At the end of its sophomore year it’s hard to tell where Orphan Black will take its shape from here on out. A third season hasn’t been officially green-lit but much has been set up with this season 2 finale “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” at the expense of a back half of a season that had so much going for it before it started allowing the viewer to ask too many questions. It was still enthralling with many shake ups and moments that pleasured our emotions in so many ways but many things are never clarified as the show unleashes another stunning cliffhanger a bit an expected one.
Pacing is everything here and for the most part this season finale sprints while displaying this season’s best and worst qualities. This episode tried greatly to avoid slowing down and spent a majority of its time thrilling the viewers and trying to surprise them. Tatiana Maslany dazzled this week and coming off her second Critic’s Choice Award you need look no further than this episode to see how great of an actress she is. In the evolution of characters this year Helena and Rachel take the cake as the most interesting clones on the show with Helena given a new coat of paint as someone to sympathize with. The moment that she meets her sisters and Kiera was rather touching and a lot of it just comes down to Maslany’s stunning eyes that speak volumes when no dialogue is uttered.
Same goes for her portrayal of Rachel who gets many barn burning (not a pun on last week’s episode) moments of crazy eyes and fits. The woman deprived of a childhood throws tantrums and sells the grief and desperation in losing years of bonding with her now deceased father so well. I’ll be curious what role Rachel plays next season but I just hope she gets an awesome eye patch. There was one light moment here that just made all the feels gush from my face with Helena meeting up with all her sisters along with Felix and Kiera. How could you not love that scene? So much joy and to top it off we get a dance party with all the clones. I seriously want to know how that scene was shot because for a cable television show it looked damn good. The clone slumber party really hammered home the sisterhood that has now fully been embraced among these unique individuals. Watching each clone dance in a way that reflects their personality was great and it allowed for all of them to let loose and have some center to life even though things are far from being easy again.
The big reveal is not completely surprising but it does open the landscape of the show to new possibilities. We know now that the military have their own male based line of clones under the umbrella of “Project Castor” and the face to this line is none other than Prolethean Mark who is seen this week marrying Gracie as we expected him to. Choosing Mark as the likeness and test subject is interesting because of how fleeting yet mildly important he was this season. He wasn’t around for no reason so for him to end up being that much more important makes you second guess what you may or may not have seen this season. Again this was expected, hell, I thought maybe Felix would be revealed to be a male clone but that’s literally the biggest tripe of fan fiction I can fathom.
But it’s just not enough in so many ways; ambiguity is sometimes a helpful tool in allowing the viewer to be the smartest person in the room but only are given enough substance to be allowed that. When things are just left open ended and set up with no defining line in the episode it takes place that’s when you piss off the viewer. What exactly is up with Mrs. S and her relationship with Paul? How does Kal fit into this? Things that played so prominently this season have no clear resolution by the time we watch Helena being courted off onto some military cargo plane. These were all important characters this season and they are just given a gigantic question mark to hold over the heads like the green life diamonds of a Sims character. For a show that has been incredibly smart by giving so little at times it hasn’t been playing these cards right over the last four episodes which considering this is a 10 episode season makes for the TV equivalent of a decent EP from your favorite band.
What this comes down to is focus; as the clones became important individually through their storylines more questions are raised and plot strands are continuously thrown into place with little to no explanation. It takes the focus off one specific story that just so happens to have so many other people involved. One could argue that by bringing in a male clone counterpart it moves away from the themes of feminism and sexuality. However, while those undertones were very obvious this year you don’t necessarily need that when you have a group of female clones who are completely in control themselves but still treated as specimens and things of desire which speaks more volumes than any deep rooted text could. Leading into a third series my intrigue has been reset after a rocky back half of a season. The simple set ups of the finale really complimented the fast pace scenarios and did it’s best to make up for those last few episodes. While the ideas are getting bigger I hope Orphan Black goes back to keeping mysterious and simple instead of layering every character with a series of unexplained plot points. Peace out, Clone Club!
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.