Cut Off Their Tails: 4 Takes On the Season 4 Finale of Orphan Black
Last night Orphan Black‘s fourth season came to a close with the explosive finale, “From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths.” In it, Evie Cho was killed with Rachel once again ascendant within Neolution; Cosima and Charlotte left Susan’s compound to be rescued by Delphine; Sarah and Susan Duncan were both left wounded by Rachel, perhaps dying; and Krystal was partially inducted into the clone club. What an episode! I sat down with three other WWAC writers to sort through all of this mess.
Okaaaaaay. That was quite a season finale. There is so much to talk about. So many reaction gifs to share. So let’s just start with that? What was your overall reaction to season four finale?
Kate Tanski: This finale made me realize that I have gotten ridiculously attached to all of these characters, so during the finale I was basically Helena:
And I very much do not approve of the cliffhanger-y nature of the finale.
Ardo Omer: No words. I have…none. It me:
Alenka Figa: My most succinct response would be: well, shit.
Also, I would like to note that my favorite line of the entire season is, “He’s still wearing socks?” That is something I would say.
Megan Purdy: I had a lot of feelings during this episode. A LOT OF FEELINGS. Complicated feelings. But by he end I had become Allison:
“Neolution follows the science,” which, you know, makes sense, but is also terrible in the context of Orphan Black. I appreciated that the show addressed contemporary issues of bodily autonomy, gene ownership and neocolonial predatory science, for one, but there’s even more to unpack here. What do we think of the board? What do we think of Rachel’s plan?
Kate: Rachel is the evilest evil. I mean, I know you can make arguments for how fascinating she is psychologically and the dissociation she has between herself and the other clones blah, blah, blah, but mostly I just think she’s evil. Orphan Black has always raised the question of nature vs. nurture but this is that to a serious extreme–which is great but also means I love some clones and hate others. That said, I also liked the way the show has swung around to 19th century Darwinism and Social Darwinism as being at the root of these discussions that we’re still having today.
Ardo: Following the science seems to go hand-in-hand with following the money. Neolution is in pursuit of science but is structured like a company (the board) with company needs. Rachel has offered them the sound science (Susan’s clones) with the promise of Evie’s sped up timeline via the bots in the clones idea. She’s smart and she’s employing what she’s learned from her mother, Susan, which is fuck the ethics and pursue the science at all costs. Rachel is Susan 2.0 because she can take that extra step in ruthlessness. The board is honestly unsurprising since Neolution from the beginning has always been a company set up and there needs to be people overseeing what they’re investing in.
Alenka: There’s gotta be some rich, evil old white people behind everything, right? As Siobhan said, “there’s always a board.” Rachel picking up the knife and doling out real, physical pain was very interesting. Obviously she puts Susan in the place where she found herself at the end of the previous season: locked up, immobilized and without control. She’s also maimed Sarah similarly not only with physical injuries but through a dangerous power play. Initially I wasn’t very interested in Rachel returning to a villainous role, but I’m intrigued to see her dealing out in kind what she has suffered. She is so informed by trauma, loss, and a thirst for actual control over her own life that she stands in fascinating and horrifying ideological opposition to the rest of the clones. Threats to their bodily agency have pulled clone club together, but Rachel didn’t learn of her clone-ness and then fall into a community. She has been alone for a very long time, and she is horrifically recycling the cycle of abandonment, control and violence that has decorated much of her life.
The bait-and-switch of Evie and Rachel isn’t totally surprising, but I’m struggling with it. It feels meaningful that a deeply talented woman of color who, like Rachel, had been invested in evolutionary science her entire life was quickly murdered. On one hand her disposability speaks to the nature of Neolution’s board, but on the other it takes yet another woman of color off screen very swiftly.
Megan: That’s a good catch, Alenka. That Rachel is dealing back what’s been dealt to her.
I’m also troubled that Evie was so disposable not just to Neolution but to the show. She was a great new character and the first prominent women of colour in the cast. Her motivations were distinct from other Neolutionists–she needs her implant to live and live well, and she wants to help other people do the same. Of course, she has no conscience to speak of, but that puts her a step apart from the likes of Leekie, Coady and even Delphine, who got into Neolution research for love of pure science, self-aggrandisement or even greed. She was a true ideologue and that made her interesting. I’m sad to see her go so soon.
I think Rachel’s plan is, well, good. It’s got a good chance for success because it is so perfectly predatory and exploitative. If she can wipe out the Sestras–which we know she won’t–she stands a chance to succeed.
Let’s talk a bit about some of the other revelations of this episode: namely that Krystal is an off-beat genius, Cosima still has great hair, and the founder of Neolution, Dr. Swan Hermit himself has lived for at least 100 years and built Rachel’s eye. Is he Wolverine? A clone? A clone of Wolverine? What is the swan man’s deal???
Kate: Krystal was amazing in this episode. AMAZING.
They haven’t giffed my favorite look yet, but this one is great too. And I am so intrigued by possibly not-aging Swan Hermit! Also I’m not a Cosima/Delphine shipper but I have to admit their reunion also touched my heart and made me emotional.
Ardo: I laughed so hard when Krystal basically rejected the notion that Sarah was her clone. The Brit was clearly a 7 and Krystal was told she was a 10! It was great. A 100-year-old doctor who started Neolution? I’ve asked how high whenever Orphan Black asked me to make a jump in the past, but this one is hard to fall in line with. Hard to believe he’s a series of clones given the state of the Clone Club and how does he maintain his memories etc? If he’s eternal, how’d that happen and why isn’t that in use by Neolution, especially if they’re following the science? So many questions! Glad Delphine is alive since she and Cosima offer the destined lovers storyline. That finale was insane.
Alenka: I’m with you, Ardo. I laughed at the reveal about P.T. Westmoreland (aka Swan Hermit Wolverine Man). However, what’s more evil than a modern board of rich white people? A super old rich white dude, I guess!
Krystal is a gift. It was so stunning and wonderful to see someone get to Sarah like that–not that I don’t love Sarah, because of course I do–and absolutely hilarious and believable that she’d automatically deny the clone idea. Clones are such a ridiculous idea! There was an article written a while back that discussed how brilliant it was that the clones could easily pretend to be each other even when they do a shit job of it, like Cosima did when she had to be Alison during the election. The clones are incredibly distinct but play with the idea that women are unimportant and interchangeable by using each others’ identities and lives to screw over their enemies. Krystal sees their uniqueness immediately, and there’s something beautiful in that.
I wouldn’t call myself a Cosima/Delphine shipper, but it meant a lot to me that Delphine is still alive. If we are reading Sarah’s spiraling tryst correctly, this show has THREE queer women in it who all inhabit their queerness in unique, different ways. That’s fucking amazing.
Megan: I… don’t care about Delphine and I was convinced that her time in the show was over. But at the same time, I’m happy that Cosima had the chance to reunite with her because despite my generally negative feelings for Delphine (stop.lying.to.the.Sestras), I do believe in their love for each other. I want Cosima to be happy. And like Alenka, I’m so grateful that this show puts queer women so front and centre. It’ll be interesting to see what role Delphine now plays, as a captive researcher in a tent city on the Island of Doctor Moreau.
As for P.T. Westwolverswanland, I just don’t know. When we talked about last year’s season finale and even this year’s season premiere, a few of us weren’t sure if we could follow the show’s increasingly weird science. I have a feeling that we’ll all be sticking around and forgiving the show it’s fanciful science trespasses, no matter how strange it gets next year.
Maybe he’s Wolverine. Maybe he’s something new entirely. But what we do know is that he’s a 100-year-old racist, Darwinian creeper who is sending killer swan visions to a Leda clone. And that is… super gross.
Everyone we wanted to live lived through this episode but some of them are in rough shape–a literally brutal cliffhanger ending. What do you NEED TO SEE in the season five premiere? Especially considering that we just found out that there will be a season five but it will be the last one for the show?
Kate: If Sarah dies we riot. I swear. All the other clones are great but if we don’t have Sarah it’s not the same stakes for me. Also, I want Cal back so that we can have my Sarah-Cal-Kira family unit walk off into the sunset, but that can wait until the series finale. I’m not picky. I’m not too worried about Allison and Donnie even though Allison has the shits. I’m emotionally prepared for Cosima to die, but I still hope she doesn’t, even if I hope she gets a new hairstyle finally. I’d love to see Adele back–she’s new and quirky and hilarious.
Ardo: I have a list:
- A cured Cosima et al
- Destroy the samples not used for curing
- Patch up Sarah
- Get rid of Ferdinand/Rachel
- Everyone live happily ever after
- P.S. Is Dr. Swan guy Wolverine?
Alenka: If Dr. Swan is not Wolverine I’ll take a Wolverine cameo! Just put Hugh Jackman in as a background character and have him turn and wink at the camera. We’ll all know.
If Cosima dies I will dissolve into an ugly, sobbing mess. I need to see her on the mend! When Cosima even looks a little bit sad I want to jump dimensions through the screen to make her tea and cookies and give her a break. I would also like her to win some kind of a big deal science award, for doing science. Honestly, though, I’m here for just about anything. This show has had me from the start, and I trust that whatever wild and wacky shit happens, it will be good. Five seasons feels like a good fit, and this series needs to go out with a bang! No pressure, or anything.
Megan: Sarah lives. That’s non-negotiable. And Cosima gets a cure. Those are my big asks for the premiere. After that, there is so much the show needs to wrap up. Of course Rachel and Ferdinand will be thwarted and possibly even Neolution permanently destroyed. That would be a lovely end to the show: real and total freedom for all the clones. But Ira may not be the only non-military Castor and there are still other Leda clones under supervision that the sestras will have to cure. Is there still blowback from the military to come? What about Neolution splinter groups? While I’m a little sad that next year will be the last for Orphan Black, I think that one season is more than enough to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. Ending it with a final triumph over Neolution allows us to imagine a happily ever after for the sestras, which, after all they’ve been through, they’ve earned.