'Orphan Black'

Helena's Past and Present Are the Fulcrum of "One Fettered Slave"

by J.M. Suarez

9 August 2017

Absent for much of the season, Helena (Tatiana Maslany) is front and center in "One Fettered Slave".
Helena in the hands of Neolution (Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA ). 
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Orphan Black

Season 5, Episode 9 - "One Fettered Slave"
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard
Regular airtime: Saturdays, 10pm

(BBC America)
US: 5 Aug 2017

P.T.: The future is female! Haven’t you heard?

Absent for much of the season, Helena (Tatiana Maslany) is front and center in “One Fettered Slave”. More than that, she’s clearly driving the conclusion of the series, and though it may have seemed unlikely early on, rallying around Helena makes for a perfect full circle for these characters. With one episode left, Orphan Black leaves things barreling toward its end, with the last remaining Neolution architect fighting to save himself while intent on destroying the sisters.

This week is Helena’s turn to get the flashback treatment, and they’re as heartbreaking as expected. Growing up in a convent, she’s singled out by a nun who tortures her and eventually passes her on to a man, Tomas (Daniel Kash), who’s aware that she’s a clone and fills her head with the kind of messiah complex lines she was spouting when we first met her. Helena’s gradual transformation from one charged with stamping out all the other clones (“dirty copies”) to one who’d do anything for her “sestras” has been one of the most satisfying in the series. Seeing her go from mischievous innocent to cynical savior to a member of a true sisterhood marks her journey as one of the most dramatic, which, when it comes to Orphan Black, is really saying something.

Helena’s kidnapping at the end of the previous episode puts her back in Coady’s (Kyra Harper) clutches, as P.T. (Stephen McHattie) is growing increasingly desperate for a cure. His insistence that her labor be induced adds to his already erratic and reckless demeanor. He’s no longer attempting to keep up the façade he worked so hard to build; rather, Helena is his final hope and he’d sacrifice anything and anyone to get it. Case in point is his order to kill Mark (Ari Millen) even when Coady pleads that he’s the last Castor clone left. Mark’s death may ultimately be one of the most merciful, in that he died not knowing Gracie (Zoe De Grand Maison) had been killed and believing he’d have the life he planned. Still, it’s a bit anticlimactic, particularly because it didn’t prompt any great revelation in Coady.

While Helena’s fate is uncertain, the ramifications of Mrs. S’s (Maria Doyle Kennedy) death hang over Sarah, Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and Kira (Skyler Wexler). Her funeral is appropriately devastating, but Sarah is yet unable to grieve completely. While Alison and Cosima—who are unable to attend for fear of being noticed—commiserate over the tragedy of Mrs. S’s death, Sarah throws herself into the search for Helena. With one episode to go, it seems unlikely that she’ll have the opportunity to truly grieve the loss, though that seems fitting as well. 

Although last week revealed Neolution’s work to the wider public, there are enough players left to continue to make trouble for the sisters, namely Mr. Frontenac (Andrew Moodie), who remains loyal to P.T. Hashem Al-Khatib (Elie Gamael), one of the only remaining board members, is another loose end, but one that Felix and Art (Kevin Hanchard) find while he’s being interrogated by Frontenac (who Art kills). Rachel is tasked with finding out where Helena’s been taken, and the moment when she corrects Al-Khatib, who refers to Helena as merely “the science” (Rachel: “Her name is Helena”) shows just how far Rachel has come in siding with her sisters over the work she’s prioritized her whole life.

When they discover that Helena is being held in an old wing at Dyad, Scott (Josh Vokey) and Hell Wizard (Calwyn Shurgold) help Art get in. Meanwhile, Sarah, posing as Rachel, allows herself to be captured by Detective Enger (Elyse Levesque) to get inside, although P.T. is quick to realize she’s Sarah. Just as he’s on the verge of killing her, Coady bursts in and says that Helena needs Sarah’s blood, as she’d attempted suicide in a desperate bid to save her babies from being part of an experiment.

Sacrifice has always been a central theme in Orphan Black. The sisters have all made sacrifices in order to protect themselves and one another. Delphine sacrificed her happiness and career for much of the series. Mrs. S sacrificed her life. The need to protect her children from a similar life as scientific specimens has driven both Sarah and Helena to some of their most extreme actions. Helena’s willingness to kill herself and her babies is horrifying, yet also understandable from her perspective. There is no greater survivor on the show than Helena—she’s often done the unthinkable to stay alive—so overriding that instinct speaks to the bond between her and her children, another ongoing theme in the series.

When Helena brutally kills Coady (“You are shit, mother”) it’s a return to her fierce survival instinct. The showdown between the sisters and P.T. is coming next episode, and it’s fair to say that Helena will be more ferocious than ever. How everyone will come back together is still to be revealed, but Orphan Black surely has to end with the sisters united against all that’s nearly destroyed them, although this time they can finally put a stop to the ultimate scientific experiment.

Orphan Black

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