This Orphan Black review contains spoilers.
Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 1
Season premieres are always tough because they’re charged with cleaning up after the finale cliffhangers, hooking in viewers, and setting up worthwhile season-long arcs. We expect so much of them after so much build up that they almost seem destined to fail.
The Orphan Black season 5 premiere was serviceable, though not nearly as much fun, thriller-paced, or heart-driven as the show we’ve all come to know and love. Too little time with some of the touchstone performers like S, Felix, and the Hendrixes, as well as scattering most of Clone Club far away from one another, made this episode feel more like a communique than a welcome back to a world we love.
Sara tries to keep everyone safe
That could really be the summary of the series. There were some great light touches throughout the episode of perfect characterization, like Sara lying to Felix about being okay, and Felix knowing immediately that she was lying. It’s amazing to think how far Sara has come since the pilot: she is now the clear leader of her family. She’s also far stronger when it comes to her survival than she ever thought she could be.
Ferdinand fled with Kira and Mrs. S, saving that plot for next week. Mrs. S was sorely missed, and while we saw Felix for a few brief moments, a greater presence from him would have been a benefit. Really, seeing more pairs of named characters together would have done a lot to strengthen the episode. Some of Orphan Black‘s strongest work has come from surprising scene pairings, like Felix and Alison, who turned out to be delightful together. Pairing them all up in strange, unexpected ways is wonderful; keeping them all separate for 40 minutes at a time is painful.
Cosima follows the crazy science to the heart of Neolution
Most of this episode was spent on the island, in the mysterious Revival village. Among the parts of the episode that felt the most like seeing a wonderful old friend were when Revival was being creepy Cosima was commenting on it somehow, like when she explained the definition of myths. So far Revival seems to be building well upon the existing mythology of the show. Children’s books, in particular, continue to figure prominently, as do cults.
It makes sense that Cosima would want to stay to understand the science, and let’s not forget that back at the beginning, before Clone Club, Cosima had a genuine interest in Leakey, Neolution, and all of the science. If any of the sestras was going to be stuck on cult island, I’m glad it’s Cosima. Her scientific knowledge, natural skepticism, and curiosity to solve the puzzle of who they are makes her the best way in to this part of the story. It does seem a bit obvious, though, that the shadowy, unseen Oz-like cult leader is something of a sham, and that Rachel switched out or otherwise tampered with the syringe before injecting Cosima with the cure. I would love to be wrong and see something more complex, because that seems far too obvious to be the answer.
Neolution rounds up the sestras
Helena and the Hendrixes provided some of best moments of the episode, from their rolling luggage in a national park to Donny’s recognition of an “emergency loon call.” The characterization on all three of them, and the bizarre sister-wives-esqe way they relate to one another, has always been a strong point for the show. It was sad to see Donny merely watching as Alison was taken away, but I’ve got to think his plan was to rescue her. I’m a bit worried about Helena’s bleeding pregnant stomach, but to be honest, if they’re anywhere near as strong as their mother, those babies will come out swinging, and maybe eating powdered doughnuts.
It seems there are no more sides or factions (except for Ferdinand?) and Neolution infiltration of the police department is at an all-time high, with Art assigned a new partner who is both a Neo and apparent a female misogynist. I’m hoping that both of those play out quickly, with Helena kicking her ass. I wasn’t surprised to see that Allison didn’t break under questioning, but Art’s new partner seemed full of crazy eyes when she pretended they planned it together.
The fact that Felix was also rounded up was sad but sort of touching, in a way. His status as brother-sestra is so clear that even those crummy Neos know to come for him, apparently!
Where did Ferdinand take S and Kira, and what is his plan? Who is in those woods by Revival? Who is this Mr. Frontenac? Is this cult leader guy real? Is Sardinia just a code for “death” and will Delphine/Cosima ever catch a break?
I’m hoping that next episode will feel more like the Orphan Black we’re used to, now that we’ve unpacked the season 4 finale’s reveals a bit. I’m hoping we can get a few more characters together so there are fewer solo hero’s journeys and more of the loving character work that makes Orphan Black so great.