Orphan Black S04E03 “The Stigmata Of Progress” REVIEW

Orphan Black S04E03 “The Stigmata Of Progress” REVIEW

Rachel's bionic eye

stars 3

Airing in the UK on Netflix, Fridays

Written by: Aubrey Nealon
Director: Ken Girotti


Essential Plot Points:

  • Rachel is holed up in a bunker somewhere with a Castor clone named Ira. She’s apparently been there for six weeks now. While having her bionic eye checked, she tells him how much she wants to see Susan Duncan (her mum) again. Little Charlotte is there too, being mildly creepy.
  • A panicked Sarah gets her maggot-bot checked out by Cosima, who has absolutely no idea what it is. Her best guess is that it’s some sort of biometric data collection device.
  • After hearing about the maggot-bot, and that members of Neolution had them implanted in their cheeks, Alison and Donnie realise they should dig up the corpse of Aldous Leekie in their garage to see if he had one. If so, it could help Sarah.

Felix and his sister

  • Sarah goes to fill Felix in on the creepy worm news, but he’s otherwise engaged – bonding with his drug-addled new American birth sister.
  • After Felix tells her to piss off, Sarah tracks down Dizzy – the guy who showed her the video in the previous episode. He says the poor sap whose head exploded was named Alonso Martinez.
  • Susan Duncan arrives and tells Rachel that Charlotte was cloned from her; it took 400 goes. Rachel tells her mum to leave, as she’s furious with her for the way she has been treated.
  • Art offers to help Sarah find Alonso after she tells him. “I’m too scared to even brush my teeth!”
  • The police turn up at Alison’s to quiz her about the drug dealers Helena killed a few weeks back. Taken by surprise, Helena pretends to be Alison. Meanwhile, the real Alison is freaking out because she and Donnie have just dug up the corpse in their garage. AWKWARD.
  • Kira has a creepy moment (what is it with creepy kids on this show?). She tells Cosima: “I was dreaming. All the aunties were there. You set mom on fire…. You had to. She was changing.”
  • When the cops have gone, Alison and Donnie find a weird pustule in the cheek of the corpse, and realise they need Cosima to come and extract the maggot-bot from it. Which means telling Cosima they killed Aldous Leekie. She’s a bit shocked, to say the least.
  • Art deduces that Alonso went to a dental clinic to try to get the maggot-bot removed. Sarah investigates, discovering a nurse there who thinks she’s Beth. She says she can help her remove the worm.

Sarah and dental torture

  • Unfortunately, the nurse immobilises Sarah and then tells her she’s contacted her superiors. Sarah is screwed. Or is she?
  • Ferdinand suddenly appears, kills the nurse and tells Sarah that Rachel got a message to him earlier that day, saying that Susan Duncan is still alive.
  • Susan, trying to placate Rachel, visits her to tell her how special she is, and how all her suffering has been for the greater good. When Rachel asks what that is, Susan replies: “To control human evolution, darling. To create a more perfect human being.”



There’s some Serious Shit going down this week. First, Felix telling Sarah to piss off is horrible to watch. Much as we love him – and can make allowances for the fact he’s high – that’s still a dickish thing to do. His birth sister is entertaining, sure, but she’s no Sarah. Then there are the scenes with Rachel, which are slow and painful to watch – her existence is not a pleasurable one at the moment. Even little Charlotte is coughing up blood, poor weird kid. Fellow weird kid Kira isn’t happy, either; first having a tantrum while playing a game in the comic store (will it ever have a customer? Don’t comics sell in Canada?) and then having a waking vision about her mum being attacked by Cosima because she’s “changing”. That sounds just peachy, doesn’t it? How can Kira keep seeing the future like this? It seems as though she really is the next step in human evolution, Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End-style.

And then there’s poor Sarah, terrified about the thing in her cheek, unable to sleep and running on empty, watching videos of Beth and crying over them, and then realising that the maggot-bot might be in her cheek for its “proximity to the brain”. Does this mean it’s a form of mind control? Add this to a horribly uncomfortable-looking trip to the dentist and she wins for “worst day” in this episode.

_We killed Leekie!_

Thankfully, despite the heavy and serious subjects covered this week, we have the box of delights that is the Hendrix household to offset it. Helena pretending to be Alison is priceless: “I will kindly offer to take your coats,” she says to the detectives, while earlier Donnie told her: “Just… gestate and watch the kids.” The Skype call where they break the news about killing Leekie to Cosima is a blast. And even watching Donnie squirm and puke while digging up the corpse is entertaining – kudos to Kristian Bruun for his comedy chops.

Overall, then, there’s a real sense this week that the Kids Aren’t Alright, and it’ll be fascinating to find out what happens next with them. Our only concern is how much Felix is being sidelined: hopefully there’ll be a nice, meaty subplot for him soon that won’t keep him separated from his adopted family.


The Good:

  • All the best lines might be Donnie’s this week (“Now go rent a jackhammer,” Alison instructs him; “Maybe we should just buy one,” he grumbles), but Alison still comes out with this cracker about Cosima: “She’s a scientist and a lesbian! She’s not going to let it slide!” We’re not quite sure why “being a lesbian” makes someone more determined to let a murder go uninvestigated, but that’s Alison-logic for you.

Helena making a mess

  • It’s fun to see Helena raiding a fridge for every kind of gross food a pregnant woman with no table manners would eat. And then we see the detritus left behind afterwards, as she babysits the kids. What a mess!


The Bad:

  • When is Sarah going to learn that going off to investigate things on her own is a terrible idea? This has to be the hundredth time she’s gone off without back-up and then gotten into trouble. Learn from your mistakes, woman!
  • Hmm, surely the return of Ferdinand would have been more impactful if we hadn’t seen him meet with Mrs S just before he rescues Sarah? Talk about ruining the surprise! And that scene is utterly pointless anyway; he offers to help, doesn’t say what he wants, and that’s it.
  • Additionally, the final “cliffhanger”, with Susan revealing that they’re trying to change evolution, doesn’t pack any wallop whatsoever because if you haven’t figured that out by now, you probably shouldn’t be watching. Why else create all the clones and call an organisation “Neolution” unless you’re – gasp! – trying to meddle with evolution?


The Random:

Wednesday Addams_

  • Are the showrunners deliberately dressing Charlotte like Wednesday Addams?
  • Best Quote: Donnie, about Leekie’s corpse: “It smells like hot garbage juice!”

Reviewed by Jayne Nelson

Read our other reviews of Orphan Black




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