And now time to catch up with Orphan Black by dropping in on…Beth Childs? Yes, with the Neolution storyline from last season, Orphan Black heads back prior to the series’ premiere and gives us some time with the troubled life of Beth Childs and her introduction to Neolution. This is “The Collapse of Nature.”
The season begins with a masked woman watching two people bury a body in the woods. The woman makes a noise that alerts the attention of the two men, so she places a sticker on the tree and retreats.
Meanwhile, to my surprise, we cut not to Sarah, but Beth Childs, as she receives a call from the woman. She tells Beth that she saw the ‘cheek choppers’ and advises her to follow the incoming coordinates. Beth doesn’t tell Paul about her call. Instead, after receiving the coordinates on her phone, she goes through her medicine cabinet so she can get pills to snort a few lines. A quick fix, you know.
Beth then heads off to follow up on a tip from a source, turning down an offer of food in the process. She then calls the masked figure, another clone played by Maslany, to let her know that she’s on her way.
Beth finds the sticker as she and Art investigate the crime scene. Janis examine the body and finds a portion of its cheek carved off, an interesting set of eyes, and a surgically bifurcated penis. Sounds like a simple body modification case, but the cheek was skillfully removed and there are signs of both a struggle and footprints.
After Beth snaps a quick photo on her phone, she heads to her car, where she gets a call from Cosima, who is in the middle of changing schools. Beth is confident that Alison will pay, but for now, Cosima is homeless and split up with her girlfriend, so now she’s just the lesbian in the U-Haul. Also, Cosima wants answers, as Beth is apparently keeping a shitload from the others.
Later, at the diner, Art and Beth talk. Since Beth was there for him during his divorce, Art tries to get her to open up, but she doesn’t want him taking on her shit relationship. At least, not yet. He then switches to her habit of popping pills, saying that the other officers have their eye on her. Beth accepts that she’s a shit cop, but Art counters that she just had a rough few months.
After a brief visit from Angela, who asks about the crime scene and Beth’s current state, we cut to the station where we get a brief appearance by Felix, who is being brought in on charges of solicitation and possession. But this isn’t relevant to the episode. Beth asks Raj for a favor regarding Paul: she thinks that he’s cheating on her and wants surveillance equipment to prove it.
Beth then tells a curious Lieutenant Hardcastle that she learned about the body from an anonymous tip to her work cell phone. He’ll follow up on that. She plans to shake up some sources to see if it’s anybody she knows. Art also confirms that Beth is attending her meetings. Sure.
Beth heads to a lot and enters a trailer, where she meets with the clone from the beginning of the episode, M.K. However, not only is M.K. not present, she opts to talk via computer and masked before Beth asks her to remove it. M.K. is disappointed that Beth drove instead of coming by foot, as instructed. M.K. tells Beth that she saw Neolution.
M.K. continues by talking about a guy she met online- screenname Basspair86- and how Neolution plants ideas in people’s heads so others can experiment on them. Beth promises that she hasn’t told the others about her, but M.K. is trying to cover her tracks. She’s only alive because people think she’s dead.
However, Beth has told the others about who and what they are. They deserve to know that much. M.K., the paranoid type, has done her homework and believes that Neos are everywhere. One is in Beth’s bed, the station, and could even be her partner. M.K. describes the two people who killed her friend- a Black woman and White male- and tells Beth since it’s getting harder for them to hide, she should start at Club Neolution.
On the phone, Art gets the victim’s name: Edward Capra. Beth wants Raj to check the body-mod forums, but she doesn’t tell Art how she knows Capra’s screen name. She heads to Club Neolution, where she wants to have her breasts surgically modified into corkscrews. Unfortunately, the club is members only until Beth reveals that she’s a cop. The bouncer alerts Olivier, who is in the middle of having his tail worked.
Beth speaks with a small group about implants and alterations- there’s a distinction- and asks about magnets implanted in fingers. The woman talking to her, Trina, played by Allie MacDonald, says that a lot of things are implanted in lots of places.
Neolution, she says, is just an ethos about creating yourself. An individual, evolutionary choice. Trina’s boyfriend, Aaron, played by Jade Hassoune, denies knowing Capra, but then Beth shows the photo of the body. She gives them her card and tells them to get in touch if they have any information.
Following this visit, Beth calls Alison, who is having more fun than anyone should be allowed to have with an unassembled gun. Instead of doing the delivery herself, Alison has Ramon bring some flowers and a container to Beth. Alison promises not to use the gun and that she will put Cosima’s tuition and airfare into her account this afternoon.
Then, Dr. Leekie and Olivier talk having Paul take Beth on a holiday, even though their relationship is disintegrating. Since Paul’s influence is waning, there’s the possibility that Beth might need a new monitor. This talk is cut short when Beth herself visits Dr. Leekie to have her book signed. He obliges, but then she asks about Edward Capra and whether he and his followers wear a single white contact lens.
Leekie isn’t familiar with Capra, but he tells Beth that Neolution is an open-source concept that embraces the fringes. While Beth believes that his book inspires people to play God and experiment on themselves, Leekie counters that every scientific discovery in history, even God, began with tinkering in the basement.
Leekie has no explanation as to how and why Capra would have his cheek cut out post-morten. Beth is then introduced to Evie Cho, played by Jessalyn Wanlim, who recognizes Beth as a LEDA clone.
Back at the station, Hardcastle tells Beth that he got the trace from her tip: the number was activated and only used once- a burner. It could be random, but either way, Hardcastle takes her off the case. Hardcastle is called away by Detective Duko, played by Gord Rand, and Beth is goes to take her drug test. Turns out the bottle that Alison gave her is urine from her daughter, so Beth uses that to fill the cup.
It’s worth noting that Art briefly mentions a fugitive foreign national by the name of Xan Yip, a 46-year-old female, but Beth decides to pass on that.
Raj, meanwhile, comes through with Beth’s surveillance equipment that she later sets up all over the studio. Later that evening, Beth snorts up again just before Paul walks in for a classy dinner. Beth hasn’t had a good day, though. Paul suggests the two go on holiday, but Beth would rather drink and screw for two months.
Beth reminds Paul that she can’t breed, but she’d prefer a lover who can look her in the eyes. That, Paul cannot do right now. Beth puts the moves on Paul and begs him to kiss her, but he insists that she stop. He recognizes her paranoia and ends the moment. Beth calls Paul hollow and is certain that he won’t protect her. Paul doesn’t deny that.
So Paul wants to know what Beth wants. Does she want an end to the relationship? He says that everything they has is all for her. If she wants it to end, just say the word. But Beth wants him to end it, so this was just an argument. Oh, and Beth hides her gun.
She then visits Art as he and his daughter, Maya, are in the middle of watching television. Beth wants to join, but Art sends Maya to bed. As Beth rests on the couch, she asks Art to look into her eyes and see her. The two embrace each other until Beth goes in for the kiss. At first, Art breaks it off, but he soon gives in.
That night, Beth receives a call from Trina from Club Neolution, which is in the middle of hosting a party. Trina is worried about Aaron, who left to meet a pair hardcore Neos that she describes as a Black woman and a White man.
As Beth heads to Aaron’s lab, Trina tells her that Aaron is having something implanted in his cheek. She heads to the location to check it out, following Trina’s directions, until she ends the call so she can investigate. She soon finds Aaron and the two people placing him on an operating table. As the two prepare to star the procedure, Beth spots Detective Duko, so she doesn’t enter.
Instead, she listens to the three talk as the two Neos carve off Aaron’s right cheek. They then cut out a specific segment and this freaks Beth out to the point that, in typical television fashion, she bumps into something and gives away her position. She retreats, but upon hearing a noise behind her, she turns around and fires at a woman behind her. Immediately aware of her error, Beth can do nothing but watch as the woman slowly dies.
Beth then calls Art to tell her that she messed up something bad. At the crime scene, Art identifies the victim as Margaret Chen. He helps Beth get her story straight so it will appear that she acted in self-defense. Hardcastle tells Beth that she’ll be giving her statement to Internal Affairs at the station. He then introduces her to Detective Duko, who is with the union.
Later, with nowhere else to go, Beth has an in-person talk with M.K. With Duko working at the station, Beth has no idea who to trust. Hell, she doesn’t get how M.K. lives like this. M.K. is unaware what’s pulled out of the victim’s faces. Beth is worried about losing her badge and regrets endangering Cosima and Alison. With her life in disarray, she’s unsure what to do.
We then cut to the present as Sarah gets a call from Art, who tells her that she needs to talk to someone. He hands the phone over to M.K., who tells Sarah that she needs to run because Neolution knows where she is and is coming for Kendall Malone.
Interesting approach for the premiere. Because of everything we got at the end of Season Three, my first guess coming into this premiere was that we’d jump right back into that. If you told me that we’d spend a good chunk of the episode in a pre-Season One Orphan Black world, I’d find that an odd move, but by the end, I really enjoyed “The Collapse of Nature.”
When done right and without too much pandering, I like when shows and movies go back to earlier moments in their history to fill in the gaps. And since I’m still a relative newcomer to this show, it was a change of pace to explore Beth’s life prior to her suicide and Sarah entering the picture. We saw how broken she’d become and the toll that the job, her personal life, and the clones had taken on her.
Now on the negative side, while it’s nice to see Alison and Cosima’s relationship with Beth, a more business-like bond than the one with Sarah, these moments didn’t really add much to the episode. Sure, Alison was needed to help Beth pass her drug test, but we didn’t really need to see her. Same goes with Cosima, as we just learn that, as usual, university life is stressful and she’s got relationship woes.
And while Olivier’s appearance was minimal enough for me to not mind, the most blatant inclusion was Felix. Jordan Gavaris is as funny as always, but Felix being here made even less sense than Cosima and Alison other than just to have him at the station at the same time as Beth. At the very least, Paul being here felt necessary in order to show the deteriorating relationship between him and Beth.
As far as Beth goes, I’m now surprised that people didn’t figure out that Sarah was impersonating her back in Season One, given the differences between the two of them. Beth here looks tired, frustrated, she’s using drugs, her life is in ruin and now she accidentally took a human life. We don’t see what ultimately drives her to the train station, we get enough to understand why she was so defeated.
Plus, having Dr. Leekie and Neolution do help bridge the gap between this premiere and the Season Three finale. There’s no DYAD or Proletheans- it’s just Clone Club dealing with, right now, one larger mystery. I had no major problem with the subplots of the other seasons, but trimming back the story and connecting it to Beth’s life is a nice change of pace.
Before Paul appeared on-screen, I at first thought that Sarah had just assumed Beth’s identity again before realizing that this was a prequel to the series premiere. Given how the episode ended, I would guess that we’ll spend the rest of the time in the present, but I think, without any blatant shoehorning, this season could spend a bit more time with Beth. Maybe not dual storylines, but the occasional flashback.
It also raises some interesting questions that I hope we get answers to as the season progresses. Just how much did Beth know about the other clones? What led her to fill them in, knowing it was a risky decision? What has M.K. been up to between Beth’s suicide and now? How involved is Detective Duko with Neolution and did Beth ever tell Art about Duko? And what does this all mean for Sarah?
“The Collapse of Nature” is a good start to Season Four and nice way to tie us back to Beth’s troubled life before Season One. It didn’t all work, but it deepened the mystery on Neolution and fleshed out Beth’s character as we saw her at a low point.
Granted, the present storyline only factors in at the end, but what we’re given helps to fill out Beth’s backstory. Rather than multiple plots, it simplified things and put the focus back on the clones.