The future is most definitely female, and the fifth and final season of Orphan Black means business.With this being our last outing with our beloved Clone Club sestras, it’s no surprise that the stakes are higher than ever, with the pace, storylines and amount of violence escalating dramatically.
At the end of last season, we were left with several questions: Who the hell is P.T. Westmoreland, the 100+-year-old founder of Neolution? Will Cosima be cured of her illness? Will Sarah make it off the island? This season, being its last, is all about answers, and they come by the bucket load.We also learn the true crux of the series and of Neolution’s agenda: Kira. We’ve known since the early seasons of Kira’s self-healing and empathy capacities, so it is no wonder that Cosima discovers their plan to harvest her egg cells in order to manipulate a gene called LIN-28A in 1300 surrogates. The idea of using a young pre-pubescent girl’s body in such a way is horrifying, and truly demonstrates the nature of this show and its message: how far is too far in the field of science and biology?However, despite the usual science basis, it never once feels like viewers are in over their heads during this season, finding out on a need-to-know basis, a bit like the clones themselves. And boy, is this season packed. We have Cosima, now cured thanks to Rachel’s rare moment of compassion, stuck on an island and trying to foil Westmoreland’s plans; Sarah attempting to protect Kira from “Auntie Rachel” and going on several missions with Mrs S; Helena still pregnant with her “special babies” and hiding out in a convent with a nun who used to care for her; and Alison going completely off the rails and discovering her true self, albeit with a foul new haircut and keyboard lessons.
What I’m trying to say is that each clone has their own part to play in the battle against Neolution, and each play it perfectly. With the help of Delphine, Mrs S, Art, Scott and Felix (the supporting cast are truly remarkable this season), the clones are able to work out exactly what Neolution, Westmoreland and Rachel are up to and attempt to stop it. Girls can be so kick-ass.The season makes great use of bringing back old characters, as well as the employment of flashbacks. We are re-introduced briefly to Gracie and Mark before their eventual deaths, as well as Virginia Coady, who takes on a mighty new role in order to avenge her CASTOR project and out-do Susan Duncan, who just so happens to have survived her supposedly fatal stabbing at the hands of Rachel in the season four finale, and is still living on the island with Ira.
The flashbacks used throughout are poignant, focusing on the development of Rachel, Helena and Sarah. In particular, Rachel’s and Helena’s show their growing up with knowledge of being clones, both with a superiority complex, and how this formed the characters we see in season five – it also answers the question of how Helena got her famous bleach-blonde hair. Rachel never saw herself as part of a real family. However, despite Westmoreland’s attempts to be a father figure to her in order to subdue her position in power, she realises she will never truly be free of being a test subject, and surrenders all the information she has to the Clone Club in order to help bring Neolution down in the final episode. We knew she had a heart in there somewhere, deep down.
The most heartbreaking moment of the season is the ultimate death of Mrs S. The matriarch of the show, Siobhan spent the entirety of the show looking out for her adoptive daughter and her ‘sestras’, and particularly in this season she goes above and beyond with the help of Delphine to help save her granddaughter from being used as a lab rat and, above all, save the clones. Meeting her demise at the hands of Ferdinand, she doesn’t even let her final breaths phase her, making sure to shoot him in the neck before he can get away. Her final line of “oh, chickens” is a surefire way to make you sob your heart out, with Maria Doyle Kennedy performing some of her best work yet in this final season.
The season finale is refreshing in that everything between the clones and Neolution is wrapped up within the first 15 minutes, rather than prolonging a gruesome and unnecessary showdown. Helena gives birth to her twins and Coady and Westmoreland – revealed to be an imposter named John who made the Westmoreland myth up all along – are killed, the latter by Sarah in a clone vs. creator standoff. The clones all seem to be happy, cured and living in harmony, but Sarah is still unsure of her place in the world as a mother, especially with the loss of Siobhan. Tatiana Maslany has done a stellar job these past four years playing each and every single clone that Graeme Manson and John Fawcett have come up with, and this final episode is no exception; one of the final scenes between Helena, Sarah, Cosima and Alison is full of seemingly trivial observations of motherhood and maternal instinct, compared to what they have just gone through, and each clone’s personalities and mannerisms shine through, in spite of the fact that Maslany had to act against herself on four separate occasions. Give her all the awards, please.
We learn that the origin of the show is from Helena’s “book of memories” all about her sisters named Orphan Black – perhaps the only truly clichéd moment of the entire series, but one that somehow still works. Rachel gives up the names of the 237 (!!!) clones that exist in the world, and each faction of the clone family are seen living happy, living normal lives, just as they were always entitled to. I think I can speak for every viewer when I say I’ve never been so happy to see characters living such normal lives in a series. I’d go as far to say I was relieved!
Orphan Black, with Tatiana Maslany anchoring the series from the get-go, has been a lesson not only in the art of science, action and thriller, but also in owning your femininity and being your true self – whoever and whatever you are, you should embrace it and own it, because we all kick ass and we should celebrate that. We salute you, Clone Club. You’ll be missed.
Orphan Black seasons 1-5 are available to watch on Netflix.
[Originally written for The National Student]