The Final Trip: Orphan Black 5.03: “Beneath Her Heart”

One of the interesting things about Orphan Black is how, depending on the episode you catch, it can sometimes feel like this weird suburban murder-mystery comedy. That’s what you get when there’s an Alison Hendrix episode, and througout the series, it’s been cited as a criticism, however slight. At worst, Alison’s episodes have been a distraction from the larger mysteries of the show; at best, they’ve provided some much-needed levity to an otherwise very serious and fast-paced story. The trick, I believe, is where Alison’s episodes fit in when it comes to scene and sequence: do they interrupt an otherwise very tense plot, or do they provide a necessary reprieve after a specifically intense arc?

“Beneath Her Heart,” if you haven’t guessed, was a Hendrix-centric episode, and trust me when I say, not only does it give the viewers a chance to breathe after the shock of “Clutch of Greed,” but it also moves the story forward in an interesting and important way, while providing growth for one of my favorite clones.

Welcome back to the Final Trip, folks. As always, this is not a recap but rather a reaction, and yes, there will be spoilers for the entire show up to “Beneath Her Heart.” If you aren’t caught up yet, just bookmark this page and come back when you’re ready.

Now, if you’re ready, let’s discuss “Beneath Her Heart.”

I just want to say what an absolutely beautiful episode this was. Final seasons can do a lot of callbacks, and while season four certainly did that for Sarah and Beth, I feel like the writers went above and beyond with Alison. Not only did we get a very meaningful flashback to Alison’s life before she thought Aynsley and Donnie were her monitors, but it was also just after she met Beth and was trying to come to grips with the fact that her life was on the precipice of change and she just wasn’t ready.

“Beneath Her Heart” was all about Alison’s journey since season one. Her residual guilt for murdering her innocent best friend. Her ongoing struggle with alcohol, prescription pills, and illegal drugs. And let’s not forget the ongoing battle with her community, who deems it fit to shun her at every opportunity. There were a lot of callbacks:

  • Alison smoking weed in a van (oh thank goodness that didn’t lead to sex again; pretty sure Ramone has a crush on Mrs. Hendrix!)
  • An on-stage, drug-fueled fall (this time, it was poor Donnie, and he had no idea he’d drunk drugged iced tea)

  • Alison getting to tell off her community and throwing their own sins back in their faces while embracing her own.

All of this was utterly satisfying, and this emotional journey was sparked by Neolution, via Rachel, putting pressure on the family to reveal Helena’s location. The running theme through the episode was focusing on Alison’s value, and the threat from the start was chilling when they told her that M.K. had more value than Alison. Fast-forward to the end of the episode, when Donnie’s puking his guts into a bucket in front of a disgusted Felix and a resigned Alison, and they learn that he does, indeed, know Helena’s location. This is when we see Alison finally figure something out, and we get a scene that I can’t believe we haven’t gotten till now.

Alison goes toe-to-toe with Rachel.

I’ve always felt that some clones felt more similar to each other: season four reminded us that Beth and Sarah had more in common than we realized, and I’ve always felt that Alison and Rachel had a certain kind of kinship. These are two women who are always so well put-together, women who expect things to go a certain way, and when things don’t go their way, they’ll do whatever it takes to get what they want. The difference is that Rachel and Alison operate in completely different playing fields, and it wasn’t until now that I realized there’s never been a reason for Rachel to meet Alison.

So this meeting was fantastic. Rachel obviously disdains her, and Alison obviously knows it. But she plays her trump card and lays everything out on the table and dares Rachel to arrest them. And Rachel, knowing that the arrest would come back on Dyad, on Neolution, and therefore on herself, backs off.

That’s right, folks: the first win this season against Rachel Duncan is scored by Alison Hendrix, and it’s freaking awesome.

And the coda on that meeting? Rachel says to Alison, “I should like to put my hands around your neck and squeeze.”

Alison’s reply? “Then we’re not so different, you and I.” And then she turns around and walks away.

The episode’s arc doesn’t end there. Alison’s found a measure of peace, but as she’s cuddling with Donnie, sweater-vested coffee mugs in hand (!!!!) , she reveals she’s going away for a while, to figure out who she is outside of all this crazy clone conspiracy stuff. It’s a sweet and emotional moment, one that made me wonder if this is goodbye for Alison. Seven episodes are left, so I hope not, but with the police no longer allowed to squeeze the Hendrix family for information, their current arc is over, so this may be an easy and organic way to sideline the character. I suspect and hope we’ll see Alison return before the finale airs, but in the meantime, this might be my favorite Alison episode of all time.

And now, some soundbites:

  • I love that when Donnie calls Sarah and Felix for help, the first thing he wants to know is if she’s relapsed, and he’s immediately off to help. Felix and Alison have always had a special relationship, and I love that this is something he’s supporting her on.
  • I also loved that when Mrs. S told Sarah to stay put and told Felix to babysit her, Felix’s solution was to paint her. Sarah moaned and groaned about Felix doing it in the nude, and he’s all like, “It’s my process, so deal.”
  • Donnie highland dancing. DONNIE HIGHLAND DANCING.

  • How fitting is it the first time that Alison met Cosima, Alison was freaking high on mushrooms?
  • How tense were those moments in the garage? I thought Engers was done for the deeper that hole got, especially when Art pulled that gun on her. As much as I hate that character, I’m glad she didn’t go down that way. It would’ve been harder to cover it up.
  • Oh, Kira…. I get icing your mom (and how illogical is it that after shunning her that morning, Kira asked Mrs. S why Sarah wasn’t home yet that evening?), and I even get not talking about how the meetings with Rachel are going. But do you really believe testing that mouse’s regenerative properties won’t hurt? Your accident hurt, Kira!!!!

  • Orphan Black does know how to acknowledge their losses, and I really appreciated the send off they gave to M.K. in this episode. It was fitting, and I loved seeing the gang get a chance to mourn her.
  • Speaking of send-offs, how sweet was that moment of Donnie and Alison singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with the mandolin? They’ve come SUCH a long way since season one, and I love those two as a couple. It was such a fantastic scene, and the perfect cap to a wonderful episode. Bonus fun: if you watched through the credits, the duet continued!

So did you love “Beneath Her Heart” as much as I did? And are you ready for tomorrow’s episode, which seems to hint that we’ll be finding Helena and her babies (IN A CONVENT)? Watch “Let the Children and Childbearers Toil” on BBC America on Saturday @ 10:00 pm EST or via your favorite streaming service (me, I’m downloading the episode on iTunes), and then rewatch to your heart’s content so you can join me next Friday, July 7th to chat!

All images courtesy of BBC America.

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