TV Episode Review: “Orphan Black” “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” (02.10, 2014))

After a messy and increasingly dull middle portion of its second season, Orphan Black finally regained its footing for its penultimate episode and this finale, but it also left us in an odd place for the future.

Dyad and the Proletheans appear to be threats no longer (or at least severely diminished threats–each has lost its leader, apparently, though it seems a little weird to think that Rachel is dead from that.), but instead we’ve got the military and its project CASTOR. While there would be no reason to care about this parallel project initially, we are then shown that Mrs. S and Paul apparently gave them Helena in order to get Marian Bowles on their side to get Sarah, Cosima, and Kira out. Cosima is extremely sick, but she also has the key for Duncan’s synthetic sequences, in The Island of Dr. Moreau.

The episode begins with an interesting non-chronological sequence (something this show rarely does) showing Sarah fighting with Mrs. S and eventually admitting that she knows Mrs. S always has Kira’s best interests at heart while Felix falls apart with guilt in the foreground and then Sarah’s eventual surrender to Dyad. He didn’t have time to realize it wasn’t Sarah, so his guilt is clearly misplaced, but he of course cannot forgive himself for not realizing that it wasn’t Sarah. Jordan Gavaris plays this scene wonderfully, making the typically lighthearted Felix absolutely heartbreaking for a moment.

Meanwhile, Delphine does what she can to help Cosima as she’s being removed from her post, leaving Cosima and Scott trying to get Sarah and Kira out of Dyad from within while Mrs. S and Felix try from without. For all that this series has been a paranoid thriller, we get some real attempted teamwork in this finale, and nobody even needed Helena’s unpredictable violence to bail them out this time.

Ethan Duncan’s suicide was one of the most effective scenes in Orphan Black‘s history, marred only a little by the difficulty I had in believing that Dyad/Rachel would allow him to use his own teabags. Not only was it a powerful moment for Duncan, committing suicide rather than allowing the experiment to continue and apparently also in recognition of what has happened to the woman who was once his daughter, but Rachel’s screaming, “You can’t leave me again!” is a powerful reminder that, for all the coldness in Rachel, she has had a horrible, pain-filled life with no family. She doesn’t remember having loving parents even though she did, perhaps because she needed to bury that memory to hide all the scar tissue that her upbringing in Dyad would have put over it.

Overall, I feel like the second season of Orphan Black was much like the first–it was far from perfect, but it was generally good and sometimes brilliant. And, even in its worst moments, Tatiana Maslany could carry the show. I’m not sure about the future, but two seasons of being good is enough to buy some benefit of the doubt.

Notes

  • It was so obvious what was coming when Kira asked Cosima to read her a story that I actually laughed.
  • I wonder if it was an intentional pun to mention Felix by the first syllable just after Cosima was talking about “The Golden Ratio,” which is also called phi, which is pronounced the same in Greek or in the US even though it is pronounced with a long i sound in much of the world. (It’s also a number often used in pseudoscience and given undeserved significance.)
  • I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t remember that Helena had not met Cosima and/or Alison yet.
  • When I saw US military showing up, I thought, “Hey, Mr. Big Dick!” Felix, the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Until we saw them trading Helena, I just kept thinking of the finale of the brilliant Jekyll, a bit of silly nonsense tacked on to the end of what was otherwise one of my all-time favorite television experiences. (If you haven’t watched Jekyll, watch it now. It’s on Netflix instant. It’s amazing. You will have a better, richer life for it.) And then thinking about it, I realized that there are actually more than passing similarities between that show and this one, which may explain some of why I get frustrated with this show. Jekyll had a very different format that made its focus easier and had an in-his-prime Steven Moffat writing, so it had advantages, but it also did much of what Orphan Black does much better.
  • I’m confused about the Nitrogen. I have no idea what that meant.
  • Does any of Felix’s music actually make sense together? I know I have weirdly eclectic musical tastes (I wrote a football article once where the sections were named for songs on my iPod. The songs were by Oasis, Dido, Amanda Palmer, Elton John, and Alice Cooper. I don’t think a lot of people can turn on their iPod right now and find those artists.), but even I think the range of his music seems a little extreme. However, the idea that he listens to vinyl is so perfectly Felix.
  • Also be sure to check out the Polar Bears Watch TV take–the last one of the season!