Follow the crazy science one last time

By Jessica Derschowitz
June 10, 2017 at 11:00 PM EDT
Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA
S5 E1
B+
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Deep breaths, Clone Club. It’s the beginning of the end.

Orphan Black’s fifth and final season is now officially underway, and after last year’s standout set of episodes, there’s a lot to hope for (and a ton of questions to answer) before we reach the finale. Like Delphine tells Cosima, we’ll just have to “follow the crazy science” and see where it leads all of us.

As in years past, the season’s episode titles are all drawn from a specific text. This time around, they come from “1695,” by American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919), which you can read in full here. It features Orphan-friendly themes like fighting against oppression and refusing to be silenced in the face of injustice. With Rachel now firmly in a seat of power and the specter of Neolution looming, it definitely seems fitting.

With that in mind, let’s fire up the Orphan Black Clone Status Hyper-Sequence Generator Calcutron and export the clones in order of who’s in the most danger as we start this highly anticipated sendoff.

Sarah
It’s obvious immediately who’s in the most clear and present danger: Sarah Manning. Picking up right where season 4 left off, she’s wounded and fending for herself in the woods on the island Susan Duncan calls home. Her cell phone has just enough battery to call Felix and alert him that Mrs. S and Kira have been kidnapped by Ferdinand, but she refuses to come home without finding Cosima first.

Out in that wilderness, she gets a fire going and — stroke of genius! — uses a tampon to bandage that leg wound Rachel so kindly gave her. When she dozes off, a vision of Kira tells her to wake up, and it’s just in the nick of time, because something comes out of the bushes and attacks her. What was that? A man? Some sort of mutated creature? A cloning experiment gone awry? On this show, you never know.

With the help of a tree branch-turned-walking stick, she heads in the direction of the boathouse and mysterious village. Along the way, she encounters metal structures (surveillance cameras? Communications towers?) with hunted game tied to the sides, which seems strange even to one of the armed men tracking Sarah — he’s told to mind his own business, so there’s definitely something shady happening out here. As she hurries/hobbles away from them, she sees something even worse: a wolf, stabbed with a wooden stick and seemingly snacked on, but by what? (Actual quote from my notes: “More mystery s— happening on the island,” which sounds like it could have been an entry from the good ol’ days of watching Lost).

So, to put it mildly, things aren’t off to a great fifth-season start for our heroine. And they get even worse from here, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Alison and Helena
Let’s pair these two together since the Hendrixes are still hiding out at Camp Helena, which is probably more hellish in Alison’s book than losing out on the lead part in the local play. Felix tells them to stay put and to keep an eye on Helena, which seems like two more things Alison would rather not do — so, ready to get out of there and wanting to be part of what’s going on, she tells Donnie to start packing.

Donnie, meanwhile, is faring much better than his wife in this wilderness world: He looks good in plaid and can communicate through bird calls, which means Helena is able to alert him via their “emergency loon call” when she sees men patrolling the woods. As he goes to hide, Alison, unaware anything is wrong, comes outside and is quickly apprehended. She’s brought to Art, which would be lucky except that he has a new partner, Detective Engers (Elyse Levesque) — a Neolution believer with a willingness to threaten Art’s daughter to keep him in line.

Engers wants to know where Helena is, and Alison is both petulant (“Helena was out murdering God’s creatures, and my husband abandoned me!”) and legitimately does not know where her pregnant clone-sister would go if she needed to hide. Art tells her Team Neolution wants a truce: for her and all of her sisters to come in quietly. Since she can’t give them any helpful information, she’s taken home to wait out whatever comes next.

Alison may be under Neolution’s thumb, but Helena is in a much different kind of danger. As Donnie tries to get away by car and is nearly apprehended by another Neo, Helena — still kicking butt while extremely pregnant, like you’d want it any other way — tackles the guy and quickly overpowers him, but is stabbed in the abdomen with a sharp tree branch during the scuffle. She’s bleeding, and she tells Donnie one of the babies was hit. Shout it with me, guys: SAVE HELENA’S BABIES.
(Recap continues on page 2)

Cosima
If you were hoping that Cosima and Delphine would get some blissful, uninterrupted-by-crazy-science-and-evil-clones time together now that they’re finally reunited, then I’ve got some bad news for you. But Delphine does manage to get some crucial information to Cosima before they’re unfortunately parted again so quickly.

They’re both still at the village, and based on the locked door to Cosima’s cabin it’s not a come-and-go-as-you-please type of place. The cell line she stole from Susan and Rachel Duncan — the one that will hopefully cure the clones’ respiratory disease she’s suffering from — is missing from her bag, but there’s a note from Delphine in its place: “Whatever happens, FOLLOW MY LEAD!”

Via a friendly villager named Mud, we learn Mystery Village is actually named Revival, was established in 1908, and is composed of inhabitants from around the world. Why are they all there? To “genetically improve the human race,” Mud explains. Well, obviously. And the founder of this little enclave? That would be P.T. Westmorland, who lives in a nearby house on a hill. Oh yeah, and he’s 170 years old. Charlotte is there too, with other children at the village’s “school” — an open-walled structure where learning materials include a book called The Revival Story. Excerpt: “We are all Revival’s children, chosen for a brighter future. Where our frail bodies become so much stronger, and death and aging haunt us no longer.” (“This place is scary” Charlotte says. No kidding, kiddo.)

In the clinic, Delphine speaks to a young Afghan girl named Aisha, who recently arrived at Revival with her mother. Why is she there? “To get better,” the young girl tells her earnestly. “We came for the fountain.” When they leave, Delphine locks the clinic doors, hides Cosima’s gene therapy in a refrigerator, and steals a page from Aisha’s file before the still-nameless, still-creepy Messenger begins banging on the door and demanding she open it. “It’s time,” the man tells her. “He wants to see you.” He, one assumes, must be Westmorland. When we see Delphine and Cosima together again, it’s only for a brief goodbye — she’s being sent away for a “research trip.” But whatever is happening at Revival, Delphine thinks it’s legit. “The science is real,” she tells Cosima. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

The entire island is a decades-long prolongevity study, she adds — just one phase in their efforts to genetically improve the human race. This place, Delphine says, is “the heart of Neolution.” She gives Cosima the paper from Aisha’s file and tells her Rachel is ramping up Neolution’s agenda, and the children they’re treating here have something to do with it. She whispers the hidden location of the gene treatment and then, with a bittersweet kiss, she’s on her way out, and I’m sad these two didn’t get more time together.

Rachel
Opening the door to P.T. Westmorland at the end of the finale means a new era in Rachel villainy. She’s now the No. 2 to Neolution’s founder, walking up to his house on the hill looking pretty damn pleased with herself, and making speeches on his behalf to the citizens of Revival.

“It is time to be brave, to sacrifice,” she tells the crowd. “The fruits of nearly 200 years of Neolution science are now within our grasp, and we here shall drink from the fountain first.” Cosima is in the crowd for this little speech, and Sarah, who made it to Revival, also hears everything.

Rachel also checks and corners not just Alison, but Cosima and Sarah as well. When Cosima sneaks out of her hut and heads to the clinic to find her treatment, she encounters Sarah there trying to rescue her — but Cosima wants to stay, telling her, “Whatever this place is, it’s the answer.” After she sends Sarah home to take care of Kira and Mrs. S, Rachel drops in. First, she injects the treatment into Cosima’s uterine wall (ouch), and then she offers Cosima another tantalizing reason to stay put: Westmorland, Rachel assures her, wants Cosima to be part of this scientific quest: “You and I are going to cure us all.”

And Sarah, of course, makes it back to the boat house after Cosima tells her to head back, but she doesn’t get a chance to hit the water. A quick tranquilizer dart to the neck immobilizes her, and Rachel walks up just as she’s fading out of consciousness. “It’s a new day, Sarah,” she gloats. And whatever that day brings, we’ll find out soon enough.

Additional Genetic Material
-Two island questions to ponder: What is this fountain everyone keeps speaking of, and what was following Sarah around in the woods?
-Maybe I’m just really glad to see Felix again, but I burst out laughing when he got spooked by Art as they both were poking around the safe house and yelled, “Oh my God, Arthur, I almost hit you with a pan!”
-An update on Susan Duncan: Per Mud, she’ll apparently pull through. Great news for Ira, but what does that mean for our dear Rachel?
-Ira needs to choose his alliances, and soon. When he’s less than forthcoming with information about Revival, Felix reminds him of Rachel’s betrayal: “For God’s sake, pick a bloody side!”
-Speaking of Felix, he and Scott try to reach out to M.K. in hopes she can help them save Kira and Mrs. S, but then our brother sestra is also taken in by a Rachel lackey known as Mr. Frontenac (Andrew Moodie).
-A bloody corkscrew at the safe house indicates Mrs. S got a piece of Ferdinand even while they were hostages. You go, Siobhan.
-“Poop on a stoop” – Alison’s cursing-while-not-cursing is still the best.
-Can I just say it again for good measure? SAVE HELENA’S BABIES.

Tatiana Maslany plays half the cast of BBC America’s paranoid clone thriller.
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  • 03/30/13-08/12/17
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