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Monday, June 22, 2015

Orphan Black: History Yet To Be Written

You have to admit; these guys know how to write a finale.
Though the beginning of this season was a little fragmented, I think in its entirety it's been a stronger run of episodes than season two. We got concrete answers as to the whys and wherefores of the clones, some truly lovely character interaction between various pairings, a few fantastically unexpected twists, and some interesting new faces (namely Ferdinand and Krystal, though I suppose in the latter's case it's not exactly a "new" face). And despite fandom's grumbling over the inclusion of the boy clones, I enjoyed Castor as this season's villains much more than I did the Proletheans.
So, let's get down to this episode, which made the most of practically every available second.

Endgame looks like this: Sarah is in possession of Kendall Malone, source of the original genetic material that made both Castor and Leda. The military wants her because she potentially holds the cure for the male clones; Topside (which encompasses the administrators of Dyad, right?) wants her so they can continue with Ethan Duncan's research. She's important to the Clone Club mainly because her genetic material may be able to help Cosima – certainly not for any sentimental reasons in the eyes of her daughter Mrs S.
Sarah's people decide to team up with Dyad in order to eliminate Virginia Coady, taking into account the military's desire to weaponize their clones and so judging Dyad the lesser of two evils. They also track down Mark to help them lure Virginia to the wrong location, and call in Helena to dispatch of Rudy.
And it's pretty much a clean victory for the Clone Club, which you probably could have foreseen if you're familiar with the Unspoken Plan Guarantee. Though we see snippets of the gang's preparation (Alison leaving the bus, Sarah punching Mark in the face) it's not until it's all pulled off successfully that we realize just what they had planned: foreseeing Castor taking advantage of their "weak flank" and having Alison lure Rudy to a primed-and-ready Helena, while Mark covers the right side of his face with blood (to hide Rudy's distinctive scar) and impersonates his brother to lure Virginia to a fake location where Ferdinand awaits her.
It was beautifully done, all the more so because once again Alison is underestimated to her enemy's peril and Ari Miller finally got the chance to do the whole "clone impersonates clone" thing. I do question the fact that the seetras set Helena up to kill Rudy for them – but that scene had all sorts of strange implications that I'll get to in due course.
So it would appear that the Clone Club emerges victorious, were it not for an unexpected spanner in the works: Doctor Nealon. It's time for me to concede that my theory he was a Castor mole was wrong. He was instead working for the Neolutionists, who are revealed as the shadowy institution pulling the strings behind both Castor and Leda, the military and Dyad.
I'll admit, this revelation fell a little flat. I'd been under the impression that the Neolutionists were just a front for Dyad; a weird little subgroup that partied at private clubs and messed around with genetics (RIP Olivier's tail). There's been very little foreshadowing for their return beyond Rachel's bionic eye – and no, I'm not going to count Professor Leekie's brief appearance in the "previously on..." sequence. That's cheating.
But Neolution. Okay.
Delphine figures this out when she realizes that the comatose Rachel is actually Krystal – and though I loved that Delphine noticed the woman lying on the bed had beautifully manicured nails, it was a bit of a stretch to believe that Krystal would awake from a medically induced coma right at that precise moment. But the results were unexpectedly hilarious, so I have all my fingers crossed that she'll be back for season four.
So Doctor Nealon's cover is blown – not that he seems to mind. Here are some of his most intriguing quotes:
"Wherever you think the science is at; I guarantee you're wrong."
"We have a place for you [Delphine]. It's a one-time offer."
"You won't live till morning."
And then of course, THE MOUTH WORM! Easily the most insane thing this show has featured since Olivier's tail. It was awesome. 
And it raises all sorts of questions. What exactly is Neolutionism trying to achieve? Self-directed evolution? If so, to what end? How is that connected to the clones? What exactly was Doctor Nealon offering Delphine? And why did he consider himself in a position to threaten her life?
Hopefully season four will tackle these questions; for now all we need to know is that having relayed this information to Sarah (warning her not to hand over Kendall's genetic material to the Neolutionists), the Clone Club finds an unexpected ally in Ferdinand, who really, really hates Neolution. A baseball bat and an acid bath later, his henchman/mole is disposed of. See you next season, James Frain.
But of course, the biggest question the episode leaves us with is: who shot Delphine? Some have astutely pointed out that there's a good chance even the writers don't know at this point, but there are several clues in Evelyn Brochue's performance that will be hard to retcon.
Firstly, she clearly knew the shooter. She registered no surprise when she turned around. In fact this is her expression, which looks more resigned than anything else:
Secondly, it wasn't until my second viewing that I realized Delphine knew she was going to her death. When she goes to Shay's apartment it's to give her blessing to the relationship, and when she meets with Cosima outside Bubbles she's clearly saying goodbye. In the carpark she braces herself before turning around. She knew.
But this opens another question: how did she know she was going to her death? Was this a result of Doctor Nealon's words that she wouldn't last till morning? Or did else something happen between his death and her arrival at Shay's door that had her anticipating her demise?
Most people seem to be putting their money on Shay, though I can't see that myself. If Delphine knew who she was going to meet (as seems to be the case) then she wouldn't have been encouraging Shay/Cosima. And if she hadn't known, then her reaction would have been one of shock and horror.
And what are we meant to make of her last words: "what will happen to her?" Who is she referring to? Cosima? Rachel? And that card she gave Shay? It had a number on it, which I suspect is a clue that will lead Cosima... well, somewhere.
It's going to be a long wait until next season.
And then we have Rachel, waking up in a strange place with a prosthetic eye that may or may not have a laser installed (fingers crossed!) If it in some way gives her superpowers, I'll be pleased.
Of course, the introduction of Susan Duncan was this episode's other big surprise. But if Neolution was a twist that no one saw coming because it was so out of left-field, this one was seen coming a mile away. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing (though I find myself questioning Professor Leekie's ability to organize a simple assassination). One last shitmother to cap off the season.
Actually I tell a lie. The season was capped off with one very good mother being reunited with her child: Sarah and Kira. Awwww.
Miscellaneous Observations:
There was so much in this episode that I didn't notice until my second watch, specifically how the opening paralleled the ending, what with Rachel's memories of frolicking in the snow with her parents contrasted with the Sarah/Kira reunion somewhere in Alaska, and the way Delphine's death is subtly foreshadowed when she drops her bag on the ground, just as Beth did at the train station in the show premiere.
I suspect that the writers have run out of stuff for Art to do, but I'm glad he was included at the Clone Club celebratory dinner, and that he prepared a place for Sarah and Mrs S to hold Kendall. "I do what I can for the sisters." Awww.
Though I do wonder what's going on with his co-workers. Are they still looking for the serial killer they spent the entire first season hunting down?
It was lovely seeing Cosima back in the role of doctor instead of the third point of a love triangle. On reflection she really hasn't had much to do this season, but the way she handled Kendall's nastiness (with patience and compassion) reminded me of why she's such a favourite.
I'm glad the episode almost immediately addressed two of the problems viewers raised at the end of the last: first that Sarah didn't look anything like her original donor (there's a reason) and secondly that she ended up in Mrs S's care (turns out it wasn't a coincidence). I'm still longing for a flashback episode that puts some meat on the bones of all these long-ago events, but until then has anyone thought to put together a time-line?
I also found it interesting that the show choses to define the Kendall/clone relationship as one of older/younger sisters rather than mother/daughter. I suppose Mrs S had that base covered, but it's still not what I had expected.
Hopefully Ferdinand will be around next season – not just because he's played by James Frain but because he's a genuinely interesting antagonist: openly admitting he loves being under the heel of a woman, conveying genuine remorse for the "brittle" Rachel, and responding with what was close to delight when Sarah reveals her first episode subterfuge. And now he's apparently on their side? Bring it on.
Helena gets reunited with her boyfriend in the funniest, cutest way possible. I almost expected a hair swish or a tooth flash when the garage door rose and he turned in slow motion. But even though a part of me is cooing at how sweet they are – well, is Helena ready for a romantic relationship? And is Jessie ready for the revelation that she's a) pregnant, b) a killer, and c) a clone? Call me a cynic, but I can't really see this ending well.
Which brings me to that scene in the garage and the death of Rudy. It was beautifully shot, and the soundtrack made me a little teary, and I almost don't want to criticize it, but some things were said that just took me out of the moment. 

I appreciate the fact that Helena can offer comfort to a dying man while refusing to give him a pass for the crimes he committed during his lifetime, and as powerful as her rejection of his we're Not So Different observation was (by stating: "you're a rapist") it's diminished a little in light of the fact that a) Helena is a murderer, and b) Sarah is also technically a rapist, having initiated sex with Paul back in season one under misleading circumstances. It's not something the show has – or ever will – confront, and it results in an otherwise beautiful scene that depicts the homicidal pot calling the rapist kettle black.  
But apart from that little hiccup, this was one heck of an episode to round up a season of strong episodes. Three seasons in and Orphan Black is still compelling, creative and surprising. Tatiana Maslany continues to do wonders, the conspiracy plot chugs along haphazardly but at a steady pace, and I'm constantly caught off guard with the twists and development it offers. Which is to say, it's still my favourite show on television.

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