‘Orphan Black’ Ends On An Intimate, Satisfying Note

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While the mythology of Orphan Black got a bit sprawling in the middle seasons, it was always ultimately about five women. After Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) watched a woman with her own face step in front of a train, leading to the discovery of the clones Alison, Cosima, Helena, and Rachel (among many, many others), she was given a purpose that had long eluded her. She may have avoided the responsibility of family for most of her life, but the weirdness of their situation couldn’t be ignored, and from that the tightly knit Clone Club was born.

It was appropriate, then, for the series finale to focus in so intimately on the characters who have been with us since the beginning. Aside from dispatching Coady (Kyra Harper) and Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie), the Dyad threat had largely been neutralized in the previous episode, as Clone Club finally got all of the information it needed to bring down the Neolutionists once and for all. With “To Right The Wrongs Of Many,” it was largely one long goodbye with a dose of assurance that everyone was going to be alright.

It felt right that much of the episode was focused on the birth of Helena’s twins, with an assist from Sarah and Art (Kevin Hanchard). Art has long been one of the most underappreciated characters on the show. Without the sass of Felix (Jordan Gavaris) or bumbling charm of Donnie (Kristian Bruun), the stalwart cop is often forgotten in the mix, but he has been a faithful friend and coworker since day one. To be there by Sarah’s side for something as intimate as the birth of her nephews just felt right. Everyone has gone through the ringer since the formation of Clone Club, but Art didn’t have the familial link to keep him tethered. He could have cut and run at any point, but his loyalty to this group of women never wavered. While Orphan Black was always a show that focused on women, it still created many male allies worth emulating.

The birth of Helena’s twins (hilariously called Orange and Purple for most of the episode) may have been the series’ most moving moment, and the episode interspersed it with flashbacks of Sarah arguing with the dearly departed Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) over whether or not she should have an abortion. The beauty and terror of motherhood has long been at the heart of the show and seeing the miracle of Helena’s birth is as visceral a representation of what the show is about as could be imagined. This freedom from control is what they’ve been fighting for this entire time, and to see them finally achieve that will leave tears in the eyes of many viewers.

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One could argue that the ending was a little too tidy, with all of the core clones surviving and getting happy endings, but Orphan Black is savvy enough to show that the road to normalcy won’t necessarily be an easy one. Alison has her family, Helena has her twins, and Cosima has a new quest to heal the hundreds of clones dispersed across the globe, but Sarah is left feeling adrift. As painful as it was, she found a purpose in running from Dyad, and she was good at it. While the other clones struggled with a life on the move, Sarah’s inherent scrappiness made it almost second nature, and the prospect of a life standing relatively still is a terrifying one. As much as she’d like to be a regular mom to Kira (Skyler Wexler) and a contributing member of society, the fear of failure looms and Sarah’s self-destructive streak remains alive and well as she blows off her GED test.

And yet, seeing these four women come together around the fire to read Helena’s memoirs (titled Orphan Black, an uncharacteristically cutesy choice for the show), the message is clear that they’re going to be just fine. They’ve come out the other side in one piece, and though they’ve all undergone serious changes since the beginning (remember when Cosima was just a stoner student and Helena was the Angel of Death?), and will continue to evolve even after the final credits roll.

The show chooses to slightly ignore the problem of Rachel, ultimately siding with good but never being allowed in. It would be too much to expect she’d welcomed into the family after all that she’s done, but it’s sad and slightly unsatisfying to just see her slip away into the night. Rachel’s own biological family exploited her since her birth, and that want for familial closeness was part of what kept her on the side of Neolution for so long. To see that desire denied her to the end is tragic, even if it’s the only way that it could have ended for her.

It’s fortunate that the show was able to end on its own terms, not rushing to an unearned conclusion or lingering long past its expiration date. Maslany will surely go on to great things, and fans will definitely tune into whatever project show creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson cook up next, but this is truly an end of an era. In a television landscape hungering for complex women, Orphan Black gave us the gift of many, and for that we’ll forever be grateful.