TV

'Orphan Black': The Importance of Family and Sacrifice Are the Heart of "Guillotines Decide"

Mrs. S takes her final bow in the antepenultimate episode of Orphan Black (Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA ).

Art and death go hand in hand in one of Orphan Black's final episodes.


Orphan Black

Airtime: Saturdays, 10pm
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jordan Gavaris
Subtitle: Season 5, Episode 8 - "Guillotines Decide"
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2017-07-29
Amazon
My sister and I are orphans, you see. And we could have ended up anywhere. We could've ended up in any family, and if we had, we would have been entirely different people. But my mum, Siobahn, this woman, she chose us as her own. We are who we are because she carried two little London urchins on her wings to Canada. Watching her raise my sister, watching my sister raise her own daughter, finding my biological sister, it's quite mad. It's taught me that we are all mysterious works of chance. Of choice. Of nature verse nurture. So to my galaxy of women, thank you for nurture. -- Felix

"Guillotines Decide", an episode filled with gratifying and genuinely happy moments for many of the main players, also gives us our first major casualty leading into the finale. Though MK (Tatiana Maslany) died a terrible and gruesome death earlier in the season, she didn't inspire the same level of viewer investment that Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) does. Thus, when Mrs. S is killed in a showdown that's been building for some time now, it's as affecting as possible.

Opening on a scene immediately following the end of last episode, Rachel is whisked away from Dyad by Ferdinand (James Frain) -- who's finally revealed to be Mrs. S's secret informant -- and taken to safety, where she's treated for her wounds and away from Westmoreland's reach. Mrs. S and Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) meet with them and plead their case. They want to expose Neolution and Westmoreland for the frauds they are, while Ferdinand is more concerned with leveraging all they know to gain more money and power.

Please don't ad block PopMatters.

We are wholly independent, with no corporate backers.

Simply whitelisting PopMatters is a show of support.

Thank you.

What Ferdinand fails to ultimately understand is that Rachel's been betrayed over and over, to the point where her life's work has been for nothing, and her need for revenge is much greater than her need to gain more status and wealth; when he does realize it, it's too late. She provides the information on bribery payments to Mrs. S, and Delphine and Cosima send all they've managed to dig up out into the world, exposing Neolution's real objectives.

Meanwhile, at the center of the episode is Felix's (Jordan Gavaris) art show. Although Felix has been sidelined for much of the season, here he gets the chance to not only interact with Sarah, Alison, and Cosima, but he also gives a speech that speaks to the heart of the series. Mrs. S's death has been telegraphed throughout the episode, so when he gets a chance to pay tribute to the woman who saved him, Sarah, and the rest of their family, it's a lovely moment with real emotional impact. Some may view the scene as too neat a bow to tie on Mrs. S, but as Orphan Black nears its end, it's more welcome than not. Mrs. S deserves as big a send-off as any of the clones.

The art show also allows for some lighthearted moments, as Felix and his sisters dance and have fun even as the actions of Neolution still loom large. Turning the art show into a living performance by having Sarah, Alison, and Cosima all come forward to embody their painted counterparts, gives them the opportunity to enjoy themselves, even if it’s only for a short while. Orphan Black has always been able to inject some humor and lightness into a series that’s often dark and bleak. Even as the season has had to wrap up so much in only 10 episodes, it remains true to that integral piece of the show.

While much of the action revolves around the art show and Rachel's final choices, Helena is also in danger. Gracie (Zoe de Grand Maison) found Helena at the end of the previous episode, working for Mark (Ari Millen) to help get his cure from Coady (Kyra Harper). Here she decides to help Helena over Mark when she denies that she's found her. Unfortunately, the cell phone she uses to communicate with Mark is traced; they're found by Detective Enger (Elyse Levesque) and her Neolution goons. She quickly kills Gracie and kidnaps Helena, setting up a rescue mission that’ll finally bring all the players together.

The ultimate showdown that leads to Mrs. S's death comes when Rachel tricks Ferdinand into believing that she's going along with his plan, but unbeknownst to him, he's set up to fail in front of the Neolution board when he turns up with no real proof. He narrowly escapes the room and then nearly kills Rachel when he confronts her. In the end, though he comes close, he's unable to go through with it and chooses to go after Mrs. S. While it was throughout the episode that she’d die, she doesn't go easily, and takes Ferdinand with her. Her final word, staring at a photograph of Felix and Sarah, is "Chickens"; it's a fitting end to the character. There was no greater protector, no one more aware of the stakes and willing sacrifice herself than Mrs. S; Kennedy's always done a wonderful job of balancing her instincts as a mother with those of a revolutionary, making her death -- in protection of her family -- understandable.

Two episodes left and things are building to a final confrontation that’ll bring together all the sisters to take down Neolution, namely Westmoreland and Coady. The information proving their true intentions may now be public, but its leaders surely won't go down without a fight, and Helena's kidnapping gives them leverage when they've lost everything else. "Guillotines Decide" may have done a great deal to move the story forward, but there remain enough loose ends to offer much to look forward to in the final two episodes of the series.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image