PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

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

Helena in the hands of Neolution (Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA ).

Absent for much of the season, Helena (Tatiana Maslany) is front and center in "One Fettered Slave".

Orphan Black

Airtime: Saturdays, 10pm
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard
Subtitle: Season 5, Episode 9 - "One Fettered Slave"
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2017-08-05
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.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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