Friday 11 August 2017

Orphan Black - Come on meathead, stay with me.

Orphan Black: 5x09 One Fettered Slave.

Just remember my lads. Death is nothing at all, I’ve only slipped into the next room. You can call me by my old familiar name, put no sorrow in your tone. I promise we will laugh at this difficult passing when we meet again. All my love, S.
There isn’t much that can be said about this almost-last episode of Orphan Black. It’s a visceral experience to look at Helena’s childhood and see how she came to be, the little orphan girl who made the error of looking behind the veil and seeing power fail, the danger of holding incriminating information over people who hold power – a little girl who stole chocolate from a drawer, watched something she wasn’t supposed to, and was punished severely. It’s not made clear here if this is how Tomas found her, or if he would have found her in any case, but it makes it clear that Helena’s life has always been about surviving in the face of odds that were stacked against her. Even trapped in the cellar, with her head drenched in bleach, she still eats the stolen delights. 

Tomas turned this little girl into a weapon by depriving her of any context, any outside world. He poisoned her with a strict ideology that she only came to understand fully when she finished her first mission – when she realised that the copies that she is killing because they are an abomination against Tomas’ god look exactly like her. It takes a new story, a new set of lies, to explain this to her, to make her believe that she is the original, the one who is still in god’s grace. Somehow, she will escape all of this, and somehow, she will understand that each and every one of her sisters (save maybe Rachel, but she’s had a hard life too) is the light. The point here is maybe that every person before Sarah, Cosima and Alison that she has trusted has lied to her, has constructed stories that kept her trapped in a small room. It leads to Virginia Coady, telling her she would not be a good mother to a child, where for a moment we think that lie leads to absolute capitulation, to Helena giving up and slitting her wrists, until it all lines up into a brilliant plan (that only succeeds because of a few gods in the machine) to save herself. Presumably, she knows how to cut herself without dying. Presumably, she guessed that her beloved sister would come to save her, because she has promised to make up for not loving her enough only recently. 
This is how a seemingly hopeless situation is suddenly turned on its head, with Scott and Comic Book Shop Guy (who apparently worked security – at Dyad?) and Art and Felix doing their best to save Helena while Sarah grieves for her mother and takes care of her grieving daughter. They figure out that Helena hasn’t been taken to the island, because the island is now lost to Westmoreland, he is on his last leg, and has carved out a new burrow in the old research building (which fittingly used to be an asylum) right next to the now police-swarmed Dyad institute. Helena’s children are a last-ditch hope for his survival, now that his life’s work, or any pretence that it was ever about anything but his own eternal life and reputation and power, are falling apart entirely. Virginia Coady is starting to doubt him, too, but not early enough for Mark, who she mercy-kills shockingly, the last of her children to go, and not early enough for her not to bear Helena’s full wrath for calling her a bad mother, and proving to be just another person ready to trap her in a cage. 
This is also the story of her life – the sister whose transgression she witnessed, where she got punished because she had realised that someone else wasn’t infallible, the insane Prolethean who raised her knowing absolutely nothing himself about the world he despised, and finally, Virginia Coady, the monster mother who killed her own children and yet argued she was the one not fit for motherhood. 

One monster is left to slay, and a few henchmen, but the substance of hundreds of years of Neolution is crumbling into dust. 

Random notes: 

As said before, this was a visceral episode more than anything, so it’s hard to really talk about the threads coming together – the other major point here was maybe that Art is at the brink as well, and kills for the sisters, finally stepping out of his role as a law-abiding police officer, when he gets rid of Frontenac. 
Al-Khatib: I told you, I don’t know where he has taken the science.
Rachel: Her name is Helena.
I’ve been quietly amazed by the choices this show had made with Detective Engers, just fascinated by the kind of brain that would come up with someone so freaking terrifyingly weird.

In a season titled with poetry, the one S chose for her own funeral seems very fitting - Death is Nothing At All by Henry Scott-Holland, "Whatever we were to each other, that we are still".

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