Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 9 Review: One Fettered Slave

The penultimate episode of Orphan Black brings us back to Helena's past.

This Orphan Black review contains spoilers.

Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 9

The penultimate episode of Orphan Black once again features flashbacks, this time focusing on Helena. This season has felt light on everyone’s favorite (semi-)reformed serial killer, so I’m pleased that it seems Helena is not only carrying us through this episode, but the finale as well, which promises to be a double episode.

S’s funeral is brutal, with Sarah picking up the mantel of family matriarch that very day, speaking to the crowd of “S’s people” over a rendition of Irish classic “The Parting Glass.” Sarah hasn’t cried, of course, and everyone seems worried, but there’s barely a chance to be concerned before Sister Irina, who has no tongue, shows up to let Sarah know about Helena’s kidnapping, and everything moves pretty rapidly from there.

When S is gone, who will step in to make sure they take care of themselves? Who will pull the shotgun out from under the table or stab a guy’s hand with a fork when he’s betrayed them? It’s going to be a long time before Clone Club fills the hole that S has left behind.

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Art crosses the line

Art has spent much of this season – and, in a way, this whole series – dancing right up to his ethical line and peeking over. He’s done many questionable (and frankly illegal) things, but they were always somehow justified. But in this episode, he finally crossed that line when he shot and killed Mr. Frontenac in cold blood. Yeah, it was reasonable. But we as the viewer still know that this will leave an indelible mark on Art. Who will he be when this is all over?

Back to Dyad

PT Westmoreland has seen better days, and quite frankly I can’t wait for him to die. I’m torn on him as a villain. He’s moderately interesting when matching wits with someone like Cosima or Susan, but he has never been as menacing as Rachel, Aldous, the religious zealots, or any number of the others shadows the Ledas have chased over the years. Westmoreland works symbolically, and allowing Orphan Black to work in some lines that play well to the fanbase, like about how he divides women. But honestly, the most frightening he’s been all season was when he took that ugly wig off, and the promise of the mystery of the island never quite paid off in full like I was hoping it would. There’s certainly still time, so I’m holding out hope, but he’s generally the least interesting part of any episode, and with only ten episodes, airtime is precious.

Speaking of things that are precious, (or should be), Coady agrees to kill her one remaining clone son, Mark, making it unclear if she cares about literally anyone or anything at all. I’m a bit lost on this one. Is she really that one dimensionally evil? The most complexity I can read into this decision is that Coady knew Mark would never get over Gracie’s death and would never believe that she didn’t know anything about it, so I guess she just put him out of his misery? Why not continue working on his cure in secret? It really seems like they just wanted to tidy up this loose end and give Helena a reason to have a great line in the third act.

Speaking of the Castor cure, PT Westmoreland saying the future is female is the actual worst, but I do love it for his character. It’s perfect for his wry sort of villainy, like an old-timey internet troll pretending to be even old-timey-er than he is, so proud of himself for twisting around a women’s slogan in order to make a woman submit to his will and oh yeah, commit murder.

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Helena tries to find freedom any way she can

If there were any person who could singlehandedly free herself while shackled, in labor, and on a pitocin drip, it would be Helena. But it seems more realistic for her to finally have some limits, and needing Sarah reinforces both their strong twin connection and the family theme. No one can go it alone on Orphan Black, not even S, not even Sarah, not even Helena. They’re stronger together, and they are literally bonded in blood.

I was surprised by Helena’s attempt at death by suicide, particularly given her religious background, but it makes sense. She wanted to protect her babies at all costs. At a certain point I had given up on ever seeing Helena’s childhood or assassin training firsthand. It involved altogether more pathos and less sexual abuse than I expected, but I’m glad we got these pieces of the puzzle. After finally seeing her upbringing in the convent where her food craving and warped sense of sexual urges and punishment were forged, it was tough knowing that life with Tomas would be even worse for her. I love how long Helena’s spirit held on, how she questioned Tomas after seeing her first Leda sister, and I think it’s that spirit that we see in the present when she has come out the other side and is trying to prevent her children from growing up with their own Tomas in Virgina Coady. And it was certainly satisfying to hear Helena tell Coady she is a shit mother.

Seeing Helena shackled while in labor, I cannot help but think of the real life women in the same circumstances, and Orphan Black wouldn’t have it any other way. All across America, women in prisons are shackled while they give birth. To drive the point home that the sestras are only somewhat heightened versions of what women currently face in the same countries today, Helena is even forced to give birth earlier than she should and in a way that she neither chose nor is medically advisable. It’s no great leap from transvaginal ultrasounds and the criminalization of miscarriages to the kind of control and violence the Neos and others have and want to exert over Helena and Kira, particularly their reproductive systems. Orphan Black never lets us forget that while the Ledas and cloning are fictional, controlling women’s bodies is not.

We’re coming to the end of the line

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This episode closes still very much in the thick of the action. Helena is okay but her water has dramatically broken: these miracle babies are coming soon, one way or another. Art is somewhere ready to fight to the death. Scott is probably thinking about staging some serious heroics. I feel like Donnie might shoot someone by accident again, but let’s be real, Alison is deadlier. But the hook that  can’t get out of my mind is that it all closes with what appears to be a flashback to Helena with a Carrie Matheson-style crime board full of clones, suggesting that Helena will be the one to put the pieces together so she and her sisters can cure all the remaining Ledas worldwide.

Finally, as the credits roll we hear the sounds of Helena rocking out to The Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You,” as the final season of Orphan Black continues to give us a little something extra with its amazing credits sequences to match droolworthy “next time on” previews. After five amazing seasons, I can’t wait to see the embroidery that Helena and the show have created for us. 

Rating:

4.5 out of 5