Man, what a difference a week makes. After last week’s debacle, Orphan Black rebounded this week with its penultimate episode, but at what cost? Obviously, any show this is always going to go off the rails a bit before coming back to its center and that has made it so interesting. However, much is still left to be answered. Yet, with all these questions remaining, the series relied heavily on how much the show could get out of the viewer emotionally.
At some point Orphan Black was always going to have to go back to the normal set up; eventually all the storylines involving the clones would have to sync up and reaffirm their slowly evolving bond. Even if that meant doing this through something as simple as a Skype conversation it instilled an emotional core to the episode and unites the sisters once again. This episode, for a while, had a great focus on the emotional bonding — not just the clones but between Sarah and her immediate family. There is something really moving about watching Sarah’s vulnerability as a mother and Kiera’s brave heart in helping her mom and her sisters. It still bothers me why Kiera always ends up being key to the plot without really having a reason at times. Yet, when she is involved she is the heart of the show’s emotional core and it feels so genuine to watch her with Sarah. All the main players now are back in each other’s gravitational pull it seems interconnecting all the loose ends of the narrative even if there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
However, not everyone is included in all the clone club fun; we still have Helena out there watching a house burn down on a hillside. Helena, much like Rachel, has had some of the most fascinating developments this season as the series has devoted a lot of time to exploring the depth of their personalities and motives. With the Prolethean storyline seemingly burnt to the ground by the end of this week’s episode somewhere along the line she will have to find her way back to her seestra who I am quite surprised isn’t as concerned about Helena’s absence as she should be. Finally after having all her choices determined by someone else for so long she is free of that constriction and boy did she break that chain in one of the most unsettling manners ever. Watching Maslany play Helena during Henrik’s unfortunate rectal violation was both satisfying and yet undeniably disturbing and really hammers home why she loves playing Helena the most. For a character that clearly wants to be part of a family she has softened up a lot this season but still is allowed enough of an edge to remind us of how scary and psychotic she can be.
While it was the least likely route I would have taken I am all in favor Donnie and Alison being this couple who has come back to one another through their murderous habits. The scenes in the garage were brilliant all culminating in that post burial of Leekie’s body sex where they couldn’t decide where to mess around finally opting for the freezer that initially stored the body. One thing that I think most people tend to neglect is how morbid the humor on the show can be but it only works in small doses. The strange love of Donnie and Alison in a Stepford esque suburban setting feels exactly right for this kind of humor and this week was a quick reminder of that. I’m not sure where Alison can ultimately fit into the finale but there is no way they will leave her hanging till next season even if this episode felt like a definitive end to her current plot thread.
Of course, I would be remised if I didn’t give this episode solely to Rachel who finally came unglued this week. Up until last week the facade that has been Rachel Duncan’s professional demeanor had stayed intact with no clear motive determined. This week she finally cracked as she watched home movies of her family before gazing on a picture of Sarah and Kiera. Of all the clones I think Rachel at the moment has the least amount of questions answered; her purpose in the wake of her father revealing a lot about the experiments has left her incredibly vulnerable and almost vengeful. There is clearly motive behind all of this, I mean she did leave her laptop open to a confidential file in clear sight of Delphine’s eyes. There is more to Rachel than she is currently let on and it’s bleeding through each week. Where ever her kidnapping of Kiera goes it better be one hell of a payoff.
This is all well and good and after last week it was a vast improvement but things still don’t seem right. There are a lot of plot strands that have yet to be explained and with next week being the season finale I have no clue how they are going to wrap all that up. Part of me wonders if the show is coming back since no official renewal has been announced. In a way Alison’s plotline wrapping up almost made it feel like a definitive end to her regular involvement in the show. Where could she possibly fit in from here on out? Sarah’s story has the most blurred lines of any of the plot points. Why is she helping out Dyad again? Why is she still working alongside Mrs. S? Where does Mrs. S fit into this? This is a lot to take in with one week left but it’s also tough for me to completely judge the direction of this story without knowing what is coming next. In the meantime the penultimate episode of Orphan Black’s sophomore season had a lot to offer even in the wake of setting up a lot of chess pieces that need to play their part to wrap up one wacky and erratic season.
Jason Stives is the Music Editor of Pop-Break as well as the resident Anglophile and Pop-Break representative for BBC America conducting weekly reviews of Doctor Who and Orphan Black. He is currently a contributing writer for PropertyofZack.com and a freelance creative consultant for fundraising and marketing campaigns in New Jersey’s various art communities. He is a graduate of Rutgers University’s class of 2010 with a bachelors in Journalism and Media Studies. When he isn’t attending concerts or writing the great American novel he moonlights as lounge crooner J.M Heavyhart turning the works of Dokken and Dio into Sinatra-esque standards (or at least he would like to be). Follow his constant retweets and occasionally witty banter on Twitter at @jaystives.