[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “To Right the Wrongs of Many,” the series finale of “Orphan Black.”]
BBC America has dubbed “Orphan Black’s” last season “The Final Trip,” and it has been an uneven ride of highs and lows that nevertheless ended satisfactorily.
The season began with the promise that Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) and her sestras would take a stand once and for all to take down the shadowy man who was behind behind their cloning and who still wanted to control their biology. It was exciting to think of the Ledas coming together in force to finally stick it to the man.
Unfortunately putting a face to the name P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie) proved to be too much of a bizarre distraction. While his Victorian affectations were entertaining, his entire storyline this year — from the “Island of Dr. Moreau” vibes to that twisted Victorian dress-up dinner party — felt far too cartoonish to be worthy of the series’ big bad. After a while, all of the plots concerning Westmoreland or his strange island full of cultists just felt like time taken away from rich sestra storytelling.
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At least when the clones were onscreen, they weren’t wasted. Usually, the best parts of any season of “Orphan Black” are the interactions between the clones or their closest confidants. Just as bread provides a delivery mechanism for delicious butter, the crazy conspiracies and bad guys provided the basis by which the clones would connect in delightful ways.
This season introduced a new way to appreciate the clones: through richer backstories told through flashbacks. Whether it was Alison’s (Maslany) substance abuse or an explanation of why Rachel (Maslany) held herself above the other Ledas, these stories allowed viewers to fall in love even more with their favorite characters.
The finale episode was a mirror of the entire season. All of Westmoreland and Dr. Coady’s (Kyra Harper) mustache twirling was an annoying time suck since it was just a matter of time before they died anyway. Fortunately, their demises were quick, ridiculous, and somewhat anticlimactic so that viewers could focus on the clones.
“Orphan Black” delivers excellent fan service by devoting a good two-thirds of the finale to Sarah’s and her sestras’ journeys post-villain. It’s fitting that this episode revealed more about Sarah, the first clone we ever met on the show. Like many of her sestras, Sarah is still struggling with how events from the past have shaped her. In this case, it’s becoming a single mom when she was too young and unprepared to take responsibility.
Everyone who lives gets their happy ending or as happy as they deserve: Felix (Jordan Gavaris) is coupled up and has obtained the list of 274 sestras worldwide in need of the cure; Rachel, who provided the list, is still alone but figuring out how to to be part of the 99 percent; Cosima (Maslany) and Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) are globe-trotting clone-curers; Alison and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) still experience sexy times and marital bliss; Sarah overcame her doubts and decided not to move out of the house where Mrs. S. died; and Helena… well, Helena is special.
Helena’s childhood was arguably one of the worst. After abuse by nuns, she was then raised to be a killer of all the other clones. Her existence was solitary and brutal. And this is perhaps why she’s been able to tap into joy so easily even amidst all the chaos. For her, life has already been tough, so everything else is wonderful. Food? Excellent. Babies? Joy. Baby shower? Hamburgers with jam!
The montage of Sarah in flashback giving birth while Helena in the present gave birth to her twins was just the right kind of powerful sentimentality that brought the message home: the sestras could overcome anything together because family is the most important thing. Rachel doesn’t know this (yet). Helena does, and that’s why she names her babies — hilariously called Orange and Purple temporarily — after two of the most important and positive men in her life: Donnie, who had shown her how a loving and supporting husband should be, and Art (Kevin Hanchard), who had aided her sisters and even helped her give birth. (Aside: Sadly, this was not triplets because shouldn’t Felix have gotten a shout-out too?).
It’s no mistake that Helena gives birth to twin boys. The sestras have fought all of these years to get on equal footing, and now that they’ve achieved it, they are no longer need to struggle with the patriarchy (as much as they did anyway). It’s a new generation that has started with a clean slate, with DNA that has not been tampered with.
Helena is also the one whose memoir tells the story of “Orphan Black,” which starts with the story of her own twin, Sarah. It all comes full circle as we’ve just watched what she is reading to her sestras. And in the end, that’s all we need, not conspiracies, not strange Castor clones, not cultists with tails — all groups who sought the Ledas as a solution to their own imperfect lives. In telling the tale of sisterhood and its fight, “Orphan Black” has sent a message of the rights for all people to live free of fear and control.