In season 3, Felix tells Cosima, “Well, you’re on Planet Allison now.” For him, it’s a throw-away line, but it sums up what it’s like watching Orphan Black. We toggle between different clones’ storylines, each feeling like a separate show–or on a different planet. On Planet Alison, there are suburban problems. Allison feels she must run for school board to keep the proposed changes from pushing her kids into a different school district, and to pay for the campaign, she and Donny take up drug dealing. This leads from unwanted sexual attention from the drug dealer, an old boyfriend of Alison’s. On Planet Cosima, it’s all about Dyad. Cosima’s health still isn’t up to snuff and she doesn’t know who to trust. Where do Delphine’s loyalties lie? What about Rachel, the only person who can translate Duncan’s secret language? How about her new girlfriend, who Felix chose for her off the internet? Planet Helena is located in Mexico, where the Castor Project has her kidnapped. Paul’s there, too, apparently undercover, but likely just a pawn in a one-sided game. Sarah Manning falls into Planet Helena on a rescue mission and discovers the true intent of the Castor Project.
The biggest change this season is, of course, the Castor Project, which means BOY CLONES! I was wary of this, as Orphan Black has been praised for its feminism with realistic, fully developed female characters. Were the boy clones going to over-shadow the girl clones? Actually, no. As people, the boy clones are fairly uninteresting. Even Mark, the one sympathetic Castor boy, is military programmed and not as sympathetic as the Project Leda girls. That said, the other male characters are finally coming into their own this season. About season 2, I said I was disappointed that they’d run out of things for Felix (Jordan Gavaris) to do, so he was just taking up space. This season, he regains his three-dimensionalism with his concerns about stealing the identity of new girl clone Krystal and his self-appointed mission to break into Dyad and interrogate Rachel on the whereabouts of his missing sister. We even go back to base with Sarah-Felix under cover missions. Meanwhile, Donny (Kristian Bruun) and Allison are feeding off each other’s ill-adjusted behavior as they show us that suburban homes are not as perfect and well-balanced as they pretend to be. Even Scott (Josh Vokey) at Dyad gets some solid acting material to work with this season. And in the season finale, Ferdinand (James Frain) gives a glimmer of intrigue as he goes off the rails and claims Sarah as his “new BFF.”
The episode titled “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate” shows us that Orphan Black has not waned two and a half seasons later but in fact has taken mistaken identities, omnidisasters, and the colliding of the “planets” to a whole ‘nother level. Alison is meant to give a speech for her election, but Cosima needs her urine, so she shows up to collect it. However, Alison has just run off because Donny’s being held captive by the drug lord who chopped Vic’s fingers off in season 1. Felix convinces Cosima to give the speech instead. Meanwhile, Alison’s ex boyfriend (Justin Chatwin) is trying to win her (or Cosima) back, and Alison’s mother (Sheila McCarthy) has shown up to show her support. The real kicker is when Allison breaks down and introduces her mom to Cosima, explaining the reason she didn’t come out a blond athlete, as were the genes that she chose for her in vitro, was because she was slipped a Leda clone embryo instead.
As much as Lost is about daddy issues, Orphan Black is about mommy issues. The twins Sarah and Helena are the only fertile clones. Sarah has a daughter and Helena is pregnant. Sarah has an on/off relationship with Siobhan (Maria Doyle Kennedy), her foster mother. We all saw what happened to Sarah and Helena’s birth mother in season 1. Alison has two adopted children and is playing the role of “mother hen” to her community. But Sarah and Alison aren’t the only ones with mothers. Siobhan’s mother creates not only some comic relief but also an invaluable piece of the plot-puzzle and another confusing layer of sister-clones and mother-sisters. On Cosima’s sciencey side, the subtext to the season is “Who is the original DNA from?” which is “Who is the clone mother?”
Finally, we can’t talk about season three without acknowledging the largest character arc, Delphine (Evelyn Brochu). We remember her as a science student and monitor/girlfriend of Cosima in season 1. How did she get to be the new Rachel and has she taken on Rachel’s warped sense of morality? When she threatens to kill Cosima’s new girlfriend, we begin to question, but ultimately, Delphine is forced to make difficult decisions and no longer has the support of the people she cares about, and we can forgive her for that. It is heartbreaking to see her at the mercy of the Neolutionists. Yes, in an almost satirical comment on the genre, there is yet another ruling collective who isn’t Dyad or Topside, the military, or the Proletheans. With Neolutionists, always comes weird shit. This time, there’s wriggly CGI parasitic worms that can be orally ejected at will. Oh boy, I thought we were done with the Neolutionists with the exit of Dr. Leke (Matt Frewer) and that guy with the tail.