Orphan Black (S5E2) - Clutch of Greed (Review)

Orphan Black came roaring back last week with 'The Few Who Dare', season five's premiere episode that felt like a shuffle of the cards before the winning hand was played. It largely focused on aligning characters and streamlining various plot strands, generally laying the foundations for The Final Trip. Clutch of Greed is far more satisfying; on reflection, and after two further watches of last week's episode, it became frustrating that first hour felt more connected to season four, rather than representing a new leaf for season five to turn over and run with - as such, I downgraded last week's A- grade to a B+. Season five firmly asserts its journey again with this second episode.

With Sarah imprisoned at DYAD under the control of Neolution, Rachel offers Sarah an ultimatum: continue as our prisoner with your family in danger or give us access to Kira, in order to research her physiology and continue their plan for the restart of human cloning. With the rest of her family convinced, under duress, that surrendering Kira's biology to Rachel and Neolution is the only way forward, Sarah remains skeptical. Will she allow her daughter's biology to be used by the faction? Meanwhile, a recognisable face resurfaces and the fate of Helena's unborn twins lies in the balance.

Orphan Black starts with a suitably uneasy atmosphere looming, suggesting an intense and unrelenting episode is underway. After livestreams with Alison and Cosima, each as nervous and flinching as the other, it is evident that the sisters are clearly under the thumb of Neolution (and particularly Rachel), one step behind them even after the progress they have made. What excels in this episode is the idea of a power struggle coming into full effect; each of the clones - in particular, Rachel and Sarah at the centre - are mercurial, with this idea of opposing sides manifesting itself throughout the episode. Even after attempting a ceasefire, with rather passionate and convincing speech from Rachel who is desperate to handle Kira's biology in a non-invasive way, the land lies even more uncertain.

The focus of Clutch of Greed lies firmly with Sarah, Rachel and Kira, the power struggle they undergo, with Helena and (a returning) M.K. in a supporting capacity. It is only now, reflecting on the episode, that you remember quite how much ground the 42 minute episode has covered. With Kira inspiring a question mark of her own, that harks back to the early days of season one, it looks increasingly likely that the season will continue down this path and answer the looming questions, with Clutch of Greed introducing some intriguing dynamics to consider for the season ahead.

Sarah and Rachel are the inherent heart and by clashing, with their opposing aims and duelling viewpoints, they are placed as the absolute focus this series. That mirage they try to install earlier in the episode is now looking like an impossible challenge, after Sarah makes a decision that launches a wonderful and unwitting clone swap that illuminates the subtleties and nuance of Maslany's performance once again. All of this is evident in that final, chilling glance Rachel gives to Sarah, suggesting the damage is very much already done...

Helena and Donnie continue to infuse the lighter element into the plot, with their sharp comedic timing a wonderful thing to behold - but this week, they are also handed something a little meatier in the form of advanced thematic theme work. Miracles and paranoia help fuel their subplot, offering some promising hints at future storylines and continue to help humanise Helena after her knife-wielding past. Alison appears to be sidelined again this week, given just one brief scene as she struggles to cope with her missing husband and sister; it has been joyous to see the relationship between Alison and Helena grow and evolve over the course of the series and I hope we have some more moments between them.

 Cosima gets to meet P.T. Westmoreland and life at Revival seems slightly clearer: it is, essentially, one big 'healthy eating' camp. In all seriousness, while I'm not quite enjoying the thought of Cosima being detached from her sisters all season long, her role on the island is filling me with excitement the further we get into her time there. Cynthia Galant, playing Charlotte, is a terrific little actress and her performance her is really strong, coming across as natural and caring. The young actors and actresses on this show are really well cast, and it looks like - matched with Skyler Wexler's outburst as Kira - they'll be having something to sink their teeth in over the season.

And then there's is M.K. The lost soul's illness is worsening and her symptom are increasing in frequency but will now do anything to help the sisters put an end to this. In one of the episode's strongest moments, an almost unparalleled technical accomplishment, one long-take sees Sarah and Mika mill around each other, before Mika is embraced by Sarah and they undertake one of my favourite clones of the series. It cannot help but fill you with so much hope and strength, particularly after seeing the Helsinki-survivor heartbreaking journey since we met her at the start of season four.

Tonight penultimate twist (there are two, but the first is clearly the most weighty) may feel heavily foreshadowed but it does not detract from the devastation and shockwave the moment sends rippling through the sisterhood. While not quite as palpable as hoped, the emotion comes in abundance changes a number of the season's dynamics moving forward. The second twist is nowhere near as strong and stirring as the first but the long-game it induced makes things rather intriguing moving forward. I'll admit, I though Paul would be on the other side of the door, miraculously resurrected from season three's explosion...

The tension in the episode is at fever-pitch throughout. It's really well-played and demonstrates the pressure-cooker environment season five will no doubt continue with. As well as because of Maslany's multi-faceted performances, the writers do an excellent job of keeping the episode evolving and exciting; despite my issue with Alison being sidelined somewhat, it is a shock we manage to drop in with her at all when you consider the ground covered by these episodes in general.

5x2's production designers continue to enthralling with their attention to detail and subtle messages; the white, cleansed setting of Rachel's office suggests a distant and coldness, an idea director John Fawcett accentuates. P.T. Westmoreland's home feels skilfully thought out, with hints no doubt lying beneath surface details and we see a fraction more of Revival - a place we will no doubt discover more of. My favourite shot of the entire episode though is the reflection of Sarah in her cell, expertly teasing the central premise of the show - OH MY GOD, THERE IS TWO OF HER - in a wonderful, wonderful way.

Clutch of Greed is the premiere episode we needed last week. It's strong, satisfying, moving and thrilling. While The Few Who Dare was terrific in its own right, it very much felt like a continuation of season four, while this felt like a brand new start for the show, so close to the end of the journey. The cards are clearer and being played now with full effective, with Clutch of Greed springing a devastating blow, a hopeful advancement and new dynamic and legions for the rest of the season to run with. I remain very much hooked.


TTMMVPAAFAMRP (The Tatiana Maslany Most Valuable Player Acting Award for a Multi-Role Performance): M.K. An angel.

Reviews coming weekly...