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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Orphan Black finally introduces the man behind the curtain

Illustration for article titled Orphan Black finally introduces the man behind the curtain
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There’s something strange about watching a TV show knowing it’s going to wrap up its run in just a few more episodes. Every new twist has added weight, and the usual “how are they going to get out of this one” jams take on real consequences.

As such, it’s also a time when characters start to get killed off. There’s a real question to be asked here in terms of whether MK needed to go in such a brutal way. Is there, ultimately, that much narrative purpose to her dying like that? Orphan Black is a show that doesn’t shy away from violence—this is, after all, an episode in which we watch Helena stab someone through the cheek with an amniocentesis needle and it’s more or less par for the course. The Helena theme music plays, and because the show has taught us to feel affection for this murderous character, we just feel glad she’s getting away. It also seems pretty clear that that doctor is on the Neo team, which makes her safely a villain.

The Ferdinand/MK scene isn’t played for comic horror the way Helena’s scenes are at this point in the show, though. He’s a character that we know has been violent and murderous in the past, but then he got a romantic backstory, even if it was with the show’s villain. And he’s been on the clones’ side at least some of the time against Neolution. There’s been an evolution there that just got undone in a scene of horrific violence against a woman who came back onto the show just long enough to die like this, for the purpose of making clear his state of mind.

Part of the shock of that scene is that we don’t often see the clones defeated like this. Much of the show has been devoted to watching these women with the same face fight for their own agency in ways large and small. Though they’ve faced setbacks over and over again, it’s been rare to see them lose. Seeing this happen is a particularly harsh reminder that eventually, luck runs out. Cleverness and precautions aren’t always enough to protect them. They still live in a dangerous world filled with unpredictable people whose loyalties may shift.

The rest of the episode is played at a much more normal key for the show, so whether or not you feel the MK scene worked within it, there was plenty more to chew on. The Sarah/Kira/Mrs. S business was perhaps the most workmanlike—at this point, we’ve seen Sarah try to run off with Kira repeatedly, and all this effort does is provide two knockout punches of heartache for Sarah, who gets MK killed by the man she hates and then faces betrayal from Kira, who wants to stay with Rachel.

Finally meeting the man behind Neolution was the biggest new development this week. For now, P.T. Westmoreland is pretty opaque in his motivations. What he’s doing to Cosima in their interaction is clear, though. Forcing a person who knows she’s his experiment to see how many animal skeletons and stuffed creatures he has saved under glass is a pretty explicit way of clarifying what their roles are going to be. And he more or less tells her that her own importance is entirely microscopic, but maybe if she’s lucky, she’ll get to ask the tough questions.


All things considered, it’s one of the bleaker episodes of the show. Everyone continues to be more or less trapped under the thumb of Neolution, and they’re stuck facing that in ways that constantly remind them of their powerlessness.

Maybe Delphine has a trick or two up her sleeve?

Stray observations

  • There’s some interesting parallelism going on with Sarah and Rachel both limping from injuries the other caused. They’ve spent a long time now going head to head, but seeing them matched like this always leaves that tiniest window of hope for Rachel.
  • I’m curious to see whether the MK death scene worked for other people. Even beyond the violence, it was an unsatisfying way to say goodbye to that character—there’s no clear sense of what she was going to do if Sarah and Ferdinand hadn’t showed up.
  • “Sorry to hear about your car accident.” “Yeah, it was a bitch.”
  • Loved Hell Wizard comforting Ira by saying his “mom” was going to be OK.
  • Some good Orphan Black reading out there this week if you’re interested. Vulture has a long feature on Tatiana Maslany (interesting tidbit: the only time the reporter is barred from set is when she’s in character as Rachel) as well as a really thoughtful interview with Jordan Gavaris where he came out.
  • Also, if you’re interested in where the episode titles came from, here’s the real Cosima talking about it.
  • And yes, that is a real poem that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote.