Saturday, August 5, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orphan Black' - Helena Prepares to Give Birth as Sarah Tries to Find Her in 'One Fettered Slave'

BBC America's Orphan Black - Episode 5.09 "One Fettered Slave"

A devastating loss is eclipsed when word reaches Sarah that Helena has been kidnapped. Clone Club bands together in a race against time, determined to find her before she has her babies. With time running out, Sarah is forced into action in a last-ditch effort to save her sestra.

Helena started Orphan Black as a lethal assassin hunting down the Leda clones. And now, the emotional central of the series' endgame is the entire family rallying around her to protect her from the evil organization that wishes to exploit their genetics. That's a very poetic story and transformation the show has done over the years. Helena went from this terrifying presence who could immediately raise the tension just by entering a room to a woman obsessed with being part of a family and having that love in her life. It was a sweet and natural evolution. Of course, these last few seasons have sidelined her a bunch as well. She always found herself hiding out in some unknown location that most of her sisters didn't know about. Last season she was camping in the woods. This season she was in a convent. It felt almost as if she was put in that position because the creative team didn't know what to do with her. She didn't need to be in every episode. She was still one of the main Leda clones. And again, it's still incredibly significant whenever she does have relevance in the main narrative. Those opportunities just felt fewer and farther in between over the last few seasons. She's been pregnant for a lot of that as well. This pregnancy has been very slow moving. But now is the time for her to deliver her babies which places her at the forefront once more.

Helena's babies have been so important to her as well. She didn't want to do anything that could jeopardize them in any way. She needed to protect them because they are her miracle babies. Sarah and Helena are the only Leda clones who are able to conceive. The rest of them have been rendered infertile by the genetic experiment. In fact, that's where the defect comes from. Sarah and Helena are special because they are actually twins who were separated at birth. They lived vastly different lives. And yet, they still found their way back to each other. It took them awhile to fully understand all of that and protect each other as sisters. But once they did, it was one of the strongest relationships on the show. It's meaningful that it's Sarah who goes after Neolution when they take Helena. It's personal to her. She doesn't want to lose any more members of her family in this gruesome war. She has lost too much lately. She's barely able to mourn Mrs. S' death because she needs to rescue Helena. She gladly does it as well because the bond of love and family is there. She also needs the people who have caused all of these problems and heartaches for her and her family to pay once and for all.

All of that is very interesting and leads to a very intense conclusion to "One Fettered Slave." However, the majority of this episode just feels like the show setting up the story for its series finale. This season has been terrific to watch because of the finality to it all. It has had the confidence to make bold and decisive moves because it is building to an ending. It's not particularly surprising that the ending has to do with Helena's babies. After being pregnant for so long, it would have felt odd if the audience never got to meet them. They are being praised as miraculous and the genetic solution that P.T. Westmorland has been searching for. He had it with Kira but lost her because of Rachel. And now, he potentially has a new way to prolong his life. It's clear that he is dying as well. He has now become a mad man who is willing to do absolutely anything in order to stay alive. His entire organization has blown up around him. He no longer has the followers he once did. The corporate infrastructure has been destroyed. Now, he's tasked his henchman to clean up any potential loose ends. It's better for him to just blow everything up and then try to rebuild with Coady and Helena's babies. His plans for the future may be more complicated. But he still has the genetic material to actually pursue his endeavors. He just needs to survive long enough in order to do so. He's ordering C-sections and killings like it is nothing. He has become an incredibly selfish man with a fear of death. That's a powerful motivator that makes him a terrifying presence throughout this episode.

Surprisingly, Westmorland's actions make Coady seem a little more sympathetic. Of course, there is only so much sympathy the audience can have for her after everything she has done. She ran the Castor program for nefarious purposes. She kidnapped Helena and had no problem killing Gracie to do so. She is in line with what Westmorland wants the future of the mission to be. She has replaced Susan as the leader of Neolution once more. And yet, she finds herself at odds with Westmorland throughout "One Fettered Slave." She brought Helena to him to deliver her babies. But she wants it to be a natural birth while he needs them out as soon as possible. He wants to kill Mark and officially be done with Castor while she still has so much sentimentality to the project. Mark is just a loose end to him. To Coady though, he's her last remaining son. He turned his back on her and is only back now because he needs the cure from her. But that relationship still means something to her. She cared about her boys and was devastated to watch them be killed one by one. And now, she's the reason for the death of the project. It reaches its end with her giving Mark a fatal dose of some medication. At least, that's what it seems to be. The show doesn't actually confirm that Mark dies. It's heavily implied though simply because of Coady's reaction. She hates doing this but she still does it. Similarly, she keeps Helena alive but is still incredibly cruel to her about her ever being a good influence on her babies. So again, Coady is more sympathetic than she has ever been previously. But that's still not saying a lot. She's still a villain who gets exactly what's coming for her.

It's a little surprising to see how much of Coady's words actually get to Helena as well. She's this badass who is always able to fight her way out of any situation. Yes, that occasionally leads to innocent people getting hurt in the crossfire. But she still escapes from the people who wish her harm. Right now though, that's an incredibly daunting task. Nothing from her past can prepare her for this moment. She was raised to believe that she was the original in the cloning project. And now, she no longer believes that because of the love she has for her sisters. But the story itself is putting her at the center for the show's final story. Her survival is what this episode is all about. She tries cutting herself free but it's useless. She believes the only way out that ensures her babies aren't experimented on like she and her sisters have been is to kill herself. It's a dark thought. One where the visual is pretty gruesome as well. She is able to do significant damage to herself. But it's not enough to keep Coady from saving her. She's very fortunate because Sarah is already in the building and has been exposed by Neolution. She has use and can't just be killed. She needs to save Helena's life. It's the two sisters together once more in this incredibly precarious situation. Of course, the medical crisis frees Helena just enough to do some significant damage to Coady. That's a very satisfying moment. It makes it clear that Helena and Sarah will need to rely on each other in order to escape. But that gets even more difficult in the end because Helena's water breaks. Her babies are coming and they are surrounded by people who wish to exploit their genetic material. Art may also be in the building willing to do anything to save them. Plus, Sarah got a good hit in when she was with Westmorland. All of this is seemingly good news for them. But the finale could literally go anywhere with these characters. It's easy to want a happy ending for all of them. But will that ultimately come true though?

Some more thoughts:
  • "One Fettered Slave" was written by Alex Levine and directed by David Frazee.
  • It's very interesting that the show didn't use the actress who plays Charlotte and young Rachel to also play the young version of Helena. Was the material simply something she couldn't pull off? Or did the creative team just find a better actress for the job? It's weird especially since it's been noted that Charlotte is what the Leda clones looked like at that age.
  • Also, how necessary are these flashbacks? They do reveal the abuse Helena endured that caused her hair to turn blonde and her eyes to become permanently puffy. But the rest feels like information the audience already knows. We see her kill her first Leda clone and come to the realization that she is a part of this experiment. But Tomas is still able to channel her energy in the appropriate way - which was to be expected.
  • Art really seems to be taking the death of Mrs. S really hard. That's surprising and completely unexpected. And yet, those kinds of reactions from characters who don't seem to have that kind of meaningful connection with the dead can be really moving. He reaffirms to Sarah that Mrs. S protected his family too and he will do anything to avenge her death. Of course, that means needing to kill some people. Those actions make it seem like he may not make it out of the series alive.
  • Rachel finds herself as an ally to Clone Club solely because they have a common enemy in Neolution. Taking them out is the only way for Rachel to get her freedom. And right now, all she has is information. Her body is essentially useless. So, Sarah needs to rely on that in order to get into the building and surprise Westmorland.
  • Sarah definitely seems to be compartmentalizing her emotions right now as well. She is keeping things together after the death of Mrs. S for her family. But she's also focusing on everything happening with Neolution because she doesn't want to be surprised again. She's also ready to jump into action and take big risks in order to bring Helena back home safely.
  • So, any final predictions for next week's series finale? I'm guessing a significant part of it will be Helena giving birth while also finding a way for her and Sarah to get out of Neolution. But the remainder of the story could end in any number of ways. It could be a joyous ending or tragedy could strike somehow too. I'm really intrigued to see how things will go.