Rachel’s lost it.
The Hive Writer’s Notes – Alex Levine
Hey #CloneClub, Alex Levine here. Hope you enjoyed episode 2.09, “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done,” or as I like to call it, The Empire Strikes Back. Seeing as it was the penultimate episode of the season, and this season is all about the war between Sarah and Rachel, we wanted to show just what Rachel is capable of—to dig deep and pay off on all the compelling aspects of her villainous character that we’ve shown up to now. At the end of last season we introduced her as “Pro-Clone,” and we’ve spent part of the last ten episodes exploring this character’s humanity (or lack thereof). An old professor of mine wrote a book called The Corporation, which was turned into a documentary by the same name. His thesis was that a corporation, left unchecked, behaves much like a psychopath. So it’s fun to consider: is Rachel, who was raised mostly within the ethic and structure of a corporation, a psychopath? My opinion: the jury is still out.
In terms of this episode in particular, I can tell you that the writers had several discussions about when and how to reveal that Rachel was making a move. We also wrestled with what might push her to do something so rash as to imitate Sarah and abduct Kira. Some of us wanted her to be truly torn between her allegiance to Dyad and her allegiance to her newfound sisters. Others felt her intentions needed no grand justification beyond what we had already established. But it might surprise you to learn that the scene of Rachel in the black room—watching the video of herself as a child, and then surveillance shots of Sarah and Kira—was added after the show was shot and cut. The content of the scene—Rachel’s nostalgia for lost family, and her obsession with Sarah’s status as a mother and Kira—had been previously scripted, but was left by the wayside in subsequent drafts. But when the show was cut together, it was missing. The black room scene is vitally important in driving home her wants, her intention.
Rachel Duncan: Psycho-Clone?
As you can imagine, there was also a lot of discussion around how best to pull of this latest switcheroo. We had to figure out the geography, the tactics, and, of course, how much to disguise Rachel. It was up to Tatiana, of course, to calibrate the performance. As spoiled spectators, I can only judge the results by whether people were indeed fooled. And many have told me they were. But either way, the story works because Rachel fools Mrs. S and Benjamin… and even Felix.
As for Helena, this was one of the juiciest storylines one could hope for. We were challenged by the fact that Helena had gone back to the Prolethean ranch many episodes ago, and though we intended to drop in on Helena in subsequent episodes prior to 209, we had too much story to juggle and we simply couldn’t fit her in. So in returning to her story line, we had to justify what she had been doing, and why she’d been so compliant. For that we turned to the naïve, childlike persona that forms part of Helena’s character. We see it in her love for Sarah, in her fascination with children, in her simple desire to be a mother.
At the same time, this was our one and only chance to pay off on Johanssen’s storyline. And as always, we were tasked with finding the unusual, the new, the fresh attack. It would have been easy to develop a plot line where the Proletheans were building a fertilizer bomb for some nefarious purpose, but this is Orphan Black, where the stories are deeper, more personal, and hell, just a whole lot freakier. And we knew we were building to the ultimate revenge scene with the insemination rod (a concept that had been in John Fawcett’s mind since we convened for season 2 development). We also wanted to fully realize the budding relationship between Mark and Gracie—two great young actors I’m sure you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of.
As to Alison and Donnie’s storyline, I have to give credit to staff writer Aubrey Nealon—he’s the guy who realized, at the eleventh hour, that this was Donnie’s day to shine. The strongest arc in that story line was Donnie’s, and it really came together at that point. Plus we all wanted to see that “#donniesjunk” hashtag trend once again.
Mrs. and Mrs.
A couple of interesting factoids about this episode:
- The clinic was actually the interior of Bridgepoint Health Centre—the very building we use for the Dyad Institute. Bridgepoint is connected to the old Don Jail, which serves as an establisher for Cosima’s lab (the old wing).
- We rebuilt an exact interior replica of Alison’s garage (previously established) in our sets, and built it four feet off the ground, so we could “dig out” the grave.
- The Helena revenge scene was sparely scripted and had little dialogue, but the actors were given free rein to improvise, partly because we were running out of time. The use of the pipe, the other props, and much of the dialogue (“you think I’m trying to be funny”) was all improvised. So all props to Tatiana and Peter Outerbridge (who plays Johanssen); boy did they bring it. And kudos to TJ Scott for letting them run. Another great TJ episode. Working with that guy is the best.