Orphan Black: 3x10 History Yet to Be Written.
Every time Orphan Black gears up towards its great, crazy moments it takes a respite to offer what makes its exceptional: all of the clones and how they shape a family in their togetherness, the struggle for self-determination becoming all the more meaningful because of their shared joy. This episode’s dinner scene after the battle as, in part, won, also offers an opportunity to focus on each of the sisters individually. Part of their struggle for self-determination involves thinking of themselves not as the results of an experiment, not as clones sharing their genetic make-up, but as completely different people, with different talents, wishes, minds and feelings. Sarah is the fierce mother, extending her battle-ready love to all her sisters. When the show embraces her strengths, she is awe-inspiring in her fight for herself and those she loves, and the show often allows her to shine in that role. Equally, Alison at the end of the episode has just won her own victory. Being respected in her community and preserving her marriage with Donnie, her much-mocked and much-used-for-comic relief suburban existence is fundamentally to her conception of self, and Orphan Black gives her that success, preserves her dignity, shows her shining in her victory. Helena’s much more complicated because she has been raised as a tool against her sisters, a monster, and it has taken her so long to come to the point where she can find herself, where she can articulate a desire to become a mother, a partner, living a normal existence in peace. As a warrior, she is fiercer than Sarah, strong enough to battle Rudy to death, to protect all of her sisters from the danger of Castor, now even more dangerous that its individual and institutional end is so near. But her true strength lies in her love for her sisters and for children, in her ability to still conceptualise a normal future in spite of everything she has been through. And the show allows her that grace, and makes her dream come potentially true, with the return of Jesse. Cosima is – a scientist, on the one hand, someone with the intellectual capacity to understand her own situation better than any of the other clones, but at the same she retains the naivety and a kind of faith that her sisters lack. Faced with the prospect of death, she doesn’t just cling to science, she is also spiritual. She has always been on the brink of being completely disabused of the notion that this kind of hope or faith has value in the world she lives in – most recently, by realising how easily it was for her to believe that Shay was involved in the greater conspiracy that determines her life, rather than just a woman on a date who wanted to tell a better story about herself – but at the end of the episode, and because Delphine loves her and that aspect of her identity so much, she still has hope. Part of that is founded on her not possessing all the facts, but robbed of this, she probably wouldn’t be able to stay alive. Delphine knows that, so she uses the last time that she believes that she has left to protect Cosima, to try and construct a world in which she can retain that. She sets her up to be safe and happy with Shay. She never once talks about what is ahead, and instead gives her a beginning rather than ending.
All of the sisters, apart from Rachel, are given the grace of being allowed to act according to their strengths this episode. What they contribute to the struggle fits in with who they are, with their identities. They become stronger when they become more like themselves, when they are reaffirmed in their identity, particularly because their struggle is one for identity, one against forces that consider them tradeable goods rather than people. This act of grace makes what happens to those less fortunate even more glaring. Rachel for one has been raised for leadership, raised for strength, and has been forced to navigate her position and struggle for her own survival, for power, from a position of weakness. Her body betrays her, and she has to rely on the goodwill of those she believes loyal to her – except in the end, all it does is land her in a museum that looks like a tomb, off the grid, with memories of the father that she lost. She has been trying to reposition herself all season to be able to leave Dyad, to escape that first prison and the constant threat that Delphine posed, but at the end of the episode, all she gets is the revelation that her own mother has been behind the scenes all this time, leaving her daughter to be raised by Dyad, betraying her father, pursuing a fundamental ideology that controls both Castor and Leda.
Nealon: We were there from the very beginning, Topside pursues its profits, the military pursues its weapons, and we steer it all from within.
The other character that forced herself to change fundamentally, to not play according to her previous strengths and her identity but to try and grow into her new role as quickly and as successfully as possible, is Delphine. Nothing of who Delphine is at the end of the season came to her naturally. This is why she wears those clothes, why she changed her hair – they are ways for her to remember that she is performing a role, and that her success in being convincing in that role is what is keeping the woman that she loves and the sisters that the promised to love and protect equally alive. Delphine’s choice to do so has always been problematic, because she never consulted Cosima, she simply took the steps that she thought necessary, but at the same time, it was heroic, because it forced her to become someone else entirely. It’s Delphine who takes a final step in the finale to protect everyone, as she promised, and she does it out of love: she reveals that the Neolutionists are behind everything. She warns off Sarah from delivering Kendall’s DNA. She protects, but it costs her dearly, because when she is faced with the choice between continuing to play that role – but fully knowing that she is up against a much bigger opponent, and in no way cut out for it, and also not able to deny herself anymore – and losing her life, but also protecting Cosima, and retaining her dignity, she chooses the latter. Instead of running, instead of asking for help and relying on the considerate resources that Sarah has in Siobhan, she stays, she takes step to ensure that her protection will extend after her death, and then looks the person who will shoot her straight in the eye. In her moment of facing death, her only thought is Cosima’s future, and her parting gift is trust – giving her blessing for Cosima to have a relationship that is based on trust instead of deception.
Cosima: I know why you did everything you did. To Shay. Everything. I’m sorry I made you make those hard choices and then… and then blame you for them.
Delphine: Give your sisters all my love.
She did what she promised to do: to love all of them, because loving Cosima means loving her sisters. And in the end, she proves her strength not through becoming something she is not, but by looking her greatest fear in the eye and not flinching, not running.
Rachel’s prison looks like an evolution themed museum – and she is one of the artefacts in it, the daughter of a crazy radical evolutionist with a firm belief that the future of humankind is in steering evolution, which she, in a way, tested on her own child (and is now presumably going to continue to test on her). What happened to Charlotte’s mother (apart from Michelle Forbes’ unavailability, clashing show schedules being the tragic unfortunate out-of-control thing that has been guiding this season).
Shout-out to Evelyne Brochu and what she did with Delphine this whole season. I still hope that she will be back, because I don’t want this to be the end of her story, and I certainly don’t want this to be the end of Cosima and Delphine’s story (and I see in part what was intended with Shay, but GUYS NO).
But also, the moment when Delphine almost realizes that Krystal is Rachel, but then gets hit in the face before she can really figure it out – and then, within seconds, realises the extent to which she has overplayed her hand, and underestimated how very much she isn’t cut out to deal with the forces she is up against. Pure tragedy.
Ferdinand is a willing ally against Neolutionists in the future, as he hates them with a passion, and is also driven by wanting to find Rachel.
Rudy’s ending was eloquent. He gets comfort from Helena, who was raised as a weapon as well (but without the luxury of family, of the closeness and comfort of siblings), but no forgiveness for what he allowed Virginia to shape him into – a rapist. He doesn’t get to reframe his life as a struggle with a greater purpose.
We find out that family was at the beginning of everything, when Duncan came back to Kendall to confess his sins, while running from both the Neolutionists and his own wife, and when he guided Sarah to Siobhan so she would be taken care of, and so Kendall could repent for taking Siobhan’s family from her.
Nealon hints that Neolution’s science is far beyond what Delphine could imagine, and Rachel’s bionic eye is a good insight into what they are capable of doing (and presumably, they will be much more willing to do much worse than Leekie with his tails and decorative playfulness).
Susan Duncan: Hello Dear Rachel. Welcome home.
All of this, while Sarah, Kira, Siobhan and Kendall get their moment in the most open space imaginable – Rachel in a tomb (given the gift of a child, the same way that the Duncans gave themselves that gift), Kira in the wide open wilderness of Iceland.
Is this the end of Castor? Mark is left, but there may have been many more male clones out there in the wild than were found by Virginia Coates.
I assume the Neolutionists are after more than just power, as they are just as fundamentally radicalised as the Proletheans were – and they seem to have infiltrated everywhere.
Delphine seemed to recognise whoever was shooting her, which opens the question of whether there is another mole – do we trust Scott? Do we trust Shay? (I think it would take the power from the story told about how everything that is happening to Cosima is fitting into the mind frame of being part of a conspiracy, and that this frame of thinking is fucking up her life more than what Neolutionists or Dyad or Castor can actually do to her, but then, this show never really pulls its punches, so).