It’s the end of another season of BBC America’s banana-pants crazy sci-fi actioner Orphan Black and the twists are piling up.
Let’s bitch it out…
Well that was certainly memorable, wasn’t it? I barely even know where to begin. There’s a comparable military version of Project Leda called Project Castor that makes male clones? Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) got a propulsion-powered pencil in the eye? Ethan Duncan (Andrew Gillies) told his daughter off and committed suicide? Marian Bowles (Michelle Forbes) revealed she has an adopted eight year old seestra clone?
Scratch that. The part I want to discuss in ‘By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried’ is the episode’s single best moment: the Clone Club dance party. In a season which has seen the ladies scattered to the wind in their own subplots, it’s an absolute delight to see the sisters boogie down in Felix’s (Jordan Gavaris) loft after the dust settles. It’s the kind of cut-loose, purely celebratory moment that just slays me emotionally – I may have actually teared up when Cosima and Helena meet each other for the very first time because it is such a perfect moment. The dance party is an extension of that as everyone gets in on the fun. Even if the green screen is a little shoddy at times, I’m willing to overlook it in my rush to once again sing the praises of Orphan Black star Maslany and her remarkable talent. Creating so many memorable and original characters, and then acting against herself is just the latest in a series of feats that the writers have thrown at her that she’s handled with aplomb. Obviously the dance scene exists primarily to show-off the technical wizardry of having the actress go up against herself not once, not twice, but three times. And yet I’m too busy comparing how Cosima’s dance style echoes rave culture, Helena’s is heavy metal, Sarah’s is sexy/casual and Alison’s is stifled awkwardness to care about the effects work. I’m tempted to take the scene to task for being such an obvious “ode to Maslany”, but to do so would suggest that I didn’t love it and I simply can’t do that. Consider me a Maslany worshipper and this scene my favourite part of the finale.
All in all, I found my favourite parts of the episode were those that heavily play on the seestra connection. I always have and continue to find it highly emotional. I’d forgotten how much I love the connection between Sarah and Cosima until Cosima nearly died making a weapon to save Sarah before her grotty-ovary removing operation. The quiet, contemplative scene with the two of them in bed, talking with their hands clasped as they discuss their different perspectives on life feels so genuine and authentic, a marvelous little gem hidden away among the watercooler moments compiled in the laundry list that opens this review.
So let’s chat about the jaw-droppers, because even a few of those in a finale would have been shocking. To have them all in a single episode? I guess that’s Orphan Black for you.
Ethan Duncan’s suicide is a little predictable, but his disappointed remark about Rachel not being worthy of him is an understated gem of a malicious insult. By this point, it’s clear that Rachel is – as Sarah succinctly puts it – completely crazy. Her actions not only prompt her father’s death; she also ships Delphine (Evelyn Brochu) off to Frankfurt, has Sarah prepped for invasive surgery and, in a moment of unbridled cruelty, crushes Kira’s (Skyler Wexler) bone marrow under her immaculate heels. That’s when you know that it’s time to put the bitch down. Hypothetically a pencil to the eye should do the trick, but I’d be lying if I said that I hope Rachel dies. Instead I’d rather see the proclone survive, if only because I’d love to see Maslany accessorize that bob haircut with an eyepatch in S3.
Whether or not Rachel and Dyad return next season is almost immaterial as the end of episode bombshells edge the series into brand new territory. Forget Dyad – it’s nothing more than one of Topside’s many, many acquisitions, as explained by Marian Bowles while she guides Sarah around her ginormous mansion. Turns out that the mega powerful mega company has fingers in many pies, just as Cal (Michiel Huisman) explains to Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) earlier in the episode. According to Bowles, the company is engaged in a race for power, profit and…what? We’re not entirely certain what Topside’s end goal is, but the gender proclivities of the series spike to a new level with the final reveal that the military has a male equivalent of the Clone Club: Mark (Ari Millen). (Side Note: I had Dylan Bruce’s Hot Paul fingered as the likely candidate because it would finally hypothetically give him something to do. Guess he’s still on the outskirts. Maybe he’ll get a storyline next season?)
And so we end the season on a note of uncertainty. Will season three find the ladies of Project Leda go up against the men of Project Castor? Is there more to this story than Marian Bowles is letting on? (I love Forbes, but she rarely plays good characters). Why, for example, does Marian have a Project Castor clone in her house in the first place? And what do Paul and Mrs. S have planned for Helena, who has been kidnapped and taken aboard a military plane? As usual, Orphan Black has taken us on a roller coaster ride that is impossible to predict. With this finale there are limitless possible narratives to explore next season, which I’m sure was the goal of the talented team behind the show.That level of uncertainty may frustrate some viewers, but to me this feels reminiscent of the very best of the cliffhangers from The X-Files‘heyday. And that’s certainly enough to keep me talking about this finale and the show in general for the next half year. See you next summer!
- I like the ironic juxtaposition of Ethan’s suicide-out-of-disappointment playing out in front of a backdrop of a video of Rachel’s supposed happy childhood. It’s a nice visual that contrasts their past relationship with its present day counterpart and reinforces just how nasty Rachel has become.
- What will be more useful: Helena’s nitro’d eggs or Ethan’s cipher to cure Cosima’s illness? Side Note: suggesting that Cosima died in bed? Not cool show. I was ready to burst into tears when she failed to respond to Kira’s nudges. Bonus points to the makeup team for making Evelyne Brochu look particularly angelic in Cosima’s near death hallucination.
- Random facts about Sarah: she’s never had an STD, began ovulating early and has had an abortion. Do you suppose we’re meant to just find this information surprising/interesting or will it prove to be relevant to the show’s mythology?
- Initially I wondered why we were still following Gracie (Zoé De Grand Maison) and Mark on their roadtrip to the chapel, but his Clone Club reveal obviously changes that. Still…zzz
- Finally, I can unequivocally say that I do not envy Ari Millen. With his (presumably) expanded role, Millen’s performance is going to be under constant scrutiny to determine whether it’s on par with Maslany’s. That is not an enviable position to be in. Currently there’s not enough information to go on, but there’s a clear distinction between Mark and the mad patient we see in Marion’s glass prison so we at least know that Millen can make his clones emotionally unique.
- Felix: “Helena, did you burn down the fish people’s ranch?”
- Mrs S (helping Cal spell her name): “It’s with a bh”
- Felix (spotting Sarah and Cal kissing): “Oh hello, steamy potatoes”
- Helena (complimenting Cosima’s dreads): “I like your hairs.”
Your turn: what was the finale’s biggest twist/surprise? Is Rachel dead? Will Kira and Charlotte become friends? Is Marian trustworthy? What do Mrs. S and Paul have planned for Helena? Is Cosima effectively cured now? And what do you hope to see in S3? Sound off below.
Orphan Black has now finished airing its second season. It will return next spring for S3 on BBC America. Thanks for reading!