THE COLLAPSE OF NATURE – 7.5/10.
Rejoice dear friends, for the frankly glorious Orphan Black has returned for a fourth season. If you’ve not watched Orphan Black then you need to stop reading right now and catch up with the show on Netflix. As a new viewer the less you know about what is to come, the more you will enjoy the story as it develops. But if you choose to use this episode as your starting point for the series then you are in luck as the season 4 premiere actually serves a prequel to the series. Orphan Black follows the exploits of a group of clones, all played by the frankly brilliant Tatiana Maslany, as they try to unravel the mystery of their existence. Over the last four seasons we have got to know the unique personalities of these women, all apart from one, Detective Beth Childs.
It was Beth’s suicide in the very first episode that set our protagonist, Sarah Manning on the path to the often murky truth. While Beth has had a presence in the show (Sarah assumed her identity for a period of time and other characters spoke of their experiences with her) we never got to know her beyond the occasional flashback. But here we spent the entirety of the episode with Beth in the days leading up to her death. While Beth is the one who revealed the truth of the clone conspiracy to her ‘sisters’, Alison and Cosima, she is still struggling to process it herself. As her paranoia grows, she comforts herself with drugs and desperatley seeks to be truly seen. Beth is spiralling, but we soon discover that it was something far worse that drove her to her death.
The episode begins with the introduction of a new clone, Mika, who witnesses two EMTs dumping a body in the woods. Mika contacts Beth and reports the location of the corpse; in fact it appears that Mika may very well be the one who has been feeding Beth all of her information about the clone conspiracy. Beth and her partner, Art visit the crime scene where they discover that the victim was a Neolutionist; a science loving cult that believe in self-modelled evolution through extreme body modification. However, a chunk of his face appears to have been removed; a modification that was most definitely not self-modelled. Beth is clearly struggling with something, but she refuses to open up to Art, whose concerns about her pill popping are brushed aside as she rushes off to meet Mika.
This is the first time we’ve met Mika and Tatiana Maslany has managed to craft yet another unique identity. Mika is a paranoid hacker whose knowledge has left her completely isolated and too scared to meet Beth in person. She uses a webcam to tell her about the Neolutionists and provides her with a lead on the victim. Beth pays a visit to a nightclub that literally looks like it has been plucked out of Blade 2. Here Beth encounters a pregnant Neolutionist who seems to know something about the victim but her boyfriend stops her from talking. The club is owned by a familiar face with a familiar tail, Olivier Duval. Duval reports Beth’s presence to Dr Aldous Leekie, the father of Neolutionism and a key player in the clone conspiracy, but Leekie soon receives a visit of his own from Beth.
Beth’s conversation with Leekie turns out to be a dead end, but it’s always good to see Matt Frewer so I’m glad for the cameo. We also get brief cameos from Cosima and Alison, where we discover that Alison has been sending Beth samples of her daughter’s urine so that she can cheat her drug tests. Beth’s pill use is a serious issue and it is starting to affect her work, she finds herself pulled from the case and facing suspension after her Captain becomes suspicious of her behaviour. Beth becomes increasingly more paranoid as her world begins to collapse. She quite rightly suspects her boyfriend, Paul of being involved in the conspiracy and she steals surveillance equipment from the station to spy on him.
The knowledge of her own creation is tearing Beth apart and despite her mistrust she still tries to seduce Paul, desperate to feel any kind of normality. However she is repulsed by his lies and ends up running to Art, his affection feels real and they end up spending the night together. Beth is woken up by a call from the pregnant Neolutionist who says that her boyfriend has been taken by the EMTs that killed the first victim. Beth manages to track them down to an abandoned building where she witnesses the EMTs and a member of her own police squad kill the Neolutionist, removing one of the worms from the season 3 finale from his cheek. Shocked, Beth flees the scene but in her panicked state she accidently shoots and kills a civilian.
Beth calls Art, who helps her to stage the crime scene to protect her innocence. Beth’s world is crumbling; not only must she question everything she believes, she now finds herself alone and with the blood of an innocent woman on her hands. She goes to Mika who promises to look after her but it is too late, in a few days Beth will throw herself in front of a train while Sarah Manning watches on. This is where we leave Beth in the past and return to Sarah in the present as she is woken up by a call from Art who has been contacted by Mika. Sarah has never met Mika, but the hacker seems to know her. Mika warns her that ‘they’ know where she is and that they are coming for Kendall Malone, now. And so the scene is set for another brilliant season of Orphan Black.
This was a strong season premiere for a show that almost lost its way last season with the introduction of the male clones. This episode felt as if everything was being stripped back to basics, whilst also giving new and returning viewers a refresher on the lore of Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany continues to do an incredible job of making each clone feel totally unique, it’s ludicrous that she has yet to win any major awards for her work. The cameos from Alison, Cosima, Felix and Dr Leekie were fun, but it was nice to finally spend some quality time with Beth. But now we must look forwards to what appears to be a four way battle between Castor, Leda, the Neolutionists and our clones. Could the answers finally be in sight for Sarah and her sisters? We will soon find out.