Warning: This reap of the “Let the Children & the Childbearers Toil” episode of Orphan Black contains spoilers.
After last week’s turn into Alison and Donnie’s suburban cul-de-sac, complete with highland dancing, Orphan Black got back on the main artery of its conspiracy-centric narrative in “Let the Children & the Childbearers Toil.” And while it was an eventful episode in terms of incident, there was also a slight lack of forward momentum for the characters or overarching story in this hour. With the series finale a mere six episodes away, it feels a little late in the game for another table-setting installment.
To be sure, certain places still had to be set for the final meal to fully satisfy. Left hanging from last season, for example, was the fate of Susan Duncan, the Leda matriarch who raised Rachel as her own child…until the daughter overthrew the mother in violent fashion. Even though Rachel has usurped Susan’s authority, the older woman’s life has been spared. Why? “Because I need you,” says P.T. Westmoreland, who is there to greet her when she wakes up.
It’s true: even though Rachel is a ruthlessly efficient at the business of Neolution, Susan is still one of the movement’s top scientists. And she drives a hard bargain if she’s going to stick around: real-time, exclusive access to all of the newly discovered intel from Rachel’s experiments on Kira. “But Rachel has the reins,” Westmoreland cautions, to which his past and present partner pointedly offers no reply. How much do you want to bet Susan’s already planning how to grab those reins back?
Another important detail gleaned from “Let the Children” are the current whereabouts of Virginia Coady, the scientist heading up the Castor cell of Neolution’s cloning program. She’s been MIA since the events of Season 3, but acting on intel from Mrs. S’s secret collaborator, Delphine, Siobhan and Sarah trace Coady to a hospital outside of Toronto acting as a “Dr. Perkins” and her hapless assistant respectively. There, they discover Virginia in a Susan-ordered drug-induced stupor, and wake her up with the aid of a stimulant-filled syringe.
It goes without saying that their ruse is discovered, but not before they slip Coady a means of possible escape (Sarah’s visitor’s pass) and acquire another important piece of information: before Leda and Castor, there was another attempt to master the human genome. The results of that failed experiment is the “creature” that Sarah previously stumbled upon when she was going all John Rambo in the Neolution Island wilderness. Thanks to Cosima, we catch our first clear glimpse of this missing link in Neolution’s chain, and it turns out to be a feral man-beast who, it must be said, is ever so slightly reminiscent of Sloth from The Goonies.
So yes, “Let the Children” did put snap some crucial pieces of the Orphan Black puzzle into place. Compared to the beautifully constructed character-based episode that preceded it, though, it sometimes felt as though the plotting of this hour was designed to accommodate those pieces, rather than integrating them into a strong central storyline. That said, it’s been ages since we’ve seen the bond between Sarah and Mrs. S depicted as strongly as it is here. Lord knows Siobhan has had to put up with a lot of her foster daughter’s drama over the years, and she’s arguably been more of a mother to Kira than Sarah.
But there’s also a genuine love there, and it’s spotlighted in their mission to find Virginia, which requires them to play out one of the con games Mrs. S undoubtedly taught a young Sarah. (Not coincidentally, the theme of motherhood is found elsewhere in the episode, whether it’s Susan nursing her fury at her own adopted daughter’s betrayal or Sarah trying to connect with Kira, who appears increasingly enamored with Rachel.) The scenes between Sarah and Siobhan are ultimately the most resonant parts of this episode, much more so than cloned man-beasts in the woods or institutionalized scientists.
Read on for our clone power rankings, which — with the absence of Alison and Rachel this week — are short and sweet.
While this episode leaned very heavily on the mother/daughter theme, Sarah’s extended visit with Helena provided a welcome dose of sisterhood. We’ve rarely seen these particular siblings be this kind and gentle with each other, from Helena offering Sarah some advice about living with a daughter who cuts herself (although, in Kira’s defense, her skin does grow back) to Sarah apologizing to Helena for avoiding her. And with Helena still off the grid in her convent hideaway, she’s actually been able to write her “memories.” If only all the clones could enjoy such quality time with their thoughts.
She may struggle to communicate with Kira, but Sarah is still aces at running a con game. Serving as Mrs. S’s right hand woman restores some of her swagger, and gets her focused for the next stage of the fight ahead.
Now that Cosima has laid eyes on her long-lost “brother,” how will she attempt to bring him into the family fold? Well, if we remember The Goonies correctly, Chunk won Sloth over with a Baby Ruth bar. Maybe Cosima could rustle up a Snickers or two?
Non-Clone MVP: Mrs. S
As usual, mother knows best. Realizing that a short con is exactly what Sarah needs to get her head back in the game, Siobhan orchestrates an Ocean’s Eleven-style mission for her daughter that involves disguises, theft and fake identities. We could all use a mom like Siobhan Sadler.
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America
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