This week, on Orphan Black: Sarah surrenders, Helena misses her boyfriend, and Rachel channels Nick Fury
Orphan Black season two comes to a close with one of the more predictable twists this season could have brought, expanding the world of the Dyad Group and introducing a whole new slew of possibilities for season three. Unfortunately, the limited scope of the Dyad Group was not an issue this year, and further complicating it does not help rectify the largest problem still plaguing the series. At the end of two seasons, Orphan Black does not have any meaningful antagonists.
Rachel is certainly built up to fill that much-needed role this week, but any threat she poses is immediately countered when Sarah is able to shoot her eye out (kid!) and then safely return home to Felix’s and calmly hang out. A baddie isn’t much of a baddie if you can stab them and then go chill at a house party without fearing repercussions. While the reveal of Marion Bowles as an ally is a pleasant surprise, as Michelle Forbes often is typecast as cold or crazed villains, the Dyad Institute remains overly nebulous, to the detriment of the series. If Sarah can just walk out of the Institute with Kira and not fear reprisal, why is Cosima no longer safe there? Why can’t Bowles bring back Delphine? The audience needs a clearer idea of the power structure of Dyad and we need it now. Cal’s chart of the varying influences in Dyad is strongly reminiscent of Alias’ SD-6 map, but while the various arms of that series’ Alliance were always mysterious, Arvin Sloane was the clear immediate power and threat. Without any sense of who Sarah and the rest of Clone Club should be worried about, the attacks on them feel random and unearned, contrivances of the plot because this is a finale and finales often mean change.
What does feel earned, however, is the reveal of Castor, the Clones’ (are they codenamed Clytemnestra or Helen? Or maybe Pollux?) male counterparts. Not only does the constantly-referenced-on-the-show mythological Leda give birth to two sets of twins (Castor and Pollux, and Helen and Clytemnestra, two being divine and two being mortal), the military has been lurking in the background of several story arcs for a while. The reveal of Mark as one of these other clones, and Mrs. S’s knowledge of their existence, is less thrilling for this critic (of the various new characters this season, Mark has not been one of the more interesting), but this casting team did find Tatiana Maslany, so hopefully Ari Millen is up to the task. Maslany’s tremendous work casts a long shadow.
While much of this finale feels rushed (Delphine’s departure) or like a bit of a cheat (Sarah’s unconditional surrender, immediately followed by a condition), as is always true with Orphan Black, the character moments work throughout. The death of Duncan is powerful, both his decision and Rachel’s reaction, and surrounding the two of them with images of Rachel’s childhood is an incredibly smart choice, not only to contrast their relationship then with now, but to prepare audiences for the reveal of Caroline. Seeing Cynthia Galant pop up at Marion’s home is incredibly creepy, particularly having her costuming and hair so closely match the videos of young Rachel. It’s by far the most interesting surprise in the episode. Helena’s welcome to the group is lovely and while it may have gone on a while, the Clone Club dance party is a breath of fresh air. It’s wonderful to see the seestras all together, brother seestra too, enjoying a shared moment of release after the painful season they’ve had. To quibble, Kira should’ve been right down there, dancing with her aunts and uncle, but that was likely due to a technological restriction.
Maslany continues to impress with her performances, a fact that’s rather astonishing in its own right, and Sarah’s pained admission of having had an abortion is one of several tiny, but affecting moments sprinkled throughout the finale. Another particularly powerful one is Sarah’s start of episode reaction flipping so quickly from anger to love as she embraces Mrs. S. Felix sits much of the episode out, but Jordan Gavaris nails Fee’s bewilderment and guilt in the opening scenes and his exchanges with Helena are just as delightful as ever. Speaking of Helena, the notion of her taking off into the night to go find her boyfriend may have been too wonderful to last, but she’s proven herself more than capable. Jesse better watch out—he could easily find an adorable former psycho killer at his front door some time next season.
As for the rest of the Clones, Alison rightly makes only a brief appearance, her arc having concluded in the penultimate episode, Rachel will have a much harder time mimicking Sarah or the other clones next year with her new look, and Cosima needs to teach every science class ever. With the answer now in her hands, we have a believable route for her towards recovery and it’s very fitting that Cosima will be the one to cure herself. Rachel’s crazed look as she crushes Kira’s bone marrow (or what she claims is her bone marrow—they could easily have been dummy vials, should the show wish to go that way next season) underlines Cosima’s need to work outside the system and her journey toward a cure next season promises to be an engaging one. She’s barely holding on (Kira’s struggle to wake her is another of the finale’s most successful moments), but Cosima has shown her strength of character and willingness to fight time and again this season. It’ll take more than a measly incurable, debilitating, degenerative disease to keep her down.
At the end of season two, Orphan Black is still very much the same show it was when it popped up out of the blue last year. It has the same strengths, which keep improving, and the same weaknesses, which continue to linger. There may still be room for improvement, but this season reached some tremendous heights and featured scenes TV fans will still be talking about when December and the Best of 2014 lists start popping up. The series has not yet been officially renewed for a third season, but with so much buzz around the show, it’s a safe bet that we can look for more Clone Club craziness in 2015. Orphan Black had a tremendous freshman season and it’s now avoided a sophomore slump. If the writers can sort out the few trouble spots still weighing down the series, season three has the potential to make a tremendous leap, and this critic for one can’t wait.