PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Television

'Orphan Black' Closes With a Reaffirmation of the Power of Sisterhood

(BBC AMERICA ).

The way Orphan Black always put women at the center of its story, never shortchanging their complexity for likability or easy solutions, is what will be most remembered and missed.


Orphan Black

Airtime: Saturdays, 10pm
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard
Subtitle: Season 5, Episode 10 - "To Right the Wrongs of Many"
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2017-08-12
Amazon
John: Luck shot for a mutation.

Sarah: Yeah. I survived you. We survived you. Me and my sisters together. This is evolution.

Helena: My story is an embroidery with many beginnings and no end. But I will start with the thread of my sestra, Sarah, who stepped off a train one day and met herself.

The final episode of Orphan Black, the aptly titled "To Right the Wrongs of Many", has plenty to resolve, and thankfully, it does so easily. It puts to bed the larger Neolution plot that's been driving the story since the beginning, while also offering an emotional end to these characters' arcs that aren't only fitting, but earned.

The episode wisely dispatches with John (the maniac formerly known as P.T.) (Stephen McHattie) and Coady (Kyra Harper), who'd managed to survive Helena’s (Tatiana Maslany) brutal attack from last episode, in the first 20 minutes. Helena kills Coady, Sarah kills John, and then they, with the help of Art (Kevin Hanchard), bring Helena's twins into the world. The birth marks the first major emotional catharsis in the episode, as scenes of Sarah giving birth to Kira -- with Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) at her side, supporting her like always -- are interspersed with Helena’s labor. These twins working together to bring another set of twins into the world, despite every possible obstacle, is as emotionally satisfying a moment as this show has ever done. Maslany's naked emotion in portraying both Sarah and Helena is a master class in conveying feeling, in all its complexity and messiness. It's a beautiful moment that stands out in a finale filled with them.

In resolving the Neolution story so early, the rest of the episode is dedicated to the aftermath of its end. Sarah is outwardly pursuing her GED (although she walks out when it's time to take the exam), Helena is raising her babies with Alison and Donnie's (Kristian Bruun) help, and Cosima, along with Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) and Scott (Josh Vokey) are trying to locate the rest of the LEDA sisters to pass along the cure. While the other sisters are clearly moving forward, however, Sarah is stuck. She's intent on selling the house she and Kira (Skyler Wexler) shared with Mrs. S, despite Felix's (Jordan Gavaris) attempts to convince her otherwise, and start a new life somewhere else, even if it's away from her sisters.

The culmination of the episode is Helena's baby shower, beautifully mirroring her dream baby shower from the beginning of season three, minus the elaborate costuming. As the sisters gather together to celebrate, Sarah is plainly grieving for Mrs. S. She didn't have the opportunity to truly mourn and now that the fight is over, she's drowning in her grief, with no real outlet for it. When Sarah admits "I don't know how to be happy", it's an opportunity for her sisters to provide the kind of support she's only ever consistently had from Mrs. S. It's a passing of the torch in a way, while also cementing that these women truly know and understand one another; it's as gratifying a moment as it gets.

Again, it's impossible not to mention Maslany's remarkable gifts in this scene. She plays Sarah, Helena, Alison, and Cosima -- each with their own gestures and mannerisms -- gathered closely together in a scene that covers much emotional ground, while also inserting enough of the signature Orphan Black humor that Helena and Alison deliver so effortlessly. Sarah's slouch is different from Cosima's lounge, and Alison's perfect posture, and Helena's childlike sitting. Maslany effortlessly conveys singular personalities and their dynamics in gestures as simple as these.

It should also be mentioned that Maslany, and the show, would never have been able to accomplish all they have without the extraordinary and often thankless work of her scene partner, Kathryn Alexandre. The many takes for a scene like this one to come together is a team effort, with Maslany undoubtedly at its center, but its success is difficult to imagine without the connection built between Maslany and Alexandre over five seasons. Whatever the legacy of Orphan Black, it'll always be the series that gave Maslany the opportunity to show what an extraordinary actor she is, and hopefully, Alexandre will also soon be given the chance to showcase her skills in a more traditional way.

This isn't a show that chose to go out in a big battle sequence; rather it ended happily for the sisters who've already battled more than any one family ever should. That they're firmly in each other lives, in all its alternating mundanity and higher purpose, speaks to the fact that these women are survivors, but above all, they're family. It's a message the show has continually emphasized, even when the sisters weren't always ready to acknowledge it.

The strength and perseverance they've exhibited over and over again, and the community built by these women leaves them in a place where Alison and Donnie are as silly and in love as they've ever been, Helena is surrounded by the family she never had the chance to experience growing up, Cosima and Delphine are finding and curing the 274 LEDA sisters all around the world, and Sarah is slowly but surely finding some peace and happiness in stability. Even Rachel, whose final act was passing along the list of 274, appears to have found some measure of her own peace.

Orphan Black has consistently delivered on the twisty plot that drove 50 episodes worth of story; more than that, it went out of its way to tackle issues of gender and sexuality, all the while upending the conventions of family. There's much to be grateful for after five seasons of Orphan Black, but the way it always put women at the center of its story, never shortchanging their complexity for likability or easy solutions, is what will most be remembered, and ultimately, missed.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.