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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Orphan Black: The Few Who Dare

So the fifth and final season of Orphan Black – my absolute favourite show – has started airing at a very inopportune time: the middle of job training, in which my attention and energy is almost exclusively elsewhere.
I want to be able to savour this final adventure with the clone club, and I debated whether to hold off watching it until training was over ... but I don't have that kind of self-discipline. Thankfully I'm already halfway through the three initiation weeks, so in a matter of a few days I can settle down with the final stretch of a truly great show.
(I've also got Wonder Woman and the latest episode of American Gods to review, but we'll get there!)

Things took a strange turn at the end of last season, involving a very LOST-tian twist involving the founder of Neolution and his unnaturally long life. Throw in an island village of scientist hippies, and the Dharma Initiative parallels are a little eyeroll-worthy, not to mention unpleasantly reminiscent of that other conspiracy-laden story which never gave any meaningful answers to the mysteries it raised. Let's hope Orphan Black avoids that fate.
Now is the time for resolution, but not before the show lays out the plot-lines, reintroduces the central cast, adds a few new faces, and throws in some weird creature running about in the forest. So here's where things stand:
Sarah is roughing it on the Island of Doctor Moreau (or close enough) and dodging armed men in her attempts to track down Cosima. Cosima and Charlotte are the "guests" (that is, captives) of Revival, a self-sustaining village that seems to operate under P.T. Westmoreland's guidance.
Rachel – last seen murdering her mother and going batshit crazy – has now seemingly bought into whatever Westmoreland is selling. Delphine's reunion with Cosima is only temporary, for soon she's shipped off to Sardinia (it's a bit random – was the actress unavailable for more screen-time?) but not before leaving behind Cosima's cure.
That it's kept from Cosima by the folks of Revival seems a bit at odds with their intentions for her – after all, they seem to want her as a living hostage; so I expect the subterfuge was mainly to draw out the suspense of Rachel happening upon Cosima as she's about to administer the dosage to herself... and assist in the procedure. For now at least, Rachel seems back on the seestras' side.
Back on the mainland, Mrs S. and Kira are missing, presumably in the custody of Ferdinand. Felix, Art, Scott and ... um... Scott's friend (did he ever get a name?) comprise the search team, though the first two are soon approached by Neolution employees with offers/demands of cooperation, while the latter decide to seek out M.K. through Minecraft.
Oh, and Ira is there too.
Meanwhile, Alison isn't happy about staying put in the National Forest while her seestras do all the dirty work, though Donnie seems to be quite enjoying the great outdoors, even as he remains largely useless in any serious situation. It's sheer dumb luck that saves him from the armed Neolution agents moving in on their camp, and he does nothing to help his wife as she's kidnapped. Instead he trots off unnoticed with her wheeled suitcase. It's kinda awesome.
And Helena ... all you need to know is that when Donnie is held up by an armed man shouting demands, he seems more appalled when Helena appears, knowing exactly what she's about to inflict on the would-be attacker. Of course, no one foresaw that Helena would accidently get stabbed in the belly by a tree branch ... I had my eyes screwed up. That looked painful.
We end with a painfully brief reunion between Cosima and Sarah: the former wants to stay and seek out answers; the latter is long past caring. And just when escape is in her grasp, Sarah gets captured, no doubt on the orders of Westmoreland and bloody Rachel. She almost made it!
We're left with the lingering image of a vision of Kira in Sarah's head, though we don't know if it's an hallucination or a projection from Kira herself – remember, we still don't have answers for Kira's strange abilities, or her seemingly miraculous recovery from being hit by a car way back in season one. It's now or never, writers.
Miscellaneous Observations:
The hippie camp of Revival is somehow so much less interesting/sinister than the glossy but sterile halls and laboratories of Dyad. It could be the aforementioned parallels to LOST, but it just seems so unimaginative somehow.
In saying that, I have to admit I can't come up with a better alternative. Maybe a surprisingly futuristic-looking city on the island? Or a Victorian one given what we know about Westmoreland?
Granted, they probably didn't have the budget for something like that, and I get the feeling that the showrunners like this particular type of folk-horror aesthetic (it's reminiscent of the Proletheans in season two). But it still doesn't pique my curiosity.  I'm just not that interested in what these people are doing or who Westmoreland is. Like the Proletheans, they feel like just another creepy cult.
Maybe they can make it work with some stunning revelations later on in the season, but for now... eh.
The sight of Kira's photograph burning was the money shot of the trailer, and yet in context has a perfect innocent explanation: Sarah needs it to start a fire in the middle of a freezing cold night. Of course, it could still be symbolic foreshadowing of what's to come...
Using a tampon as a band-aid – classic Sarah.
Sick visitors to the island have apparently come in search of "the fountain", which given all the talk about longevity and genetic improvements, is presumably short for the fountain of youth.
Felix was mostly in serious mode this episode, though at least manages a shout-out to Disney's Rapunzel by reaching for a frying pan as a weapon of choice, and remains amusingly ignorant as to what Scott is up to (in Krystal-like fashion, he tells him to contact M.K., moments after Scott has outlined his jargon-filled plan to do exactly that).
I was terrified we would lose Art this episode, but despite getting a gun held to his head, he pulled through – at least for now. As awful as his new partner is, she certainly made an impression. Even her blinking was aggressive, and she wastes no time in revealing her loyalties to Neolution and her immediate goals in rounding up the clones.
It's a marked difference from the man who approaches Felix, who tells him "there's only one faction now." Well that simplifies things at least, though it wasn't like I could tell all these groups – Prometheans, Dyad, Neolution, Topside, Leda – apart anyway. It now just feels like we're dealing with a blend of the religious nutters and the scientific zealots.
Perhaps there's some foreshadowing to be found in Cosima's words to Charlotte: that a myth is told to teach us something, but some bits are as true as others are false. Speaking of Charlotte, is she going to get her share of the cure? Delphine said there was enough for both of them.
So what was up with the man that attacked Sarah at the campsite and then ran off? Is he the same guy the gunmen were talking about, speculating that "he" might have helped Sarah (and who killed the dog)?
In all, this was a reasonably strong start, though its main purpose was to remind us of where everyone is, reset the board for the final stretch, and add a few new faces that probably won't be that important in the long run. Come on, we've got to get arcs and resolution from all the clones, all their friends/family members, the assorted villains, and hopefully a few other minor characters too (have they totally forgotten about Cal?)
But most important, it's time to stop raising questions and start answering them instead. Unlike Penny Dreadful and Sense8Orphan Black has been given the time it needs to wrap things up satisfactorily. Let's hope it sticks the landing.

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