Today, ORPHAN BLACK was renewed for a fifth — and final — season. That means, after tonight, there are only 10 more episodes to go. On one hand I get it, because after wormbots, male clones, finding The Original and putting a pen through Rachel’s eyeball, where do we go from here is a legit question to ask. But on the other hand… to quote Kira in this episode, “I worry about all the sisters. There’s so many we don’t even know.” I feel like there is so much more left to be explored. So many loose ends left unwoven that can’t possibly be tied together in 10 episodes. So I must admit I watched tonight’s season finale in a somewhat more somber spirit.
At the top of the episode we learn Susan and Cosima’s experiment is working. Together they’ve finally found a cure. They have a sweet mother nerd/daughter nerd bonding moment over this and Cosima tells Sarah the good news. As Susan and Rachel begin to struggle for power and Sarah concurrently figures out based on Krystal’s info that Susan’s going to steal Cosima’s science for herself in an attempt to take back Neolution, she decides to go back to The Island of Dr. Moreau alone, which is stupid, to find and save Cosima. She leaves Kira with Siobhan as usual and heads to the island to find she may already be too late. Cosima’s fled into the woods with Charlotte and they’re nowhere to be found; Susan Duncan’s bloody and broken. Rachel has taken Cosima’s science and tortures Sarah and Susan, leaving them both for dead, on her way out to use it to leverage control of Neolution/Brightborn. Cosima, meanwhile, follows The Messenger (the Swan Man from Rachel’s visions) to an encampment, where Delphine awaits her. They reconcile and Cosima tells her she’s found a cure. Sarah, meanwhile, met the business end of Rachel’s kitchen knife while she was at the house searching for Cosima. She’s fled into the woods and does what any respectable adult would do in such an “all is lost” situation: she calls her mom for help, crying. Her timing, however, couldn’t be worse. Ferdinand (will this guy ever find his chill? Damn) has just taken Siobhan and Kira hostage.
Back on the mainland, Krystal is convinced she’s got Brightborn all figured out — they’re using stem cells to make bionic makeup, remember??? — until she recognizes Van Lier, the new CEO of Brightborn, on a news conference as the same man she saw come out of nowhere in a van to save a dying Delphine after she got shot. Felix and Sarah decide it’s time to induct Krystal into the Clone Club, which goes kind of hilariously awry when Krystal doesn’t believe them because she doesn’t think Sarah’s hot enough to be confused for her clone.
Felix keeps Krystal distracted as Sarah dresses up like her to trap Van Lier for a surprise interrogation; when Van Lier lets it slip that it’s not Evie Cho he’s working for, Sarah figures out that Susan Duncan is still pulling the strings over at Brightborn/Neolution and is stealing Cosima’s science for herself. Van Lier tells them it’s too late, Susan’s not their problem — Rachel’s convened the board without her. And that, plus Evie Cho’s assassination which felt very “not with a bang but with a whimper” brings Rachel firmly back into the Big Bad seat for our final season.
Rachel plans to take control of Neolution/Brightborn with the promise of a new program that would allow for both genetic testing and human cloning. She needs Cosima’s science to leverage for control with the board. Susan, knowing full well the evil Rachel is capable of, tries to save her daughters and tells Cosima and Charlotte to flee. When Rachel gets back to The Island, Susan’s there waiting for her — and so is the San Man from her fantasies, whom Susan just dismisses as “a messenger.” Mom and clone daughter fight, ending in an ugly moment when Susan tells Rachel she regrets making her. Rachel, thinking her visions are sending her a message, grabs a kitchen knife and stabs Susan. Susan wakes up tied to a chair. She tells Susan she’s been seeing things with her eye. She asks Susan who built it and Susan says it’s the man who wrote the book on Neolution over a century ago. The episode ends with Rachel in a video conference with Van Leer and the new board. She tells them the science is secure. He says Mr. Westmoreland (the guy who wrote the 100+ year old Neolution bible) will see her now and then there’s a knock at the door.
Okay… that twist is Mormon AF you guys, I’m sorry. I mean… I guess, in terms of plausible deniability, there is a universe in which fountain of youth science and clone science could exist at the same time. There’s a universe where vampires and werewolves could exist at the same time too, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a little cheesy. Also, the weird flip to Fangirl at the end when Rachel’s awaiting her visit from PT Westmoreland like a 14 year old waited in line for *NSYNC tickets back before smartphones or Paypal were things just didn’t feel consistent with her character. Rachel is a stone cold thug. Homegirl has a glass eye and a cane and probably permanent brain damage and is still kicking ass and taking names (and science, in this case). What I loved about this episode, though, was how much of it was Rachel’s journey. It was a beautiful chart of the rise of a villain, but it’s also easy to forget that there are stakes in this for Rachel too. Business and science aside, Rachel’s got huge abandonment issues, and her position at Neolution has driven a wedge between her and the Clone Club — perhaps her most legitimate shot at a family — from Day One. Her stoicism often gets overshadowed by the flurry of Sarah and Alison’s scheming or Helena’s effortlessly outrageous antics. But this finale was, in effect, the story of Rachel finally growing up and declaring her independence — her style just involves using half the knife block in the kitchen to do so.
Overall this was a solid end to a solid season. Any concerns I had last week about Delphine’s return taking up too much real estate are obviously totally unfounded, that was executed beautifully. I’m bummed we didn’t get a big showdown between Rachel and Evie Cho, but the showdown between Rachel, Sarah and Susan was a trade up for sure. It seemed like Sarah didn’t have a clear driving goal in the episode until learning Cosima and the cure were in danger, which was disappointing. The erratic nature of her arc distracted from the plot. Also, Siobhan seemed like an afterthought in this episode, which was kind of a bummer. She faded into the background in a way that didn’t feel purposeful. I get that she’s probably still mourning her mother’s death or dealing with the fact that she just killed a man in cold blood, but Maria Doyle Kennedy has such huge acting chops that I have no doubt she would have shown us that turmoil, had it been addressed in the script or framed during production.
Ellen is a writer mostly because she can’t be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Ellen Duffy | Contributor