TL;DR – Boy does it finish in a way only Orphan Black could, it has been a ride sestras, one hell of a ride.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Goodness, we actually got here, an end to the wonderful sci-fi series, I say this because the track record of sci-fi shows I love getting their final goodbye is not high. But today we are going to break down the final seasons and look at the things that did work and what didn’t, and take a look at how it all finished. So if you have never watched Orphan Black it is a story about clones, which is not a spoiler because you find that out in the first episode. However, because this is a story about clones it means that lead actor Tatiana Maslany plays at least five main distinct roles throughout the series, and more amazingly each of them feels like a real character. The main story revolves around Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) who has to juggle her past life and impersonating Beth Childs (Tatiana Maslany) who committed suicide in front of her, Alison Hendrix (Tatiana Maslany) who just wants to be a suburban mum and is not ready for her world to explode around her, Cosima Niehaus (Tatiana Maslany) who has devoted her life to science only to find out she herself is a science experiment, Rachel Duncan (Tatiana Maslany) who has lived her life knowing she was a clone and has a detached uncaringness towards her sisters, and Helena (Tatiana Maslany), who has been abused and tormented all her life and turned into a weapon to unleash on her sisters. The seasons revolve around trying to unpick the Dyad Institute and Neolution and more, what are their plans for the clones, and the world. At this point just a reminder that we will be looking at the season as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
Now when looking at the story for the season as a whole we can see some of the highlights and some of the issues when it comes to finishing a show like this. Now to start with one of the decisions that I think worked against the season, especially at the start, was the focus on The Island. The problem here was that this cut off Cosima from the rest of the group, which has happened in the past but not to this degree. This lack of interaction could have been fine if there were interesting things to discover at The Island but there just wasn’t enough story there to really keep it going. This is combined with Helena also hiding away for a lot of the season and it just felt that those sestras interactions were lacking a bit. As well as this, Sarah spent a lot of this season reacting to things around her, often badly, and not acting. This is was a big change in her usually proactive nature and it meant that she spent most of the season being frustrated, which was frustrating to watch at times.
However, while there were some stumbles at the start of the season, these were just small issues, because the power of the story and the characters was strong enough to overcome them. One of the highlights for me this season is that we got to see the history of two of the sestras, which gave us a deeper understanding of the characters. First, we have Allison, who may have travelled the most of any of the sestras over the five seasons. We got to see the moment she found out that she was a clone, but that was juxtaposed with both her current troubles and the biggest mistake she ever made. This allowed us to get to know her in a way we hadn’t so far, and made her finally stepping up at the end of the episode so rewarding. As well as this, we also got to see Helena’s history, what she went through to turn an innocent child into someone who kills, even someone who kills her own kind. Once again this was juxtaposed with a moment in her life where she was at her lowest, and she decided that it was better to kill herself and her babies than letting them grow up in the future she saw for them.
Indeed every action had weight this season, because we knew coming into it that it would be the show’s final run. So when Siobhán (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and Rachel betrayed Ferdinand (James Frain) you knew that there would be consequences. When Gracie (Zoé de Grand’Maison) chose Helena over Virginia (Kyra Harper) even though Virginia had Mark (Ari Millen) you knew there would be consequences. When Rachel dug out her prosthetic eye, because she knew they were watching, well things were going to do down. Now in nowhere else is this apparent than in the season finale, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Now if you are writing a review of Orphan Black, you have to give praise for the wonderful work of Tatiana Maslany. I think there is no greater praise that I could give than I consistently forget that all of the sestras are played by the same person. Each of them are complete characters, they all have their own mannerisms and emotions that are unique to them, even down to how they stand. I am completely in awe whenever they have Cosima pretend to be Alison, and you can tell that is Tatiana playing Cosima, pretending to be Alison. As an actor to pull that off and make it feel believable is astounding, and if Tatiana does not get an Emmy nomination it will be a travesty, and of course, we have to mention the role Kathryn Alexandre who is Tatiana’s acting double, and helps make the show what it is. Indeed the highlight of the season has been the strength that everyone gave to their performances. Whether it is Donnie (Kristian Bruun) trying to be the best husband for Alison even though everything is falling apart around him. Or Delphine (Évelyne Brochu) and Siobhán realising that they have to cut Sarah and the sestras out of their plan because it is the only way they can get the information they need. Or Felix (Jordan Gavaris) finding that he needs to both find his own meaning outside his sestras and their drama, but also to be the rock that people need in their darkest hours.
So now we come to the end with the final episode “To Right the Wrongs of Many”, and we are in a tough place, also final a [SPOILER] reminder. Helena has been kidnapped by Cody and Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie), and in the process Westmoreland had Maddy Enger (Elyse Levesque) kill Gracie and have Cody put down Mark the last Caster clone. Siobhán has been killed so the mother to everyone and powerhouse has been taken away from them, and Sarah has gone back to Dyad pretending to be Rachel to buy Art (Kevin Hanchard), Scott (Josh Vokey) & Hell-Wizard (Calwyn Shurgold) time to mount a rescue, oh and it opens with the revelation that Sarah considered not having Kira (Skyler Wexler). Now with Rachel and Helena on the run in the building, Westmoreland needs Helena to give birth to save his life, and Cody is on the hunt not learning her lesson to leave Helena alone. Like this season just when things are at their worst, that is when we rally, Art becomes a midwife, Westmoreland gets a cylinder to the face, and Sarah gets to pass on the wisdom of those lost, as she helps Helena give birth to her twins. Then in that moment of despair, we find clarity, and we find that life goes on. Life doesn’t always get a happy ending, but I’m glad this story did even if it took the losses of many to get here, but the past has a way of affecting the future, also after five seasons I’m glad we finally got confirmation that we are in Canada.
All beginnings have ends, and some ends are just the beginning, and the legacy will always live on. Orphan Black was a story of strong women fighting for their lives, fighting for their families, fighting for what is right, even when everyone was against them. It was a story of finding strength when you are at your weakest, finding strength in your friends when all hope is lost, fighting even when there is no end in sight, loving those who make our lives better, and that you should never go after sestras because they have each other’s backs. I don’t think we will ever get a show quite like Orphan Black any time soon, and I glad we got to see all the sestras to the end.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Orphan Black
Directed by – John Fawcett, David Wellington, Helen Shaver, Grant Harvey, David Frazee & Aaron Morton
Written by – Graeme Manson, Jeremy Boxen, Alex Levine, Greg Nelson, Jenn Engels, David Bezmozgis, Renée St. Cyr & Aisha Porter-Christie
Created by – Graeme Manson
Starring – Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kristian Bruun, Kevin Hanchard, Ari Millen, Josh Vokey with Tatiana Maslany, Kathryn Alexandre, Skyler Wexler, Cynthia Galant, Zoé de Grand’Maison, Kyra Harper, Calwyn Shurgold, Rosemary Dunsmore, Matt Frewer, James Frain, Lauren Hammersley, Andrew Moodie, Stephen McHattie, Jenessa Grant, Nicholas Rose, Ryan Blakely, & Elyse Levesque