Since its inception, the primary pleasure of BBC America's Orphan Black has been watching its masterful star Tatiana Maslany at work, playing upwards of a dozen identical-looking but drastically different clones over the course of three seasons. But, while the thrill of watching Maslany's performance has never faded, the sci-fi series has gotten undeniably jumbled in its latter two years as subplot after subplot has piled up into a complicated web of conspiracies, conflicts, and clones. So the trick the Orphan Black Season 4 premiere pulls is a smart one: by rewinding the action, the show has literally gone back to basics, showing viewers what happened before Beth jumped in front of that train way back in the pilot episode.
Almost the entire first hour of the season is an extended flashback, introducing audiences to not just one but two new clones: not only do we meet M.K., the mysterious hacker with a penchant for animal-themed masks, but we actually get to spend some quality time with Beth for the first time in the show's history. It may feel like we knew her, due to the fact that Sarah impersonated her for the majority of the first season, but the truth is we never really did know her — or what drove her to commit suicide.
But "The Collapse Of Nature" took its time establishing Beth as a real person and her psychological state leading up to her decision to step off the platform. When we first see her — woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call from M.K. — she's already a mess, thanks to the knowledge that she's a clone and her boyfriend is a spy. (She's such a mess that she's crushing and snorting pills in the bathroom; pills we later learn she gets from Alison.) And that was before M.K. told her about the grisly crime scene she had discovered, where two EMTs were making out over a dead body they'd just buried.
On this "anonymous tip," Beth and her partner Art dig up a corpse with one white eye, a bifurcated penis… and a missing cheek. This discovery led Beth to Club Neolution, which in turn led her to Aldous Leekie, leader of the Neolutionist movement. (This was way before Leekie was semi-accidentally killed by Donnie, of course.) Eventually her investigation took her to a shadowy back alley where the EMTs were performing a cheek-removal surgery on yet another unsuspecting Neolutionist victim — with the help of a cop from Beth's own department, no less. And inside the man's cheek was the same kind of freaky worm that Dr. Nealon tried to regurgitate into Delphine's mouth in the Season 3 finale.
Freaked out by this gruesome turn of events, Beth ran away into the alley; and when she was startled by a noise behind her, she turned and fired her gun, hitting — you guessed it — Maggie Chen. So she called Art (who she had just hooked up with after a fight with Paul) and he helped her stage the scene so that Beth could claim she'd though Maggie's cell phone had been a gun. And with that, the final moments of the premiere shifted back to the present time, as M.K. placed another panicked phone call to another clone… but this time it was Sarah on the receiving end of that call, not Beth.
While the flashback didn't actually revisit Beth's suicide-by-train, it's not hard to draw a straight line from the events of this episode to that fateful decision. I think that finding out you were a clone, learning that your loving boyfriend had been spying on you for your entire relationship, getting hooked on drugs, and then shooting an innocent woman would push pretty much anyone to the edge. We may not have seen Beth take the plunge, but we didn't need to — she was already teetering right there on the edge.
Images: Ken Woroner/BBC America; Giphy