Season 2, unproduced: “Chrysalis”
Original airdate: N/A
Earlier this year, television critic Todd VanDerWerff penned an opinion piece for Grantland, where he provided an insightful perspective on Orphan Black.
In his piece, he framed the show, a BBC America sci-fi series slotted between Doctor Who and The Nerdist on the network’s esteemed Supernatural Saturdays lineup, as a throwback to the “pre-recap era.”
This was a time when “most weekly TV reviews were being carried out by fans,” a period primarily situated in the 1990s.
This choice of timeframe is apt because it was during the 1990s that the World Wide Web became widely accessible to the general public, marking the standardization of Internet usage.
Moreover, it was an era of significant technological upheaval, occurring before the widespread availability of broadband, the advent of Wi-Fi, and the bursting of the dot-com bubble.
It was also a time when home computers, empowered by the rapidly advancing capabilities of microprocessors, were transitioning from being the exception to the norm.
As Todd puts it, people were “realizing their weird pop culture affections need no longer be private.”
This decade coincided with a period when numerous remarkable science-fiction television shows were being broadcast on American and Canadian networks.
Naturally, some of the more ambitious writers and creators of that era, such as Chris Carter of The X-Files and J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5, embraced this new technology.
This led to the first intersections of television professionals and devoted television enthusiasts, in other words, the fans.
So Weird seamlessly fits into this trend due to its time of airing, spanning from January 1999 to September 2001.
Additionally, it had its own versions of Carter and Straczynski in the form of executive producers and showrunners Jon Cooksey and Ali Marie Matheson.
Both Jon and Ali received emails about So Weird during and after the show’s broadcast.
Much of the behind-the-scenes information about the series emerged from these interactions with fans.
The primary repository of knowledge about So Weird can be found under the Jon Cooksey tag on the FuckYeahSoWeird Tumblr.
The blog’s owner had the opportunity to correspond with Cooksey, engaging in discussions about various plot threads and story ideas that ultimately went unrealized.
Some of these ideas were left unfulfilled, partly because Cooksey and Matheson departed after “Lightning Rod” and partly due to the network’s insistence on altering the show’s tonal direction.
The precise moment when the unreleased season two episode “Chrysalis” came to the attention of dedicated So Weird fans remains uncertain.
Nevertheless, over the years since the show’s conclusion, conversations about this episode have consistently ranked among the popular discussion topics.
Jon Cooksey and Ali Marie Matheson, the creative minds behind the show, had three main objectives for this episode.
First, they intended to use it as an opportunity to explore a storyline in which Fi would be absent, allowing Cara DeLizia to have a brief hiatus from filming.
(When the episode ultimately faced rejection, the alternate Fi-absent episode “Avatar” was created in its place.)
Second, the episode was conceptualized to feature two subplots centered around alcoholism.
This narrative choice aimed to facilitate character development and contribute to the show’s darker tone by portraying the characters as flawed individuals in moments of vulnerability.
Third, the episode was designed to reintegrate Rebecca into the storyline through Molly’s plot.
This reintegration was a means of continuing to hint at an abandoned myth arc related to Jack’s past life as an Arthurian knight.
The final part of this is especially significant.
Season two of So Weird is already packed with Fi’s myth arc as she embarks on her quest to uncover the truth about her father.
While it is true that Molly’s dark past and Jack’s past life as a knight are hinted at throughout the first two seasons, “Chrysalis” would undeniably have placed these plotlines at the forefront for the audience.
It would have served as a central point where the characters’ myth arcs converged, further reinforcing So Weird’s thematic exploration of life’s existential journey.
Fi’s search for her dad, Jack’s quest to understand his past life (with his third-season arc involving flashes of the castle Fi explores in “Banshee,” leading him and Fi to search for that castle for answers), and Molly’s quest for meaning in her storied life and varied lifestyles.
“Chrysalis” was pitched to Disney Channel twice.
In the initial pitch, the primary plot revolves around Carey becoming a host for a strange alien pupa that starts cocooning inside him.
The culmination of expelling the pupa would have resulted in Carey blacking out, making him believe he had a drinking problem.
The network rejected this concept.
In the second pitch, the drinking story was shifted to one of Carey’s college friends, requiring Jack and Carey to determine what was wrong with him.
Once again, Disney Channel turned down the idea, citing their reluctance to produce an “issues” show.
This reasoning appears hypocritical, considering that shows like The Famous Jett Jackson and In A Heartbeat were centered around addressing important issues.
The former focused on intersecting issues of race, class, and to some extent, gender, while the latter had an episode about Miranda developing an eating disorder.
The channel’s unwillingness to explore alcoholism as an issue in So Weird seems inconsistent with its approach to other series.
The reason for discussing “Chrysalis” now is that the backstory of its creation, purpose, and subsequent rejection vividly illustrates the division between So Weird’s first two seasons and its peculiar third season.
With Cooksey/Matheson and Cara DeLizia departing, the third season faced challenges in its initial episodes as the show grappled with the need to readjust after essentially uprooting everything the creative team had been developing up to that point.
This was compounded by the network’s increasing involvement in the show’s production.
While Annie has her myth arc tied to the enigmatic panther that protects her, the other characters had to abandon their story arcs, as they were closely linked to Fi’s myth arc.
These arcs would not align with introducing a new character, regardless of her eventual identity or development.
Consequently, Rebecca and the storyline related to Jack’s destiny as a knight were left hanging, temporarily leaving both Jack and Molly in a state of uncertainty.
What’s particularly noteworthy about Todd’s article is its title.
He characterizes Orphan Black as a “throwback,” signifying its homage to the unconventional sci-fi shows that Internet users in the 1990s were drawn to.
It also reflects the growing influence of technology in connecting people to discuss their shared love for television.
Fi Phillips was conceived as a character for a generation that embraced technology and had her own website catering to something truly alternative, attracting like-minded individuals for discussions.
To its credit, So Weird maintained Fi’s online presence as a chat user on Annie’s computer, emphasizing the show’s belief in the increasing significance of technology in the lives of everyday Americans.
However, as more people joined the conversation, it evolved. Fans began exchanging rumors and theories about the behind-the-scenes aspects influencing the creation of their beloved shows.
While this led to some remarkable stories, such as Nichelle Nichols’s conversation with Martin Luther King, Jr., convincing her to stay on Star Trek, this transparency could also reveal less thrilling stories of disruption and turmoil.
So Weird wasn’t the only Disney Channel show plagued by complications, but it remains one of the most well-documented shows of that era due to its online community, which found it weirder and more delightful than anything else Disney Channel had to offer.
You May Like To Read: Review: So Weird, “Banshee”