Thursday, 3 August 2017

Orphan Black - To my galaxy of women.

Orphan Black: 5x08 Guillotines Decide.
Siobhan: We do what we can. Each of us, in our own way. And, we do it for each other. Chipping at the devil till he’s done. 
This episode is a celebration of family and the driving force behind the struggle of the sisters to be free, and even more than that, a thank you to everyone who has been fighting alongside with them. It’s very much in the spirit of how Orphan Black has always conducted itself that the shared joys and the glimpses of freedom celebrated in the episode are immediately followed by a horrible sacrifice.

The heart of the show, what makes it more than a grim dystopian view of a future in which a cabal of ever-evolving centuries-old companies try to enshrine the subjugation of women and the poor not just in laws, but also in genetics, is that the people so valiantly fighting forces which seem so very much greater and bigger than them are a family, and fiercely loyal to each other. That’s not just Sarah, growing to love her sisters and in the process learning to be a mother to Kira, a sister to Felix, a daughter to Siobhan – it’s also people like Siobhan and Felix helping all of Sarah’s sisters (and Delphine, helping Cosima’s), sacrificing their own lives for them. It’s Felix and Adele chasing Neolution’s corporate dirt track in Switzerland, and Delphine following the advice and plans of the battle-hardened Mrs S. 

Everyone apart from Helena returns back home in this episode to take a breather before the end, to celebrate Felix’ art, which is deeply influenced by Sarah and her sisters, and all the connected themes of identity, nature vs. nurture and family. As he tries to organise everything, all of the sisters come through for him – and they all help out to make his show a success, gathering all of them in a room surrounded by pictures of their great family. The theme of the show fits the theme of Orphan Black, where women who all share their biology are thrown into a crazy world in which they can’t escape pondering what has shaped them into who they are, how they have all turned out so different from each other, and what that means – or more than that, what they still share, and how to navigate the war. 

All of it would mean nothing if they didn’t have these shared moments, and the recognition of what they are even fighting for. It’s such a massive question what they will even do after, when and if the battle is ever won – as they have all existed in this war for autonomy for as long as they have been alive, even if they haven’t always been aware of it. But it comes down to the stark contrast between Felix’ apartment, ready for a celebration of life and art and the beautiful work of chance and choice, and the cold boardroom, empty of many members now that the revelations about Westmoreland threaten the entire life-sustaining mythology of Neolution. 
Felix: This woman, she chose us as her own. We are as we are because she carried two little London urchins on her wings to Canada. Watching her raise my sister, watching my sister raise her own daughter, finding my biological sister, it’s quite mad. It’s taught me that we are all mysterious works of chance, of choice, of nature vs. nurture. So to my galaxy of women, thank you for nurture.
This episode is all about the choices. Gracie chooses not to deliver Helena to Mark and Coady when she realises that Helena is pregnant, and feels that she is worthy of her love and protection. It’s a tragic and short-termed kind of support, as she falls victim to Detective Enger, who reappears here as trigger-happy as ever and ready to kidnap Helena and her unborn twins. But it’s still the bravest choice, Helena over the grasping arms of Neolution and the life of the man she loves. 
The other unexpected choice is Rachel’s, who is saved by Mrs S and Ferdinand after gouging her own eye out – of course she kept a file of all of Neolution’s dirty secrets, which is what Mrs S and Delphine need to put a stake through the heart of the organisation for good, especially now that many countries worldwide are pending legislation that would make Neolution impossible to remove. On the other hand, there is Ferdinand who sees a golden opportunity for corporate blackmail that will allow him and Rachel to build a dynasty. She quietly shares what her dream is – destroying Westmoreland for good, getting rid of the corporation that raised her to be a weapon against her own sisters and ultimately, herself, that stole the ability to have children from her. But Ferdinand doesn’t listen because he wants to impose his own ideas on her – but this version of Rachel, the woman who has fought her whole life for a seat at the table only to find out that it didn’t mean anything, in the end, that she would never be truly free, isn’t buying it anymore. 

So Rachel chooses her sisters for the first time, but Ferdinand, an ultimate example of the double-tap rule, makes it out of the boardroom alive. It’s a showdown, a woman who fought so many battles, who has hidden weapons in every nook and cranny of her house, who is always ready to fight, versus this man whose rage has killed so many Ledas, who is the embodiment of toxic masculinity and the dangers of a weaponised hurt male ego. Ferdinand shoots S, but as so often happens, he also severely underestimates her, and so she is the one who gets to watch this terrible man die. 

Freedom is so close, after so many unbearable sacrifices. Delphine and Cosima press the button together that reveals Neolution’s centuries of transgressions to the world, and Felix presents his sister, in all of her permutations – Hestia, the Goddess of the Hearth and Home, Metis, Goddess of Wisdom and Deep Thought, and of course, Athena, the Goddess of War. The others that were lost look on from the walls – Beth Childs, who started it all, and MK, friends lost in the war. They’ve chipped away at the devil, and now, maybe, they will all be free. 

Random notes: 

Siobhan: Chicken, you are a warrior and I’ve taught you everything you know.

Maria Doyle Kennedy’s Siobhan Sadler is a character for the ages. 

Rachel’s portrait serves as a carpet and dancefloor . 

Alison brought the KORG.

As many others, I am fairly convinced that Delphine was going to propose at the party. 


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