Orphan Black, Black Like My Soul

Bell Media
Bell Media

When I first saw the title of this week’s Orphan Black episode, I immediately knew which Leda clone was going to be centre stage. Mostly because, especially this season, I haven’t been able to decide whether I want to “Gag or Throttle” Rachel! That was, until I watched the episode.

As much as I’ve loved to hate Rachel throughout this show, I have always been fascinated by her. She is such a dark and twisted person, more so than Helena (who is a close second), but unlike Helena who wears her crazy on her sleeve, Rachel is calm and serene and in control on the outside but a hot hot mess underneath.

Rachel is also the epitome of a good villain. It’s not enough to be evil for evil’s sake, at least not for me. I need my villains to have depth, a backstory that examples how they came to be the way they are, and motivations that make sense to them, if no one else. The icing on the cake are villains who keep the viewer uncertain as to whether or not they can be redeemed.

Bell Media
Bell Media

“Gag or Throttle” gave me all this and more! It was a deep dive into Rachel’s psyche, so deep I’ll never see her the same way again. We already knew that Rachel was raised by Dyad to be a good little corporate soldier, but to be confronted with what that actually looked like in this episode really put that part of her past into context. Again, this show knows exactly how and when and where to sprinkle in the flashback scenes! In order to understand what present-day Rachel did when she found out that P.T. Westmorland had installed a camera in her eye socket, to understand why she eventually freed Kira, we had to see Rachel the child anxiously picking her nail beds and reciting her clone ID number by heart. We had to see her dissect her own clone sister Miriam Johnson to prove to Dr. Leekie that she was 100 per cent objective.

Can I make this about me for a minute? As a black woman who up in a predominantly white community, I can relate to the coping strategies Rachel develops growing up in Dyad. I relate to the way she begins to speak and act and look like her oppressors. She is a lab rat and she knows it, despite her Dyad handlers assuring her that she is not, and is desperate for them to see her and treat her as an equal. So Rachel became just as ruthless and cold as the institution into which she was born. Like the Neolutionists, Rachel learned to regard the clones as less than human, even though she is herself a clone, to the point where she passionately defended the continuation of the clone program that had brought so much pain to her and others.

Bell Media
Bell Media

And then along comes P.T. Westmorland to replace the father Rachel lost in Dr. Duncan, and the father she could never find in Dr. Leekie, and he tells her “I consider you a daughter.” P.T. legitimized her, not just as legally emancipated former Dyad property, but as an essential part of his grand plan. He said all the right words and made Rachel believe he had set her free.

And then she realizes that, actually, P.T. doesn’t trust her and still sees her as a test subject. It’s like that was the experiment all along: let’s see how long it takes for the lab rat to realize she’s still in the maze. It’s diabolical and sick and now I want to “Gag or Throttle” P.T. WestFAKERMCFAKELAND!

So what happens now? Has Rachel joined Clone Club? Maybe, maybe not. The wool has definitely been yanked from her eyes — or gouged out of her eye socket as it were! — but she’s still Rachel, and she’s still troubled. I get the feeling that, despite her going to a very dark place this episode, Rachel is not going to just fall on her sword exit stage left. I predict that she is going to bring P.T. and Neolution crashing down or die trying.

 

How do you feel about Rachel after last night’s Orphan Black episode? Talk to us in the comments!

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET on Space Channel and BBC America.

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