It’s hard to believe we are now three full seasons in to the story of Sarah Manning (the still Emmy nomination-less Tatiana Maslany) discovering that she is, in fact, a genetic clone. Her copies are numerous, just as are the parties interested in cracking their genetic code, ranging from the biotech conglomerate Dyad to the fierce religious faction known as the Proletheans. By the end of the second season, it was revealed that one of the Proletheans, Mark Rollins (Ari Millen) was, in fact, part of a series of male clones, themselves developed under the name Project Castor, and in season three, the war between the male clones and Sarah and her sisters wages on, the chief antagonist being Dr. Virginia Coady (Kry Harper), who is hell-bent on discovering the sickness that is afflicting all of the Castor boys, even if if it means sterilizing several innocent young women in the process. What follows is a series of jailbreak attempts, school elections, double-crosses, and the single most unexpected and jaw-dropping twerk sequence ever filmed.
There was a lot to digest this season, so let’s digest the good, the bad, and the Indifferent as we start our countdown clocks until season four gets its 2016 premiere date. (Don’t get too worried, #CloneClub: there’s way more good than bad, but let’s be honest about a few things here.)
Sarah: In what is one of season three’s strangest twists, Sarah Manning, the center of the entire damn show, played a remarkably auxiliary role this time out, removed of any notable personality traits so that she exists merely as the character that pushes the main plot forward. She is steadfast in her investigation, and although she was terrified for daughter Kira following an unwelcome visit from psychotic Castor clone Rudy, her sending Kira to a safe zone meant that, outside of one very notable Prolethean shoot-out and a clever plan to ensnare Dr. Coady’s men in the finale, Sarah didn’t do much outside of what the plotlines dictated. For being such a fiery entrypoint into the series and a reluctant leader at best, her “taking the reigns” this season should have been an empowering moment, and instead just felt like an obligation. That, in and of itself, is fine, but as she continued Nancy Drew-ing it up with a singing Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and a vastly-underused Felix (Jordan Garvaris), we the audience were naturally drawn to the stories of virtually every other character that wasn’t Sarah, as Sarah simply carried the plot and little else this season.
The Neolutionists: There have been some debates here and there since the finale’s airing, but after the shock reveal of the Castor clones at the end of season two, season three’s bombshell, that the Neolutionists and Topside had loyalties and connections that ran deeper than anyone could have possibly predicted, felt like a bit of a tired trope. After spending a good deal of season two dealing with the menace that was the Proletheans, we can only expect what now? Another deep corporate conspiracy to look forward to, much like how Sarah and the clones felt towards Dyad for virtually all of season one? While we can look forward to some genetically-modified craziness going forward, this reveal, unlike previous season finales, fell pretty flat.
The Emmys: Let’s just call it right now: with the novelty of the show’s premise wearing off, plus a notable lack of “clip-worthy” moments his year, it’s probably fair to say that Maslany, again, will not receive an Emmy nomination once more. We make this call now, but, rest assured, the fault for this does not lay on the shoulders of the show’s producers or Maslany, who continues delivering her best work on a constant basis.
Delphine: We will get to Cosima in a moment, but with the evil Rachel missing an eye and only now slowly regaining her motor skills, Delphine had to step up to run Dyad in a big way, and that meant making some difficult, heartless calls. Truth be told, the fact that she learned about the real allegiance of Cosima’s new girlfriend Shay seconds before almost killing her and still not going through with it was a bit of a shock: one would almost expect her vindictive side to take over at that point, so kudos to her for having a heart.
At times, Delphine was even terrifying, which is something we only got hints of prior. Seeing her come in bloom as the de facto boss of Dyad made the audience constantly question whether she was an ally or foe, a deadly balancing act that lasted most of the season. That being said, Delphine’s arc meant that most of what we saw of her this season was her her face in a state of perpetual scorn. Sure, her ending was tragic, but for all of the new shades of personality that we saw, we were left wanting the show to capitalize on those emotions a little more. There was a character there, but more often than not, Delphine was playing a plot point.
The Desert Prison: Over half the season was set in here, which would’ve been fine for three or four episodes, but was really pushing it at six, giving Sarah and Helena’s imprisonment an uncharacteristically monochromatic aire.
The Election: Soccer mom Allison running against Marci Coates in a school board election was a great plot device, and the events that surrounded it, including Allison turning into a pretty damn good drug dealer selling fancy “soaps” made for a pretty delightful comic romp, to say nothing of the excellent candidate rally episode, which featured the never-tiring trope of one clone filling in for another, often to great comic effect. Yet after all of that, Allison’s last few episodes campaigning were free of drama or obstacles, her winning phone call in the finale existing only as a “Oh, well that happened” moment, robbed of grandeur or any notable sense of audience catharsis. (To its credit though, the entire dinner scene during the season finale felt rushed, which is a bit understandable given the bevy of storylines the writers are juggling at any given time.)
Art: Similar to Sarah and even Delphine this season, it’d be lovely to have Art be in a scene where he’s not existing as a plot device or questioning Sarah’s plan before ultimately going through with it just as he always does. Kevin Hanchard is a talented actor, but it’d be great if the writers actually gave him something to chew on once in a while.
Cosima/Helena: Although Allison is and always will be the “comic relief” clone for better or worse, the fact that Sarah’s character took a back seat to the story this season meant that Cosima and Helena wound up getting an awful lot of screen time, and boy howdy was it worth it. Cosima is in the throes of letting go of Delphine and starting a new romance with Shay, but between her personal life and her ongoing genetic investigations, Cosima is proving time and again just how compelling her story is, and her growth in this season was nothing short of spectacular. From her very relatable suspicions about Shay to her very humanizing plea to Kendall “The Original” Malone for her blood sample, Cosima became arguably the most relatable character on the entire show. Conversely, Helena, even when locked up for half the entire season, gave us both comedy and cunning, capable of using a roll of duct tape as a potent weapon as well as proving that she may very well be the one clone we’d most like to get drinks with (so long as the exits are easy to get to). She gave us some of season three’s most shocking moments, a surprising amount of warmth, and easily the best Allison imitation we have yet seen. Absolute aces all around.
Ari Millen: In truth, playing all the Castor clones was a bit of a thankless task, as none of them were as outrageous or as eye-catching as Maslany’s Leda iterations. Yet even with that, Millen absolutely stepped up to the plate, making us cringe in fear anytime the scar-faced Rudy showed up to wreck some sort of havoc. So good was he that rarely were we “impressed” by his acting, instead just accepting each new clone as its own character, which is its own kind of feat in and of itself. There may be only one Castor clone left, but with any luck, this won’t be the last time we see him.
Krystal: She may not be the brightest bulb in the tanning bed, but the ditsy Krystal was an absolute delight to see, each one of her very select few scenes proving intensely memorable as she’s deliberately kept in the dark about the absurd conspiracy surrounding her. It goes without saying that we’re excited for Season Four, but if Krystal showed up in any sort of recurring fashion, well, it’d make us excited enough to twerk on the bed with our husbands. Speaking of which…
Donnie Hendrix: Season Three’s MVP hands down. Strangely, the arc of Allison’s husband somewhat resembles that of Helena’s (both suspicious, somewhat reviled characters who have now become easy fan favorites), so it makes sense that the two wound up getting to spend a lot of time bonding over child raising methods and dealing with notorious drug dealers. Although he’s mostly confined to Allison’s storyline, actor Kristian Bruun absolutely steals every single scene he’s in, from confronting Allison’s former flame to humorously passing time while waiting for drug money to be exchanged. Although he and Allison have bonded over their mutual murders before, Donnie has grown in fascinating, sometimes unexpected ways, and now, we can’t imagine Orphan Black without him. People forget just how much of an ensemble piece this show is, but as it stands right now, Bruun and the writers have transformed Donnie into one of the best absolute best parts of the show, and upon request we will again link you to that twerk sequence if you need proof.
Mango Scorpion: Is it merely the embodiment of Helena’s doubt and guilt … or has this makings of the single best spin-off in all of television history?