Things are heating up (literally) in this week’s episode of ORPHAN BLACK, “Manacled Slim Wrists.” This week’s episode flies at triple speed with high stakes for Cosima, Kira, and Susan Duncan, and a very special appearance by Krystal. The episode rolls in high off the set up from last week’s episode, and sticks its landing with some emotional revelations and sad departures.
Tonight I’m realizing exactly how difficult it is to review this show – not because the show is bad, or because it’s too complicated to keep track of, but because it’s so good. Orphan Black is such a well-crafted, well-oiled, story-generating machine that there’s hardly anything to hold on to. The show is practically seamless and makes telling this complicated, biology-and-science-fiction-logged story seem so effortless, it’s like trying to climb a rope made of silk.
So, since I can’t seem to think of anything to critique, let’s breakdown the good. Let’s start with story: over the course of the last four seasons, the show has done a marvelous job of building up a huge world of tangled corporate and science webs, all of it leading back to P.T. Westmoreland. It’s a lot, and most shows would probably count themselves lucky not to drown in their own ocean, but Orphan Black doesn’t. Little by little this season, they’ve managed to chip away at the world, making it just a little bit smaller, a little bit more manageable each episode. And they do it without losing any action or slowing down the show with exposition.
Then of course, there’s the characters. Orphan Black, like nearly every good show, owes most of its success to its characters. I know I’ve already gushed about Tatiana Maslany’s talent as an actress, so we don’t need to go down that road again, but the characters themselves are so distinctly different. Not just the clones, but Felix and Mrs. S, and Delphine, and Art, and even Kira – after a while, most ensemble casts bleed into each other, because when you have a large group of characters and the majority of them want to do or agree with the same things, it’s difficult to make them distinctly separate. But the characters of Orphan Black are hugely diverse in thought, lives, and action. So much so sometimes that it seems as though each character lives in a different world. The story potential and the appeal of each episode then becomes very similar to Doctor Who – except, we don’t need a TARDIS to go anywhere.
This particular episode did a beautiful job combining complementary characters to sew together a high-speed, high-intensity episode. We open with a hugely comedic scene with Krystal. I’ve never laughed so hard at a joke set-up in a dramatic show. As usual, Krystal’s somehow found herself at the center of a Dyad “conspiracy” on the verge of actual big, important clues into Neolution, all under what she’s convinced is simply “Big Cosmetics.”
This clue is very useful to Mrs. S and Sarah’s Neolution puzzle, however, and so Sarah and Art decide to pursue the lead and find out more about what Dyad is possibly up to. Unfortunately, Rachel is back in town and ready to bring Kira in to harvest her eggs. Mrs. S and Sarah hold her off at first by having Kira fake the stomach flu, after Delphine warns Mrs. S not to let Dyad have Kira, but unfortunately it’s only a short term delay, and it seems as the – unintentionally – the choice has become ‘uncover what Dyad and Neolution are up to’ or ‘save Kira from Neolution.’
Meanwhile, on the island, things are unraveling, fast. With Cosima locked up, Ira glitching, and multiple deaths happening at the camp, Mud and the rest of the Neolution camp are shaken to their cores. When P.T. Westmoreland retrieves Dr. Virginia Coady from the mental hospital where Susan Duncan had her locked up and brings her back to the camp, Susan realizes that P.T. has seriously gone off the deep end, and the only way to stop the evil that P.T. and Virginia will bring together is to end Neolution right then and there.
With Ira and Mud’s help, Susan frees Cosima and drugs P.T. with an overdose of morphine. Cosima gets away with the clone cure and Charlotte, but not before she is stopped in the village and has to reveal to everyone that P.T. Westmoreland isn’t P.T. Westmoreland. The villagers go primal, taking torches to every building in the encampment.
Unfortunately for Ira and Susan, they aren’t so lucky to get away. With chaos happening in the village, Virginia discovers Susan’s plot to kill P.T. and stops it before Westmoreland overdoses. Unfortunately Susan can’t get away and she is shot and killed. Ira, struggling to prepare for his escape with Susan through his glitching, finds her dead in the greenhouse, just as he starts to suffer from a double nose bleed. A fittingly bittersweet end for two admittedly strange and gray area characters.
As Sarah, Art, and Krystal uncover another piece to the Neolution clue, Dyad comes for Kira. With his other endeavors burning before his eyes, P.T. demands Rachel take Kira and begin treatments right away. Without any back up to help her resist, Mrs. S lets Kira go.
And so we’re left to wait impatiently for the next installment in our final story until next week.
Season 5, Episode 6 (S05E06)
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 10PM on BBC America
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
Keep up with all of Tasha’s reviews here.
Tasha Cerny | Contributor