For the majority of the season two finale of Orphan Black, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. Nothing huge, but something notable. Maybe something exciting? Much of “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” was a rehash of what’s already been done on the show. Helena was kidnapped, Cosima appeared closer to death and Sarah continued to learn more truths that unravel the stability she’s built with the shambles of her life.
The biggest issue of the episode is Rachel, who may have been the season’s biggest misstep. Having the villain be a fellow clone was a good idea that was executed poorly. Rachel was given a very shallow backstory that didn’t allow the audience to ever sympathize with her, making the events that transpired in the last episode come across as cold rather than moving. Rachel is working out her master plan by sending Delphine away, kidnapping Kira and manipulating Sarah into being under her supervision and being a living, breathing science experiment. So, when Duncan kills himself for some reason—to this viewer it seemed out of spite but I’m not too sure—and Rachel breaks down all I can do is admire the acting but I didn’t feel anything for her pain. It was a detached reaction.
It makes the other sisters overcoming her have less impact. Cosima and her buddy Scott create a device for Sarah to use on Rachel. It works as Rachel has a pencil run violently through her eye, and I still don’t have it in me to care. Is she dead? I have no idea, although it looked like it. When the villain is given that amount of backstory and you still don’t understand her motives there’s something missing.
To add to the faults, the show needs to get their philosophies straight. From religion versus science, to survival of the fittest, nurture versus nature to life being a continuous circle that no one strays from this show is fond of heavy ideologies and seems to enjoy tossing them out more than explaining how they pertain to the show. Obviously, they do but it would benefit the stories if they were to stick with one for more than a monologue.
Now don’t let all of this negativity lead you into thinking I hated the episode—far from it. It was just another case of wasted potential. They could have made this episode BIG by simply refusing to rush certain storylines and by focusing more on our core four clones (and Felix) because those are the moments that stick in the memories of the viewers and the ones they’ll talk about. I don’t care about Rachel, but I sure care about Sarah getting a moment’s peace, about Helena being allowed to meet her family and be among people who don’t want anything from her that she isn’t willing to give, about Allison having a happy, adrenaline fueled moment with Donnie or about Cosima being loved by Delphine with no questions or doubts. I love these women. They’re some amazing characters who should have been utilized more.
The moment to note comes when all of the clones, plus Felix and Kira, gather for a night to catch up, take a breath, and use their collective experiences to plan how to move forward. From the very first moment to the last of this sequence there is an obvious unique quality. Helena is brought in, the one who hasn’t met Cosima or Allison yet and her introduction is pointed with Allison and warm with Cosima. It’s Kira who receives her warmest welcome. Helena, as has been mentioned, is a human who acts purely on instinct and due to this, she sees good and evil as it is and when she sees Kira she sees innocence and someone to protect. When she sees Kira she’s as happy as she could ever be.
The next significant moment happens during the much-talked-about dance party between the clones. The directors wanted it to be a feat of filmmaking by getting five Tatiana Maslanys onscreen at once and while it’s certainly impressive (especially for the shows budget, which can’t be too high) you can still see the glitches, the oddly sped-up characters, the choppy scenery and despite the innovative way they used Felix and Jordan Garvaris respectively to cut together the characters you can still tell it’s just that—cut together.
The real feat is, no surprise here, Maslany. I could just talk about how amazing she is for the entire review but that may seem like a waste of a review. However, with Emmy nominations coming around the corner, it’s certainly worth raving and ranting about her talents a bit more. We can talk about how impressive she is, how much of a chameleon she is as the clones until we’re blue in the face but no scene has showcased her ability to shift into characters more than this one 2-minute dance party. Maslany is aided often by wigs and makeup to transform her and she puts on different accents and tones for certain characters—British and rough for Sarah, clipped and higher pitched for Allison, low and sultry for Cosima—but a lot of the success of the transformation comes from the physicality.
Cosima dances uninhibited, fun and loose and feeling the music. Sarah dances like she fights, big and in the moment. Allison is the awkward mom dancer who doesn’t know what do to with Felix’s more outlandish moves and Helena is the polar opposite who moves however she wants to and who seems happy enough just to be jumping around with her sisters.
It’s such a strong scene, for the characters and actor(s) alike that it’s easy to get tunnel vision about the episode as a whole. The scene following is just as touching. Cosima and Sarah lay side by side, sisters finally reunited and despite Cosima’s illness she’s comforting Sarah. Cosima is the rock in the dynamic. She’s practical, a scientist. She tells Sarah that’s she’s the anomaly of the group of them, that she needs to keep moving forward to keep the momentum going. With Sarah as the ringleader they will all grow and move—they just need Sarah’s unique quality. So there’s Cosima the rock, Sarah the leader, Allison the muscle and enforcer and Helena the wild card.
And then Rachel the mistake character, but I won’t get into that again.
If the episode had ended here it would have been a strong finale rather than a slightly disappointing one. But instead the show made the mistake of answering questions with more questions and very little answers. We learn that there is another clone but she’s younger than the rest of them, Sarah’s younger sister. Helena is kidnapped again (a storytelling move that really annoyed me since it’s lazy writing as a season cliffhanger) and we learn the most annoying plot twist at all that Mark, Gracie’s partner, is also a clone but was created by the Prolitheans. The religious cult had male clones while the scientist extremists had females.
I’m not bothered by the existence of other clones. The show seems to want to broaden their world, so it makes sense why they would pick more clones as the way to do it. However, the clone is a character who spent the majority of the season as a creep and one who we don’t even remotely care about.
Hell, why not use Felix if they’re so dead set on the idea. On one hand, I enjoy Felix as being purely normal but on the other hand I need the writers to start giving Jordan Gavaris stronger material considering he’s the only actor who can go toe to toe with Maslany. I’m also uncertain whether or not Ari Millen is a strong enough actor to do what Maslany has already expertly done. The term “lighting doesn’t strike twice” hasn’t been more accurate in a while.
So, let’s wrap this up.
Finale Verdict: It was pretty touch and go. An amazing middle sequence nearly cleanses the earlier inferior scenes from our collective pallets but the last minute plots got more of an eye roll from this viewer then a gasp of surprise. I didn’t dislike it. but as someone who has enjoyed this show immensely and who wants it to gain more viewership it’s going to have to try a lot harder and stop relying on cheap tricks and thrills.
Season Two Verdict: For the most part it was very strong. The storylines at the start all intersected beautifully and the shocks (Helena’s first appearance) were as strong as any top-billed show. Despite the slight decline in quality in the last three episodes or so, for the most part season two was exciting, emotional and a hell of a lot of fun. Despite the disappointment of the finale I’ll be tuning in for season three.
What did you think? Did season two live up to the hype or did it let you down?