As it barrels ahead with its final season, Orphan Black is leaning in hard on the themes that have typified the series since the beginning. Identity, scientific ethics, and struggling against a patriarchal society have been there since day one, and patient fans are reaping the benefits of seeds sown at the series’ outset. While some were worried (myself included) about the seeming addition of immortality, we should have kept the faith. While Orphan Black is indeed science fiction, it’s sci-fi that is first and foremost grounded in a believable reality.
As we reach the middle of the season with ‘Manacled Slim Wrists,’ the neolution island is melting down. P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie) has been revealed to be a fraud. He’s not the 170-year-old pretender god that he claimed to be, but yet another mortal, driven by an all consuming need to achieve immortality. After all of the trouble and pain that she’s caused over the course of the series, it’s hard to believe that Rachel Duncan (Rosemary Dunsmore) would be a moderating hand on their experiments, but even she begins to question the lengths that they’ll go in their quest for knowledge.
In terms of scientific experimentation, Orphan Black is wading into its darkest territory yet. After the eugenics reveal and their Nazi-esque pursuit of a master race, Westmoreland and Dr. Virginia Coady (Kyra Harper) — returned from seeming death — make it even more personal by going after Sarah’s daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler), in the most vicious way yet. Because of the secrets still hidden in her genes, the neolutionist leaders want to scrape out all of her eggs and plant them in 1,300 surrogates for brutal genetic testing to discover the key to her gifts. Turning an eight-year-old child into essentially a farm of disposable embryos proves to be a bridge to far for Duncan, causing her to break from her life long study to help Cosima and Charlotte (Cynthia Galant) escape. She pays with her life, her crimes finally catching up with her.
It’s almost superfluous at this point to praise Tatiana Maslany’s talents, but there are no signs of fatigue. While we could always use a little more Alison, each clone is getting a shot at redemption this year, and Maslany is handling it all beautifully. None of the sestras have made it out of this war with their hands clean and are all looking for ways to atone. Helena — still wild — is finding a passion beyond killing in her babies. With the unborn twin’s miracle healing powers and Helena’s fertility, she still has a target on her back from Dyad, but her tender reconciliation at the convent with Sarah shows that the craziest clone has maybe found a little peace (which probably means that she’ll be the core member of Clone Club who doesn’t survive the season).