Orphan Black Season 3 – Reflections on Violence

For those of you who may not have seen season three of this show be warned; there may be SPOILERS!

Let me say right up front that I think this show is terrific and that Maslany simply brilliant.  Kudos to the Emmys’  for finally figuring out how to get her a well deserved nomination.  But…..

I think this season was weaker then seasons 1 or 2 and I think that was due to a couple of things.  One was the focusing more on Allison then the other clones.  While Maslany’s performance as Allison is great that particular character can become extremely grating and that was what happened for me.  I found myself actually fast forwarding though some of the tedious school board election scenes.  The other problem may be unique to me, but it did start me on a long process of considering the place of violence in entertainment.

Here is the moment that left me feeling ambivalent about the show for the first time.  It was when Helena kills all the drug dealers with an axe because they have taken her “babies”.  I’m not arguing that the drug dealers were dangerous and violent and evil, but what bothered me in the scene was that it was played for a laugh.  There is the initial confrontation with the hapless Donny and Helena facing down the gang, then Donny leaves and after several beats Helena emerges covered in blood with gore dripping off the axe.  She has her babies and a pot load of money which she gives to Donny.  It was clear this was meant to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing.

Maybe it’s because the past month has held the senseless deaths of nine people at a bible study class who were murdered for being black, and the murder of five young men whose only crime was to wear the uniform of the United States.  Whatever the reason the scene bothered me a great deal.  Not only in the moment, but in the aftermath.  There was no repercussions for Helena’s action.  I wasn’t looking for a reaction by the authorities and the court system, but I needed some acknowledgement inside that family that Helena is dangerous.  If I were Donny I wouldn’t be terribly comfortable about having her around my children or my wife.  Instead there’s just the flippant “We came into some money,” to Allison as he stacks bills in the freezer.

I was discussing this with a friend who pointed out the burying the body in the garage sequence, and she asked if that bothered me as much?  It didn’t, but I wonder if that began this sense of queasiness that culminated in the Helena scene.  I could justify hiding the death of the doctor since the company had already declared him dead, and if Donny had gone to the authorities it would have revealed the sisters and endangered them.  He would also have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and the writer’s probably thought a trip through the court system wasn’t where they wanted to go.  But —

Just as I don’t care for redemptive violence as a solution to a conflict in a book or a movie I’m becoming very tired of violence as a source of humor.  I think violence should have power and meaning.  If it’s used constantly as a joke or as a chest thumping Oo-rah!  Go us! then I think it makes us as readers and viewers more coarse and desensitizes us.  There is a reason that cops are sent to therapy after a shooting incident.  Why soldiers suffer from PTSD.  Taking a human life is consequential.

I love action movies and shows.  The books I write tend to have a lot of action, but I make the point in my Edge novels that my hero, Richard, keeps a count of every person he’s ever killed because he doesn’t want to become inured to it.  He wants it to never be easy.

I dislike the fact that creators and writers are making it easy.

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