Orphan Black Season Premiere Recap: The Island of Dr. Westmore(au)land

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Evelyne Brochu as Delphine, Tatiana Maslany as Cosima. Photo: Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA
Orphan Black

Orphan Black

The Few Who Dare Season 5 Episode 1
Editor's Rating 3 stars

Welcome back to Eugenitopia, Clone Club! By the looks of the season premiere, Orphan Black’s final season has everything: genetic supremacists, science-crazed libertarians “living off the grid,” violent misogynistic white women cops, and feral nocturnal orc creatures that thirst for human flesh! What’s more, it seems like the writers have finally, mercifully, relented, and all of our various villains are congealing into one monster Master Plan. At last. I can’t wait for the gang to finally defeat capitalism and centuries of racist science, all in one go.

Last season, we left Sarah bleeding and broken, dragging herself across the beach of an allegedly deserted island. Unfortunately, her lot doesn’t improve much, despite outstanding survival skills (#grifterlyfe). Having used the two percent battery on her phone to call Felix and Ira for directions to the boat, she empties her pockets, tourniquets and bandages her leg wound with cloth strips and a tampon (!), and makes a fire with nothing but a matchbook and her one photo of Kira … only to be attacked by something distinctly Gollum-esque, which we can only assume is one of Neolution’s genetic experiments gone wrong and low-key discarded in the woods to maul and devour wolves, tauntaun-style. Because loyalty is her fatal flaw, Sarah drags herself to Revival, the eugenics village ruled over by the suggestion of a 170-year-old Westmoreland, where she finds Cosima, who, alongside Charlotte, has been recovering in a yurt and passive-aggressively forced to integrate into their creepy hippie-supremacist community. All she can do, however, is offer a heads-up about that orc in the woods, because Cosima — whose fatal flaw, you see, is curiosity — refuses to leave with her. (Her official line is, “We’ll never be free if I leave now,” but really, she’s probably staying because Delphine, newly converted after a meeting with the Wizard, dazzled her with Revival’s true nature — a “decades-long pro-longevity study” — and begged her to keep digging before abruptly leaving for … Sardinia?) Anyway, Sarah has given Rachel the time and opportunity to hunt her down and tranquilize her, just as she finds the boat that would have freed her from the Island of Dr. Westmore(au)land. Can a clone catch a break already?

Speaking of, Rachel (fatal flaw: megalomania) has allegedly met Westmoreland and found a position more powerful than she ever imagined in his heavily guarded palace. She parades around like the Queen of Jonestown, appearing before the Revival community in her furs and monologuing about being “selected” and drinking from “the fountain,” which seems to be the reason for Westmoreland’s alleged 170-year life and why people have come from miles around to participate in this twisted experiment. It’s made Rachel so terrifyingly magnanimous that, when she discovers Cosima in the med trailer with the stolen treatment, she helps her stab herself in the uterus with a needle the length of a new No. 2 pencil, proclaiming, “He wants you to be a part of this,” and, “You and I are going to cure us all.” This whole charade smells like a Wizard of Oz scenario if there ever was one. It’ll be a pity if that’s the case, considering we now have multiple sick children involved.

Meanwhile, the factions (Neolutionists, Topside, Dyad, Brightborn, and now Revival, all under Rachel’s cybernetic eye) have convened — “consolidation: the bane of diversity,” says Felix, light of my life — and are rounding up Clone Club and its associates. First they snatch Alison at Helena’s wilderness hut with trained militia and Art’s new psychotic partner Detective Engers (ladymonsters, as we know, are Orphan Black’s specialty), then it’s Felix at the safehouse, where evidently Siobhan put up a struggle before being hauled off with Kira by some new Zen priest named Mr. Fontenac. With three clones captured, one with a stick jabbing out of her pregnant belly (Donnie and Helena escape thanks to loon-calling and the latter’s savagery, but not without collateral damage), and almost everyone else kidnapped in some form or another, the nerds better be working overtime to squeeze info out of Ira and find MK on Minecraft.

A Few Random Notes

• Looks like the episode titles this season are coming from poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s 1914 poem “Protest,” the themes of which are more than appropriate for the conclusion of a story about cloned women taking down a Machiavellian capitalist conspiracy built off a radical religio-eugenic ideology to free themselves.

• Please let Fontenac and Engers be the last new characters we have to keep track of. I’m begging.

• Deeply pleased that this show is taking on the concept of “living off the grid,” even indirectly, as a toxic idea. Because in reality, there is no such thing as living off the grid, not when you’re bringing in building materials and wearing clothes manufactured in sweatshops and, you know, going out into the world to cherry-pick human beings away from their lives for use in your centuries-long genetic Tinkertoy experiment. That’s not “off the grid,” that’s “engaging with the grid whenever you want to take something from it, without ever contributing anything in return.” (A master race doesn’t count as a contribution, my dudes.)

• Susan Duncan is allegedly still alive, so can we talk about stabbing for a second? It seems like every character has been stabbed or shot and nobody (nobody important, anyway) seems to die from their injuries, a fact that can, for a layman, get pretty irritating for a show that pays such close attention to the science.

• However, believe it or not, most of these seemingly mortal injuries are apparently survivable from a medical standpoint. We consulted a surgeon friend of the program, who said that if Sarah’s stab wound didn’t nick the femoral artery, and if Susan’s stab wound didn’t send the contents of her intestines sludging into her bloodstream, both could survive those injuries. (Ditto Delphine’s gunshot wound, Helena’s gunshot wound, etc.) What’s more, if you’re bleeding from a major vessel and running, like Sarah, your adrenaline will make your veins constrict, acting like a temporary natural tourniquet and slowing blood flow. Said Vulture’s own version of Cosima Herter: “It’s actually not rocket science, just plumbing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

Orphan Black Recap: The Island of Dr. Westmore(au)land