Orphan Black (Season 4, Episode 1: “The Collapse of Nature”) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Orphan Black (Season 4, Episode 1: “The Collapse of Nature”)

BBC America, Thursdays 10/9 Central

Apr 20, 2016 Web Exclusive
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In the ‘90s, hacker thrillers became so popular that critics coined the phrase “cyber punk.” Today, one of TV’s best nail biters is officially ushering in a new genre: bio punk. Or perhaps it should be bio goth. Both terms suit the piercings, coal dark attire, and overall sullen demeanor of the fringe group that modify their genitals, lodge magnets in their fingertips and more throughout the season four premiere of Orphan Black. Indeed, these sexy outliers and their grippingly creepy fetishes make the series captivating and unsettling this go around.

However, these willful freaks are by no means the star of the show. That honor still unmistakably rests with the beguilingly multifaceted Tatiana Maslany, who won over this hit series’ devoted following all the way back in the first season by playing various clones with distinct traits and looks. Season four sees her introducing a new “Leda” clone cryptically known as “M.K.,” who dons a creepy sheep mask and appears in ominous, Anonymous style hacker videos to give warnings about impending danger. But that’s by no means Maslany’s key performance in this episode. Fans will instead be far more taken by her turn as detective Beth Childs who, of course, committed suicide in the pilot episode, much to the dismay of protagonist Sarah Manning (also Maslany), who is still coming to grips with having a doppelgänger until she is further shocked by seeing her mirror self die.

As much of a joy as Maslany’s portrayal of Sarah the shifty con artist has been—ever since she witnessed that suicide and contended with the ensuing bio-espionage struggle against the evil Neolution movement up to season four—fans will be equally enthralled with the actress’ cynical, restrained rendition of Beth. This hard nosed, pill popping detective relentlessly follows the clues left by the murdered body of a Neolution goth whose jowl has been gouged before he was buried. It stands as another dazzling showcase for Maslany’s onscreen eclecticism. Speaking of which, we also get to see Beth have terse phone conversations with her various clones, like the sternly charismatic, dreadlocked Cosima; and the goody goody Allison, who tots an unloaded pistol with particular glee even as Beth insists that she stop playing with the weapon until the detective can stop by and give her a proper demonstration. Having so many lookalikes to contend with is no doubt spurning on Beth’s medicinal snorting. But her fellow officers aren’t sympathetic, taking her off the case of the slain Neolution and sinking internal affairs on her to see why she appears so inebriated throughout the work day.

As if that weren’t enticing enough, this flashback episode also marks the return of many series regulars that viewers had no doubt firmly bid adieu to. Paul Dierden’s Dylan Bruce is back, despite being killed off last season, playing Beth lover with morose detachment that borders on despair. We also get a glimpse of the cynical Det. Angela “Angie” Deangelis (Inga Cadranel), who hasn’t been featured in a scene since season two. Yet, some of this episode’s best moments belong to the recurring regulars. Angie’s would be partner, Art (an achingly yearning Kevin Hanchard) spending the night with an inebriated Beth shortly after she argues with Bruce. Then there’s perpetual scene stealer Felix (Jordan Gavaris), who sits cross armed at the police station as an officer reads off his rap sheet, which consists of everything from solicitation to public urination (which he insists was performance art, of course).

These subtle glimpses round out characters that audiences have come to know and love. And this episode is equally deft with its grander plot points, especially Beth’s investigation of the cheek chopped, murdered Neolution. With the help of M.K., she tracks down a pair of EMS techs (who get quite hot for each other when they’re near cold bodies). Those medics are performing the same face slicing procedure on another Neolution, extracting a mechanical worm just like the incident that M.K. witnessed before tipping off Beth anonymously. But before Beth can bust the Techs, she’s stopped short by catching sight of someone else entering the room: the mysterious, bearded internal affairs officer who also appeared earlier on in the episode when her colleagues became suspicious of her drug use. Seeing a fellow cop with the murders she was about to arrest is jarring enough to make Beth stumble, then flee as the internal affairs officer/mole closes in to see who was eavesdropping on him and the slice-n’-dice techs. The ensuing events are familiar to fans: Beth flees, the drugs and adrenalin taking greater hold as she escapes down an alley, is startled by Maggie Chen, shoots her as a jittery reflex and vomits. Art comes to her aid and helps Beth tamper with the evidence, placing Maggie’s phone in her already cold hand, so that Beth can say that the victim appeared to have a gun, strengthening her self-defense excuse. Unfortunately, the same internal affairs officer is tasked with Beth’ supposed manslaughter case.

But then, the proceedings become less familiar: M.K. returns, but this time in a flash forward to the events shortly after the third season’s finale, to warn Sarah about encroaching Neolutions. This marks not only a perfecting ending to an episode that so satisfyingly filled in gaps that have nagged at fans since the pilot episode; it also leaves us with an enticing cliff hanger for the season’s next chapter. Indeed, M.K. may fill her fellow Orphan Black characters with dread whenever she makes a mysterious warning thus far, but fans will be impatiently waiting for this good old fashioned cyber punk to help take on creep bio goths of a fatal future. (www.bbcamerica.com/shows/orphan-black)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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