“We outlived you! It’s called evolution!!”
Such fitting words to come out of the very last episode of Orphan Black, and especially as they were stated—hell, shouted—by Sarah Manning, the cloned sister who introduced us to this incredible ride from the beginning. (Spoilers ahead, sestras.)
Over the last five years, the viewers were introduced to a growing family of cloned sisters (all played masterfully by Tatiana Maslany (right), or her clone-doubles, Bailey Corneal and Kathryn Alexandre, on set) that had discovered each other and worked as a network to uncover the Neolution movement and the Dyad Institution’s plans and regain their freedom from surveillance and control. But Sarah, the Orphan who started the series off-the-radar (or in-the-Black) of Neolution and Dyad, was always the viewers’ central POV; and to my mind, any ending to this series that wasn’t also a happy ending for Sarah, more than any of her sisters, would have felt like a cheat.
It was so satisfying, therefore, to see Sarah given the last word and the final blow, single-handedly taking out the man masquerading as supposedly 170-year-old P.T. Westmoreland and ending his pseudoscience-based plot to extend his own life by any means possible. It was fitting that Sarah, a con artist herself, would be the one to end the threat against her, her daughter and her sisters by another con artist. And it was equally satisfying to see how well Sarah and her close network of sisters, Helena, Cosima and Alison, came out in the end.
Here, let me say that I was surprised to see the typical television trope of giving us a big explosion-filled ending to such a far-reaching saga, then handing us five (or fewer) minutes of the survivors carrying on with their lives, upended so well. When the Big Ending of Sarah unceremoniously killing Westmoreland happened just 30 minutes into the episode, my head rattled. “WHAT?!? Nobody does that!” One more way that Orphan Black has turned TV storytelling on its ear.
The entire second half of the show was then dedicated to the epilogue of the Orphan Black saga, and instead of a five-minute throwaway scene, it was so much more satisfying to see a full accounting of: Helena’s babies (and I was surprised to see they were both boys); Sarah’s decision to remain close to her sisters; Alison and Donnie… well, continuing to be Alison and Donnie; Arthur’s continuing relationship with the sisters (if Helena didn’t make him a Godfather to her kids, there’s no justice in this world); Rachel’s comeuppance (she ended up poor and alone… but after everything she’d done, she’d better count herself lucky to be alive); and Cosima’s partnership and mission with Delphine to find every Leda clone and deliver Cosima’s cure for the genetic defect they all carried.
And the one last surprise that left me as stunned as Alison: The discovery that there were altogether 274 Leda clones out there! Imagine all the stories we might’ve missed over the years. Also, imagine the possibility that other clones might discover each other and build networks of their own. Then, maybe seek out other networks and join forces… the beginning of the Orphan Nation! (Hey, someone go check on Tatiana… I think I heard her faint just now…)
Over time, we may re-review Orphan Black and shine light on its quirks and flaws; it’s been revealed that the writers were somewhat… organic in developing each season, and as a result, certain logical lapses and story inconsistencies crept in over time. But as far as I’m concerned, this is not that day. To me, Orphan Black has represented that rare beast, serious and exquisitely-produced science fiction television, that this world gets way too damned little of. For now, it should be remembered for its accomplishments: Its unique but down-to-Earth storytelling; its incredible actors and characterizations; its drama, sexiness and humor; its unflinching look at the morals and ethics of medical experimentation, personal identity and corporate vs human rights; its incredible clone-duplicating effects; its many award nominations and wins; and its rabid, unwavering fan base.
Orphan Black now slips into the annals of rare science fiction series that other shows, SF and otherwise, should aspire to be; it will stand proudly on a dais that includes The Prisoner and Person of Interest, among very few others. Thanks for everything, #CloneClub.