Orphan Black took a risk in its sixth episode of the season, taking a relative breather to draw a long-deceased clone back into the fold: Beth Childs. No, we’re not getting Zombie!Beth, but rather a version of the deceased clone in Sarah’s fever-induced hallucinations. This Beth appearance could have been an awkward, convoluted plot device, but it was actually pretty awesome. We never really had a chance to get to know Beth. She jumped in front of a train in the opening scene of the series. However, she has been an integral part of the story, a presence shaped by her abrupt absence and in the thoughts of the people she left behind.
For Art, she was the partner he loved and the reason he stays so committed to helping Sarah and the other clones. For Cosima and Alison, she was a sister and friend. For Sarah, she was the first step to Sarah figuring out who she is and starting to face that, rather than run away from it. For the show, she was the mystery who propelled this entire plot into the overdrive state it has remained in since its opening moments. She is the inciting incident and a character I didn’t even realize I wanted to reflect upon until Orphan Black gave us that opportunity.
In so many ways, this episode belonged to Paul, which is why the focus on Beth made so much sense — especially in retrospective after knowing Paul’s fate. For Paul, Beth was the person he carried with him for the ways in which he failed her. Though Paul has never been my favorite character, I was so into this episode’s exploration of him because it gave us this larger rumination on the beginnings of this mess. Paul was one of those characters who did more with his death episode than he ever could have done continuing on this show. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he has been one of the weakest characters in this admittedly ridiculously strong ensemble (that mainly consists of characters played by Tatiana Maslany). That was why I was so shocked when his death hit so hard. I wasn’t devastated to see him go, but Hot Paul was given something in his death that he never had as a living, breathing character: clarity.
From the beginning, Sarah has never really known where Paul’s loyalties lie — and neither have we. (Frankly, I’m not even sure Paul entirely knew where Paul’s loyalties lay.) In his final actions, Paul is a hero. He saves Sarah. He tries to stop the illegal experiments Dr. Coady is conducting. He destroys research that could help Dr. Coady (and some shady government fellow) create a weapon. Oh, and he professes his love for Sarah. For a show that sometimes kills off characters with an awkward, accidental gunshot to the head by a bumbling Donnie, this is quite the heroic goodbye. Good for you, Hot Paul. (Also, the actor is going to be on Heroes: Reborn, so he will be OK.)
Paul’s death is also a defining moment for Dr. Coady’s character. She has been another ambiguous character in a sea of ambiguous characters. In the last few episodes, we’ve gotten some major answers about how far she will go for science — and the answer is way too far. Way too far. She will perform experiments on the men she calls her sons. She will conduct secret human trials that result in the sterilization of girls who have no idea what they are signing up for — that is when they are actually “signing up” in that they actually agree to have sex with one of the Castor clones. As we know from Rudy’s exploits, the sex is not always consensual, adding an even grosser level to an already gross experiment. Dr. Coady seems to be trying to create some kind of weapon using the Castor clones’ sexually-transmitted illness as the source. Her theory? We could end wars by sterilizing the female half of the enemy population and killing the brains of the male half of the enemy population. This is a horrific aim, made even more horrific by the manner in which Dr. Coady is going about developing this weapon. One also has to wonder how much she even cares about curing the Castor clones or if that is just a cover to get their cooperation. Is this all about creating a weapon or does she also care about what happens to her boys? Based on the way in which she sawed open Parson’s skull, I have my doubts about her commitment to these men — another way in which her loyalty to this project differed from Paul’s misguided, but somewhat noble motivations.