Orphan Black (2×10) “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” – Review
Most of it! Duncan's suicide and the dance scene were real highlights.
The handling of Delphine mainly.
Writer Graeme Manson treats us to scene after scene of satisfying and intriguing drama – what more could we want from a finale? He knows exactly how to get all of the major players to their correct positions and then manoeuvre them around, like chess pieces. Helena’s in Art’s kitchen! Well of course she is. Where will she crop up next? And that’s just one success in a jam-packed episode…
Little has been done to curb Rachel’s more melodramatic moments sadly, but as the stakes are high we forgive it. That is not to say Tatiana Maslany’s performance misses the mark – her wild scream and smash the bone marrow sample, crimson splashed all over her sleek high heels, is a brilliant moment.
The cherry on the cake is Ethan Duncan’s death, which I considered to be the single best scene of the entire show, until a better one came along later! Andrew Gillies gives a standout performance, as does our star Maslany, and it’s both a shock and a fitting development. Intercut with the home videos in that strange booth-of-the-past Rachel has, it was a triumph of direction and design as well. Fantastic!
After seeming fairly inconsequential for much of last season, it is pleasing that Cosima, essentially on her death bed, is given much of the spotlight here. Her scene with Kira about the force of a pencil going through the paper works really well, because it covers up the obscure and inaccessible science-y stuff with human emotions and relationships. I only wish they had taken a similar approach earlier in the season with all those stuffy lab scenes. All they needed was a child to explain it all to!
“You won science!”
Meanwhile, Delphine double-crossed! I’m actually massively dissatisfied by the wonderful Évelyne Bronchu’s exit, as I don’t believe the character would willingly go with that little fuss, and her appearance as a heavily made-up angel wasn’t particularly convincing. If Orphan Black gets a third season, she must return, at least to get a proper swansong. It should feel gut-wrenching that Delphine is parting with Cosima; it was a bit of a missed opportunity. But how perfect is it that the codes should be found hidden in a significant story book? There’s hope for Cosima after all!
One of the only disappointments in this finale is the fact that Alison hasn’t got a story of her own, although she is present, and that Donnie (who has been such a crucial part of the season), doesn’t appear. Because of this, if there is a Season 3, Alison has to either be given something new to face or written out – we can’t have another season dealing with the aftermath of a death. They’ve only just got over Ainsley! Please use Alison well if the show returns. She’s the best one!
How many times has Helena been kidnapped now? Still, it’s exciting as the episode comes to a close and the revelations start to drip out… Also, nice touch with her Jesse’s hat falling to the floor, left behind. That and her relationship with Kira are the sweet touches that have made Helena far more engaging this season.
On that note, though: why has the clones’ superhuman ability to survive mortal injuries not been properly addressed yet? Kira was hit by a car last year and miraculously survived, Helena was shot by Sarah. Enough of a point was made of it that we know it’s a deliberate ploy on the part of the writers, as opposed to sloppy storytelling, but not much more is said? Are we supposed to still feel as though the clones could be in genuine danger if they are near-immortal? Are they actually immortal? How? None of these things have even been explicitly set up as mysteries, which points to a slightly bigger problem with the series as a whole…
But that issue aside, the storytelling is flawless this week, with Sarah rightly at the heart of it all. That opening sequence in which Sarah is probed not only by physical implements but by their searching questions is effectively shot and quite harrowing. “Speak up please!” It feels very Room 101-like.
“My name is Sarah Manning and this is my unconditional surrender.”
Anyway, who cares about the story when the gorgeous Cal is back on our screens?! And best of all, he’s coming face-to-face with Sarah’s other gorgeous conquest, Paul (who doesn’t look bad in a beret…!) That scene is a good fun break in an otherwise intense episode. Plus, Cal’s smart: he’s been doing digging about the wider web of Project LEDA, which enables the show to feel like a proper thriller again. That’s what works, this week more than others: it regains its joire de vivre because we can sense that exciting new answers and exciting new questions are nearby.
Ethan Duncan’s suicide was glorious. What was even more glorious was the scene towards the end, in which Cosima take down the life support tubing from her face, puts on a record, and just dances. And then Sarah joins in, and Felix, and Kira of course, and then Helena and even Alison with some persuasion! The episode’s structure tricks us, with a quick denouement that leaves space for great character-based moments like this. Orphan Black 2 as a whole was lacking in this. They could have done with more scenes like this. Felix twerking on Alison was just brilliant. And above all, it gave Tatiana Maslany the chance to remind us again how adept she is at bringing so many different faces to life – each clone dances differently, to a different tune.
And then we’re hit with a revelation to spin us off into a (potential) Season 3 – there are male clones too! In the shape of Ari Millen, a fantastic actor! In one swoop the whole Prolethean subplot is justified and the series feels stronger and more cohesive.
Orphan Black 2 is general was a good run of drama. It felt weak at times, and inconsistent at times, and annoying that it wasn’t matching the intrigue and mystery of the first season – but this finale proves that the showrunners still know how to do it. The show suffers most when it feels disconnected from the real world, when it all gets a bit insular, but scenes like Cosima and Kira with a pencil and paper go some way to rectifying that. Does it deserve a third season? Yes, but if it gets it, it must use it wisely. It can’t just present us with a clone of Season 2.