Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” Season 2 Finale Review

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The final episode of the season takes off like a rocket, but its the smaller moments that are truly exhilarating.

“By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” is jam-packed with important sequences. The brilliant and disturbing cold open sees Sarah reluctantly giving herself over to the Dyad. As she’s poked and prodded with needles and changed into hospital scrubs, she’s ask a series of invasive questions about her sexuality and fertility. For a show that deals heavily with female agency, this feels like the most explicit reference they’ve ever made to the way women’s bodies are often perceived. Watching Sarah respond to the doctors was heartbreaking, because she feels utterly broken. At this point, she knows she’s nothing more than a lab rat to them.

Of course, it was fairly obvious that she wouldn’t stay captured for long. As the finale repeatedly stated, Sarah’s a survivor, and she’ll do anything to make sure her daughter is safe. She also is lucky enough to have a group of people that truly care about her, so much so that they’re willing to do things like converting a fire extinguisher into a blindingly dangerous weapon—sorry about the eye, Rachel.

The real water cooler moment, however, came at the end when Sarah visited Marian. It turns out, the Dyad is partly funded by a shady organization called Topside, who also worked to create—surprise!—a line of male clones who all happen to look like Mark the Prolethian. Given the show’s fascination with gender and sexuality, I have no doubt that this will make for a compelling development in season 3. I’m a little wary of ominous organizations serving as a show’s main antagonist—anyone else remember the disaster that was “The Company” on Heroes?—but I do like the idea that the Dyad is something of a hydra, with many heads to cut off before the clones can truly be free. Also, if this means more of the excellent Michelle Forbes next season, than I’m all for it.

As thrilling as the finale’s twists and turns were, I think the strongest moments arrived in smaller, more personal scenes. There’s no shortage of praise for Tatiana Maslany’s multiple performances, but it really is amazing to watch the little personality ticks she uses to make each of her personas unique. I love the fact that when Rachel realizes that Duncan has poisoned himself, she dissolves into a whiny tantrum instead of a more appropriate reaction. This is a woman who was robbed of ever having a normal childhood, so it’s fitting that she would start to act immature in times of crisis.

Equally as engrossing was Cosima’s science lesson with Kira. I like the dynamic between the two of them, and I’m interested to see how Cosima will stand on her own now that Delphine’s been shipped away. Her character has always been sidelined in her own little world of science and reggae music, and it was nice to watch her share her knowledge with someone who wasn’t wearing a lab coat. It also helped to sell one of the episode’s final moments, when Kira unknowingly hands over Duncan’s cipher, something that I know will have huge implications when the show returns.

The best scene of the episode is one that didn’t have anything to do with clone conspiracies or suspicious government organizations. After weeks of separation, we finally got to see all four clones in the same room. The fact that they decided to have a dance party was icing on the cake. Even in a lighthearted scene such as this, it’s still totally awesome to watch Maslany at work. The way Cosima loses herself in the music is so different from Sarah’s punk rock dancing, Helena’s feral body movements, or Alison’s hilariously uptight grinding on Felix. It’s hard to believe that a scene like this was shot by one person and some body doubles, because it really feels like there were four different people in the room. Narratively speaking, the dance party also works well as a point of celebration. Despite the forces that are constantly vying for their fates, these clone sisters will always stick together. Getting to see a moment of triumph after so much suffering felt very well-deserved.

I understand the temptation to go bigger, but I wish Orphan Black knew when to occasionally scale things back. It has such a great core group of characters, that I don’t see why it needs to focus its ancillary ones. I still have no idea what Paul or Mrs. S are up to, and this episode did nothing to clear things up. Paul’s back in the military now, and Mrs. S kidnapped Helena for him so that they could do…something. The show already has a deep mythology with the Dyad Institute and the Prolethians always hot on the clones’ trail. Adding in some secret military operation seems like it would only make things more confusing.

This is a show that has crumbled a bit under its own weight this season, but luckily its far from failing completely. Paul and Mrs. S’ mysteriousness aside, this was still a terrific finale to an overall engaging and interesting season. Not everything worked—cough, cough, Tony, cough—but it was still one crazy ride, and I can’t wait for it to start up again next year. Grade: B+


By Mike Papirmeister

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