Title By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried (2.10)
Written By Graeme Manson
What Happens? In an attempt to gain access to Kira after she was kidnapped by Rachel, Sarah surrenders to Dyad, and upon her surrender she’s interrogated about her sexual and reproductive history and forced to allow Dyad to harvest her eggs. Kira has her own plans for getting out of Rachel’s clutches; she steals a cell phone to call Cal, who appears at Mrs. S.’s house with plenty of revelations of his own: He’s figured out that Sarah is a clone, and he’s been in contact with a mysterious source who brings up the name Castor, which seems to mean something to Mrs. S.
Sarah and Kira aren’t Rachel’s only captives. She visits her father to try to get him to reveal the secrets to his genetic sequence, but he poisons himself with his own teabag before they can get any more information out of him. In a fit of rage, Rachel shows up at Sarah’s bedside before the surgery that will remove one of her ovaries, and she smashes the tubes of bone marrow Kira donated to help Cosima. The connection between Kira and Cosima has grown to be stronger than just bone marrow, though, and a drawing Kira made of a science lesson her Aunt Cosima taught her leads Sarah to a projectile device rigged up by Cosima and Scott. She frees herself (and ultimately Kira) by putting a pencil through Rachel’s eye with the help of a fire extinguisher.
Momentarily safe from Dyad, Sarah is able to enjoy some time with her sisters, introducing Cosima and Alison to Cal before Felix brings Helena home to meet her family. The sisters, Kira, and Felix are able to enjoy a night of family bonding (aka one big dance party) before chaos resumes in the morning.
Helena is kidnapped by men who are somehow connected to Mrs. S. and Paul, and the last we see of her, she is being put onto a military plane as they watch. Back at Clone Club Headquarters, Cosima experiences a near-death vision of Delphine before Kira wakes her. The little girl brings her aunt the book Rachel’s father gave her, and Cosima sees that his formulae and sequencing codes are hidden in its pages.
Meanwhile, Sarah visits Marian and meets her adopted daughter Charlotte, the only child to survive the 400 attempts to continue Project Leda and create new clones. Marian explains that Project Leda was never really shut down, and it has a brother project continued by the military: Project Castor. As Sarah sees one of the Project Castor clones, it’s revealed that Mark—the ex-military man who helped Gracie escape the Prolethean compound and married her (knowing she was carrying Helena’s child/children)—has plenty of “brothers” that he may or may not know about.
Game-Changing Moment The entire sequence of events at Marian’s home featured one big, game-changing moment after another. For two seasons, we assumed that Project Leda was finished, we assumed that any and all clones would be the same age as Sarah, and we assumed they would all be played by Tatiana Maslany. The introduction of Charlotte, a Kira-aged clone with Sarah’s DNA, blew all of those assumptions to bits. And the introduction of Project Castor changed the game in perhaps an even bigger way. Not only did it add a military angle to the scientific/political/religious debates this show brings to light every week; it broadened the entire scope of the show’s universe by adding a whole new set of clones into the mix. I don’t think their stories will pull too much focus from the female clones we already know (we first discovered Project Castor through Sarah’s eyes, after all); the producers know what’s working for them and probably don’t want to mess too much with that formula. But it will open up some interesting new avenues of storytelling for the show’s third season (which will hopefully be announced soon, pretty please!).
Finale M.V.P. Tatiana Maslany is the best and most versatile actress on television right now, and she turned in what I think was her best performance in this finale. I will say this until I’m hoarse because it’s true: It would be easy to dismiss her performance as a fancy parlor trick, a gimmick. However, it’s not the sheer quantity of roles she plays that makes her work so impressive; it’s the quality she brings to each role. If she only played Sarah or Helena or Alison, I would still think she’s a phenomenal actress. There’s a relatable vulnerability and sense of humanity that lies at the heart of all of the characters she brings to life on this show, but what’s so incredible is the way she brings that vulnerability to life in ways that are unique to each character. Of course, I loved the way each clone’s dance style reflected who they are, but I was struck even more intensely by the way each clone’s emotional moments were handled so uniquely and so truthfully to who we know them to be: Sarah’s tough exterior cracking as she was asked about having an abortion; Alison’s proper façade softening as she watched Helena with Kira; Cosima openly embracing Helena at first sight; Rachel throwing a tantrum as her father died in front of her; and Helena’s radiant joy upon seeing Kira again. The most impressive of these moments from a purely performance-driven perspective was the conversation between Sarah and Cosima in bed. The way Maslany was able to reflect such genuine warmth and vulnerability between two characters while playing both characters astounded me. There have been plenty of scenes featuring multiple clones before, but none have asked for the kind of sustained emotional intimacy that this scene asked for. And, of course, Maslany stepped up to the plate in that moment and delivered the acting equivalent of a grand slam.
Most Memorable Lines
Cosima: You’re very beautiful.
Helena: Thank you. I like your hairs.
Cosima: Thank you. I like your hairs, too.
What Didn’t Work I don’t like to feel emotionally manipulated. I love feeling moved by television, but there’s a distinct difference between a genuine moment of emotion and a moment specifically designed to get a rise out of the audience and nothing more. That’s how I felt with the tone of Cosima’s storyline in this episode. I know that it’s realistic to have her come close to death considering her condition, but the “last dance” feel of the big dance scene and the vision of Delphine all felt a bit overwrought when the episode ended and she was still alive. (Which was great—don’t get me wrong. She’s my favorite clone, and I don’t want her to die.) There was a bit of a “Gotcha!” feeling to the moment when Kira approached what looked to be a dead Cosima only to have her wake up and feel well enough to read to her.
I suppose I should be happy, though, that my reactions to Cosima were as strong as they were because it means I care about her as a character. On the opposite end of that spectrum, we have Paul. Things have certainly changed from Season One, when I found his mysterious allegiances compelling. Now, I felt absolutely nothing when he showed up alongside Mrs. S. His loyalties are so mysterious that I can’t even be bothered to try to untangle them anymore. I think some of my growing disinterest comes from the fact that I care so much more about Mrs. S.’s allegiances. In terms of characters with soft spots for Sarah whose loyalties keep me guessing, Mrs. S. is just so much more compelling than Paul. And in terms of love interests for Sarah, Cal is so much easier to root for. I feel like I’m supposed to care about Paul more than I do, which isn’t how I want to feel about any character on this show.
What Worked Orphan Black is the first show since Alias’s early days to completely engage me on both an intellectual and emotional level every week. I think so much of that has to do with the fact that it does what great science fiction is supposed to do: It makes these stories personal. This finale gave my brain a workout, but it’s the workout it gave my heart that I’m still feeling all these days later. A show can have plot twist after plot twist and tackle important topic after important topic, but if it doesn’t ground those things in real, human emotions, who’s going to care? That’s what’s so beautiful about Orphan Black: It makes you care.
I could talk at length about how crazy the twist was at the end of the episode, but that’s something I really don’t think I can analyze until we see how it all plays out. I know some people are worried about this decidedly feminist show bringing male clones into the mix, but I’m not one of those people. There are plenty of deep issues with governmental control over men’s bodies, too—such as the idea of a military draft. And male military clones could be used to address the way men are surrounded by a culture of violence and aggression. I’m excited to see how male clones will play into the already deep themes this show has built in its first two seasons.
Instead of spending too much time predicting the outcomes of the episode’s big twists (male clones, Charlotte, and Helena’s abduction), I want to focus on the character development that happened in this episode. I like shows that can make my jaw drop, but I love shows that make my eyes fill with tears. I enjoy shows that thrill me; I remember shows that move me. This finale worked because it moved me even more than it thrilled me.
I was emotionally engaged from the very start of this episode—from Felix’s guilt over not knowing “Sarah” was really Rachel to everything involving Sarah’s surrender. Orphan Black is fearless in the way it directly addresses the attempts by many parts of society to control women’s bodies, especially their reproductive rights. This scene was perhaps its most fearless yet. The invasive, deeply personal questions Sarah was asked (When did she first become sexually active? Did she ever have an abortion?) reflect common questions people use to judge a woman’s worth. And Dyad’s power to force Sarah to give up her eggs and their attempt to remove one of her ovaries made a powerful statement about the way women’s reproductive rights are often controlled by people other than the women themselves.
These issues matter on a global scale, but they also matter on a deeply personal scale. And Maslany never lets you forget at any point during those agonizing first minutes that this is personal for Sarah. Maslany’s answers to these unscripted questions were completely improvised, and the vulnerability she gave each one—from her broken admission to having an abortion to her tears when asked about mental illness—spoke to how well she understands Sarah. In stripping Sarah of all of her defenses in that scene, Maslany made her resonate as more than just a symbol or a vehicle for plot movement; she’s a character we feel a genuine, emotional connection with.
Maslany is so good at making you care about these women and their relationships with the people around them, especially with each other. That’s why—no matter how intriguing those final twists were—the greatest part of this episode was the block of time spent in Felix’s apartment, when the show took a deep breath amid the breathless pace that usually accompanies a season finale and let these women deepen their connections with each other and, in the process, with the audience.
It all began with Cosima and Alison meeting Cal—a lovely bit of levity in what had been a pretty heavy finale up to that point. I’m not shy about how much I love Cal. (Please don’t let me get burned for this later, Orphan Black.) I think Maslany has great chemistry with Michiel Huisman, but, more than that, I love that Cal accepts Sarah for who she is and hasn’t given her any reason to doubt his feelings for her or Kira. I want Sarah to be able to choose her own partner and for someone to choose Sarah knowing everything that comes along with that choice. Right now, Cal seems to be someone who is able to give her that.
The real magic of the scenes in Felix’s apartment center around a clone other than Sarah, though. Helena’s introduction to her sisters and her reunion with Kira were so stunning I couldn’t help but cry—a lot. I loved that Cosima hugged her because that’s who we know Cosima to be (and why she’s my favorite clone); she’s warm and open and sees the beauty in everything around her. Helena just wants a family, and with one hug Cosima made her feel loved. Maslany did a brilliant job of contrasting Cosima’s openness with Helena’s awkwardness and creating a real sense of connection between these two big-hearted (and big-haired) women who aren’t as different as they might appear to be.
The tears really started flowing, though, when Kira ran to Helena. Kira was the first character to show Helena kindness, and their relationship is so important and was treated that way in this moment. Maslany warmed my heart even as she was breaking it with just the changes in her facial expressions—from overwhelming surprise to pure love to glowing affection. Helena is such a complex character, but Maslany is more than up to the challenge. She’s a feral killer who is also capable of the gentlest kind of maternal love, and somehow she feels believable.
The rest of the scene was one big, fun dance party filled with cool little character beats, but the emotion carries over into the moment Sarah opens up to Cosima about not wanting to lose her. These two characters have developed such a beautiful relationship—to the point where they really do feel the most like sisters out of any of the combinations of clones. Maslany was able to show how much these two women have come to love each other in ways that felt honest to both characters, and it was done with a quiet tenderness that absolutely floored me.
That’s what stuck with me about this finale: It was just as powerful in the moments it whispered as it was in the moments it screamed. It wasn’t afraid to take time to develop its characters in the middle of the action. And it reinforced every belief I’ve ever held true about television: The good stuff makes me think, but the great stuff makes me feel.
Questions to Discuss for a Long Time Does Mark know he’s a clone? What will happen now that Sarah knows about both Charlotte and Project Castor? What are Paul and Mrs. S. doing with Helena? Will Cosima be able to decipher the clues in the book in order to find her cure before it’s too late? What happened to Delphine? Will Rachel have to wear an eye patch now?
Finale Grade A. This finale was compelling on both a plot-driven and a character-driven level. It allowed the greatest actor on TV to show exactly what makes her so great. And it grounded a smart plot in moments of real emotion as only the best shows can. This was a fitting finale for what’s become one of the best shows on television.