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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Orphan Black: From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths

So we reach the end of season four! And perhaps not a moment too soon, as I've been pretty wrung out by these last few weeks of watching/reviewing. 
A few days before this episode aired, it was announced the forthcoming fifth season would be the show's last, something that I had thought was old news. Seriously, I've been going around telling people there was a five-year plan for a long time now.
In any case, it's nice to get confirmation, and I'm reasonably confident Graeme Manson and John Fawcett can stick the landing – perhaps with only a few balls still left up in the air. (For instance, I think that scene in which Delphine gave Shay a Dyad card with numbers on it has died on the vine).
This finale felt different from past seasons, namely because it lacked a degree of closure and happiness that were found in seasons two and three (the clone dance party, the shared dinner at Bubbles). This is more like season one in that it's a straight-up cliff-hanger.

It also starts with a flashback that finally reveals exactly what happened in that parking lot.
Turns out that Duko was the shooter – it's a choice that makes sense, though I'm glad I didn't spend the entire hiatus trying to figure out who it was, otherwise I would have been disappointed. In hindsight, the shooter's identity didn't really need to be a surprise at all – if they had shown us who Duko was at the end of season three, it would  have made his (re)appearance at the start of this season (in Beth's flashback episode) twice as chilling.
Unlike others, I don't need to know the details of how/why Krystal was there. We know she had her suspicions, and we know she met Delphine – it's likely she just tailed her. The most important development here is that after Duko makes a run for it, it's Evie's personal physician who rolls up in a van full of medical equipment to save Delphine's life.
This was initially baffling: why would a Brightborn employee shoot Delphine, only for another Brightborn employee to save her life? As we find out later on, Doctor van Lien is a Neolutionist mole in Brightborn, just as Doctor Nealon was a Brightborn mole in Neolution.
(Though I'm also going to have to rewatch the season three finale in the attempt to figure out why exactly Brightborn wanted Delphine dead. Did she do a lot of off-screen sleuthing that we're not aware of? Or was her planned demise just part of Evie Cho's takeover?)
In any case, Krystal in the present day recognizes Doctor van Lier on television doing damage control for Evie, and immediately calls Inspector Felix. As it happens, Krystal has been this season's most entertaining addition. Admittedly there was a poignancy to her confusion last season that has since been replaced with arrogant miscomprehension, but the core of her character: "she's doggedly wrong but she gets results" has been comedy gold.
She immediately sees through the play-acting of the comic book shop (Scott/Hellwizard have no poker face and Felix is dressed like a secret agent) but after the others finally decide to bring her into the Clone Club, she doesn't believe a word of it. Not even when coming face-to-face with Sarah, who according to Krystal, looks nothing like her.
But perhaps her finest moment is when she explains to the others what exactly is going on: two factions with competing technologies are fighting it out over human experimentation. This is exactly right! One of the companies is Estee Lauder and the other is a Swedish cosmetics firm called Neolution. Not so much.
Short of actually convincing Krystal that she is a clone, or letting her continue to bumble through her own warped investigation, I'm not entirely sure what long-term place she has in this show. I wouldn't be surprised if the Clone Club cut her loose and let her get on with her life – in which case, this would be a pretty perfect sign-off to her character.
Over on the island, Cosima's plan to fertilize Sarah's eggs has been successful, and [insert science here] has come up with a cure. Let's try not to think about how easier all this would have been if Cosima had thought of combining Leda eggs and Castor sperm BEFORE the great hunt for Kendall Malone kick-started.
Of course, the sudden but inevitable betrayal wastes no time. Susan races to tell Rachel that they can restart human cloning, and locks Cosima up when she voices her dissent. It's rather sad after Susan's awkward but pleased reaction at Cosima hugging her, but as she's been saying all along – everything is about progress.
In this season's long-awaited "one clone pretends to be another" trick, Sarah puts on Krystal's clothes and confronts Doctor van Lier during a press conference on the street. He's putting his murder gloves on when he goes after her, so it's a good thing Siobhan and Sarah have laid a trap.
He's already killed Evie with one of her own worm-bots when she refuses to back down from Brightborn (but let's be real, they were probably going to dispose of her anyway) and now he tells Sarah that the time is ripe for Rachel to make her move. It's never been about the cure – it's all about the science.
And Rachel is wasting no time. Ferdinand turns up at her door and quickly kicks her libido back into gear after accusing her of self-pity, though the writers have to do a bit of wrangling around the fact that last season established Ferdinand as someone who hated Neolution so much he threw his right-hand man into an acid bath over it. Tying him to a bed in his underwear and having Rachel choke him with her cane while demanding that he convert oughta do it.
I'm glad the two of them didn't kill Ira, but their dastardliness involves Rachel meeting with the board, seizing control, and informing them her plan is to combine bots and clones, experiment in countries where it's not illegal, and generally use the existing clones like lab rats.
As an aside, are the people on this board what Topside is comprised of? I haven't heard that name all season, and yet it seems possible that that's what the investors are called. A little indication of this connection would have been nice, because I get dizzy with the sheer amount of factions involved.
So between van Lier and Ira, Sarah gets the information she needs: Rachel has taken over, Cosima has gone dark and Susan is potentially in danger from her own daughter. In a move as daft as Scott and Cosima not having backups to their data, Sarah flies to the island without any backup. No backup seems to be the theme of this season.
Rachel arrived some time ago to find a strange man in her kitchen, the one from the visions in her eye. Turns out he's just a messenger, telling her not to waver. Hmm. There have been clues throughout this season that Susan has been answering to someone else: she mentioned being under enormous pressure when she created Charlotte, doesn't answer Rachel's question when she asks who the board will make recommendations to (though perhaps this was a reference to herself) and tells Cosima that Percival Westmoreland wrote his book in the room they're standing in (which Cosima says is "weird", presumably because this is a modern facility).
Susan goes on to talk about how The Man Behind the Curtain is actually Percival Westmoreland, making him hundreds of years old. He's almost certainly the guy who helped save Delphine's life, living a very LOSTian existence in a village of sinister hippies on the uncharted island. And given the old guy's words to Rachel and another vision of the decapitated swan, are we meant to infer his message to her was to get rid of Susan?
If so, she complies.
Okay, I've been expecting more information about Westmoreland for a while now, as mentions of him seemed oddly weighted. A little voice at the back of my head considered the possibility that immortality (or at least extreme longevity) was involved, but now that it's been confirmed I've no idea how to respond to it. These writers have kept the ship upright for this long, so it's pre-emptive of me to start doubting them now, but still – this is way beyond the scientific boundaries I thought the show had set for itself.
And the most important thing to remember about the original Man Behind the Curtain is that he was a disappointing fraud. So I'll say no more about this development just yet save that the signs are not exactly auspicious.
Charlotte springs Cosima from her cell under Susan's orders, telling her they've got to make for a boat. But when a child leads them, people get hopelessly lost, and soon the two are dying of hypothermia in the forest.
Yet it leads to the long-awaited reunion between Cosima and Delphine. I breathed a very deep sigh of relief and contentment, especially after realizing Cosima wasn't going to be killed off seconds after seeing Delphine again (my distrust of writers not to kill off queer ladies runs very deep at this stage). She also revealed she nabbed the cure before leaving, so hopefully there's an end to this particular subplot. I'm tired of perpetually dying Cosima.
Delphine warns her that they're not out of the woods yet – and neither is Sarah when she meets the heavy end of Rachel's cane. The fight between them is pretty intense, and Rachel clearly intends to kill her, but Sarah manages to escape and call home – only to discover that Ferdinand has Siobhan and Kira held at gunpoint.
So this season ends with Rachel Triumphant. She's in charge of Neolution, her sisters are on the run, and there's a knock at the door that promises (or at least suggests) the arrival of Percival Westmoreland. It's going to be a long wait for season five.
Miscellaneous Observations:
Alison and Donnie are hiding out with Helena in her national park encampment, and I really hope we get more of this next season. Did you see the deleted scene with Alison?
It occurred to me this is possibly the first time they haven't played a big part in a season finale, which was perhaps another reason why this episode felt a bit off.
That said, it's been a squeeze this season when it comes to characters – and it would seem there's more on their way, if Kira's "there's so many [clones] we don't even know" is any indication.
So where were Felix and Ira when Ferdinand took Siobhan and Kira hostage? Last we saw of them, they were also at the safe-house.
As for season five, I'd like a reappearance from Cal, or at the very least an explanation of where he actually is. Though I'm not totally fixated on Sarah/Cal as endgame, he is Kira's father and it wouldn't be a bad way for her story to end. Just get him back for the last couple of episodes.
An update on Mark and Gracie would also be nice, though I concede we've seen the last of Shay.
Also, a proper explanation as to why Helena/Sarah are not only fast healers, but fertile as well feels pretty necessary for a sense of completion. And what about Kira's psychic abilities and similarly quick ability to heal? I can't help but feel there's more to their story than we've been told, and since we now know the show is prepared to tackle flashbacks, it would be great to see more from Amelia and her time at the Dyad clinic.
Hopefully it won't all die on the vine like Waaaaaalt's powers – or get relegated to supplementary comic books.  As much as I've loved the conspiracy element of the story and the sense that our protagonists are way over their head, it's time for some definitive, concrete answers.

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