[This is a review of the Orphan Black season 2 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
After an entire season of looking out for a new clone, a male clone or a whole new set of clones, the season 2 finale of Orphan Black is a dream come true, especially after the disappointing introduction of Tony in episode 8. We’ve played the new clone beat time and time again, but by adding a new clone set, and a set of males at that, you get a thrilling game changer that moves the science forward quite a bit.
The big moment is impeccable. Marian Bowles (Michelle Forbes) drops the bomb in a rather understated manner by saying,“While the Dyad carried female clones to term, the military faction carried the males,” but immediately after, the soundtrack shifts and the camera moves in on Sarah to up the intensity in preparation for the mind-blowing follow-up. The information is out there and now we can actually see a piece of Project CASTOR, but the writers can take it even further.
After Sarah utters, “I know him,” episode director and show creator John Fawcett rips you out of the moment for one last look at some of the other main players. You’d think squeezing so much into the last few minutes of the show might dilute the material, but instead, one person’s situation enhances another’s, giving the grand finale a strong build rather than just turning it into a gotcha moment.
It’s nice going into season 3 knowing a little something about Helena’s kidnapping, but that scene also had me sweating bullets thinking that Paul could be Project CASTOR.
Paul’s been an especially underwritten and wooden character since day one, so perhaps Dylan Bruce has more range and we just don’t know it. But without ever seeing it, how can you possibly want the guy playing multiple clones? Ari Millen, however, is a different story.
By moving from Helena, Mrs. S and Paul to Mark and Gracie, it feels as though the show is just doing the rounds, ensuring everyone gets a satisfying sendoff. The church music paired with that wide shot of Helena being escorted onto the plane even elicits a foreboding pomp to go with her exit.
Just as your heart rate starts to come back down and you’re submitting to the fact that the show’s over for now, that’s when it hits. Is that Mark? It’s all adding up, but it doesn’t really sink in until you’re back with Sarah standing face-to-face with it. Mark is Project CASTOR.
Whether he’s shooting up a diner, having a solemn talk with Henrik or even if he’s just a face in the Prolethian crowd, Millen always makes an impression. And the same goes for Zoé De Grand Maison as well. It sounds cliché, but it’s true; the camera loves them.
In fact, one of my very first notes from season 2 during the opening restaurant scene was: “Who’s the guy with the white shirt and grey jacket? He’s interesting.”
Having Millen be the face of Project CASTOR is an absolutely brilliant decision. Not only does it give the narrative the potential to grow in countless smart, satisfying and entertaining ways, but it also gives us more of two quality performers. It’s going to be interesting seeing someone else play the clone game right alongside Tatiana Maslany.
And of course there’s no forgetting little Charlotte. Whether or not Charlotte gets a substantial role in the new season, perhaps giving Kira a much-needed friend her own age, her existence sparks loads of questions.
Is revealing Charlotte a solid reason for Sarah to trust Marian Bowles? Why is Charlotte the only survivor of 400 attempts to make new clones? Is there someone else out there still trying to make more clones? Is that Marian’s hidden agenda? And then all of that opens the door to the possibility that Top Side could be the new Dyad.
Rachel’s lost it. She took a risk by threatening her father, now Ethan Duncan is dead and she can’t handle it. The last we see of Rachel, she’s taking a pencil to the face courtesy of Cosima and Scott’s ingenuity. That’ll undoubtedly lead to a wicked eye patch for season 3, but what about her mental stability? Rachel’s got no father, she’s got no Leekie, Kira and Sarah are gone and Paul seems to be totally off on his own. Does she have the upper hand in any respect anymore?
Cosima, on the other hand, ends the season in a much more promising position. For a moment there, I really thought the writers might do it, but having Kira be the one to find her lifeless body would have been too brutal. Instead, like Orphan Black has done time and time again, it uses details from previous episodes to make this one more meaningful.
It’s no coincidence Kira wants someone to read to her and it’s no coincidence she wants someone to read her The Island of Dr. Moreau. Odds are, it won’t be as easy as cracking the book open and putting together whatever Cosima needs for the cure, but it’s still a very rewarding final moment for her, especially when she’s been busy coughing blood all season long.
Then there’s poor Helena, who’s being shipped off to who knows where. She just can’t catch a break. She suffered the wrath of Tomas, lost her beloved boyfriend and was artificially inseminated by the Prolethians. When she finally finds some solace and gets to be with her sestras, she’s almost immediately torn away. Granted, Helena clearly wasn't planning on staying very long anyway.
That clone dance party is absolutely a highlight of the season. After 10 episodes of running, hiding, kidnapping, manipulation, lying and death, it’s so rewarding to see the gang just hanging out and having fun, and especially because they’re all together. It’s got to be one heck of a production and VFX challenge, but team Orphan Black pulls it off flawlessly. It’s one big scene of Maslany four times over and it’s remarkable she’s able to handle all of the performance work on her own.
There’s only one shot covering all four clones, but let’s say they did three takes for each one - that means she’s already got to do the scene 12 times over, and that doesn’t even include the variety of singles and two-shots that pop up throughout. She’s got to have an impeccable understanding of each character and the required choreography. Her dedication to the material and ability to embody each clone to the utmost never gets old. There’s a lot of top talent in the mix, but Maslany is the key to the success of this show.
Orphan Black earned its following and all of that first-year hype by delivering a quality new show. Season 2 keeps the bar high by continuing to wow us with Maslany’s work while also expanding the narrative in new, interesting ways.
Now we’re on the brink of season 3 and the show’s got all the potential in the world thanks to this genius season-ender, so why are the BBC America folks dragging their feet? The ratings might not be the greatest (in the States at least), but Orphan Black deserves another season. Plus, I might lose my mind if I don’t get the opportunity to see these two clone sets in action, side-by-side.
BBC America still has not officially renewed Orphan Black for a season 3.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.