Kristian Bruun, Tatiana Maslany / Ken Woroner, BBC America

If last week’s episode showed some of the downsides to wrapping up a five-season-long show, this week’s shows what can go right. The incongruity of suburban Alison mixing in with the geniuses and murderers of the clone world has always been one of the show’s go-to points for humor, but here, it becomes clear how much that incongruity has weighed on her. And the emotions that play out throughout Alison’s storyline in this episode wouldn’t land with the meaning they do without the long character arc that came before.

The self-aware clones may be safe from physical danger at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that the Neolution side is going to treat them with any respect. Particularly when it comes to the clone who doesn’t, at face value, have anything to offer them. But the greatness of Alison Hendrix has always been that there’s a lot more to her than the tidy ponytail and refusal to swear would suggest, and it’s that very depth that has come in handy before, and which saves her this time.

Would anyone have guessed that the first clone to get the upper hand over Rachel this season would be Alison? And yet, because Alison is generally so concerned with appearances, she’s the one who realizes how much Neolution has to lose if she and Donnie become front page news. There’s a degree to which Neolution and the clones are caught in a death spiral at this point—they might have achieved détente, but it’s not exactly sustainable. The only thing keeping everyone getting along is how much they all have to lose if anything that’s going on becomes public.

Sarah, Cosima, and Helena may more often come up with creative solutions to the problems the group has faced, but Alison, because of how much she’s tortured by the destruction of her public image, is the one to piece together the precarious position the Neolutionists are in. And because Orphan Black has taken her on such a long journey to get here, there’s tremendous emotional payoff to following along as she figures out what needs to be done. Chad comes back to suggest that the only absolution she’s ever going to get over Aynsley’s needless death is moving forward with her life, and the flashback gives us the missing element of understanding why the two of them were friends in the first place.

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It also gives us a glimpse of Donnie’s misgivings about being Alison’s monitor. There have been a lot of relationships that have traveled a long way over the course of the show (like, say, Helena and…everyone), but bringing Donnie into the group has provided some great dramatic ground to cover for Alison. Knowing she’s leaving him for some period of time feels like a real loss, and Kristian Bruun and Tatiana Maslany have invested the two of them with such a great connection that it’s hard to imagine an Alison-less Donnie. Who will sing harmony with him?

Sending her away for some stretch of time in the final season seems questionable, though. Is Donnie now going to be part of the team without her? It’s also strange to think of a plot that focuses mostly on Cosima and Sarah, though this may mean we’re going to get more of Helena.

Still, if we have to say goodbye for a bit, at least it’s at the end of an episode that grapples with the entirety of what’s happened to the character. This is a show that can get really wrapped up in its science and its conspiracies, but it’s often been strongest when it’s focusing on what happens when these very different people try to understand what all of this means to them. Even the short scene of Sarah and Felix bickering in his apartment brings with it a certain nostalgic joy, since we so rarely get to see the two of them just being siblings together. It’s a reminder that all of them have lives that existed before all of this started happening, and that they’ll have to try to go back to someday.

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And while that future may still be very uncertain, we can at least feel confident going into it that people are going to be a lot less likely to underestimate Alison Hendrix.

Stray observations

  • Of course the Hendrixes have little sweaters that they put on their mugs.
  • They pulled a Seven on Rachel! Which makes for good drama, but where had they been storing that thing?
  • If you have to meet someone for the first time while tripping on mushrooms, probably the best possible situation is to have that person be Cosima.
  • “The weirdest people get one.”
  • Nothing strange at all going on with Kira these days, no sir.
  • If you would like a little tiny potential spoiler, the official Orphan Black Twitter account faved this tweet.

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