Basically, if Tatiana Maslany doesn’t at least get an Emmy nomination, we should all just give up and go home. What would be the point of anyone trying anything ever again? I haven’t been reviewing this series week-by-week, but basically after the credits every episode, I’m completely captivated by her performance(s). And today’s finale was no exception.
There are elements of Orphan Black that perhaps wobble a bit into lampoon (and I’m not talking about the comedy, more the science), and there are other elements that could dive into the deep end. As the creators of the series once stated, depending on who they cast, the series could either have been really good or deplorably bad. So, yes, maybe a lot of Orphan Black is showing off Maslany’s chops. But hey, if you’ve got them: flaunt them.
In just a matter of 10 episodes, Orphan Black has woven through at least four concrete story arcs, giving that immense workload to just one extremely capable actor. The problem, then, is finding out how to believably give every single on of them believable drives and motivations to be three-dimensional, but to also be relevant to the story as a whole. It’s a daunting task, but I think it was pulled off well, all the way up to the finale’s final moments. Let’s take them clone by clone:
Or shall we call her “Coughsima”? Cosima begins this episode getting off a bus to… well, we all just assume this is somewhere in Canada… where she can warn the others about the synthetic sequence in the DNA. However, as she boards off, she coughs up blood. This happens several times within the episode, but Cosima decides to ignore it on account of (A) there are bigger things to be doing here and (B) no one wants to accept they might actually be sick.
There have been about four clues leading to illness/specialness in the clones thus far. The first was Katja, who, right before she was killed in Beth’s car, was coughing up blood just like Cosima. In fact, she came forward and was providing DNA to figure out what exactly was wrong with her. Unfortunately, she died before we were ever given a chance to find out exactly what. Elsewhere, Sarah’s daughter easily survived a head-on crash; Helena is not what we would call sane; and, of course, quite bluntly, Dr. Leekie told Alison she needs a check-up at least twice a year, that there was something with the clones which could cause diseases of some kind.
So we know there’s something inherently going on with their DNA that could cause this type of illness, as we’ve seen before. Yet we don’t exactly know why, which is perhaps the reason Cosima narrows in so definitively at cracking the ASCII code. Cosima could have easily accepted Dr. Leekie’s offer to get her life back, but like Sarah, she’s finding it hard to warm up to the people that have basically used them as lab rats. She’s not the rat, she likes to be the experimenter. Finding out that she’s been manipulated this entire time does not make it any better. This is my understanding as to why she was so upset last week when she found out that Delphine had double-crossed her. It was doomed from the beginning, but for once ever-the-scientist Cosima decided that she could beat the mathematical odds — instead, it backfired on her. There’s no telling how she’ll spiral form here on out. And speaking of Dr. Leekie’s offer…
Throughout the season, Alison has been one-half of the comedic relief (along with Felix, of course). Her pristine and proper suburban housewife demeanor coupled with accidental moments of badassery have made her the most memorable and likable of the bunch. Do I even need to repeat the glue gun incident? Tonight, however, that all spiraled into the abyss.
Ever since Alison found out about the monitors, she’s been an insurmountable mess. As someone who is used to controlling every aspect of her life, Alison didn’t enjoy the fact that maybe someone was controlling it from the outside. And thus, the drinking and the pills ensued, and then the assaults came after. What we didn’t know is that it was all a descent.
Sure, we probably should have seen the very huge signs when she hit her husband over the head with a golf club and then burned his chest. But could anyone have predicted what she did tonight? It was certainly not comedic. It was chilling. And it was very dark.
Alison watches as her monitor Aynsely — or at least she thinks Aynsely is her monitor — chokes to death. That’s one of the more morbid things we’ve seen on the series. For Alison, it must feel like finally being able to put an end to everything that has been spiraling out of control in her life for the past few weeks or so. Once she feels that the threat is truly gone — even though it isn’t, and she knows that even if Aynsely were her monitor all she is is a monitor — there’s at least some peace in knowing that no one will be intruding on her perfect suburban life. For Alison, it’s a deep-rooted denial. Her mind has yet to catch up to her actions, but when they do, she’ll probably just fall further.
In some ways, Helena as a character and antagonist could have fallen flat on its face. But in the past couple of episodes, she’s really become a bit self-aware.
Her encounter with Kira really proved to herself that there’s something more there. I don’t know how much Helena could have actually believed that she was original or pure, given how she was treated her entire life. I’d begin to have doubts if I were locked in a cage, and it seems like that was not an activity that Helena particularly enjoyed either (or thought was fit for the Original). Part of me wants to think that Helena believed she could have been saved after that meeting with Kira; that’s when she finally realized the true consequences of her actions.
Tonight, she reverted to her insane self. But tonight wasn’t fueled by believing she was the Original. No, tonight was about placing blame on someone for who she is. When she realized that she’s “the way she is” because her mother decided to separate her from her sister, she retaliates — by murdering her. In some ways, it’s a strange acceptance of who she’s become: she’s a killer, and she owns it by doing away with the one person she thinks to be responsible for all of her pain.
Sarah, however, is over it.
“When I look at her, I see myself,” Sarah said last week. She was talking about more than appearances. If there’s one thing that has been driving Sarah along this entire season, it’s her love for Kira. Everything that she has done has been to protect her. That’s why she finally pulls the trigger tonight and kills her twin sister Helena.
Helena has already killed one of the people she has been waiting her entire life to meet, her birth mother. Helena may have been on the road to recovery, but Sarah realizes during the finale that there’s just no hope for her. And with someone who is clearly obsessed with her out in the world like that, there’s just no way that Kira could ever be safe, so she pulls the trigger and kills her.
It’s also dark, and now Cosima is the only clone who has yet to kill anyone. But it’s not morbid like Alison’s murder. Sarah is doing this to protect her child, and it’s safe to say that perhaps Alison’s children are not in that same danger. But what Sarah doesn’t know is that it appears as though the scientists already know everything about her personal life, including Kira.
For as much as Alison feels like her life is spiraling out of control, so does Sarah. And in my opinion, Sarah’s life is the one that’s most hectic. If Alison had played things differently, she could have had been in control of the situation yet again. But a ton of weight has been dropped unto Sarah’s shoulders, and she finally breaks this episode.
She was thisclose to giving it all away to Art, the first person she thought to have her back in this situation (regardless of him not knowing the details), but is saved by the bell… or the lawyer. Once again, she gets close to signing off on Dr. Leekie’s deal, just so that all of the madness can finally end, but she’s interrupted by Cosima’s call.
Now, let’s not really discuss what the patent means or how it was ever enacted. The point is that it affirms that these people don’t really see them as actual human beings, just experiments and property. Entrusting them would be like giving up on being a person and submitting to the idea that they’re owned. So she tells them to forget the deal.
But what she didn’t imagine was that they would go in and take Kira away. Or is that really what they did? Sarah’s birth mother tells her that Mrs. S isn’t exactly who she claims to be (before dying the cliché death). So who is she? Is she her monitor? These were questions we’ve been asking ourselves for weeks now.
Overall, a great finale for its freshman season: both funny and equally gripping. I was actually kind of dismayed at Helena’s inevitable death. Orphan Black truly fleshed out every, single character this season. That, along with Maslany’s brilliant performances has made Orphan Black a must-watch. Sure, as I’ve noted, things could have gotten out of hand, especially with respect to the science-y elements of the show. But what Orphan Black does well is weave and bob all of these stories and characters together marvelously. With one actress playing most of your central characters, it would have been no surprise had they taken the easy way out and have the characters develop however the plot needed them to.
Instead, the writers and Maslany decided to make these people wholly believable and unmistakably them. Everyone’s dedication is astounding. Equal parts The Tatiana Maslany Show, character-driven arcs, and unafraid plot momentum, Orphan Black has made for a compelling hour of television each and every week. Here’s to spring 2014!