Thursday, June 16, 2016

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Sarah & Rachel Battle for Power Once Cosima Makes a Cure in 'From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 4.10 "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths"

When communication with Cosima is cut off and Neolution appears to be within striking distance, Sarah's alliance with Rachel goes out the window. Sarah lures a high-level Neolutionist into a trap, and sets out to bring down Neolution once and for all.

After four seasons, Cosima has finally developed a cure for the illness killing all of the clones. That's a huge accomplishment that has been a long time coming. That search has been the sole purpose for Cosima's character arc on the show. Her creation of the cure puts so many pieces into motion in "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths." This has been a very tense season. Cosima has gotten close so many times. And now, she has found success because she mixed Leda and Castor DNA. Plus, she had Susan's medical equipment and experience. But the creation of the cure isn't the end of this story. The clones still have so many threats that they need to deal with. The discovery of the cure only puts importance back onto them. Evie was fine moving Neolution forward without the clones. But after they took care of her last week, the clones are front and center once again for a very thrilling conclusion to a pretty great season.

It's also such a relief that a cure has finally been made. Over the seasons, it has been such an important plot device. It has generated so many stories over the years. Many people have tried to treat the illness that affects all of the clones. They have done so in many different ways and have failed each time. Cosima has felt personal urgency to find a cure because she was the one main clone actively dying from the illness. Of course, that never meant a whole lot. When the story needed Cosima to be sick, she was sick. When the story needed her to be fine, she was fine. There wasn't a whole lot of explanation for her health shifts. It has largely been plot motivated. Here, the story intensifies because her symptoms return just as she developed the cure. That makes it more difficult for her to protect herself and Charlotte once big moves are made by others. And yet, it's exciting too. The show really has dragged this story out. And now that the cure has been found, it will be interesting and compelling to see just what everyone will be willing to do to get their hands on it.

Susan wants to use the cure in order to restart the human cloning project once more. She has devoted her entire life to this experiment. She and Ethan were successfully able to make human clones. It was magic that happened once but it has been much more complicated to repeat it. Susan didn't have access to the original DNA sequence to make more clones. But now, she can once again move forward with this endeavor because the cure has been made. That was the risk that Cosima took in working with Susan. They have grown really close on the island. Susan seems to appreciate everything that Cosima is able to contribute - much more so than when Rachel was in her care. And yet, the two turn against each other once again because of their different ideologies regarding clones. Cosima made this cure in order to saver herself and her sisters. She didn't want Sarah to stand by and watch all of her sisters die from the same illness. It was only a matter of time before it would kill all of them. It still might. The cure has to get to all of the clones. It's becoming increasingly harder for Cosima to hand onto it. The cure is power. Whomever wields it, controls this world. So now, everyone is after that and a fascinating character ends up on top by the end of the finale.

In last week's penultimate episode, Rachel chose to align herself with Sarah and the rest of the clones in order to take down Evie. They were successful in that endeavor. It was entirely because of Rachel and her ruthless sensibilities. She doesn't care that she hurt people in the process. Evie represented a threat to her existence. So, she needed to be dealt with swiftly and violently. Rachel orchestrated the big scandal that would take down Evie and Brightborn. She made that happen. And yet, Rachel still craves power. She did all of that in order to regain it once more. She didn't betray the clone experiment. They benefited just as much from Evie's ouster as she did. But Rachel has her own selfish interests as well. She wants to be taken seriously by Neolution. Not only that, she wants to be in charge of the whole project. She thought she had that control when she was in charge of Dyad. She didn't. And now, it's something she desperately needs in order to survive. So, she'll do anything to get it - including killing her own mother.

Susan and Rachel's dynamic is fraught with tension because Susan faked her own death in order to continue her work in secret. That helped form Rachel into the woman she is today. It really is impressive to see Rachel rise to the top once again. She has been on a long road towards recovery. Sarah jamming that pencil in her eye really damaged her for a long time. But now, Rachel is back and making some big moves in order to regain power. She has seen the light about Neolution. She sees it as the future of humanity. She has big plans for the clones and the bots. It does get a little complicated when the finale talks about the two different factions of Neolution and how they're working against each other. But it's so immensely satisfying whenever Rachel takes the threats against her existence personally. She needs to kill Susan in order to officially rise to the top of Neolution. But the question becomes: Is this something Rachel is doing out of her own free will or is she being coerced into doing it? The images from her eye are really making her question things. She stabs Susan in the chest because the sight of the severed swan head inspires her. But that could easily be seen as a manipulation from the man who is really pulling the strings behind this whole endeavor.

And yet, Rachel doesn't have that uncertainty when it comes to taking her revenge against Sarah. Because of some key insight from Krystal, Sarah is able to learn about Rachel's plans for the future of Neolution. She realizes they eliminated one threat only to replace it with another. She knows just how dangerous, ruthless and reckless Rachel can be. It was such a painful decision for her back when she stabbed Rachel in the eye. She truly believed she was killing a sister - though it was the only way to ensure the survival of the rest of the family. But now, that sympathy is long gone. It is replaced by fear. Rachel has taken a crazy and power hungry turn. She is willing to do whatever it wants to achieve ultimate power. She proves herself to the board by taking out Susan - though she keeps her alive for some nefarious purposes next season. But when Sarah shows up, it's all about eliminating her from the picture once and for all. Sarah has formed such a strong bond with her sisters. She only found out about them at the start of the series but they mean so much to her now. Rachel has always known about the existence of clones. She was raised in Neolution. She believes she is meant to lead Neolution into the future. She is stronger than she has been in a long time and makes sure that everyone knows she is a serious threat once more.

The climatic final beats of this finale are pretty great. The buildup to that point is a little lackluster. It is amusing to see Krystal become aware about clones but not believe because Sarah "looks nothing like her." But it's also boring watching board meetings and press conferences about the shifting power dynamics of Neolution. It's thrilling when Rachel takes over. That's when the episode takes it up a notch. It's really satisfying when it does. So, Susan gets stabbed. Sarah confronts Rachel but ends up getting stabbed as well. Cosima and Charlotte flee from the compound but fall from fatigue in the forest. It's not surprising that the people who discover them bring them back to the encampment where Delphine is. That's a reunion that has been a long time coming. It's so moving and emotional as well. Cosima is clinging to life but is still proud of the fact she finished the work she and Delphine started. Of course, the explanation as to what happened to Delphine is pretty lame. Duko shot her under Evie's orders. And then, the other fraction of Neolution saved her and took her to the island for unknown reasons. It would be more significant if she changed because of her time on the island. But no, she's still madly in love with Cosima and warns her that they need to be very wary of the people they are surrounded by. That's a tense tease for the next season. But it's just one of the many looming threats of doom. Sarah is stabbed in the leg and bleeding out. Ferdinand has Mrs. S and Kira held at gunpoint. But most importantly, Rachel is sitting on top of all of this destruction emerging victorious. She has succeeded in this power play. And now, she'll meet the founder of Neolution - who is still miraculously alive after more than a century. Again, things are bound to only get more twisted and complicated moving forward. But this was a very rewarding finale for a pretty interesting and amusing comeback season of the show.

Some more thoughts:
  • "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" was written by Graeme Manson and directed by John Fawcett.
  • Sarah, Rachel, Cosima and Krystal are the clones of importance in this finale. Helena has retreated to her makeshift home in the woods with Alison and Donnie accompanying her. She is sidelined in this war even though her skills could be really necessary right now. Also, why wasn't there an update on how M.K. is doing?
  • Ira was such a one-note character for the entire season. He largely existed in order to be a face and reminder of Castor. Plus, he needed to repeatedly comment on how he was nothing like his brothers. And yet, the sole difference was that he really didn't do anything.
  • Is this the first time that Rachel and Ferdinand have actually interacted? Their relationship has largely happened offscreen or with one of the other clones posing as Rachel. It's significant because he drops his anti-Neolution beliefs in order to be with her. It's just a relationship the show expects the audience to care about even though it really hasn't put in much work.
  • Krystal is such an amusing character. However, less really is more with her. It is important that she becomes sorta aware to the existence of clones. If only Sarah wasn't the only one she could meet. But that could mean she'll be more important next season. And yet, she works because of just how limited screen time she gets. That's what consistently makes her funny and amusing.
  • Mr. Westmoreland is the founder of Neolution. He's the man Rachel is about to meet. The season ends with him knocking on the door of the island mansion. It's a chilling tease that things are only going to get bigger and darker.
  • BBC America announced this morning that Orphan Black had been renewed for a fifth season. However, it is going to be the final season of the show. I'm perfectly fine with that. This show can't sustain itself forever. Plus, writing towards an ending should make for a number of truly captivating episodes next year.