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Russ Cochrane: Blood, Mud, and Vodka

This week’s entry was written by Russ Cochrane

Every episode of every show, no matter what it is, is a challenge to build from the ground up. It’s often an incredibly long and painful process to figure out the story you want to tell and the very best way to tell it. But it can also be fun as hell—especially on Orphan Black. Back when Season 3 was still a collection of cards on a corkboard, I vividly remember pitching out to the rest of the Hive a couple of very dark, crazy ideas for this episode: First, that Helena would find a lab-rat Castor clone with his brain completely exposed—and euthanize him. Second, I painted a picture of the climax with Sarah and Mark taking place over an open grave. Correction: open baby’s grave. It’s not every show where you can say “…so the real point of connection comes as they dig up the dead baby.” But this isn’t any show—it’s Orphan Black. And the Hive not only dug those twisted musings, they dug in to help make them work. We knew, whatever other challenges we had sorting out the story, we had a few things we were really excited about—and that’s always a great place to start.

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Parsons in progress

Challenge one: the fact that we wanted this episode to be the one where Sarah and Mark work together for their common goal, and realize that their motives aren’t really so different. But remember that prior to Sarah confronting Mark at the end of the previous episode, they had met exactly once before: when Mark descended on Sarah in the diner at the very beginning of last season. So I figured, since in their previous encounter Mark held Sarah’s life in his hands, we should flip things around and put Mark’s life in Sarah’s reluctant hands. Enter Bonnie Johanssen (the amazing Kristen Booth) with her white tennis shoes and shotgun. So Sarah and Mark’s uneasy relationship was forged in blood. And mud. And vodka.

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Old-school horror

Challenge two: the clone sisters were all in very different geographic locations pursuing their own goals, but it needed to feel like one cohesive story. So, given that we’d just learned something huge—Leda and Castor are brother and sister—I decided to use different brother-sister relationships to unify the disparate story threads: Sarah and Mark learning they need each other; Miller’s juvenile taunting of Helena; and Helena’s sacrificial empathy toward her suffering “brother” Parsons. There’s even brother Felix helping his sister Cosima mend her broken heart and helping her move on (Don’t worry if you missed this connection—it was mostly for me as a way to attack the story. It’s probably better if it wasn’t obvious).

That more obvious connection in this story is between “seestras” Sarah and Helena. Despite being worlds apart, we wanted their stories to feel very intertwined. So I tried to build the story with the feeling that as Sarah pursues every end for a chance to get Helena back, Helena is still feeling abandoned, losing faith, and putting herself at risk, completely unaware just how hard Sarah is working to save her. Even though they’re not ever in the same room, their relationship is very much at the center of the story. But the reunion we hope for isn’t the one we get. Instead it’s Mark and Rudy who are reunited—the twisted Castor versions of Sarah and Helena.

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