‘Orphan Black’ Season 2 Premiere Recap: “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed”

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Orphan Black‘s first and absolutely tremendous season ended with Sarah Manning running so it’s only fitting that the second season premiere opens with her still frantically racing down the street. In last season’s finale, after Sarah turned down Rachel’s offer, her daughter Kira went missing. That’s where “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” picks up: minutes later, with Sarah trying to figure out a way to get her daughter back without sacrificing herself.

The second season doesn’t waste any time catching us up — if you need a refresher, I recommend Caroline Siede’s excellent season one recap — but instead dives right in A phone call with “proclone” Rachel establishes that Rachel’s only going to give back Kira and Mrs. S if Sarah agrees to the proposed deal. The cold open is amazingly action-packed. After a brief moment of quiet with her tea, two strangers come in to the diner — I love how Sarah uses her hood as a shield from everything — and kill the owner before setting their sights on Sarah. A gun-filled chase ensues but Sarah gets away. We get some much-needed comic relief in the club scene with Felix —oh, Felix! I love you! — who sets his aside his fiveway to try and help calm Sarah.

Before that plot continues, it’s time to check in with the other clones. Cosima is getting her blood taken by her monitor-turned-girlfriend Delphine. Did anyone else notice how romantic that room was? No lights, a million lit candles — ah, nothing like drawing blood to set the mood, I suppose.

Then it’s time for my favorite clone and my favorite pairing when Felix makes the trip to the suburbs to talk to Alison. Alison Hendrix is trying her best to keep up appearances but it’s a little tough when Felix comes by, high as hell, and talking too loudly about borrowing a gun. I love the stylish suburban details that Orphan Black sticks to during all of Alison’s scenes. Here, as she talks about clones and guns, Alison puts back the ribbon and easily steers the conversation toward her role in the town play. The suburban duality has been played with before — it’s hard not to be reminded of Weeds during some of Alison’s scenes — but it’s still one of my favorite things about Orphan Black. Alison is a soccer mom with a gun connect; the kid who works at the big box store sells drugs and firearms out of his car trunk. When Alison gets the gun for Felix, she sends it over to his apartment as a lovely flower arrangement, complete with a homemade card.

Here’s a confession: I didn’t watch Orphan Black as it aired last year. I heard all of the great things about it and put it near the top of my “to watch” list but still kept putting it off. I wanted to cheat and wait to watch until it was closer to the second season because I (correctly) assumed that I would love it and that it would end in an excruciating cliffhanger — kudos to those who stuck out the 10-month wait; you’re all stronger than I am. I watched the entire first season in one day, last Saturday, after only planning to watch the pilot. It took about a minute to get me hooked — basically from the second Beth jumps in front of that train — and then it took the introduction of Alison for me to realize what a great, special show that this is (and what a talent Tatiana Maslany is! Holy shit).

Alison quickly became my favorite clone and she I loved the nuances in her character: the strict posture, the nervous way she rubs her fingers under her chin, the perfectly cut bangs and tight smile. She was tightly wound and in danger of unraveling at any moment — an organized unraveling, but an unraveling nonetheless — and Orphan Black kept edging her closer and closer without fully breaking her down. Then came that moment where she watches Aynsley die in the kitchen (I don’t know what I loved more: death by garbage disposal or torture by glue gun) and does nothing to stop it. This horrifying scene, the point of no return for Alison, is why I was so anxious to start the second season — to see how Orphan Black would have Alison deal with her actions.

The temporary answer? Alison throws herself into community theater! Oh, I love this. How do you deal with indirectly causing someone’s death? You join a community production and put everything you have into song and dance (is there anything Maslany can’t do?). Art’s expression while watching this rehearsal is golden, by the way. Oh yeah, Art and Danielle are still unofficially investigating this case (Art’s looking to gain Sarah’s trust).

“Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” is just as packed with action as its title is packed with words. It has a lot of juggling to do with plots and characters (and has to work to keep up the momentum of the much-praised first season) but the episode does an exceptional job keeping all the balls in the air and keeping everything interesting while planting some seeds for this current season. Cosima is still with Delphine, who is still working double-duty, and she’s suffering from the same respiratory disease that the Russian clone had. Alison is headed for a pretty big emotional breakdown and Sarah is headed for a battle with Rachel.

The two already have a pretty badass fight in the premiere after Sarah pretends to be Cosima and sneaks in (side note: how fantastic is Maslany in the one-clone-pretends-to-be-another scenes?). Sarah hissing “You don’t own us” before effectively pistol-whipping Rachel is definitely one way to grab our attention. The big reveal here? Rachel and her crew didn’t take Kira and Mrs. S, meaning Sarah now has to go after the people who did.

And after all that? There’s still a gnarly scene that reveals Helena is still alive. It’s a great end to a great episode — and based on the quality of this hour, it’s going to be a great season.