Maya Reddy ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Orphan Black’s season 3 premiere had a lot to live up to in terms of its premieres from the previous two seasons. Its predecessors had the perfect mix of hitting the ground running while keeping the more complex elements of the series from overtaking the audience. While this episode, “The Weight of Combination” slowed its beginning down somewhat, it still kept the engaging action of the series at the forefront of the episode.
The extra time it took in the beginning of the episode instead of jumping right in was definitely not unwanted – getting a glimpse into the mindset of one of the many clones played by Tatiana Maslany is often intriguing, especially in regards to Helena. The cold open really displayed the value Helena places on her “sestras” while offering a sharp jump from her heartwarming fantasy-dream to the harsh, unnerving reality of her captivity. From here, the show really jumps into the fast-paced action of the episode that defines Orphan Black. And of course, Tatiana Maslany voices the scorpion that plagues Helena’s mind throughout this episode. This is one of two new characters Maslany brings to life in this episode – the other being a new clone, who got entangled with one of the Castor clones.
The Castor clones were the big reveal of the season finale, with Sarah discovering that the member of the religious extremist group that kidnapped Helena in Season 2, Mark (Ari Millen), was one of many male clones serving as the opposite to the female Leda clones. In that reveal, Rudy, a new male clone is found to be held captive which is where Sarah’s involvement begins. With Delphine played by Evelyne Brochu, taking over for Rachel who suffered a pencil to the eye from Sarah, there is a shift in power and a shift in character for Delphine. Delphine’s sole focus is on the Castor clones and on maintaining appearances for Dyad – the corporation behind all of the cloning.
The basic plot of needing to hold up appearances for Dyad, because of a surprise visit from an investigator from the higher-ups of Dyad, Topside, seems somewhat contrived. However, the pay-off of this plot creates an enjoyable set of clones pretending to be other clones along with an important revelation about “Helsinki” and Rachel’s plans for the clones. Almost reminiscent of the series premiere of Orphan Black, there is a fun montage of Sarah preparing to pretend to be Rachel, with the added bonus of Alison pretending to be Sarah. The tension of this act is at such a great height throughout these scenes and Sarah’s accidental discovery of what Rachel’s sex-life is like, proves engaging and funny.
Otherwise, the humor placed throughout the episode definitely falls on fellow clone Alison and her husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun), who embrace their suburban idiosyncrasies in a unique brand of humor that’s been prevalent for the past two seasons. While all the drama with the clones are occurring with Sarah, Alison’s main concern is that she wants to run for school trustee. With a stoic nod, Donnie agrees that she needs to run against the woman who would push her kids out of the school district, and while that moment seems small and insignificant, it creates a funny highlight of the episode. This depiction of Alison and Donnie as a united front, definitely offers a new look at how the humor of her scenes will play out this season and it looks like it’ll be very entertaining. Brunn’s chemistry with Maslany is some of the best on the show when it comes to romantic partners, making any scene between the two of them a joy to watch.
As far as romantic partners go, the extremely popular relationship between Cosima and Delphine hits a bump in the road. Delphine has to make the classic choice of putting the safety of the Leda clones over her relationship with Cosima. While this plot point was definitely coming from a mile away, it was still heartbreaking to watch, especially because of Maslany’s open moment of vulnerability as Cosima shown to Delphine.
Up until now, Delphine’s purpose hasn’t always been well defined beyond being Cosima’s girlfriend who works for Dyad. The show has struggled with how committed they want her to be to Dyad versus Cosima, and some of her actions have seemed out of place because of this constant shift in focus for the character. In this episode though, Delphine really becomes her own entity beyond Cosima. Brochu handles this newfound role with impressive ease and certainly is taking full advantage of the new material. The audience gets to see this dark side of Delphine in her interactions with the incapacitated Rachel, which is simultaneously terrifying and amazing to watch.
Stepping into the shoes, acting-wise, of Tatiana Maslany is no easy task and with the reveal of Ari Millen portraying the Castor clones, there was undoubtedly going to be comparisons between the two’s acting abilities. Millen may not be Maslany, but he holds his own in differentiating the Castor clones and develops a compelling bond between two of the clones, Rudy and Seth. While the interaction between Rudy and Seth was interesting, the actual characterization of Seth is still up in the air with his encounter with Mrs. S not showing much of his character beyond his rage as he beats her up.
With Seth breaking Rudy out of the Dyad’s hold at the end of the episode, “the Weight of Combination” sets the next episode up for a greater look at the relationship between Seth and Rudy and a newfound focus for Sarah beyond just looking for Helena. The episode manages to avoid getting too entangled in its complex backstory, however the mystery of Topside isn’t particularly interesting. Thankfully, the focus was placed on the much more entertaining relationship between Rachel and the Topside investigator, Ferdinand, for the time being. While Ferdinand was entertaining in this episode, he is definitely a character that has the potential of being overplayed, because when not in the entertaining dynamic towards Sarah as Rachel, he otherwise fulfills the far too familiar role of “the scheming villain”.
Orphan Black’s seasons 3 premiere overall offers a great set-up for the season to come, while maintaining the familiar rhythm of its last two seasons. It allows itself to slow down and give the viewers glimpses into various clones’ psyche, but keeps its central focus on Sarah clear and easy to follow. As usual, Tatiana Maslany brings to life this dynamic group of characters, and she shines in the new perspectives given of the various clones. “The Weight of Combination” can definitely be placed amongst the examples of how right Orphan Black gets its season premieres.
Overall Episode Grade: A