If Orphan Black were a lesser show, all we’d ever care about is what Tatiana Maslany was going to do next. Her ability to embody every clone in totality, from her accent and posture all the way down to how she impersonates her sisters (the technical term is “Inception acting”), is breathtaking, and one of the most compelling reasons to watch the show in the first place. But Orphan Black hasn’t gotten this far on clones alone. Granted, its cast of supporting characters has grown to delirious, overwhelming proportions. (From which circle of hell, par exemple, did Frontenac slither up?) Yet we’re reminded, in this penultimate installment of the most painstaking show on television, that the Ledas would be long extinct if not for their devoted, super-competent family of protectors. From Arthur Bell’s heartbreaking loyalty to Adele’s mildly criminal investigative savvy to Hell Wizard’s inexplicable rise as the Q to Leda’s 007, nearly every character is nuanced, earnest, and has contributed selflessly to the Clone War. And it’s all about to end. Go ahead, rub it in!
Presumably as a mercy, we do get the significant consolation prize of a full episode’s worth of Helena backstory. Flashbacks reveal how poor Meathead got her blonde locks: courtesy of a hypocritical Miss Minchinesque nun whom Baby Helena — after sneaking into her office to gobble chocolates — accidentally witnesses, um … well, masturbating. The furious crone shoves her head into a bucket of bleach to make her look like the spawn of Satan she is (??), then locks her in a cupboard, Chokey-style. Tomás first finds Helena here, telling her she’s special and vowing to take care of her. I don’t quite understand what kind of deal this grody old man had with those nuns to simply walk away with an orphan, no questions asked — not to mention raise her as a pliable, vicious crusader in what amounts to a dungeon with a few mutilated Barbies — but God probably wouldn’t appreciate being dragged into it. Said upbringing does, however, teach Helena about authority figures and brutality the hard way, and we see how that trauma has, for better or worse, come to define her, even when messianic flattery ceases to be an effective tactic in winning her loyalty.
A week is nowhere near enough time to fully absorb Siobhan’s death, so when Felix and Kira cry at her funeral, I cry, too. At the wake, Art offers Sarah — who hasn’t cried yet — a bowl of his homemade chili, and I cry again. (No character death has been this tragic since that Buffy episode “The Body.”) She’s watching the news, which is overflowing with Neolution scandal, when Sister Irina rolls up to alert her to Helena’s kidnapping. Her journal suggests that Gracie sold her out, probably to Coady, probably to the island, so Westmorland can use her babies’ stem cells for his fountain-of-youth insanity. The only way to know for sure is, ugh, to ask Rachel again. Luckily Rach is out of fracks to give, so when Felix and Art arrive, she happily tells them Helena is probably not on the island, since the Revivalists have burned it down. She barely even protests when Scott — presumably the only babysitter without plans that evening — shows up to babysit her.
She’s right, of course. Coady, Westmorland, and Frontenac have returned to Dyad’s allegedly shuttered labs to receive Helena — who regained consciousness for an exciting moment on the way with Coady’s hand up her cervix — and immediately induce her labor. Frontenac is on a break from playing Holy Hitman (murdering the surviving board members) to help Westmorland shoot up. Johnny Boy’s cancer, turns out, has relieved him of his hair and sent him into full Heisenberg mode. This consists of:
• Feverishly running his hands over his bald head.
• Threatening to cut Helena’s twins out of her body if she doesn’t hurry up the biology already.
• Convincing Coady to dispose of Mark — who still doesn’t know John had Gracie killed, against Coady’s wishes, to “force this situation” — and be done with the Castors, now that they’ve “synthesized the pathogen” (or whatever).
• Screaming “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE” at his employee, a woman, ostensibly about murdering another pregnant woman, and then harvesting her infants for their blood.
This employee nevertheless does what she’s told, including shoving a Hannibal Lecter mask on said pregnant woman and pumping hormones into her, then quietly killing her own son under the auspices of giving the poor guy a Castor disease treatment. Returning to the “delivery room,” she takes out her grief and self-loathing on Helena by attempting to convince her she’d be a horrible mother, since she’s an animal who killed her own sisters. The bitter accusation confirms all of Helena’s worst fears — it wasn’t until her first kill that she discovered she’d be assassinating her own “copies,” and she was horrified by it, both back then and now that she’s bonded with her sestras — and though she continues her escape attempts, using surgical scissors when she’s left alone to desperately slash at her bonds, eventually it’s Coady’s voice in her head that finally defeats her and turns those scissors against her wrist instead. Whether she intended to die or mercy-kill her twins via blood loss is unclear — as we know, this show is well-educated on the topic of blood-loss-related death.
By this point, Orphan Black’s writers are giving us two deus-ex-machina moments for the price of one. First, Art’s captain simply takes his word over Engers’, who resurfaced to misdirect the police investigations into two Neo board-member murders, those of Ian Van Lier and some PR consultant that Rachel says was tasked with “whitewashing the eugenic agenda.” Ol’ One-Eye also correctly locates Al Khatib in the Neo boardroom, facing down Frontenac’s loaded gun. In alarmingly efficient time, Art moves in — Felix playing the delightful diversion — and wastes Frontenac when he lunges, officially making his first unlawful kill for the team. (It disturbs him deeply, but he’s ride-or-die now.) With a little persuasion, Hashem Al Khatib confesses that the only person Westmorland wants more than him is Rachel … what’s that you say? Time for another Clone Swap? I thought you’d never ask!
Al Khatib offers up “Rachel” (a.k.a. Sarah, in one of her signature garbage-wigs, delivered in the trunk of a car) in exchange for his own freedom. Meanwhile, Scott and Hell Wizard — who knows exactly how to fake an organ transplant emergency — play secret agent, sneaking past guards, hacking the locks on the lab, and letting in Art, who is now wrapped in Kevlar and determined to “get the first drop” on Neolution.
For some reason, the team still thinks Sarah has enough finesse to keep Westmorland monologuing at “Rachel” until they can rescue her and Helena. This does not go well. Immediately discovered, she manages to slash P.T.’s throat (sadly not enough to kill him) before Engers tackles her. Enter Deus-Ex-Machina No. 2: Just as the barrel of P.T.’s gun hits Sarah’s temple, Coady rushes in screaming. They found Helena half-dead and need a compatible transfusion to save their “subjects.” Wouldn’t you know it, they’ve got a genetically identical twin right here!
Sarah is (willingly) hooked up to Helena, and in a few seconds Meathead awakens, freshly infused with her sister’s literal lifeblood, and tricks Coady into getting close enough to have her head bashed repeatedly against the metal bedframe until she’s unconscious, if not imminently dead. “You are shit mother,” Helena matter-of-factly tells the crumpled and bloody body on the floor. The twins cut their bonds and are about to go find Art when it happens: After hours of attempted induction, Helena’s water splatters to the floor. With these bebes on their way out, Art on his way in, and Westmorland probably so far gone that he’s out of his gourd both emotionally and biologically with rage and desperation, next week’s series finale is bound to be a veritable field day for our nerves — not to mention our feelings. :(