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ORPHAN BLACK’s Final Season is the Ending It Deserves (Review)

ORPHAN BLACK’s Final Season is the Ending It Deserves (Review)

It’s hard to write about the beginning of a TV show’s ending. You don’t know where it could go, even with a handful of advance screeners at your disposal. And that goes double for a show with as many as-yet-unanswered questions about personhood, evolution, and yes, clones, as Orphan Black. Over the course of the previous four seasons, the series has managed to do what, before its premiere, felt largely un-accomplishable on television: make a thrilling, conspiracy-laden science fiction series—populated by a hero’s slate of fully dimensional female characters—that plays foil to the myriad issues facing women in our society today. And it was also really smart, full of heart, and unafraid to be silly and fun in equal measure. And now, in its fifth and final trip down the rabbit hole, the story of Sarah Manning and her sisters is coming to a satisfying end.

Like in its previous four seasons before it, the series’ central question—who made these clones, and why?—plays front and center in the season five premiere. And true to form, Sarah Manning, the orphaned grifter who saw a cop who looked just like her throw herself in front of a train and die, is at the front of it all. See, after her clone Rachel went berserk on her and Rachel’s mother/the Neolution scientist Susan Duncan, Sarah was left badly wounded on the Cloney Island of Doctor Moreau. Cosima was reunited with her love, not-dead Delphine! She had a cure for her and her sestras’ life-ending disease! And a very, very pregnant Helena and the Hendrixes were hiding from the long arm of the law, living in the woods off the land.

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This season is, above all else, rife with not only answers, but closure and fantastic character moments. Every single relationship on the show continues to develop in dynamic, unexpected ways, engaging the story in fun questions throughout. And it has a lot of fun with it in moments, allowing for breaths between the harrowing mystery, dizzying pace, and fantastic allegorical look at social issues, anchored by the perma-adored Tatiana Maslany, playing 70% of the roles on screen at any given time.

There’s incredibly engaging stuff in several character-specific episodes, opening up the inner lives of the clones in new ways — no small feat five seasons in. Yes, there are those sleight-of-hand moments Maslany layers so well depending on the clone-as-clone combination, but beyond the more fan service-y bits, it’s the coalescing of the characters’ journeys and seeing the women that they’ve become in the scant few months (yes really!!) since this conspiracy dropped in their laps, that makes the show so compelling. It feels luxurious to have so many engaging characters on a TV show come into their own in such interesting, complicated, human ways AND be women.

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Especially when they’re joined by such a joyful and electric family of players. Kira comes into her own quite a bit in season five, creating a surprising and really engaging parallel to Sarah’s own journey, perhaps even exceeding it thanks to the mystery that surrounds her own existence. (Remember: Sarah and Helena are the only clones who are unaffected by the disease and also fertile–the reasons why is still deeply unclear.) Felix and Mrs. S continue to anchor the series in love and the perma-reality check that family brings—foster, chosen, or otherwise. Art, coming off a heartrending season of exposition about his relationship with Beth Childs, the cop clone who committed suicide, is in the thick of it the investigation into the Hendrixes’ (Helena’s) involvement in the drug boss death. And don’t worry, the series is topped off with a proper schmear of Donnie goofballery.

All of this is to say: Orphan Black continues to delight and expand in engaging and fulfilling ways. Fans of the series will thrill and delight at the easter eggs and surprising appearances, insanely complicated and well pulled-off multi-clone shots, GIFable moments and quotable Felixisms, but it is the story and performances that makes this show such a satisfying standout, and more than just “that clone show on that British network with the chick who won the Emmy on it.” It’s a crazy science-stuffed, socially conscious smorgasbord of clone show, brimming with heartfelt story, sincere drama and comedy, and engaging, dimensional humans. And it’s a heck (for Alison’s sake) of a swan song.

 

Orphan Black‘s final season premieres on Saturday, June 10th at 10pm on BBCAmerica.

4.5 out of 5 totally-not-clone burritos. (ok fine they’re cloned.)

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Images: BBC America

Alicia Lutes is the Managing Editor of Nerdist, host of Fangirling!, and a senior member of Clone Club. Find her on Twitter!

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