Orphan Black has always been a show about changes. As the layers behind the cloning conspiracy have been painfully peeled back over the course of four seasons, the status quo has never stayed stable for long. As the fourth season comes to an end (with the fifth officially being the show’s last), Tatiana Maslany and company find themselves in truly dire straits. Fans should have known that “From Dancing Mice To Psychopaths” was never going to end well, but ultimately we’re left with even more questions than before. Is Cosima actually going to die after seasons of teasing her demise? Did the neolutionist founder, P.T. Westmoreland, really find the secret to immortality through genetic manipulation? Where the hell is Cal (Michiel Huisman)? Where are these other clones that Kira (Styler Wexler) alluded to? But, hey, at least Delphine’s (Evelyne Brochu) back!
After a season of mostly unity, all of the clones end up scattered and in peril. Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and Alison are hiding out with Helena in her woodland hovel, shivering over bowls of venison stew. Krystal has apparently joined the fold, although she might not realize that yet. Sarah is trapped on the island, bleeding out after her violent confrontation with Rachel. Cosima is reunited with her beloved Delphine, but appears to be on death’s door. Considering all of the controversy surrounding lesbian deaths on television this year, it is probably for the best for the dreadlocked scientist to once again be spared. And Rachel… well, Rachel has come out on top.
While Evie Cho (Jessalyn Wanlim) and Susan Duncan (Rosemary Dunsmore) were a fun distraction, they never had the heft of villainy that Rachel has come to command. With the (murdered) Cho out of the picture at Brightborn, Rachel steps into that power vacuum with even more clout than before. As she informs her fellow Neolutionists that human cloning is back on the table and that they won’t be wasting their time with simply modifying genes, you believe her screams that she is going to turn her fellow clones into lab rats. With Rachel back in fighting form, the brief alliance is definitely a thing of the past. Wars between siblings have taken place since Cain and Abel, and Rachel’s war on the rest of the Leda clones is sure to be at great cost. While I will miss the hilarious juxtaposition between the punk rock Sarah and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and the sleek Rachel and Ira (Ari Millen), the prospect of returning to clone versus clone for the final season is an exciting one.
That’s because this is Tatiana Maslany’s show. There are certainly plenty of excellent performances on Orphan Black, but no one comes close to touching Maslany. Rachel, easily one of the most compelling clones, has spent the season licking her wounds and lurking in the shadows, so for her to get her moment of apparent victory is not without satisfaction. While she will surely be defeated by her sestras, seeing the perfectly coiffed control freak back at the head of the boardroom was a thrill. No one is as amoral and conniving as the black sheep of the clones, and seeing her struggle against her own natural limitations is endlessly compelling.
The only thing that worries me is the possible introduction of immortality. With the revelation of Westmoreland being not only the man in Rachel’s visions but also still alive and an island resident and apparent ally to Delphine, the more sci-fi aspects of the show have the potential to go off the rails. What is actually happening on the island remains a mystery, but even with the human cloning, men with tails, and electronic maggots, the world of Orphan Black has always felt decidedly grounded in reality. While it isn’t impossible for them to handle this next genetic step, there is always the potential for it to become too fantastical. While show runners John Fawcett and Graeme Manson have handled the more heady elements of the show well in the past, one can’t help but worry a little about where things are headed. Just because they can go full on Island of Doctor Moreau, should they?
Fans may lament the fact that the show will come to an end after last season, building towards a solid endpoint will prove to be good for the show in the long run. While Maslany’s mesmerizing performances will definitely be missed, being able to tell the final stories about Clone Club without the uncertainly will surely bring about some solid storytelling and hopefully a satisfying conclusion. With the constant threat of Rachel, apparent immortality, and hunting down even more clones, Orphan Black has plenty of juice left for its fifth and final season. With this many plates left in the air by a less than conclusive finale, Clone Club can’t come back soon enough.