TV Recap: Orphan Black S03E07 “Community Of Dreadful Fear And Hate”

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This week’s episode of Orphan Black is like a bright pink Macaron, top and bottom are firm and have good texture, but the filling may be too fluffy for everyone’s tastes.

Welcome to the episode three recap, “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”.

It’s an interesting title which gives perhaps a little context to Alison’s (Tatiana Maslany) story as Soccer Mom in downtown Surburbanville. All the season three episode titles come from The Eisenhower Farewell Address, a speech written when the president was leaving office. Season two‘s titles were from another literary source, Francis Bacon’s Plan of the Work, while Season one was Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.

However, literary this ain’t. The majority of the episode focuses upon Alison’s exploits in school politics. Meanwhile, there’s two identical envelopes, one with a stack of cash, the other, signatures supporting Alison’s run for the district.

Perhaps if they’d been labelled, the episode could have concentrated on more relevant storylines, such as Sarah and Helena’s escape from the compound and scientific clone research in the lab.

Not this time.

Fans of caper movies will probably enjoy the to-ing and fro-ing of this episode. There’s drama with Donnie’s nose quite literally on the chopping block because he’s supplied the signatures to a drug kingpin instead of the 30K for more drugs. There’s Alison trying to get her mother to sign over the soap business, and hunting for the cash. There’s Cosima standing in for Alison in a photo shoot and speech. Then there’s Alison’s mum who unexpectedly confesses having asked for an “upgrade” before conceiving her daughter.

In the end there’s running around aplenty and everything seems to work out for the best.

Of note however is that this is the third time the writing team has pulled this stunt. In season one it was fun, having Sarah standing in for Alison while Donnie was tied-up in the basement. In Season two, there was another substitution of Alison who’d been put into a drug rehab clinic because of her alcohol abuse.

This time is different; Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) has a good word for this: “Bored”.

The actors are doing their best with the material, and honestly, the performances were great. Jordan Gavaris as Felix is always worthwhile. Christian Bruun does the bumbling Donnie to perfection. Even newcomer Sheila McCarthy, playing Alison’s mother Connie was astonishingly irritating and thus gave context to Alison’s neurotic behaviour. The fault doesn’t lie with the actors. It lies with the story. This week’s writer is Sherry White, but honestly, she probably can’t be blamed either. Writers of episodic TV get a synopsis to work from. This one clearly pushed the Alison story along at the cost of other character arcs.

All sorts of alternative storylines could have been explored in this season, from the Leda Institute and Topside, led by the always excellent Michelle Forbes or even the child clone introduced for all of three minutes at the end of series two. And if the writers absolutely had to go the suburban route, how about a betrayal from Alison’s ex BF and drug supplier Jason (Justin Chatwin) who’s seemed too good to be true since his introduction.

Instead we get another caper episode and a clone substitution, with all the anxiety this provokes in the characters. We get it, they’re identical. Can we move on please?

Adding insult to injury, the pace of last week’s episode is squandered; we got a genuine shock with the death of a recurring character, a betrayal and an escape under overwhelming odds. In episode seven we get an entire episode caused by character incompetence.

But there is some decent stuff, which as intimated in the introduction, are the bookends.

The episode opens with Sarah and Helena in a Mexican Cantina. They’re waiting for Siobhan’s (Maria Doyle Kennedy) people to get in contact with visas for the US. Instead, Siobhan herself turns up and gets a fat lip from Helena who’s understandably pissed about being sold up the river. It’s a bit of a let-down that a simple hug defuses the tempestuous blonde and one expected Siobhan to breathe her last with a spoon embedded in her heart.

Alas, no.

The other end of the episode there’s Scott (Josh Vokey) working out a way to get clone Rachel to decode the book left by her father Ethan Duncan (Andrew Gilles). This showed some potential for drama because Rachel is a prisoner in the company she used to run, and thanks to Delphine (Evelyne Brochu), she’s been declared dead. Now she’s decoding the book, she has leverage again.

Finally, Cosima becoming unwell, partially thanks to her avoiding tests for her condition, leaves the viewer with a reason to watch again next week.

A small Mia-Culpa: This season is ten episodes long, not eight as mentioned in prior reviews. On the plus side, this means there’s three more episodes for the writers to strap on the jet engines and get things moving again.

Fingers crossed.

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