Orphan Black Recap: Who Hurt You?

Orphan Black

Gag or Throttle
Season 5 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: IAN WATSON/BBC America

For faithful members of Clone Club, this final season of Orphan Black has felt a bit restrained compared to its predecessors. Despite how many revelations we’re getting as the show ties up loose ends in preparation for its grand finale, the horror has been of a controlled sort, the kind that crawls under your skin rather than electrifies it. It’s not a bad change of pace, this refocus on the banal inhumanities involved in orchestrating a scheme like the one that produced Leda and Castor, but it certainly dialed things down from, say, those times when Helena was carving wing-shaped scars into her own back or wielding paper-cutters as machetes to “get refund” from Pouchy and Co. Fortunately, we get a little bit of that old spark back in this week’s gruesome cliffhanger — in which Rachel proves she was raised as nothing if not a bona-fide, stone-cold HBIC by scooping out her own (biotech, but still, her own) eye — perhaps signaling that the research-and-planning stage of Operation Unmake Neolution is drawing to a close.

First off, now we know exactly what was in the Kool-Aid that Rachel drank when she became Westmorland’s pet, and it was strong stuff: Turns out our pal John (more on that name in a minute) offered her a “contract” granting her personhood and “officially” exempting her from the Leda experiment; then, as icing on the cake, he told her he considered her his daughter. It’s hard not to forgive Rachel for the naïveté required to believe a piece of paper, even one that appeared legitimate, wouldn’t be invalidated on account of her existence as property being literally encoded into her DNA, if not thrown in Westmorland’s fireplace the moment she walked out the door. While she may have known the nature of her identity at age six, she’s also been systematically denied any affection or humanity since then, turning her into an experiment as both Leda control group and an answer to the question, “If corporations are people, how are their parenting skills?”

Neglect, of course, begets an unusual susceptibility to emotional manipulation, not to mention an all-consuming identity crisis, as demonstrated by the many hairstyles Rachel tried while clinging to agency and personhood, even committing sororicide to study her own disease and again establish dominance as Most Valuable Clone. But in this case, it also gives Rachel the savvy to discover when she’s being played — she discovers both her medical file, which still prominently displays her Leda code, and the freaky iPad through which Westmorland has observed her every move since patching in those swan “visions” he used to encourage her to kill Susan — as well as a ruthless determination to avenge herself. And so, she springs Kira from the tragic fate that has forced her to resort to self-mutilation to retain even a morsel of human dignity, even though it almost certainly means unspeakable punishment at the hands of Westmorland and Coady.

Even if Rachel was already feeling protective, our wunderkind’s hustling skills certainly paid off. In addition to giving her aunt a friendship bracelet and reminding her of the consequences of a childhood spent in a lab, Kira is able to use a story she writes about “Elephant” (Rachel) and “Mouse” (Kira) to alert her mother, in a coded video chat, to Westmorland’s plan to bring her (once they’ve successfully harvested her eggs) to the island where he and Virginia Coady no doubt intend to make her their Yannis 2.0. This on top of Rachel’s brilliant fake-out, which includes an eye patch and texting Art Bell without looking, allows Siobhan and Sarah to bust Kira out of her corporate prison.

Oh, and John Patrick Mathieson — that’s the full name of our P.T. Westmorland impostor, whose obituary Scott and Hell Wizard discover with the help of a returned Cosima. (Scott almost cries when he sees her, which is one of the most endearing things Scott has ever done, next to his “you get used to it after a while” comment re: ghosting last week.) “John Patrick Mathieson” has a real serial killer–esque ring to it, if I do say so, which, if we’re being honest, is even more fitting than John alone was: Beneath all that visionary philosophy and all those shiny cult promises is just a boring, garden-variety murderer with a trust fund. (I like to think that this is who Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain Warren would have grown up to be.) As part of her kamikaze swan song, Rachel emails his faked obituary to the entire board. Now that he’s backed into a corner, we’re about to see just how desperate Neolution’s Great and Powerful Humbug is willing to get before — one would hope — being shut down for good.

Scattered Notes

• Siobhan and Sarah discover the Neolution slush fund, a “consulting firm” inexplicably yet conveniently under the supervision of Hashem Al Khatib, a Kuwaiti board member whose daughter was “healed” by Dyad, and who does not appreciate being blackmailed — especially, as we’ll likely find out next week, by a white huckster who may have hastened his kid’s imminent death.

• It seems Aldous Leekie shared Susan Duncan’s relative moral-superiority complex, pushing Rachel away but then getting all up in his feelings about the dead body of a sick gutter-punk Leda named Miriam Johnson when she presents him with her autopsy report, full of all the scientific data he valued above paternal warmth.

• I am extremely suspicious of this hard cut that obscures how Ira died. For his sake, I hope he really is dead, because I can’t help but think of that vivisected Castor whom Helena put out of his misery back in the bunker. Mark, the last Castor, has meanwhile returned to Coady at the promise of a cure, to masturbate into a cup, and give up Helena (!), whose location he and Gracie somehow happened to find (?!). Maybe he’ll uncover the truth? Let it be a Castor who does her in, once and for all.

• And, oh, sweet gods in heaven, Alison has returned from her soul-searching mission to California. As though possessed by the high-strung lovechild of Goop and Burning Man, she’s got a new haircut, a new keyboard, and a new Thoreau tattoo (“Liver Deep?” is too good, especially considering the realities of Walden). She’s also totally over her addictions, including craft supplies (she’s an artist now) and her compulsive desire to make Donnie’s choices for him. Whether this bizarre development has any consequence on the plot, I don’t know, and frankly, I care not.

Orphan Black Recap: Who Hurt You?