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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Orphan Black closes its run with its focus on exactly the right thing: the sisterhood

Tatiana Maslany
Tatiana Maslany tries to help Tatiana Maslany find a good place to give birth / Ken Woroner, BBC America
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There’s a tendency with finales to overstuff them, to try and fit every last question you might have about a character’s life into 45 minutes of television. Or even longer, as shows are often given Very Special Episode status and stretch out into ungainly two hour finales. For a show like Orphan Black, full of plot twists and sinister villains, you might have expected a battle to the end against the forces of Neolution. But that’s not how the writers decided to go out.

Instead, Coady and John are dispatched in about the first fifteen minutes of the episode. What follows is an earnest examination of what the lives of the clones would look like after what they’ve been through. Sarah kills John (with the immortal kiss-off line, “Ah, shut up”), Art and Helena take care of Coady, and then it’s on to the rest of their lives, which in a very immediate sense means delivering those babies.

This gives the show the opportunity to bring back Maria Doyle Kennedy one last time, to flash back to Sarah’s decision to have Kira, and how her mother coached her through both that choice, and actual childbirth. Sarah can’t help but be reminded of how unprepared she was for this, and how much Siobhan helped her along. She’s totally lost without her, and the finale gives her the space to experience that grief. She may have wanted to run off with Kira in the pilot, but she’s never really had to just be a mother. She doesn’t know how to keep the fridge stocked with food for school lunches, nor does she have faith that she can figure out how to be a working mom. “I don’t know to be happy,” she finally confesses to her sisters. “There’s no one left to fight, and I’m still a shit mom.”

And that’s always been the conundrum at the heart of Sarah, isn’t it? Not so much that she’s a shit mom (though she was hardly mother of the year before this, considering she abandoned her kid for a year), but that she is a tremendous fighter who has no concept of how to be still. Plus, she has this shining example of perfect motherhood who’s been taking care of her kid for her, and now Mrs. S is gone.

It’s a heartbreaking admission, but it comes to the group of people she’s just risked her life repeatedly to help, and while Mrs. S may be gone, the sisterhood remains. There’s something so emotionally satisfying about watching this group of women sit together peacefully and discuss their anxieties about parenting. They sacrificed so much to earn the right to sit in a backyard together and just be there for each other. They made a family.

It’s also worth bringing up, one last time: Tatiana Maslany shot this scene…how many times? And each time, she made each of these people react to every last thing that happens here, without ever making us forget who we’re watching: Cosima, draped over a chair, Alison, posture perfect even now, Helena slouched on the ottoman. The fact that Sarah starts playing with Helena’s hair is just them showing off what they’ve accomplished here, frankly.


This show is extraordinary. I don’t know what Maslany’s career will look like after this, but I hope she finds scene partners who give as much of themselves as she does in every scene of this show. But it’s not just her—from top to bottom, Orphan Black was always so committed to the weird, crazy show it wanted to be. Sure, it could get lost in its own elaborate plotting. There were some misfires, some paths that probably shouldn’t have been taken. But even at its lower points, it was a show that wanted to make a larger point about women, about bodily autonomy, about the rights of people to live their lives and exist as they want to in this world. It does not feel like chance that the most dramatic, intense romance on this show was the queer one. Sure, other shows have queer romances, but how often are they as centered as Delphine and Cosima were? Sarah didn’t even have a consistent love interest half the time, and she was the main character.

So it’s time to leave our sestras behind, at last. In their own way, they each more or less get what they want, but in an open-ended enough way to not suggest that life is going to be perfectly easy for them from here on out. Even Rachel leaves with something approaching optimism. In some other version of the show, she and Sarah would come to some kind of détente over what’s happened between the two of them, but on this version, their parting is a lot more bittersweet. On some level, Rachel does want to go into that house with Felix. But that’s never the life she’s lived, and she’s gone too far to be welcomed into that group. It’s enough that all of them know how much she did to save them all.


Cosima and Delphine get to be together without obstacles, devoting their time to hunting down the other clones and vaccinating them. Alison and Donnie, long a stealthily great romance as well, find people who’ll love them without judging them, and have figured out what works for them as a couple. If you’re still doing a striptease in your sweaty gym clothes after being together as long as those two have, you’re probably doing marriage right. Helena gets the family she’s always craved, and a home with people who love her.

And Sarah? She gets to figure out how to be still, and stay in her home, and go to the beach with her family, and maybe, eventually be happy.


Stray observations

  • “Are you all right?” “Most excellent.” Just giving birth in a dirty basement with my mortal enemy.
  • “Who’s this, then? Got a new manservant already?” “This is Youssef, my Uber driver.”
  • I want to hear more childrearing stories from Helena. “Where does this sand come from? I don’t know.”
  • Shoutout to everyone else who pulls the same maneuver Cosima did when given a baby. I was at a baby’s birthday party recently and the mom asked me to take the kid outside, and my reaction was sort of like, the side with the mouth is the top, right?
  • Wait, Charlotte is living with Art? That seems a tad random. Also who is paying for Cosima and Delphine to travel around the world and manufacture more vaccinations? Are there still bodies buried in the garage Helena is living in? Isn’t Sarah still legally dead? Seriously, where is Cal? OK, just had to get that off my chest.
  • Thanks for reading along, everyone. This was my favorite show on TV, and now my favorite show is not on TV anymore. In my more rational moments, I can admit that it was probably time for the show to wrap up, but I’m still going to miss it so much.
  • Oh yeah, that baby shower was a callback to Helena’s fantasy sequence. The show posted the scene on Twitter if you want to compare.
  • “I call it Orphan Black.” “Why? That’s weird.”