This Orphan Black review contains spoilers.
Orphan Black Season 5, Episode 7
This episode belongs to Rachel Duncan: her stark upbringing, coming to terms with the mysterious illness plaguing the Ledas, her continual betrayal by every scientist around her, and her eventual redemption arc.
This episode felt like everything that makes Orphan Black so successful thematically, so it’s no surprise there was such a large emphasis on female reproduction here, including multiple gynecological exams. It surprised me that it felt like such a nice, full homecoming for the cast even though Allison, Helena, and Cosima made brief appearances and Felix was only in the previews for next week. While the focus is on Rachel, the episode was so good at capturing the spirit of the show that it felt more like an affirmation that this series finale will be everything we hope, which was bolstered by the return of tertiary characters like Gracie and Mark.
Once again, Orphan Black uses flashback superbly, as an essential addition to this specific episode, rather than a drawn-out obligation. Not ever present day scene has a flashback counterpart, but when they do the pairs are expertly matched to draw heightened meaning.
Cosima is back and Alison is uncovering her inner shadow self
Cosima returned safely, and her first stop was to see her old friend and lab assistant Scott, in a heartwarming reunion. She’s also finally able to relay a ton of useful information, and some spot-on conjecture. I’m glad the sisters are all back in touch, and it sounds like we will probably never see Alison’s children again.
Alison is back from her time study Jung, with a new hair cut and dye job, which would look great if the wig weren’t so awful. The tattoo that means something but looks like a typo is a bit of pitch perfect characterization, as always. Poor Donnie seemed cautiously delighted at the prospect of not being told what to do anymore. I don’t for a second believe she’s done with crafts, but it would be nice to see Alison cut herself some slack for a while.
Science continues on the island
Virginia Coady takes up the science after killing Susan Duncan, who is now buried in the backyard next to her beloved Ira. Mark returns, the last of the Castors, and she wants an ejaculate sample in exchange for a cure. I can only imagine he will be Adam to Kira’s Eve, which is bizarre considering they both originated from S’s mother, Kendall Malone. Could that have negative genetic ramifications for the same reason as incest? What’s more, Mark offers up Helena’s location. Gracie and the sestras have always had an interesting relationship, so I wouldn’t call that a done deal. Besides, if anyone can take down and army while giving birth, it’s Helena. In fact, if Siobhan can’t kill Ferdinand, death by pregnant Leda clone sounds poetic and altogether very satisfying.
Rachel takes a stand
In flashbacks as in the present tense, we see Rachel chafe every time she is treated more like an exam subject or piece of property than a human being, in insider, and a valued member of the Neolution team. And with good reason: we see her deceived, over and over again throughout time. Coady even seems surprised when Rachel asks for privacy after her exam, which I hesitate to call a gynecological “appointment”, since it was a dungeon surprise with a doctor who admitted to murdering her mother during the proceeding, for which Rachel chided PT. In the flashback, when Rachel ask Leekie for her results and told him she had rights, I half expected him to yell back that as property, she doesn’t have any rights. At no point did he or the man examining her uterus attempt to soften the news about her impending illness. Given that in the present tense Rachel had to clean herself up with tissues afterward, Coady didn’t seem to be treating her with much car, physical or otherwise.
From the first few scenes it seemed like they were setting up Rachel betraying Neolution, but it’s interesting to contemplate what Rachel would have done if PT hadn’t installed the camera, or if he had left Rachel in charge of Kira’s care. PT of course couldn’t help himself; you can always trust villains to keep being themselves. Their relationship has a lot of strange dynamics, though: property, and elder, him calling her his daughter, he is her creator, and the occasional lecherous vibe. When Rachel is signing an emancipation document and PT puts his hands on his shoulders, it’s tough to know if she shudders because she is overcome with emotion because she is no longer property, upset at being reminded that she ever was, or simply squicked out at Westmoreland touching her.
Of course this is Rachel Duncan we’re talking about, so while she’s had a change of heart, she’s still herself, too. Hard-boiled as ever, rather than making Siobhan’s prophecy true and asking for help removing the camera from her eye safely, she hacked it out with a broken glass in one of the most agonizing examples of body horror Orphan Black has given us in its five seasons. I can’t wait to see where Rachel goes from here, and if she’ll ever face retribution for the murder of Miriam and other clones. That said, part of me hopes she and Ferdinand find each other, since for a while their vile natures lined up perfectly.
I want every part of the preview for next week: the gang reunited, the Future is Female sweatshirt, Cosima’s over the knee boots, Felix’s art of the sestras, the rap riffing on the show’s major themes, and a showdown between S and Ferdinand. Clone Club, it’s down to the wire and they’re making every episode count.