Monday, March 4, 2024

ORPHAN BLACK Season 4 Wrap-Up

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With the penultimate season of Orphan Black at an end, it’s time to round off with a wrap-up post and take a look back at where we’ve been, what we’ve learned and where we might be headed in Season 5.

Let’s re-examine some of the highs and lows:

Highlight: The intertwined arc of Sarah Manning and Beth Childs

After this season, it’s hard to remember that Sarah and Beth never actually met. Season 4 brought us back to the moments leading up to where it all began, when Sarah Manning saw a woman who looked exactly like her step off a train platform to her death. We wound back the web to find that Beth had been investigating Neolution from the start. With Art’s help Sarah is able to piece together clues about Beth and her detective work that bring them closer to unraveling the Neolution mystery.

Sarah discovers a strong connection between herself and Beth, one that simultaneously haunts and encourages her via hallucinations. The scene in episode 7 where Sarah has a conversation with Beth on a bridge overlooking train tracks was one of the highlights of the season for me. Using the supernatural elements of the show to bring Beth into the picture was the perfect way to represent the concerning headspace Sarah was in. Beth was there because of the darkness inside Sarah’s head, but she was also the reason that Sarah was able to move on from that place, by encouraging Sarah that the rest of the clones needed her. As an audience we got a satisfying look into some significant scenes of the past, and found closure together with Sarah on Beth’s part of the story.

Lowlight: Felix’s Family

I want this to be a highlight, I really do. I was truly looking forward to this subplot, but the development just didn’t work for me. Felix is forever in Sarah’s shadow and this feature subplot looked like it might provide a way for him to break out of that shell and develop his own piece of story free from the clone web, but the writing brought Sarah back into the picture all too soon and even found a way to insert Felix’s birth-sister Adele into the main plotline by assigning her vague job description to Donnie’s prison case.

The whole point of Orphan Black‘s plot is that everything is connected and intertwined in one way or another, but Felix and Adele’s Geneconnexion connection appears to be more of a red herring than any real twist. And based on how Felix and Adele left things, it’s unclear whether or not she’ll make an appearance in Season 5. If she does, I hope her addition serves to strength Felix’s character and develop him further in his own right.


Highlight: New Clones

One of the best things about each new season of Orphan Black is the new and incredible ways Tatiana Maslany is able to broaden her acting repertoire and bless us with her inventive portrayal of another clone. We met Krystal Goderitch briefly before Season 4, but this time she was really allowed to shine and had some of the funniest and most memorable moments in the season, from getting a massage from Donnie to failing to believe the clone story, to inadvertently saving Delphine’s life in the parking lot with an obnoxious ringtone. As I mentioned at the beginning of the recap for Episode 5, I will forever be in awe of Maslany’s ability to make me believe she’s a completely different person. I noticed in the final episode that she even holds her lips differently to play Krystal. How does she do that? How?!

On the opposite end of the scale, the brand new addition to the Clone Club that Season 4 brought us was the Finnish-born hacker MK, a secretive contact of Beth’s who now passes her skills on to help Sarah, before betraying her in a sad twist of fate. Thankfully MK was on the way to redeeming herself by the season’s end, and we can only hope that Season 5 brings her closer to her sestras. MK clearly has a tragic past, having lost a clone sister with whom she was very close. Maslany graced us with a reserved and nuanced performance as the reclusive MK, who often kept her face hidden behind a sheep mask. Her mysterious aesthetic and expert tracking skills were a welcome highlight to the season.

Lowlight: Kira’s Creepy Child Syndrome

For the first half of the season, it seemed as if the show was trying to hint at Kira have some kind of superhuman ability that would manifest in some big way and be central to the major plot. Not so. And to be honest, I’m thankful for that. But I wish they had just left this out entirely. While Kira appears to have a strong connection to the other clones that appears to allow her to see, feel and hear things that the clones are experiencing whether she is near them or not, this ability has failed to contribute anything significant to the story so far, and has done nothing for her character except make the Creepy Child TV Trope applicable. Although I’m against this subplot given that it pushes the realism of Orphan Black a little too far into the supernatural for my tastes, I’m expecting to see some significant development and subsequent payoff in Season 5 — otherwise what was the point of including this at all?


Highlight: Helena at the Hendrixes

The three most hilarious characters under one roof, honestly what could be better? Helena living at the Hendrixes proved to be a glorious addition to this season, and her continued involvement in Alison and Donnie’s drug ring problems that began in Season 3 certainly made things go from bad to worse in the best ways possible. Alison and Helena are both polar opposites but equally iconic, and any interaction between them always proves to be amazing. Although Helena didn’t last long in the Hendrix home, we did get a brief reunion towards the end of the season where the tables were turned and Alison and Donnie found themselves living in Helena’s snow-covered forest shack. This is the kind of writing I live for.

My only lament is that of the three, I felt like Donnie was given the most focus this season and I much as I love him this isn’t his story. Alison’s development, while fairly true-to-character, was a little all over the shop and she got sidelined a couple of times where she could have been given a bigger role. However as expected Alison brought us some of the most incredible moments in the season to boot — Jesus Christ, Superstar, need I say more?


Highlight: Keeping Susan Duncan alive

There were multiple occasions, in both flashback and the present timeline, where Susan Duncan was almost murdered. But somehow, miraculously, she made it through this season alive. One of the most interesting things we got in Season 4 was the development of the complicated and at times extremely volatile relationship between Susan and her daughter Rachel Duncan. Not only that, but the back-and-forth ambiguous morality of both characters kept us guessing all season. I’m really glad we’ll get to see more of this in final instalment of the series.


Lowlight: Killing Evie Cho

As I mentioned in last week’s finale review, I completely understand why they went with this one. Logically it made sense and to get Rachel on top Evie Cho had to go. The loss here is that the subtle hints of backstory and character development we were just starting to get for her character have gone to waste. I felt like Evie Cho offered plenty more to work with and heading into Season 5 with her having to claw her way back into Neolution and battle it out in a three-way fight against Rachel and Susan would have been something. Sadly it’s not to be.


High and Lowlight: Cosima and Delphine’s Reunion

The ending of Season 4 was all cophine fans could have asked for, but my god did they stretch us thin over the other nine episodes to get there. By the time Cosima and Delphine were reunited, the emotion was there but the payoff just wasn’t as strong anymore. We lost the momentum and the reveals were left too long for us to feel anything but a bit of anti-climax. Season 3’s finale left us expecting a whodunit, but I can’t say the revelation that Detective Duko shot Delphine was much of a surprise. The saving grace to this storyline was Krystal’s involvement and her miraculous if entirely unintentional rescue operation.

The big high is that Delphine is alive and Cosima has her back, so Season 5 will be bringing us more cophine. And with Cosima allegedly cured, they might even make it to the end!!! Only time will tell. If we could wait a whole 9 episodes to see our beloved Delphine again, surely the months until Orphan Black Season 5 won’t be too bad???


My Biggest Questions for Season 5:

– Who is the mysterious messenger man? And what does the colony on the island where Delphine has been all along have to do with everything?

– Who is the man behind the curtain, Mr Westmoreland? And will he be pleased with Rachel leading Neolution?

– Will Kira do anything useful for the plot?

– Will the lesbians live????

– Will Tony make a return?

– What will Helena’s babies be like?

What about you guys? Questions, thoughts? Leave a comment below!

All images courtesy of BBC America. 


  • Erin

    Erin Latimer is writer whose specialties include film analysis, television and gaming reviews, and re-examining movies from her childhood through a lens of feminist fan practices and queer theory.

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