LezWatch With No Context – Orphan Black

Orphan Black - No Context Header

Watching a TV series with me can be difficult at times because I tend to overanalyze. I enjoy pointing out ridiculous things people do (like put absurd amounts of butter on toast), but some folks can find it frustrating if I predict the real bad guy or a major plot twist.

The LezWatch staff fully embraces my overthinking ways (thanks, friends!) and thought it might be fun to see how I process one or two episodes of a popular TV series that I haven’t watched yet. I provided the team with a list of seventy, yes that’s 70, popular shows that I have not seen a single episode of. They in turn provided a list of which episodes to watch. I will watch them with no context and document my overthinking journey.

I’ll be starting with one of the shows we love, Orphan Black.

Warning: This post contains spoilers and show theories!

Orphan Black

There is a major shipping division between Nikki (Cophine) and Tracy (Shaysima) that I don’t fully understand, but it amuses me greatly. Rather than focusing on a couple of queer centric episodes for the series I asked each of them to provide a maximum of three episodes to support their ship. This could be in defensive of their ship or flat out attacking the other. The end goal; to see who I choose as my primary ship using the evidence provided. They selected the following:

  • Season 2, Episode 2 “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion”
  • Season 3, Episode 1 “The Weight of this Combination”
  • Season 3, Episode 6 “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”
  • Season 3, Episode 7 “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”
  • Season 3, Episode 8 “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method”
  • Season 3, Episode 10 “History Yet to be Written”

Before Viewing “Knowledge”

The show involves a lot science and is basically Tatiana Maslany doing a Master Class for acting. Maslany plays a number of characters and sometimes those characters pretend to be each other to evade bad guys or break-in to places. All of Maslany’s characters are clones created by a mysterious, evil science company. I think one of the clones has a baby and Patriarchy Laboratories Inc is mega interested in stealing that kid.

Character GuessPre-Viewing AssumptionActual NamePost-Viewing Comments
CosimaScience queer clone with cool hair and a bad lungCosimaNever caught her last name. She is indeed a very cool science queer, but is she also extremely full of DRAMA.
KrystalUppity house-wife cloneKrystal GoderichShe is a delight
Svetlana or HelenaAssassin/ mobster / “particular set of skills” cloneHelenaIt seems like all of the bad things happen to her. She can Sara Lance her way out of most situations
SarahCool punk rock cloneSarah ManningThe mom of baby clone. Very cool punk rock badass. Gives off serious bisexual vibes and I’m here for it.
No Name CloneThat one clone that people seem to forget about???I guess they forgot
Dead CloneSurely there’s a least one and I bet they left science-y clues and data in all the weird placesKatja Obinger &
There are many dead clones but these names came up during the selected episodes
Baby CloneProbably 5 or 6 years ago. Constantly in danger. I have no idea which clone is the mom.Kira ManningVery smart and observant for her age. Maybe 10 years old?
AllisonNo idea, but the name sounds familiarAlison HendrixIs actually house-wife clone but things aren’t as perfect as they seem. Substance abuse problem. Has non-clone kids (there are way more kids than I thought). Married to an adorable and support man named Donnie
RachelNot-so-friendly clone? Statistically speaking one of these clones will have nefarious plans. Might as well be RachelRachel DuncanThe. Worst.
ShayKsenia Solo (Kenzi) from Lost Girl. Love interest to CosimaShay DavydovCollector of items, wearer of patterns.
Delphine or DaphneFrench scientist. Gives off a real is she good/is she bad vibe. Love interest and/or boss (seems healthy…) to CosimaDelphine CormierI was basically right and I have a new found appreciation for Évelyne Brochu
Male best friendProbably best friend to cool punk rock cloneFelixEasily the coolest non-clone character on the show

Episode 2×02 “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion”
Defending: Cophine

The ‘previously on’ immediately confirms that I’ve guessed most of the clones incorrectly. There’s a big-time ‘your whole life was a lie’ vibe happening and someone is shouting “Kira” so that’s probably the baby clone.

The episode opens on Eastern European clone. She’s been shot in the chest and has a pocket full of candy (so we’re off to a good start). Orange and red lollipops are questionable flavor choices, but what’s more interesting is the black and white baseball card style picture of a baby. Do you think there are baby stats on the back? Before I have time to ponder what exactly would be a “baby stat” it cuts to a smart man, named Art. He is searching a police database and talking about Proletheans. My first thought when I heard that word was Nickelodeon’s KaBlam! and the claymation short Prometheus and Bob.

Nickelodeon's Prometheus and Bob

Sarah is the British punk rock clone and mother to baby clone, Kira. She has the male best friend whose name is never mentioned in the scene, but he apparently does the tech for the clones. It cuts to a funeral with house-wife clone. People are whispering so I guess she’s did something gossip worthy enough for the fancy people to be snotty.

My first Cophine scene! DYAD seems like a fishy science place where they play games to keep you close, but really they’re the worst. Reminds me of The Initiative in season four of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This is my first time seeing French scientist and science queer clone together. They’re both sitting across from Aldous who has the thickest laptop I’ve seen since the mid 2000s.

Orphan Black - Aldous's enormous laptop

Basically everyone at DYAD already knows there are a bunch of clones, so this conservation seems to be about loyalty. French scientist, Delphine, is defending science queer, Cosima. Their body language is great and then this happens

Orphan Black - Cophine crazy science


Next time Cophine is shown they are taking a tour of the DYAD facility with Aldous and Cosima is being snippy about the institution’s shadowy history. Delphine is protective again and it feels like their whole dynamic is just Cosima saying what comes to her mind and Delphine trying to keep the peace. Not sure how long that dynamic will go on, but they will probably argue about it. A lot. Cut to Alison and what on Earth this musical???

Orphan Black - Alison Musical

Trying to ignore whatever dark theme that musical was about, the next Cophine scene is in the lab. Cosima is talking about what she wants for the lab and Delphine is writing down like a little science shopping list. Even though I have no idea what these science terms are I know what sexual electricity is and they have it.

Orphan Black - Cophine Lab Kiss

This moment is short but may I direct you to two important points. HAND and LIP BITE

Orphan Black - Cophine Hand
Orphan Black - Cophine Lip Bite

Unfortunately they get interrupted by Rachel, “evil” clone. Then she and Cosima have this interaction where Rachel is mega rude and Cosima calmly replies with this gem. That’s basically the episode. Excellent Cophine moments indeed.

Orphan Black - Cosima My sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me
Season 3, Episode 1 “The Weight of this Combination”
Defending: Cophine

The first two words of the season three premiere ‘previously on’ are “We’re clones.” Straight to the point for new viewers. Love it. Looks like there was some killing, fires, science clues, Rachel loses an eye, and there are surprise military boy clones! Mixed into that there are some Cophine feels so they likely went strong in season two.

The episode opens on Helena going through some hallucinations(?) that I do not understand at all. Huge bummer that she’s going through some awful things, but looks like evil clone, Rachel, is going through some stuff too. I guess Sarah stabbed Rachel in the eye and because this is sci-fi Rachel will probably get a fancy robot eye at some point.

This is Delphine’s entrance to season three and I very much agree with Felix that she’s looking good. I am a fan of a dramatic entrance and sunglass removal combo.

Orphan Black - It's Delphine

Throughout the episode Delphine is big into supporting Cosima and all of her clones (not “you”, but we/us/our). That’s great but, yikes, did Delphine do something in the previous season to save Cosima’s life even though Cosima would not have liked that option??

Orphan Black - Kira's Stem Cells

That scene is actually when I realized that Kira doesn’t have a British accent even though Sarah does and it seems like Sarah’s adoptive/foster home had multiple variants of UK accent… but then Helena has an Eastern European accent so I don’t know what that’s about. Does that mean that baby Kira grew up in a non-UK surrounding until she learned to talk? No time to think about because Delphine is breaking up with Cosima and yes I’m going to include the whole thing because if I had to see it, so do you.

Orphan Black - Cophine Break Up

This is an episode selected to defend Cophine and they just broke up because Delphine basically has to in order to protect Cosima’s sisters. That is extremely long-term planning and a quasi-healthy thing to do, but still. SO SAD!

Then some other things happen but I was distracted by the great music choices. Sarah gets a Rachel-disguise make over courtesy of Felix and Cosima tells her science friend about a secret sequence key book code. If I’m following this correctly a “cleaner” is coming to check out the DYAD and in order to keep everyone safe Sarah has to pretend to be Rachel. Then as an added clone fake-out, Alison is at the DYAD pretending to be Sarah. At this point Tatiana Maslany should have all of the awards. Tony, Emmy, Glaad, Oscar, Grammy, VMA, Olympic Medal, X-Games. Send them all.

Season 3, Episode 6 “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”
Defending: Shaysima

I jumped a few episodes so the ‘previously on’ showed me some new stuff like how Beth died. Don’t know anything else about her but that’s at least two dead clones that I know of now. There’s a trend of monitor/clone relationships and they don’t seem to work out well. CASTOR clones (military boys) are looking for the original DNA. Sarah may have done something to make Helena’s situation worse so Helena leaves Sarah captured by CASTOR (sister drama, am I right?). Felix convinces Cosima to “get back out there” and in comes Shay!

The first scene is another hallucination style opening (something the shows seems to enjoy). They do a very good job illustrating the clones’ constant challenges to their truth, reality, and identity. Head military boy clone is giving blood to Sarah presumably because Sarah is the special clone immune to something or another so they’re basically testing to see if she’s immune to the disease affecting the boy clones. Blood, DNA, science. Moving on!

The clone phone buzzes and wakes up a shirtless Cosima. Shay has some kind of blended juice drink, a hip tattoo, and a cute wave.

Orphan Black - Shayisma in the morning

Flirty morning conversation is interrupted by immediate suspicion when Shay asks, “Who’s Sarah”? Cosima immediately panics. Cosima didn’t realize she was sleep talking. She must have been very out of it since she slept through several phone calls and a blender. Flirting and panic attacks aside, this scene shows us something extremely important about Shay. Shay. Loves. Patterns. She is a collector of patterns and prints and there are SO MANY in her apartment. There are so many patterns that I had to watch this scene 3-4 times because I had trouble focusing anytime I saw a new one in the room. I didn’t see her introductory episode, but I assume Shay travels and collects art, dishes, and knick-knacks along the way.

Then this madness happens. So far all of my glimpses of Alison and Donnie are hilarious and over the top. They are adorable.

Orphan Black - Alison and Donnie dancing

After money dancing, a bunch of serious stuff happens that gave me a new theory on Kira’s accent. I think Sarah pretended to be Beth and therefore had an American accent during Kira’s formative years. I could be wrong.

Then a Shaysima backfire! I saw this moment and immediately wanted Cosima and Delphine to get back together.

Orphan Black - Delphine misses Cosima

*Exactly 20 seconds later*

(But also, look how sad she is)

Orphan Black - Delphine spies on Cosima and Shay

While Delphine is doing some super unhealthy angsty spying, Cosima goes to Shay’s and was totally going to slow things down (presumably because Delphine misses her and Cosima misses her back), but instead kissing happens! At least until Scott calls and ruins it.

Orphan Black - Shayisma Kiss

Other take aways: There’s a tub just out in the open here, so then the white door must be the toilet room? Is there also a shower? More of Shay’s apartment patterns!

Season 3, Episode 7 “Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate”
Defending: Shaysima

The ‘previously on’ is all about about Alison and Donnie becoming drug dealers so clearly something bad is about to happen to them related to this decision. They’re trying to buy a store from Alison’s mom, buy drugs, run for school trustee, and handle all of the normal parenting responsibilities. That’s too many things. Either something isn’t going to go as planned or they’re going to mix up something between the locations. Maybe a bag switch or scheduling two things at once and having to run back and forth.

The first Shaysima scene of the episode is Shay driving a toy car on Cosima’s naked body. At this point I’ve mentioned Shay’s apartment quite a bit and I must say this toy car seems incredibly out of place. Maybe I missed something when Cosima first meets Shay, but you know what I didn’t miss? All of those bracelets. Shall we call them “wrist patterns”?

Orphan Black - Shay's car

Intimate morning interrupted, again. This time by Delphine asking for a urine sample! Very uncool and unprofessional even for this level of science, secrets, and espionage.

Orphan Black - Delphine shows up at Shay's

Jumping to Donnie and Alison, the camera has zoomed in on their envelopes multiple times so it looks like that’s going to be the mix up. In a sitcom this would be a silly situation, but on this show there will definitely be serious consequences. Catching up on Helena. She’s pregnant (forgot about that) and wants to kill Sarah’s friend Siobhan. It was Siobhan who gave Helena to the CASTOR people and Helena went through bunch of torture as a result.

Adding to more clone back and forth; Cosima wants Alison to provide the urine sample so she heads to the school trustee event and gets spotted by someone. Felix starts working to disguise Cosima as Alison while Alison is on her way back from seeing her disapproving mother. Several soap store/school trustee/drug deal shenanigans ensue. Alison stands up to her mother by introducing her to Cosima. Curious choice but good for you, Alison.

Cut to Shay’s apartment of patterns and prints. I think we’ve seen her whole apartment by now let’s do a quick deep dive into this. I’ve numbered the following screen shots for different items that caught my attention, in order, based on my notes during the scenes.

Cosima is having a bath in the middle of pattern city. Shay has caught on that something is bothering Cosima and perhaps there is some information to share. The whole thing is sweet and I want to be pulled in, but a shadow shows up on the door as Shay pours wine and that’s all I can focus on until Shay gets closer. It’s either someone walking passed the door or it’s Shay’s shadow, but either way my eye goes to it every time I watch the scene.

Orphan Black - Shay's shadow

Then they get closer to talk seriously and I would love to be listening to the conversation but instead I need to check out Shay’s bracelets because new ones have appeared!

Orphan Black - Shay has more bracelets

Then there is suddenly blood in the tub so I had to go back and listen to what they were saying. Cosima told Shay about the disease currently affecting her lungs (explains the coughing) and uterus. The blood is obviously a bad sign. I’m guessing that new girlfriend Shay is going to have to call up ex-girlfriend Delphine to get Cosima help. Let’s find out in the next episode.

Season 3, Episode 8 “Ruthless in Purpose, and Insidious in Method”
Defending: Shaysima

A new clone! The first scene is Krystal doing Delphine’s nails and basically recounting the attempted kidnapping events that Delphine mentioned in a previous episode. Krystal makes me laugh. She is so different than the other clones and I hope she sticks around.

Cosima and Sarah are video chatting. Sarah notices the pattern madness and asks where Cosima is. Cosima replies with, “uhh… friend’s.” and “Yeah, it’s what I need right now.” That doesn’t sound like she sees Shay as a long-term thing, but she also does a cute chuckle when Sarah asks if it’s good so it’s obvious Cosima has feelings. It’s like, when you’re just starting out with someone and you really like them but you want to stay guarded because you’ve been hurt in the past.

Orphan Black - Cosima talks to Sarah

Shay comes home and is now guiding Cosima through a meditation. Cosima asks Shay about near-death experiences and Shay full on sabotages her own shipping defense by making Cosima realize something about love.

Orphan Black - Shay's near death theory

Rachel wants to use Krystal’s identity to leave the country. Sarah is willing to do that if Rachel translates the book. The science mystery is slowing being unlocked and something bad is totally going to happen to Krystal now. Meanwhile, Cosima brings Shay to DYAD. Why? If it were a regular job I would kind of understand, but this is a job of mega secrets and clone family and her EX.

Right on cue Delphine walks into the lab and is salty about Shay being there. Then she says this which makes me cringe and laugh and cringe again. What an uncomfortable thing to say in that moment.

Orphan Black - Delphine is French

After laughing to myself for a solid minute, the show goes back and forth between a few characters. Helena and Gracie have been through hell but ended up in the same place with clone club support. Hopefully Gracie doesn’t turn out to be a spy or something… Okay, let’s be honest, Gracie will probably do something dumb to betray the clones. Rudy (head military boy clone) shows up at Scott’s house to get information from him. Sarah sends Felix to get Krystal’s wallet and Felix is surprised to find that Krystal is smarter than people give her credit for.

Back to Cophine! Delphine and Cosima discuss the mysterious illness and recent findings. Then a cute hand touch happens to give Cophine shippers hope. (Kiss kiss kiss kiss!)

Orphan Black - Cophine hand touch

After that wonderful hand touch a bunch of stuff happens to get Rachel out of DYAD. Scott’s nerd team rises up to the occasion and gets things done, so much so that I couldn’t quite keep up in my notes. The next important bit is that Cosima confesses her near-death experience to Delphine.

Orphan Black - Cophine kiss

Then Rachel and Krystal are swapped and that’s the end of the episode.

I’m not sure this episode really helped the Shaysima cause, though they did have that one beautiful shot with the sunlight behind them. You know, the one when Cosima realized that she was mega super in love with Delphine?

Season 3, Episode 10 “History Yet to be Written”
Defending: Cophine

The ‘previously on’ shows some not so great moments between Delphine and Shay (I can understand why this episode was skipped as a selection). Gracie was in fact a mole and the truth about CASTOR and LEDA was revealed. The previous episode must have been intense.

Clone Updates: Rachel got a robot eye. That’ll probably come in handy for spying and whatnot. Sarah found the original at some point and brought her to a secret abandoned warehouse. Alison’s school trustee elections are today. Donnie found Helena’s boyfriend, “Jesse Towing”, and he is very happy to see Helena (it was a beautiful reunion). Krystal is still in a coma as Rachel.

Shay is in her kitchen – complete with a new patterned dish towel – Cosima knocks on the front door where I got a better look at the hallway to Shay’s apartment. Shay recounts the things Delphine said and did while interrogating her to see if she was with CASTOR. In these selected episodes I had only seen Cosima lie to Shay, but Cosima has evidence that Shay also lied or didn’t disclose some military related parts of her life. Shay seems to be willing to get passed the lies if Cosima will just tell her the truth now. To be honest, I feel bad for Shay in this moment. I bet she’ll be worried about secrets in her future relationships (clearly this relationship isn’t going to last).

Skipping ahead, Delphine notices the manicure on “Rachel” and just like something out of a soap opera, Krystal wakes up from her coma right that second, arms flailing . Delphine has to find a way to get Krystal out. I’m willing to bet that Delphine is going to get in some kind of trouble for it. Based on what I’ve seen from the show so far she’ll probably be shot, or hit by a car, or maybe both.

A bunch of stuff happens and bam! A different bad guy organization is mentioned “Neolution”. I haven’t the slightest idea who they are or what they’re doing but apparently they’ve been involved in everything this whole time. Delphine learns even more stuff from the bad scientist man (the one who swapped Rachel and Krystal). That conversation absolutely ensures that something terrible will happen to Delphine by the end of this episode.

Delphine is probably sensing that her life is in extreme danger because she tries to do right by Shay and Cosima by stopping at Shay’s apartment and sharing her feelings while super sad piano music plays. I am genuinely surprised Shay keeps opening the door for Delphine. Also, these people randomly show up at each other’s doors so often.

Orphan Black - Delphine goes to Shay again

Back at Bubbles (Alison’s store) the clone club is doing little toasts and emotional speeches. This is all too sentimental for this show. Something bad is about to happen. Delphine stops by to tell Cosima some stuff and Cosima is all, “I know why you did everything you did” and I’m all like EMOTIONS. This show can’t let us have nice things for long so when is the bad thing going to happen???

Orphan Black - Cosima understands Delphines choices

Oh no! They shared a sad kiss. It’s a beautiful moment so the terrible thing is almost here…

Orphan Black - Cophine kiss

Well. Delphine goes into a parking garage at night by herself. Bad things are totally going to happen. She being followed, because of course she is, and when she turns around to address the person she asks, “What will happen to her?” Their response is to SHOOT Delphine in the gut! — This is the point where I realized that Nikki likes to make me feel ALL OF THE FEELINGS by filling my watchlist with of moments angst and tortured love.

Then I guess the rest of the episode happens. I mean, what is even the point? Goodness me. Wow.

Final Thoughts: Shaysima or Cophine?

Based solely on these six episodes, I believe that both relationships in question are unhealthy. They were both built upon lies and secrecy. If Cosima were a “regular” scientist with “regular” sisters and no evil organizations looming about, I think Shay would be the better relationship. Alas, that is not the case. Cosima is not a “regular” scientist and when she’s with Delphine there is electricity. I therefore select Cophine as my primary Orphan Black ship.

Orphan Black - Cophine crazy science

The one thing that is clear throughout is that Cosima and Delphine love each other. Despite constantly going behind the other’s back they always find a way to forgive. I would argue that the circumstances in these episodes would not have allowed Cophine to succeed. If Cophine does restart in a future episode I would anticipate it being because they were brought together after a traumatic event and then started working together, with open communication, towards a common goal. If they can do this then they will probably be endgame, communication is key.

Feel free to reach out to me in the comments, on Twitter, or on LWTV’s Slack channel to share your thoughts on Orphan Black or if there are other shows you think I should watch with no context.

About Carmel

Carmel is that one queer friend who seems to be involved in every project or convention somehow. In person she holds herself with the same level of energy and sarcasm as MTV icon Daria, but online.... so many gifs. A universe of gifs and yelling about queer things
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