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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Orphan Black: Ease for Idle Millionaires

So even as the fifth season of the show trundles along without its usual sense of suspense and urgency, this episode threw some interesting spanners into the mix: namely that P.T. Westmoreland may be a big fat fraud.
That Westmoreland is the evil genius behind Neolution and that he's of a preternatural age has been something I've simply assumed is true. Because of that I've been a little bewildered by the scenes of Mrs S questioning the nerds about the history of Neolution and Westmoreland's biography. Was any of it necessary? Why was the show wasting time showing Mrs S trying to establish something we already know is true?
Unless of course, it isn't true. A couple of episodes ago Westmoreland was explicitly referred to as The Man Behind the Curtain, and we all know how that turned out in The Wizard of Oz. He was a complete phoney. More clues popped up across this episode, including evidence that Westmoreland is very ill (so... not immortal after all?) and a lack of familiarity regarding Charles Darwin facts, despite having supposedly gone to school with him.
Cosima's subtle testing of his general knowledge based on her scepticism of his claims, which eventually leads to her flat-out accusing him of smoke and mirrors, throws everything into a brand new light. His insistence on Delphine and Cosima wearing period garb to dinner feels less like an eccentricity and more like a creepy attempt at gaslighting. His power over the likes of Susan, Rachel and Virginia (as Cosima says: "he divides women") appears based on good old fashioned sexism and not any long-standing respect for a patriarchal figure.
But if Westmoreland is a fraud, then why does everyone follow him so fervently? What power does he hold over Rachel? And what's she gonna do if she finds out she's being lied to? And how is Westmoreland pulling all this off anyhow?
Whatever the answer is, it's a risky move for the show to make their Greater Scope Villain into someone not nearly as impressive as he first appears. If Westmoreland is a phony, then all the great and noble work the various other baddies think they're doing is actually just in service of a selfish and petty old man trying to expand his life span.
But evil is nothing if not banal.
The episode also wraps up the subplot of the Island of Doctor Moreau monster in a surprising way: I started by wondering why the writers were still trying to make us care about a guy running wild in the woods; by the time the credits roll he's been used to answer a long-standing question and shot in the head.
After he kills a Red Shirt to establish how dangerous he is, Westmoreland reveals the creature was once a normal boy called Yannis with a unique genome. Bits of his DNA were used in the Leda Project, though the ability of accelerated healing didn't manifest until the second generation: Kira. Much like the mouse Rachel gave her, Kira can regenerate quickly, and research based on her DNA has allowed Revival to miraculously cure people (the manipulation of the Lin28A gene is "the fountain" that's been mentioned).
So Yannis wasn't a brand new mystery; just the answer to an old one. Kira has always been the true focus of Neolution, and by harvesting her eggs out to brand new surrogates they hope to discover if her genetic traits are inheritable.
It's a rather grotesque plan when Cosima puts it into context: though she's just a child Kira will technically be the mother of dozens if not hundreds of new test subjects, and for her protests she's locked up in the basement ... presumably with Yannis's body.
So this was very much a Cosima-centric episode, with two lines of dialogue that define her entire characterization throughout this show: that she's: "clinical but humane" and that (as she says to Westmoreland): "you gave me life, but you can't take my humanity." This is said when he gives her a gun and tells her to put Yannis out of his misery, a course of action she rejects in favour of helping him – not that it does him much good, as Westmoreland ends up shooting him instead. 
She gets to side-eye a LOT of people this episode.
For the first time we also learn a little about the people who raised her: that they're a loving but remote couple who know absolutely nothing about what Cosima has been up to these last few years. It feels a bit too little, too late in regards to getting insight on what Cosima's upbringing has been like, and the fact she's a reasonably well-adjusted human being belies the fact her parents haven't been seen or heard of before this moment, but hey – it's the last season. Now or never, right?
The show (and probably the audience as well) is much more interested in Delphine and Cosima, even as they're going through what must be the millionth reiteration of "you have to trust me!" Heck, even the characters lampshade how tired they are of this plot, though I expect the otherwise totally unnecessary flashback to the night Cosima found out she was the property of Neolution was designed to illustrate just why she's so invested in this relationship: it's a heady mix of despair, hope, passion, and a promise to keep resisting.
Delphine is in pretty deep as well, still negotiating that murky territory of protecting Cosima even through the constant stream of lies and betrayal. It's always been difficult for me to fully invest in these two, even as I recognise they're almost certainly going to be endgame, but before the final credits roll I hope they find some sort of solid ground to forge ahead on.  
Miscellaneous Observations:
So Mud is the one that set Yannis free in the first place – I'm not sure how or why, but perhaps her emotional attachment to him is what will get her on Cosima's side.
Rachel and Susan are still at odds, and Rachel in particular clearly harbours no regrets for her attempted matricide.
It's becoming increasingly clear that Kira's psychic link with the clones (and Helena's link with Sarah) is something real, as opposed to a cute narrative device. In which case, can the Clone Club utilize it as a tool in their arsenal?
Scott and Hellwizard haven't been given much to do this season besides research Neolution – I hope at least Scott and Cosima get a nice reunion before the end.
Poor Ira is glitching. Can't they get him some of Cosima's cure?
We finally get context for the strange clothes Cosima and Delphine were wearing in the previews, though anyone hoping it signalled a wedding will be nursing their disappointment.
And apparently Delphine is working with Felix and Adele in Geneva, not to mention passing information to Mrs S. Is it just me, or is all the interesting stuff happening off-screen? Should they ever make a spin-off to this show, it could be one that fills in all the adventures Delphine had when the camera wasn't looking.

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