Finally, something interesting happens on Orphan Black, with meaningful plot twists, the rise of an old enemy and betrayals aplenty.
The recap of the season three finalé commences below.
So, there’s a plot thread that’s been hanging since season one: Neolution, the scientific weirdos into genetic body modification. It looked for all intents and purposes they were a spent force after the murder (albeit accidental) of their in leader Alodus Leekie (Matt Frewer) at the hands of Donnie (Kristian Bruun) in season two.
Except, perhaps not. In a plot twist that was actually meaningful this time (perhaps the writers were practicing with last week’s shark jump), they’re back and they’ve got a nasty surprise for Delphine (Evelyne Brochu). A handy firearm puts that plan to rest, but the discovery puts everything else on hold. The Neolutionists have infiltrated Project Castor, and Dyad, so Ferdinand (James Frain) puts plan “B” into action, takes charge and offs his murderous sidekick in a fit of rage. He’s no fan of the Neolutionists and instructs Siobhan (Maria Doyle Kennedy) to get everyone hidden ASAP.
The enemy of my enemy and all that.
Meanwhile, Alison (Tatiana Maslany)is in danger from Rudi (Ari Millen) one of the Castor clones. He’s been sent after her by his boss, the villainous Dr. Coady (Kyra Harper) and will use Alison to get to the wonderfully bolshy Kendall (Alison Steadman). A bait and switch puts pay to that idea and Helena dispatches the glitching clone in style, then is kind enough to sit with him as he breathes his last.
Maybe the Russian assassin is mellowing in her old age? That or the flood of hormones from the baby she’s carrying is making her a little more empathic. Still, didn’t stop her stabbing Rudi with a screwdriver.
Show creators John Fawcett (directing) and Graeme Manson (writer) have put together a barn burner of an episode. It’s well written, pacy and gets to the point. Even the slow bits, such as the discussion of Sarah’s origins with Siobhan and mother Kendall, worked well. There was enough emotion in there to keep the attention, but it wasn’t enough to become schmaltzy. The plot returned to its roots and the reintroduced storyline was exciting and interesting. Honestly, if the whole season was like this, it would have been unmissable. As it is, season three had too much fill and an over-reliance on melodrama.
In earlier reviews, it was suggested that the writers were trying to stuff too much in. An alternate view, now formed after watching the season and this episode in particular, is that the writers were trying to stuff too much unrelated content in. Someone needs to do a supercut of season three which includes only the A and B stories, the Castor clones versus the Leda clones; and translating the book with Rachel’s help. Everything else, from the new girlfriend for Cosima, to Donnie and Alison’s dip into the drug trade, were ultimately unsatisfying.
And this leads one to consider whether Orphan Black is suffering the same issues of Torchwood. Season three — Children of Earth — was a tightly written five-parter. Season four — Miracle Day — was stretched out to a rather dull ten episodes, presumably to meet the requirements of its American producer.
And the characters have suffered this season because of the writing. Cosima especially was criminally misused, and was turned from a strong and capable scientist into an unsure mess of emotion. Yes, she broke up with Delphine. Yes, that’s emotional and heartbreaking. No, it doesn’t mean you turn the character into a stereotype.
Similarly, the writers seem to have no idea what to do with Alison, other than continuing the Soccer Mom trope. Perhaps she’s meant to be an everywoman, calling to a particular demographic? What’s clear is she’s got her own storyline that, again, is unrelated to the core plot. She’s an interesting character, but please, in season four, give her something more plot-related to do.
The final moments of the episode set-up some threads for season four: First, Delphine asks a hidden “someone” if “she” will be safe. Second, Sarah’s daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) reappears. Sarah, Siobhan and Kendall are all there too, but there’s a small fly in that ointment as Kira’s father Cal (Michiel Huisman) was working with Paul (Dylan Bruce), and are ultimately linked back to Project Castor.
But the best twist was Rachel’s. Spirited away at the end of episode eight, she’s been given a new working eye but locked up again, this time somewhere unfamiliar. When the young Leda clone Charlotte (Cynthia Galant) walks in, it appears it’s Dyad who are looking after Rachel. Then there’s a shock in store, when Doctor Duncan is mentioned. But it’s not Rachel’s father, Ethan (Andrew Gilles), but her mother, Susan (Christy Bruce). And she’s an integral part of Neolution.
In conclusion, Orphan Black season three was patchy. When it appears, the core storyline is a roaring V-8, but it’s made unstable by structural weaknesses in other parts of the plot.