Saturday, July 29, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Everyone Comes Together to Celebrate Felix's Art Opening in 'Guillotines Decide'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 5.08 "Guillotines Decide"

Mrs. S orders the sisters to take a night off from sleuthing to celebrate Felix's art opening. But while Felix attempts to impress a famous gallerist with the help of his sestras, Sarah remains on edge with a niggling suspicion that S is hiding something. Wounded and desperate, Rachel reunites with an old ally, but their plans for revenge on Neolution put Clone Club in the line of fire.

The creative team at Orphan Black went into the fifth season knowing that it would be the final one. As such, they've shown so much confidence in pushing the main narrative to its natural conclusion. After years of setting up mysteries and conspiracies, it could finally reveal everything and build the story to its final resolution. Planned final seasons are always wise because it truly reflects in the storytelling. Everyone is aware of that and can react accordingly. It means that characters who were previously deemed safe can be killed off at any moment in time. Meanwhile, the status quo no longer needs to be maintained because the story isn't setting things up for another season. This is it. This is the final chapter for the show. Orphan Black has done a number of interesting things this season. It's used a handful of episodes to be spotlights for various clones. Those were hourlong showcases for the range that Tatiana Maslany has in playing all of these remarkably different characters. But it's also just as satisfying to watch as some characters meet tragic fates. The show set up the life-or-death stakes early in the season with Ferdinand killing M.K. And now as the show races to its ending, it's clear that the stakes are only continuing to amp up.

But that's only one part of "Guillotines Decide." This is probably the most fun episode of the season. Yes, the episode with Krystal was fun too because she brings that energy whenever she appears. But that hour felt less essential to the overall plot while being one last reminder of what Krystal is up to in this crazy world. This one actually brings everything to a sweet, heartwarming and emotional place. It's able to tap into that long history of the show and what all of these characters have been through as a family. The biggest complaint of this final season so far is that it sidelined Felix for some strange reason. He and Adele flew off to Europe in order to trace the financial actions of the people at Neolution. It was a story that sidelined them. It kept them offscreen. Plus, their efforts didn't really have much impact in the main story. It was giving them something to do while not taking precious screen time away from the characters who needed it each week. And yet, it's absolutely wonderful and joyous when Felix finally returns. He walks through the door and suddenly everything is fabulous once more. It's a tense time for Clone Club after everything that happened with Rachel. But with Felix back, it all seems very comforting once more.

This episode largely serves as a celebration for everything that has happened throughout the course of the show as filtered through Felix's relationships with the clones. He was adopted into this crazy family. Cloning has affected his life just as much as it has his sister and the many people who share her face. He has grown so much as a character over the course of the series. In the beginning, he was a wannabe artist who would seduce any guy to get information. And now, he has matured a little bit. Yes, he still drinks and paints in the nude. But he's actually putting on his first showcase and has an appreciation for all that his family has done for him and taught him over the years. Their bond is stronger than ever before. He aims to celebrate that. His family is the focus of his art show. His pieces are simply depicting the many faces of the Leda clones and how identity and perception is purely subjective. It's a fine show that takes on a new effect once Felix brings the various clones out to wow the attendants. He feels the pressure to make this a memorable experience. He's willing to exploit the similarities amongst the clones for a performative piece of art. But he does it with love and respect as well. Sarah, Alison and Cosima are largely dealing with their own problems as well. But they are also more than willing to help Felix when he needs it the most. The show succeeds because of their love for him. It's a cause worth celebrating.

Of course, it's very odd that the family is able to relax and not worry that someone is right behind them ready to kill them and kidnap Kira. It was just last week that Rachel orchestrated a daring escape in order to free Kira from P.T.'s nefarious plans for her. She did so for personal feelings of being betrayed by the man who seemingly gave her everything she ever wanted. It built to that bleak ending of her cutting the eye out of her head. It was an ending that seemed to raise the stakes and make it so Sarah and her family couldn't go home again. And yet, everything is perfectly fine for them at the start of this episode. They are able to relax and enjoy each other once again because Neolution is actually in shambles. The system is failing apart because P.T. has been exposed as a fraud. There are still people committed to the cause and actively trying to restart the cloning program. But those threats are far away from the family at the moment. There is still action to be done. But right now is a time for celebration. The family has won. They've gotten all the information they need to expose this covert organization for what it truly is. They need to stop cloning from ever happening again. By the end of the episode, they are successful in that endeavor.

And yet, Clone Club is only able to succeed because of the tenuous alliance Mrs. S. and Delphine have formed with Rachel and Ferdinand. That is quite an unlikely character pairing. Rachel and Ferdinand have been so ruthless and destructive to the family in the past. Ferdinand killed M.K. because he was upset with Rachel and her newfound faith in Neolution. But now, he's there to save her from Neolution after she cuts her eye out. She only survives because Mrs. S made that call. She still needs Rachel for information. And now, she's in the vulnerable position to actually hand it over. Of course, that also comes with the reveal that Ferdinand is the secret source Mrs. S has been working with all of this time. Sarah is finally able to put the pieces together and feels deeply betrayed by her mother. But the show doesn't linger on those feelings for very long. It simply has too much ground to cover. It's also best that the show doesn't focus too much on Sarah being upset with Mrs. S. She did what she thought was best. And now, those efforts have paid off. Rachel is willing to work with Clone Club because it will finally deliver her the freedom she has always wanted. She could run the world and make billions of dollars if she used blackmail to control the board of Neolution. She could be happy with Ferdinand by her side. But that's not ultimately the path she chooses. She wants her freedom more than anything else. She didn't want to inflict that same type of pain on Kira in last week's episode. And now, that's her motivation for betraying her frequent lover.

All of this makes it clear that even though this is a happy and celebratory episode it's going to end in tragedy. There is a constant impending sense of doom to the proceedings. Everyone has cause for worry. Neolution isn't totally gone yet. It's still organized enough to send a team to the convent to kidnap Helena and kill Gracie for lying to them. That's an ominous tease for the future because Neolution still may be able to get its hands on the children of clones and the potential mutations they have. That sets up the action for the final two episodes of the season. That's intense to think about. But it's not what this particular episode is building towards. No, that's instead the ultimate sacrifice by Mrs. S for her family. This has been such an active season for her. She's been the force behind the investigation to expose Neolution and P.T. for what they truly are. She was successful because she worked her relationships and knew how to manipulate things to her advantage while still caring for her family. But she and Rachel set Ferdinand up to be killed. He survived because he's a skilled assassin. He doesn't kill Rachel because of his great love for her. But he does kill Mrs. S. That's such a brutal and emotional ending. It proves just how badass she is. She's fighting up until her dying breath. No one is coming to save her. This is her ending on the show. It's a brutal but terrific way to go. It's the consequences of her actions coming back to hurt her. She did what she did for her family. Felix made sure everyone knew how much he appreciated his family. But it's still so tragic to watch. It's great that Ferdinand takes a bullet too and dies much faster. And yet, it's also inevitable that Mrs. S goes as well. She's not surrounded by her family. All she has is a picture. That's good enough though because she knows she's loved and that her family will be okay.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Guillotines Decide" was written by Aisha Porter-Christie & Graeme Manson and directed by Aaron Morton.
  • Colin was never a character I expected to see again. So, it was a delightful surprise to see him show up at Felix's show and the romantic spark still there between them. Sure, he still has questions about the clones especially after seeing one of them dead. But that's not relevant. It's just important that Felix will have a happy ending after all of this is over should he decide to take it.
  • It seems very fitting that Hell Wizard is the DJ for Felix's big show. He's been a reliable character for Clone Club over the last few seasons. He hasn't been important enough for me to actually remember his name until now. But it's also so fun to watch as he gets to perform and really get the crowd going.
  • It's fascinating to see normal Alison Hendrix mode of being a suburban mom who drives a minivan to soccer practice now seeming so foreign and uncomfortable to the woman she currently is. She puts on that performance for Felix's show but she no longer feels like that is her identity in this world. She has let go of that for the moment.
  • The dynamic between Mrs. S and Rachel was really so interesting to watch over these last few episodes. They went from enemies to reluctant allies in this war with Neolution. Mrs. S succeeds because of the information that Rachel gives her. But that action also isolates Rachel. She has her freedom. But it's going to be an uphill climb for survival for her as well given her new injuries.
  • Mark and Gracie are only reluctantly working with Coady and Neolution because they need the cure for Mark. But Gracie finds herself torn after she feels the babies inside Helena kick. They are technically her family as well. That's what makes it so tragic that Neolution discovers them anyway and immediately kills Gracie for not doing what she was suppose to do.
  • Kira and Charlotte are sent away to go live with Art's child - who has never really been important in the grand scheme of things. That action likely means that they aren't going to play a big role in the end game of the series despite how important they were previously this season.