As the world of “Orphan Black” expanded this season to host a cavalcade of new antagonists, including a male set of clones, the focus remained on Tatiana Maslany and the various female clones she portrayed. This decision was certainly to the benefit of the series which otherwise could have gotten tangled up in its own mythology and easily lost sight of what made the show great in the first place. The third season finale, “History Yet to Be Written“, keeps Sarah, Helena, Cosima, and Alison front and center and is all the more satisfying for it.
Season finales have a difficult tightrope to walk. They need to function as just another episode in the series but they also carry the burden of wrapping up the previous season while simultaneously setting up the next. “Orphan Black” chose to focus much more on the former than the latter and most of the lingering questions from this season receive at least a partial answer, even the silly ones (does Alison win her election?!).
Alison does win her election and the other clones also win small victories over the course of the hour. Helena’s victory comes in the form of killing Castor clone Rudy (Ari Millen). I wish this confrontation had occurred earlier in the season when the two could have been more evenly matched. What we get instead is a scenario in which there is no other possible outcome for Rudy. An evenly matched Helena/Rudy fight could have had real stakes and could have altered the course of the entire season. Cosima gains a small victory too by finding closure with Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) which could allow for a future with Shay (Ksenia Solo). Shay is still a bit of a mystery and she is one question we do not get answer to just yet.
Concluding the main plot of the season, more is learned about how the Leda clones were created via the genetic material of Kendall Malone (Alison Steadman), but Sarah also finds out exactly why and how she ended up in the care of Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). This scene is meant to be cathartic for the characters and touching to the audience. At least it seemed to be cathartic, because the tale told by Kendall stretches credulity nearly to the breaking point. She recounts how even though Sarah was “lost” in the foster system, she and Professor Duncan (Andrew Gillies) were still able to manipulate the process so Sarah would be placed with Mrs. S. This answer is a bit too pat and, the mechanics of it, convoluted for a question that didn’t really need answering. Had Kendall Malone not been so directly connected to Mrs. S and Sarah, whether or not the two ended up together wouldn’t have been a concern.
“Orphan Black” is all about family, the one we are born with and the one we choose, but if Kendall Malone had been made an outsider, far fewer narrative gymnastics would have been required.
The best part of the episode is Sarah’s plan to shirk the Dyad Institute, turn the tables on Topside, and ensure the destruction of Castor. Sarah is the fighter, the one who will do whatever it takes, she just doesn’t always go about the fight in the easiest way possible. Her plan this time may sound complex but other than requiring her to be in a few different places nearly at the same time without the benefit of the other clone clubbers, it is one of her more well reasoned ideas. Everything even seems to go her way until a familiar enemy makes its presence known once more. The Neolutionists are back and they are everywhere.
The nefarious pseudo-scientific, pseudo-religious group from season one has apparently been in the background secretly monitoring and pulling the strings of the clones this entire time. Neolutionism was one of the stranger aspects of the first season but allowed for the exploration of interesting scientific ideas and ethics. They weren’t out and out evil, they just had a goal in opposition to the Leda clones. Now having sprawled into a network planted on all sides of the clone conspiracy, they’ve crossed the line into “Big Bad” territory. The struggle over the original genetic material will still be the main focus of the next season but for now, that material is safe and the clones can relax.
It is rare for a show that relies on twists to not end its season on one. Last season, Helena was kidnapped and at the time, we didn’t know by whom. Yes, Delphine goes down after making the requisite amends with Cosima, but the final shot of the season is one of hope. Sarah is reunited with Kira (Skyler Wexler) and they are able to lay in a field of snow, alone and unthreatened. Threat looms and season four should prove to be filled with as many twists as ever, but at least for now, everyone can take a breather and take comfort in their chosen family.
Is this the last we’ll hear from Castor? Are the Neolutionists the only threat? Do you think there is any doubt about Delphine’s fate? What did you think of this season?