Orphan Black 5×09 Review, “One Fettered Slave”
I know I ask this every week, but are you ok out there Clone Club? A lot is happening and it’s all very fast. This season is doing an incredibly effective job at clawing our hearts out, and now we’re just one episode away from the End. (*choked sob*) Ok sestras, let’s get into it.
As none of us will forget anytime soon, last week’s episode ended with Mrs. S getting shot and killed by the Devil Ferdinand, but not before she killed him first. This week, we see her funeral. Can I just say I had snacks and everything ready for watching this, and I couldn’t even eat them because I was crying so hard. A woman sings the saddest Scottish folk song EVER, “The Parting Glass.” Sarah says some words and is about to read the letter S penned for them, but Kira breaks down, so instead Sarah comforts her while Felix takes it. Jordan Gavaris is perfect as his face just collapses in sadness, and while Adele holds his arm, he reads it. I’m just going to include it here because it HURTS.
Just remember my loves, death is nothing at all. I have only slipped into the next room. You can call me by my old familiar name. Put no sorrow in your tone. I promise we will laugh at this difficult parting when we meet again. All my love, S.
Cosima and Alison are in their respective homes Skyping with each other and lamenting not being able to go to the funeral because clones. They’re also both crying. Teary Cosima (alone without Delphine might I add) hurts my heart as much as teary Felix. But we can’t dwell in the waterworks for long because, as also happened last week, Helena was kidnapped from the convent after being forced to watch Gracie’s execution at the hands of Hot but Evil Maddy Enger. She is now in the hands of Dr. Coady and PT, which is a VERY BAD place for her to be.
This episode contains a lot of Helena flashbacks, which is as wonderful and horrifying as one might expect. The way Orphan Black uses flashbacks is consistently fantastic. Primarily, they’re used in later seasons after the present-day story is set up in order to give serious depth to the characters. It works so well because Tatiana Maslany is a *killer* character actor (obvs) and has already made viewers feel deeply invested in the characters she plays. We *want* the back story and the context it brings. Season 5 has done an excellent job of focusing individual episodes on different clones’ back stories while also advancing the present-day plot through those characters and their choices, and it just makes my literary heart flutter.
Anyway the first Helena flashback shows us a dark-haired girl who is not the actress that plays the other young clones for some reason. However, she does the most amazing child-Helena ever so maybe the casting director was just like, “For this we need you.”
She’s hiding in a nun’s office in her orphanage in Ukraine stuffing her face with chocolate when a nun comes in, but she doesn’t see bb Helena and goes over to her couch to masturbate. Helena is confused and intrigued, so she walks over to see what the nun is doing. The nun is PISSED when she gets caught. To punish her, she drags Helena to the bathroom where she dumps bleach all over her head (hence, the bleach blonde Helena we know and love) and locks her in a closet while poor bb Helena cries in protest at everything.
It’s oddly fitting that this nun—who probably believes she’s sinning by masturbating and is so ashamed that she takes it out on an innocent child—is the person who gives Helena this angelic halo of hair. We’ve known from the start that Helena’s hair and the way it was often lit to glow around her head was a symbol of the juxtaposing nature of innocence and darkness that she embodied; she was trained to be a ruthless killer but is also the most childlike and pure of any of the clones. The nun bleaching her hair adds another layer to this narrative that, again, does it for my literary heart.
After bb Helena has been locked in the closet crying for presumably a very long time, Evil Nun opens the door and guess who is there to take her away? Thomas, the Prolethean creep who ended up training her to go after her sestras. We see him in a dank room with bb Helena and a homemade dollhouse (which is actually kind of a rad dollhouse, except for the creep factor). He teaches her that there is an original and there are copies, and she needs to kill the copies to be pure.
It isn’t until a teenage Helena goes on her first mission to off one of these copies (using the Prolethean fish knife, in a church, because religious symbolism) that she realizes they look exactly like her. This messes her up because she thinks she’s a copy too and is therefore dirty and evil. Thomas tells her that she’s the original and that’s when we see her begin the elaborate self-harm ritual in which she cuts angel wings into her back with a razor. This glimpse into Helena’s childhood is perhaps the most layered and nuanced of all the back stories we’ve gotten of any clone, including Sarah, who we never actually see as a child, and is it HEAVY. (I would pay money to see Cosima as a child, as an aside).
Importantly, Helena had a witness to the abuse she was going through at the orphanage: Sister Irina, the same one who was harboring present-day Helena at the convent before Evil Enger and her henchman showed up to drag her into PT’s clutches.
Sister Irina remembers Sarah from when she visited Helena a few episodes back, and somehow finds S’s house, where a post-funeral gathering is happening. She brings Sarah Helena’s journal and manages to communicate that Helena’s been kidnapped. Felix and Sarah correctly suspect she’s been taken by Coady et. al. in order to use her and her babies for “science” reasons aka PT’s agenda. In case you need a refresher, this agenda is ostensibly to achieve immortality for the 1% who can buy it and sterilize the rest of humanity in an Ultimate Eugenics Nightmare, but is actually mostly about PT making himself live forever. Which is an acute problem for him at the moment since he is not looking so hot.
PT, Coady, & Co have been forced off the island because of the rioting and are hiding out in the old wing of DYAD, aka Cophine’s old stomping ground in which much Lesbian Drama and Rune Wars battling occurred in the good old days. It’s shut down now, though, and cut off from the main building. After Cosima and Delphine aired ALL of DYAD’s and Neolution’s dirty laundry last week, the press is permanently camped out in front of the new section of DYAD, so PT & Co are hiding in plain sight.
Sarah and Felix figure this out after they go to Rachel, who is still alone in her hotel room. I think it’s safe to say she’s on Team Sestra now because even though Felix, Sarah and the babysitter they brought for her, Scott (so. perfect.), don’t trust her and kind of still hate her, she cooperates. She tells them her theory about where PT & Co are and what they’re doing (a theory which is spot on; see above).
Sarah and Felix leave Scott with Rachel and Felix goes to the DYAD boardroom with Art. No one is left at the table except Hashem al-Katib, who is about to be offed by Frontenac, because after the leak, all of the board members that didn’t commit suicide are being taken out by the very entity they invested in. After a brief encounter Art shoots and kills Frontenac, because Art is at the end of his rope, too. He is comforted by the fact that his boss at the police station isn’t in on the Neo conspiracy. But Enger is still a cop, and he’s worried about his family; not to mention everyone feels raw from losing S and from the long gruesome battle they’ve all gone through to get to this final showdown of sorts.
It’s a great callback moment to when Beth shot Maggie Chen, but in this scenario Beth isn’t there to help him through the trauma of killing someone like he tried to help her. Both Maggie Chen and Frontenac were Neo cronies in one way or another, and in that sense they had it coming. At the same time, I really like that Orphan Black doesn’t show killing “bad guys” as a clear-cut victory, and does show how hard it is for our “good guys” to deal with what they’ve done.
Art and Felix take al-Katib back to Rachel’s hotel, and he tells them that the person with the biggest target on their back is Rachel. Kira has told Sarah that she can feel Helena in trouble and that her babies are coming. So, they hatch another clone-switch plan in which Sarah poses as Rachel and has al-Katib turn her over to PT & Coady so that she can try to get Helena out.
Meanwhile, inside DYAD, PT is desperate to get Helena’s twins out of her so they can use their stem cells as treatment so he doesn’t die. He tells Coady to “cut them out,” and even Coady of all people is horrified at this idea, though maybe for dubious reasons. Coady tells him that if they do that, they risk trauma to the babies and therefore risk epigenetic influence on “their prime subjects” (nature vs nurture!) so they need a natural birth. PT shoots back, “You sound just like Susan,” because our Patriarchal Figurehead likes to pit women against each other even in death. “You can hold on a little longer,” Coady responds, and it’s the only time I’ve liked her for 0.00000043 seconds.
The other thing happening inside DYAD is that Mark is still wandering around thinking he’s going to be cured and reunited with Gracie soon. Coady and PT have a conversation in which it’s revealed that Coady didn’t want Gracie killed and did intend to save Mark since he was the last remaining Castor. Also, she probably still feels some kind of sympathy or responsibility towards him. But PT has no patience, sympathy, empathy, or any of the things and tells Coady to “put him down.” Then he says, “it was always you and I with the strength to act,” before bellowing into the empty domed room as he marches out, “The future is female!”
But since Coady wins Worst Mom of the Year, she ignores whatever conscience she has and kills Mark by injecting him with some kind of poison which she says is his treatment. Just like that, Castor is dead.
Helena wakes up enough to tell Coady that she is PT’s dog because she does his bidding. Coady tells Helena that she would be a horrible mother, which, hypocrisy at it’s finest. It’s very gross.
When she’s alone, Helena maneuvers some medical scissors into her hand and tries to cut her restraints off, but they are thick leather and it’s impossible. She apologizes to her babies, saying they deserve better than her, but that the one thing she can do is make sure they don’t turn into science experiments. With a swift and powerful move of the wrist, she jams the scissors into her wrist and blood starts spurting everywhere. She passes out and it pools on the floor.
While all this is happening, Our Guys Scott, Hellwizard, and Art are using their combined former DYAD employee/cop knowledge to sneak into the old wing and help Sarah get Helena out. With Helena flatlining and Sarah-as-Rachel in PT’s office, things are getting V.INTENSE. Sa!Rachel apologizes to PT and calls him father and acts very sad; he calls her daughter, but gets this suspicious look on his face and removes her eye patch to reveal a healthy eye.
With Enger pinning her to the desk, PT raises a gun to her head and growls, “I think it’s time we got rid of this on.” At that very second Coady bursts in to say Helena is about to die, and oh how convenient her twin happens to be in this office rn. So Sarah gets dragged to Helena’s bedside for a transfusion and begs meathead to come back to her. At this point, my heart is so bruised I barely feel it anymore.
Helena revives (because Immortal Helena!) and hardcore bashes Coady’s head in against the hospital bed. YIKES. So now it’s just Sarah and Helena in the room. They’re going to get out of there, but Helena’s water breaks and she goes into labor. Bad timing.
This is where Part 1 of the SERIES. FINALE. ends. Can I just say that through all of the emotion and stress of this episode, the most kick-in-the-stomach part of it was seeing the words “Next week on the series finale of Orphan Black” flash onto my screen at the end of it. I know you’re with me Clone Club and Clonesbians; we’ll have to get through it together.
So come back next week for extra-French Delphine fresh off the plane from France, the Final Slaying of the Patriarchy, Miracle Babies, Hopefully No More Deaths But I’m Not Holding My Breath, and whatever other surprises crop up.