“Hello seeeeeestra. Good to see you.” – Helena
The Hive Writer’s Notes – Russ Cochrane
“Governed As It Were By Chance”—very much like how I got here and joined the Hive. I’ve been friends with series co-creators John and Graeme for a number of years—so I had a good seat to witness the show’s gestation, development, and ultimate birth onto the screen last year. But I quickly turned from good friend to huge fan as I visited their beautiful, twisted little baby week after week—drawn completely into the world and the amazing characters. So I was very stoked that production schedules worked out such as to allow me to join the Hive for season two of this crazy journey. Hands down, the best part of my job is having the chance to work with smart, talented people. Graeme, John, and writer/producers Karen Walton, Alex Levine, Aubrey Nealon, Tony Elliot, and Chris Roberts are some of the smartest and most talented people I’ve ever met. Ever.
Now, a little about the episode, “Governed As It Were By Chance”—or rather, a little about that wild series of events that take us deeper down the rabbit hole and bring our far-flung clone seeeeestras back together.
A glimpse inside The Hive: Graeme Manson and writers Alex Levine and Russ Cochrane (far left) work on the story for episode four.
As episode 203 ended with a (literal) bang, “Governed As It Were By Chance” picks up those shattered pieces right where we left off, and finds Sarah desperately staring down an approaching squad car, gun in hand. (Yes, that is a tip-of-the-hat homage to a certain series opening scene—Orphan Black style.) Escaping capture, we quickly learn that Kira’s father Cal may have some big secrets of his own—and that if Sarah wants Kira to be truly safe, she’ll have to follow these threads back to the source for answers.
Over on the Prolethean Ranch, Helena is coming to from a major trauma of her own—and realizing this “family” she’s been drawn into doesn’t hold a candle (or a chicken leg, or bowl of Jell-O) to the family she already has. Time to get the hell out of here and find her way back home—wherever that is.
So how did this all come together? I have to admit that one of the major challenges to constructing this episode was how to take all these seemingly disparate storylines—Sarah, Helena, Alison, Mrs. S., now all in different geographical locations—and make sure they feel part of a whole; make sure that they are still one bigger, interconnected story.
As the episode arc developed, it was initially by chance, and then by design, that we found our clone sisters at the beginning of each of their stories fighting through a fog to discover the serious consequences of what had just occured. Sarah snaps awake in Daniel’s car moments after the crash; Helena comes to on the Proleathean Ranch hours after her “wedding ceremony;” Alison wakes hungover and injured, only to also find herself institutionalized—in rehab. Common elements, very different stories. Like the clones themselves.
(And, yeah, I fully realize that makes me sound like a story geek. So be it.)
Scouting the Prolethean farm. (Could the room be any creepier?)
But the biggest challenge for this story was figuring out just how to reunite Sarah and Helena after they had so violently parted ways in the season one finale. I mean, Sarah shot Helena through the heart (or at least she thought so) and left her seestra for dead. Not judging, but that’s kind of a messy way for family to leave things.
We knew we wanted to bring those two back together as parallel stories on a collision course, destined to intersect. And we also wanted to use the circumstances of their reunion to bond them in a new way—and change up their previous dynamic. So, as Sarah heads back into the belly of the beast to investigate Mrs. S., Helena seeks out Sarah just in time to save her from Rachel’s very pissed-off hunter, Daniel. (Maybe Helena is Sarah’s guardian angel after all. She does already have the wings.)
But as it turns out, not all of Helena made it off that Ranch. (Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about—that final reveal.) I could get into it and the story room’s profound discussions around this story but I really don’t want to give away any spoilers—and you don’t want that either. Suffice to say, when we landed on this twist in the story arc, we knew it was right. And very Orphan Black.
But none of this would have been possible without the deft hands and minds of Director David Frazee, Direcrtor of Photography Aaron Morton, and the incredible Orphan Black crew. Every scene was beautifully crafted by every department. Whether it was the vast (and chilly) rural landscapes, or the intimate and unnerving reunion in the shower between Sarah and Helena, something electric was happening. Actually, I remember the vibe on set when we shot that reunion. Clone scenes are incredibly cool to watch unfold. And every member of the crew feels like they’re working on something unique and special. But the menace, terror, and vulnerability in that small space was all Tat.
Which brings me to a final note: By now a lot of ink has been spent discussing the brilliance of Ms. Maslany. And I can tell you firsthand that she deserves every drop. I wish I could say that this episode turned out exactly as I had hoped. But the truth is, Tat always makes everything much, much better than you can ever hope for. Aside from playing all of our beloved clones, Tat has the ability to bring out the very best in everyone around her—the creative team, the incredible cast, the amazing crew. (And these are people who are already at the top of their game.) Yet, she manages to remain as humble and lovely as ever. It’s who she is.
I can’t wait for you to see what Tat and the rest of us at Orphan Black have in store for you. Hang on. It’s going to be a wild, trippy ride.