The fourth season of Orphan Black has seen many of the clones grappling with the aftermath of the terrible choices and events they’ve lived through. Sarah had to face the gravity of stepping into Beth’s role as leader and living with decisions that get people killed. Alison had to deal with the consequences of her brief foray into drug kingpin life. Cosima, as ever, had to face her own mortality, all while desperately using half-baked measures to try and save all of their lives, without the main person who was helping her get through it. And tragic, furious Rachel had to come to terms with the fact that her mother chose to let her grow up an orphan.
And yet despite all the rough going, Season 4 ends with all of them in peril, with the exception of Rachel, whose brutal rise to the top is as speedy as it is reckless. It’s been clear all along that she would eventually betray the clones. Her loathing of Sarah and her rage about being outsmarted made it only a matter of time before she made her move. The concept that Sarah and Mrs. S had no real contingency plan is both slightly unrealistic, given their usual wariness, and a reflection of how desperate they were to save Cosima. The same goes for Sarah’s incredibly shortsighted plan to go to the island on her own to save Cosima. Courage is valuable, but it’s pretty meaningless when it’s applied without any planning.
But for all that they’re in pretty dire straits at the conclusion of the episode, given that Sarah is bleeding profusely in the cold, in the middle of nowhere, while trying to negotiate a hostage situation, and Cosima is on the brink of death, they’re also as close as they’ve ever been to a solution. Now that we know that next season will be the final season, the fact that they’re on an island with the founder of Neolution seems awfully significant. Sure, they’re powerless and separated, but they almost always are, and it’s never stopped them before, and they’re finally close to the source of their problems.
Also, Cosima made off with her cure, because she’s not an idiot. If she’s really clever, she also damaged the remaining vials. A situation wherein Rachel has to accept that the only way to get the cure again is by asking Sarah and Ira for it seems like the only viable path to gaining the upper hand again. As far gone as Rachel was this episode, it still seems within the realm of possibility that she’ll in some way come back to the sisters, especially given all of those dire warnings from Susan. Clearly, a role within the power structure of Neolution is not going to be what she imagined it would be.
The downside to the fascinating trip down murder lane with Rachel is that we got almost nothing of Alison and Helena. Both of them have been largely sidelined this season, as has Felix, and it would be a real shame if that wasn’t rectified in Season 5.
Though frankly getting extra time with Krystal will always be welcome. She’s another opportunity for Tatiana Maslany to look completely physically transformed, not just with the blonde wig and fake eyelashes, but in the way she holds herself. It’s hard to disagree with her when, upon meeting Sarah, her response is “This is what you think I look like?” It’s also a helpful reminder that Maslany is, well, really funny. Watching Krystal and Sarah interact is a real highlight of the episode (“Who are you again?” “I’m Sarah. I’m your clone.” “Right, whatever.”) and despite Krystal’s stubborn pursuit of the wrong answers, she probably just needs to meet another clone or two to be convinced to join the club.
Of course, the emotional high point of the episode is the Cosima/Delphine reunion. It’s clear it’s coming the moment that patented optimistic Orphan Black music swells up. And while it’s complete and utter fan service to have Delphine promptly strip naked and hop into bed with her, it’s also a deeply human moment. Despite all the freaky science, the obsession with improving the biology of humans, the bots and enhancements, what Cosima needs at that moment to survive is simply another warm body. Undoubtedly, the usual drama awaits that pair in Season 5 (we all caught when Delphine said it wasn’t altruism that saved her, right?), but for now, at least, they’re alive and together briefly.
This season has certainly had its flaws. There doesn’t seem to have been any compelling reason to switch from Dyad to Brightborn, and Evie Cho’s abrupt demise was unfortunately fitting, given her overall effectiveness as a villain. But there were also high points, between Krystal and Donnie being the world’s worst spies and the open questioning all of the clones are having about the ethics of Neolution. It’ll be sad to say goodbye, but I’m looking forward to seeing how we get there.
- Characters acting as audience surrogates include Dr. Van Lier saying, “Why are you here, Krystal?” when he finds her with Delphine, and Sarah’s exasperated, “How does Krystal figure this shit out?” Felix has the only answer: “I have no idea. She’s doggedly wrong, but she gets results.” Of all the clones, perhaps a Krystal spinoff would be best?
- Susan gets a really, deeply nasty dig in at Rachel before she dies: “For all the joy and insight your sisters have given me, for every Sarah, every Cosima, I regret making you.”
- It’s never occurred to me before, but Sarah’s speech about needing to save her sisters to Mrs. S made me wonder for the first time if she won’t survive the series. I hope it’s not true, but it seems just possible and bleak enough that she’ll, I don’t know, bite off Rachel’s finger and fall into Mount Doom with her. Or the Orphan Black equivalent. (Clearly, Rachel would be the Gollum there.)
- Speaking of Rachel, she is a really terrible shot.
- Cosima’s “OK. That’s weird,” response to Susan Duncan dramatically intoning that P.T. Westmoreland had written his Neolution doctrine in that very room was pretty great. Also, what’s he going to look like? Campy old age makeup? Creepily young? We’ll have to see.
- Thanks for reading along! Best of luck to everyone coping with the long Orphan Black-free months ahead.