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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Orphan Black: One Fettered Slave

So it's not just work that's making these reviews late, it's that there's so much to process in each episode, and a part of me doesn't want it to end. It's hard to believe we only get one more episode of Orphan Black before it's over forever.

There was a tiny thread of hope left at the end of last week that Siobhan would be found in time, though the opening scene of this episode put that to rest. I was a little surprised the other clones weren't at the funeral, particularly since last week heavily suggested the walls of secrecy were coming down, but I like to think the writers saving their budget for the grand finale (when you think about it, the clones have been separated more than usual this year).
But a risk of killing a major character at the end of a show is that there's little chance to actually miss them. Think of D'Argo in Farscape, killed off in the last minutes of the miniseries and whose absence in the remaining characters' lives was barely felt because the story ended five seconds later.
But in this case you could really feel Siobhan's absence – not just in the scene where Sarah smells her coat, but throughout the whole episode. There were times where I thought the clones should go to her for help on this or that, only to realize that was no longer an option. They're on their own now, and that's pretty terrifying.  
As I expected, the focus on these last two episodes will be the rescue of Helena, so it's only fitting that we get the long-awaited flashbacks to her childhood. They're exactly what you would have expected (minus the masturbating nun; I doubt anyone saw that coming) and her childhood at the convent was indeed traumatic. This includes the forcible bleaching of her hair – though if you're asking me to believe that dye job and the pink-rimmed eyes from the closet lasted into adulthood because of that one experience ... no.
Up until this episode I thought Helena was simply an albino, but I suppose we just have to assume that like her self-inflicted wounds, she kept up the blonde hair as a reminder of her own sinfulness. 
And who should turn up but Tomas?! It's too late now to get any understanding of this guy's motivation or how he even came to know of the clones in the first place, but ten points for continuity.
So after grumbling for so long about how Helena was a violent unrepentant killer in the first season, and then a damaged and quirky scrapper in every season following, I finally feel like we have the necessary pieces of the puzzle to justify her redemption.
Yes, many of the clones and Amelia were brutally killed, but Tomas's grooming and the throwaway line about how her mother abandoned her at the convent definitely helps clarify Helena's state of mind when she murdered her birth mother and the other seestras. It's not an excuse, but an explanation at least.
So in a show that's so utterly about women and women's issues, I have to take a moment to shout out my love for the men of Orphan Black: Art, Scott and Felix (and Donnie). They're so devoted to these women, and in the first three cases it's not because of romantic interest but genuine love and a desire to simply do the right thing. I believe the correct term is: allies.
When Felix caused a distraction in the board room, when Art fatally shot a man (something I always suspected he'd do eventually) and Scott and Hell Wizard sneaked into Dyad – all of them risking their lives in the pursuit of Helena, a woman they barely know beyond the fact she's one of the seestras – I don't think I've ever loved them more.
In fact, Scott's face when he told Art: "I want to help," despite being visibly terrified got me a little choked up. I expect they got their heroic moments here so that the finale can focus almost exclusively on the clones, but they were good ones. (But oh boy, I'm terrified for Art. Please let him be okay).
Scooooott. Arrrrrrrrt.

Miscellaneous Observations:
It makes sense that the dynamic that would come to the fore in this final stretch is the one between Sarah and Helena: their relationship has been the rockiest, and their bond the deepest in the narrative.
I noticed plenty of complaints about the recasting for young Helena, but oddly enough it didn't bother me. I just assumed this was a younger version of the clones with a more age-appropriate actress who could pull off Helena's feral nature – just like how three actors played Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire at different ages, without looking anything alike.
As expected, Mark dies without achieving much of anything. I'm not sure why they bothered to bring him and Gracie back just to kill them off almost instantaneously, but there was a certain poignancy in the way he drifts off, discussing his future with a wife who is (unbeknownst to him) already dead.
But wow, what a piece of work Virginia Coady was. I mean, we already knew she was awful – but damn. There were a couple of moments in which she seemed to have been wavering under Westmoreland's orders to do away with the Castors ... but nope, she's still firmly under his heel. Hearing Helena call her a "shit mother" one more time was intensely satisfying, and I didn't even cringe at the violent head-banging.
That she can be cruel AND maternal at the same time is what makes her horrifying.
Okay, so I have a job interview tomorrow morning. I should not be writing this so late, and if I want to have any concentration at all I'm going to put off watching the very last episode of Orphan Black until the interview is behind me. See you on the other side.


  1. Good luck with the interview! I've seen the finale so that's all I'll say ...

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