Orphan Black 501: The clones face the beginning of the end

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen Orphan Black Episode 501, “The Few Who Dare.”

“Whatever this place is, it’s the answer.” —Cosima

Welcome to the final trip!

After four seasons spent tumbling down the rabbit hole in an attempt to uncover the conspiracy behind the creation of Sarah Manning and her sister clones, Orphan Black‘s fifth (and last) season finally emerges in Wonderland—a Wonderland as conceived by H.G. Wells, that is.

The season premiere, “The Few Who Dare,” written by Graeme Manson and directed by John Fawcett, begins right where we left off last season, with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany, fresh from her first Emmy win) badly wounded and fighting for survival on Susan Duncan’s (Rosemary Dunsmore) mysterious private island. The island potentially holds the answers to 40 episodes of questions because it also houses P.T. Westmoreland, the 170-year-old founder of Neolution whose quest for prolongevity spawned the creation of the clones. However, his search for the fountain of youth isn’t necessarily going as planned—as evidenced by the “Island of Doctor Moreau”-esque creature that attacks Sarah in the episode’s opening scenes—and, as always, the clones can never trust the motivations of Machiavellian pro-clone Rachel (Maslany), who is in her most powerful position yet.

“There’s only one faction now.” —Mr. Frontenac

Over the past four seasons of Orphan Black, we’ve met a series of individual and organizational villains with disparate ideologies and goals. This tangled web has led to both some convoluted plots and a few story missteps—I’m looking at you, Castor clones—but Season 5 simplifies matters by focusing on the Big Bad behind the curtain, P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie). The Proletheans are long gone, but the island’s Revival camp—which has taken in Cosima—keeps that group’s cultish vibe alive by acting like a science-loving Peoples Temple. Cosima’s cheery new pal, Mud (Jenessa Grant), explains that the people in the camp are P.T. Westmoreland’s “children,” chosen from around the globe to “genetically improve the human race.” The group is completely self-sustaining, with their own power, food and educational system.

“This place is scary,” says Charlotte (Cynthia Galant), after leafing through a propaganda-laced children’s book.

Word, Charlotte. Word.

“Follow the crazy science.” —Delphine

Yet, for all Revival’s creepiness, Cosima can’t help but be intrigued. While Sarah just wants to get off the island and take her sister with her, Cosima wants to stay, simultaneously repulsed and enticed by the science. This is great news for viewers, as Cosima’s ethical sparring with Susan in Season 4 was a highlight, and any sitdowns with P.T. Westmoreland will undoubtedly crackle, especially given our resident geek monkey’s inability to hold back the sass.

As for Delphine (Evelyne Brochu), it was wonderful to see her have a few romantic moments, albeit rushed, with Cosima again. These two have been put through the wringer, and any tender moments between them have been more than earned by long-suffering Cophine fans. Hopefully, Delphine’s forced trip to Sardinia will be short-lived.

But, of course, Delphine’s temporary exit opened the door for the episode’s most shocking and uncomfortable moment—Rachel administering the cure to Cosima with a giant needle to the uterus. Yikes!

“It’s a new day, Sarah.” —Rachel

And what is up with Rachel? While her new right-hand man, Mr. Frontenac (Andrew Moodie), and Art’s (Kevin Hanchard) new Neolution partner, Detective Engers (Elyse Levesque), spent the episode trying to bring Felix (Jordan Gavaris), Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), Alison (Maslany) and Helena (Maslany) to heel on Rachel’s behalf, the formerly bitter clone comes away from her “seclusion” with P.T. looking like she’s had a true religious experience. She not only helps Cosima, but she promises Sarah that “it’s a new day,” even as she has her darted and carried away. I must admit that Rachel has never been one of my favourite characters, and I was hoping she might finally meet her (very justified) end this season. However, her post-P.T. glow has me deeply curious. What do you have up your perfectly tailored sleeve, Rachel?

Side Notes

  • What the hell, Donnie (Kristian Bruun)? Alison gets captured and you casually tip-toe off into the woods like you’re bailing on a boring lunch date? Not cool, dude. Not cool.
  • Sorry, the stick to Helena’s belly doesn’t frighten me. That pregnancy has gone on far too long for it to end that way. However, her injury does provide more opportunity for Donnie/Helena to bond, and, most importantly, they have to leave the shelter of the woods for help.
  • In a parallel to the first time she received treatment for her illness (that time with Delphine at her side), a single tear fell from Cosima’s left eye as Rachel administered the cure. Kudos to Tatiana Maslany for remembering that detail.
  • Art has always been the steadiest ally for the clones, but how much will his loyalty bend now that the Neos have threatened his daughter?
  • Elyse Levesque is my favourite addition to the cast. Disarmingly deadpan delivery.
  • Great to see Hellwizard (Calwyn Shurgold) again, and looking forward to M.K.’s (apparently) imminent return.

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET on Space.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.