Tuesday 5 December 2023

Orphan Black: Echoes - The best thing that we can do is just let go.

Orphan Black: Echoes: 1x10 We Will Come Again.

I’ll be okay. 

Oh Jules! The conclusion of the first season of Orphan Black: Echoes, which has not even aired yet in the United States and is therefore in limbo when it comes to renewal, genuinely made me sad, and I did not quite see it coming either. Amanda Fix’ performance has been a stand-out, and she captures Jules’ bravery and sadness perfectly. Especially in the last two episodes, she has been vocal about the family she has found when she discovered Eleanor and Lucy – how it feels like a homecoming, after feeling alien in her foster family (remember, the walls were never fully painted), and uncomfortable in her life with all of those fake planted memories that were clearly incongruous with her as a person. Lucy makes a great sacrifice in this episode, choosing not go with Jack and Charlie to keep them safe from the consequences of being around her, but it’s Jules who truly stands out as someone who is bravely facing what fighting against Darros requires, even though she is only sixteen and would have every right to stand aside and let the grown-ups do the fighting. 

First of, Lucy learns from Tom that he wants to exchange Charlie for Jules because it’s what Darros wants. Tom would prefer getting to kill Lucy, but it looks like for now he is still under the control of the man whose approval he desperately seeks. Lucy is hesitant to sacrifice Jules, because it would be deeply immoral to ask that sacrifice of a child, even though Jack seems willing to (he is forgiven as a desperate father, but I think it reveals why he ultimately has to leave in the end – his priorities don’t align with the fight). Jules overhears and makes the choice herself, willingly giving herself up to keep Charlie safe. The episode doesn’t dwell much on Charlie and this additional trauma, because unfortunately it doesn’t have enough time to investigate further, but it must have been horrifying for her to be held by Tom, without the ability to communicate with him, and then to lose another mother-figure when Lucy stays behind. Being abandoned is one of her greatest fears, and now it is happening again, not due to any shortcomings on Lucy’s part (which Charlie seems to understand – she only requests that Lucy promise to save Jules), but because of the circumstances they’ve found themselves in. Lucy is giving up her found family that has propelled her forward and given her reason, but she has also found a new reason, and her protectiveness of Jules stems from the genuine connection she has with her that goes beyond their shared biology. 

Luckily for them, Xander’s memories (memories that reveal what kind of person Darros is, but also ask bigger question about whether the technology has advanced further than even Kira knows) have now put him firmly in the anti-Darros camp. He can get them into the compound to free Jules, and Darros will be gone with most of his security team for the big launch that is just ahead. This is essentially a heist – Xander will grovel to Darros, biting his tongue when he weaves a smartly constructed tale that fits in perfectly with how Paul sees himself (thanking him for being the strong one, offering the opportunity not to have to carry that burden by himself). Darros will reinstate him on the groundskeeping team, even if it’s just for a trial period, giving Xander the chance to smuggle in Lucy. Meanwhile, Kira will attend the launch and distract Paul with questions about his sister. In the background of the plan is the question of what the launch is, exactly, and the discovery runs alongside the planning and Darros’ final reveal. Eleanor and Kira break back into the closed down lab to print the faces of the scans they’ve found in the vault (this reveals that they are eleven teenagers, and one more scan that they can’t decrypt). Someone Eleanor knows (I think maybe the woman she’s been having an affair with?) can get them access to the census database to identify who exactly Darros has printed. It’s not something the show addresses explicitly, but what that turn of events reveals about data security and privacy in the 2050s is pretty harrowing, especially in conjunction with Paul’s access to the entirety of the US’ medical data. The future is truly dystopian, even if for now that realisation only plays out on such a small scale. 

Eleanor realisation that all of the scans she can identify belong to the greatest minds of the previous generation (some of whom have passed away) comes just before Paul reveals his “Genius Project”. He claims to have identified highly intelligent youths in the foster care system whom he has placed with loving families to harness their intelligence and find solutions for the world’s greatest problems. The truth is deeply cynical: he is a man who wants “pure potential” without the baggage of having to deal with actual people. Surely there are actually many kids in the foster care system that would be suitable, and in profound need of that help, but instead he has harnessed the minds of the previous generation (what I would call a boomer move), and therefore stripped the risk of any unforeseen developments. He has created a completely controlled situation – obviously these kids have not been placed in families, instead, the claim unrolls just as Lucy and the newly freed Jules discover grim pods in the basement of the compound, outfitted with restraints and pictures of fake family members. They have been printed without any memories and raised like lab rats, a tabula rasa for Paul to project his ideas on, without the risk of the kind of opposition and rebelliousness that Jules has. When Kira confronts him with questions about Zora, his sister, to stall him, he replies that she “can’t let go of the past, I only think about the future” – but it’s a future that he fully controls, that negates individuality and the ability to meaningfully make choices. He claims that the ends justify the means, and that he is beyond questions of ethics because he doesn’t do it for personal gain, while Kira used the technology to try and reverse the death of her wife. 

Instead of trying to leave quickly, Lucy and Jules once again do the responsible thing and collect as much information as they can to try and reveal the truth about Darros. Meanwhile, Xander has been tasked with disabling the printer, although it is unclear if he actually does. They run out of time: Darros returns early, and delivers a whole speech about how his project is meant to prevent “corruption” – like how Lucy, with her opposition to him, has corrupted Jules. He shoots Jules in the head, and then reveals to a grieving and outraged Lucy that he has already created another, more pliant version of her (suitably blonde, because we know who Darros wanted Jules to be based on the memories he tried to give her). And: Eleanor successfully identifies the final print-out, and discovers that it’s a young version of Kira Manning herself. 

Random notes: 

The only person who ends this season with a shred of happiness, at least for now, before she finds out what happened to Jules, is Kira: Eleanor has been thinking about what to do, and has decided to follow Lucas’ advice that if Kira gives her meaning, she should keep her in her life. She pulls out the garden to start afresh, “here, with me”, as Kira asks, disbelieving her luck. 

There is a little last-moment side-story here about Rhona trying to blackmail Kira into printing her father that just hangs there, maybe to be picked up again next season – in an episode that feels like it doesn’t really have enough time in the first place, it feels a bit sudden and rushed, even if it reveals Kira’s deep regrets over what she has done and her conclusion that printing the person she loved wasn’t the right way to deal with her grief. 

Jack: You’ve been looking for who you are for a long time and maybe you didn’t think you would find people who are actually you, but you did. It’s okay for it to mean something. 

I like how Xander knew exactly what to say to Paul: he has, after all, studied him, and knows him in and out.

I really hope we get a second season, and I feel like that in spite of the definiteness of the headshot (deliberate, presumably, because they’ve successfully revived a gunshot victim before…), there is still a bit of wiggle room with the reveal that the technology does new and unexpected things that make Xander’s memory possible. 

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