Saturday, August 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - The Clones Explore What Happiness Means to Each of Them in 'To Right the Wrongs of Many'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 5.10 "To Right the Wrongs of Many"

With Helena forced to take shelter behind enemy lines, it's a bloody last strand for survival as Sarah and Art struggle to protect her, and end the siege on the sestras once and for all.

Orphan Black was a stunning achievement for BBC America on so many levels. From a technical standpoint, it was always marvelous to watch. One actress was playing multiple characters who shared big, physical scenes with one another. The directing and editing made it all look seamless and as if they all existed in the same space. But the show was also great because of its story which was fundamentally about a search for identity and happiness. Those are big themes that are universal concepts made more complicated in the show through a science fiction premise. All of the Leda clones were given the freedom to be defined by their circumstances. Some of them were more easy and relaxed while others were especially brutal. Their self-awareness to what was going on in their lives made the show a battle against oppression. These women were fighting to have their own individual lives and personalities. They wanted to be the ones in charge of their own lives. Not some evil corporation that is trying to carefully monitor and manipulative their every action. It was a grand war between experiment and creator. The people at Neolution had no idea what they had created. The Ledas had no idea just how many of them there were either. They simply needed to band together in order to achieve some sense of freedom and happiness in their lives.

In "To Right the Wrongs of Many," the family does get that. In a final season, there is always the worry that any character can be killed off at any time because the show does not need to maintain the status quo any longer. Anyone can go at any moment in order to intensify the story. This season had that in the early going. M.K. was the cloned to be killed off. That moment highlighted just how dangerous this final season was going to be. The tension kept increasing as the year went along as well. As the show went into its series finale, there was a good possibility that not all of the protagonists would make it out alive. The story centered around Helena finally giving birth but the people delivering her babies wanting to exploit them for their genetic material to save their founder. It was an intense situation because Sarah and Art are also in the building trying to save Helena. Any of them could have been killed. Last week's episode even teased Helena's death. She was sacrificing herself in order to save her family. She survived because of her sister. But she is still incredibly weak during the escape and about to give birth. Meanwhile, Art was seeming more reckless and lethal with him being okay killing any remaining members of Neolution who threatened the family's happiness. That put him on a tragic arc. Plus, his death would be significant without taking away another of the main clones.

And yet, those deaths don't occur. Things are definitely intense and precarious throughout the first twenty minutes of this finale. They are some of the most exciting and dangerous moments the show has ever produced across its series run. Sarah is trying to help her sister. Helena can't escape now. She needs to give birth. Westmorland and Coady are searching the building for them. Both of them meet some satisfactory and brutal ends here. It's the expected fate for both of those characters. But those moments were incredibly rousing to watch. Coady seemed to learn her lesson about not getting too close to Helena. And yet, she still fell into that trap and got stabbed in the neck. Helena may be in labor but she's still more than capable of killing anyone who poses a threat to her and her family. Elsewhere, Westmorland has made the full on transition to being a complete madman. He has lost his mind. It's plain to see. People are still following him. They are obeying his orders. But if they question him too many times, he'll shoot them because he simply doesn't have time for their disobedience. Coady is seemingly the only ally he has. Of course, he's still a terrifying threat on his own. The camera sets the mood early on when Sarah returns to the operating room to get supplies for Helena. It's carefully following her around and being a little erratic. That is amplified even more when Westmorland's voice is heard but Sarah can't tell where it's coming from. In their final confrontation, either of them could die. This story started with Sarah stepping into the life of Beth. It would be fitting if her death closed out the story. But it's even more rewarding to see her crush the skull of Westmorland. She promised to figure all of this out to protect her family. It's a choice that has come to define her entire life. And now, she has successful destroyed the organization that has wished them harm for so long.

All of this allows for Helena to give birth in peace. Things are uncertain for a long time regarding when Helena will need to start pushing. Westmorland thinks it's taking too long and he won't survive long enough. Coady pushes for Art to take the babies out of Helena. Sarah feels like she's searching for the proper supplies for too long and coming up empty handed. But in the end, the threats from Neolution are wiped out and Helena is able to give birth surrounded by people who love her and don't want to exploit her babies. It's still a precarious and very emotional sequence. All of this stress could have had some horrible effect on the babies. Inducing labor now and Helena refusing to push for too long could have had consequences. But ultimately, Sarah and Art are able to keep Helena focused long enough for her to give birth to two beautiful and healthy baby boys. It's such a beautiful sequence. It's something the audience has been waiting to see for a long time. She's been pregnant forever. And now, her babies have entered the world. Intercutting that moment with Sarah giving birth to Kira mainly feels like a way to have Mrs. S in the finale in some way. But it's still very effective as well. It leads to an overall sweeping sense of emotion and love. These people love each other and are there for each other in the most painful and difficult times. And in the end, it is all worth it.

The main plot of the show wraps up after only twenty minutes of the finale. The Leda clones successfully defeat Neolution and win their freedom. The rest of the finale shows what that happiness is actually like for them. That's such a significant and smart way to do this. It's not just a coda put on the end of the finale to show brief glimpses of their lives as free women. It actually spends a lot of time in that feeling and what life is actually like for all of them. It's framed around the family having a celebratory party at Alison's house. It's just a simple baby shower. But it's so heartwarming to see because each of the characters bring their own baggage and perspectives to this moment. Happiness is a different thing for all of them. They spent the entire series fighting for their own individual identities. And now, the show is revealing how they are all different and the same. They have different experiences in the world. Different things make them happy. But the feeling of a stable and healthy family is very important for all of them as well. None of them would have had this moment if not for the family. Their lives would be miserable if they stayed in their separate worlds completely unaware that the others existed. That's still the case with the majority of the Leda clones. Most of them aren't aware that they are a part of this grand scientific experiment. The finale even says that there are 274 of them out there. That's a huge number. It also makes the characters of the show feel small in comparison. It's important that they formed this family bond. Their actions saved the many. It's life-changing but very intimate as well.

It's also important to see how life varies for all of them. What does happiness look like for Sarah? She has never felt that. She has never been stable and happy with her life. She made the decision to keep Kira. But she was never really around for her. She came back for her and was pulled into this grand conspiracy of cloning. And now, Sarah needs to step up and be a mother because Mrs. S is gone. She can no longer rely on that relationship to guide her through life. Now, she needs to be the responsible one. She still believes that she is messing things up. She wants to leave Mrs. S' house because of all the tragic memories without talking about it with anyone else. She wants to get a GED to provide for her family but is scared to take the test. These insecurities and fears fester inside of her until she has an outburst at the party because her family is bugging her too much. She exposed her true feelings. It was such a raw moment. But it needed to happen in order for the sisters to come together in the end. They all have fears and insecurities. For most of them, it revolves around being mothers and always feeling like they are messing up and doing wrong by their children. Sarah believes she's failing Kira. Alison thinks she's too annoyed by her children. Helena is confused about the realities of having newborns (and still hasn't actually named them). Cosima doesn't know if her lack of desire for children makes her selfish or afraid. The four of them voicing these feelings and knowing that it's safe to do so is incredibly heartwarming and moving. It pulls them together in a way that makes it clear that they can relate to the problems the others are having. They won't judge each other. They'll support each other. So even though they then go their separate ways throughout the world, that bond is still there to come back to. It's so comforting. A lot has changed for them in not a lot of time. But it's change for the better. They are better individuals because they have each other in their lives. And that is just such a rewarding way to end Orphan Black.

Some more thoughts:
  • "To Right the Wrongs of Many" was written by Renée St. Cyr & Graeme Manson and directed by John Fawcett.
  • For Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Helena, there is strength in having each other in their lives. It's a family bond that is beneficial to each of them. But it's comforting to Rachel that she'll never have to see or think about someone who shares her face ever again. She's lost a lot by working with her family. But now, her freedom means escaping this madness altogether. She wanted independence just like everyone else. Hers is different but still good for her in the end.
  • This season mentioned Tony more than previous seasons. It was the show being aware that it introduced him back in Season 2 despite it being a mistake almost immediately. Fortunately, he doesn't make another appearance here. It just needs to be mentioned that both him and Krystal are cured by Cosima.
  • For the entire season, I was worried about Delphine dying because Evelyne Brochu was only a special guest star instead of a series regular like she was in past seasons. Her dying would once again fall into the "Bury Your Gays" stereotype. And yet, that didn't happen. It's so important to see Cosima and Delphine have their happiness together. That visual is so significant. Yes, there's still an asterisk to this conversation because Delphine was believed to be dead for a long time. But it's so special to see them have this moment here.
  • Once it was clear that Helena hadn't named her babies yet, it seemed obvious that she would name them after two of the other characters in her family. Both of the twins being boys certainly limited the options. But it also feels right that she names them Arthur and Donnie. Sure, it leaves Felix out. But Art and Donnie definitely did more for Helena over the course of the show.
  • Are there any characters from previous years you're disappointed didn't return for the final season? It's definitely odd that Cal never showed up this year. He's Kira's father and Sarah still has a ton of love for him. He could have been a part of their happy ending. Though I'm guessing he didn't appear because of Michiel Huisman's scheduling.
  • It would be absolutely crazy if Tatiana Maslany doesn't get nominated for another Emmy next year. It's a possibility because the show is ending long before the next voting window. But her performance as so many characters was just so remarkable. Yes, she did win once. But that isn't nearly enough for all of the tremendous acting she did on this show. This finale would serve as a terrific submission as well.