah and Paul have to face their own demons in regards to Beth – perfectly leading up to Paul’s sacrifice.

There also comes the big discovery of how the Castor sickness connects with the Leda sickness, but even more importantly, what the Castor project leader, Dr. Virgina Coady (Kyra Harper), has up her sleeve in regards to this revelation that Sarah is also immune to the Castor virus. So far, Coady is turning out to be one of the more intriguing villains of Orphan Black. Her willingness to harm others for what she perceives would be the greater good offers multiple dimensions to this character who has also displayed an impressive maternal side that’s brought with her an intense loyalty from the Castor clones. Kyra Harper gives an eerily calm performance that’s incredibly unnerving to watch, and its highly doubtful that this’ll be the last we see of her or Rudy.

Photo Credit: pixcelation
Photo Credit: pixcelation

“Certain Agony of the Battlefield” also brought us back to Alison, who brings back the humor of this episode with full force by dancing in piles of money with Donnie (Kristian Bruun) in their underwear. Once again, Alison’s plot still feels very far removed from the rest of Cloneclub. However, with what looks like a great impending growth in her drug dealing business, it seems as if it’s only a matter of time for her plot to spread into the rest of the show’s narrative, especially with the glimpse into Felix’s (Jordan Gavaris) involvement in the next episode. Also, what we do see of Alison and Donnie, is the relationship between these two growing stronger as they work together. While there are minor hints of jealousy within the Alison and Donnie plot in relation to Alison’s old high school sweetheart turned drug dealer, Jason (Justin Chatwin), hopefully it won’t turn into anything big. Seeing Alison and Donnie working together rather than against each other makes for a much more interesting dynamic as their quirky similarities shine through.

Meanwhile, Cosima’s newfound relationship with Shay (Ksenia Solo) appears to be heating up with the two already somewhat domestic. Leading into Cosima’s uncomfortable reunion with Delphine (Evelyne Brochu). However with her new relationship, the dynamic between Cosima and Delphine has abruptly changed. While in their last encounter, Cosima was the more openly vulnerable of the two, this time we start to see the cracks in Delphine’s new cold exterior as she tells Cosima she misses her. While Cosima decides to continue on in a relationship with Shay, we see that besides Cosima being Delphine’s biggest vulnerability, there’s also a level of possessiveness as she keeps tabs on Cosima. Thinking more on the new colder side of Delphine, it doesn’t seem as out of character as it once did that she would be so hard, considering the fact that previously we’ve only seen her from the perspective of Cosima who brings out the softer side in Delphine. This harsher look at Delphine delves into a fascinating element of her character, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more of her for the rest of the season.

As Cosima and Delphine do more tests on Gracie, Felix finally gets to deal with his emotions of missing Sarah. So far Jordan Gavaris has been relatively underused, as the support for Gracie and Cosima, however as he interacts with Rachel we really get to experience the broken desperation in him and it is heart-breaking. His confrontation with Rachel was a highlight of this already great episode, in seeing not just the depth in Felix, but in Rachel as well. It has already been incredibly difficult to watch Rachel be taken advantage of as she recovers by Delphine, and once again it’s so hard to see Felix treat her that way. However in this scene in which the two are on opposite sides against each other, there’s reason to sympathize with both parties. This interaction between Rachel and Felix hopefully will not be a one-off because it created a whole new side to both characters.

Photo Credit: EW
Photo Credit: EW

Once Paul makes the ultimate sacrifice for Sarah at the end of this episode, Sarah and Helena reunite. Somehow Helena’s arc, although made up of a scant amount of scenes this episode, still offered a great amount of depth. With the simple act of having Helena eat the scorpion that’s consumed her thoughts for survival, we see how Helena has grown to value her sister more than her life. Helena’s past and future meet, as the reminder of her ruthless side plays out when she eats the scorpion, but then the newer side of how much she values the people in her life now also shows. When she pulls Sarah from the rubble and tells her “people miss us”, we see the value Helena places on not just Sarah but Felix, Kira, Cosima, and Alison, as was shown in Helena’s fantasy dream from the first episode of this season.

Overall, “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” does a beautiful job at progressing most of the main characters’ stories in a compelling manner. It brings back characters that have fallen out of focus in the last couple episodes, such as Rachel and Delphine with a sharp relevancy to the rest of the plot. It was paced well without being rushed, and allowed for a good amount of time to lead up to Paul’s demise, rather than using Paul’s death simply as a chance to surprise the audience. With Sarah and Helena properly reuniting it looks like only a matter of time for all of Cloneclub to reunite in the tail end of this season.

Episode Grade: A

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