Orphan Black 502: Writer Jeremy Boxen breaks down “Clutch of Greed”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen Orphan Black Episode 502, “Clutch of Greed.”“I want to know why I’m like this.” —Kira

The Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) we met back in Orphan Black‘s first season was a neglectful mother who disappeared for months at a time, leaving Kira (Skyler Wexler) in the care of Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). However, the Sarah we see in Season 5 is completely changed: devoted, fiercely protective and determined to protect her daughter from Neolution at any cost. That’s why this week’s episode, “Clutch of Greed”—which sees Kira willingly choose to spend time in the care of Rachel (Maslany)—is such a kick in the gut. Sarah’s time of influence over Kira, already cut short by her previous selfishness, may now be over, handed over to the person she trusts the least.

And just as Kira turns to Rachel in hopes of learning more about herself, Cosima turns to Neolution founder P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie)—whom we finally lay eyes on—to understand more about the science behind her and her sisters. For a series Big Bad, who is also supposedly 170 years old, P.T. seems almost normal as he goes over Cosima’s latest test results (they’re excellent) and quotes an Arthur Conan Doyle poem. But while his chat with Cosima is disarmingly genteel, it appears in the same episode in which Ferdinand (James Frain) literally stomps the life out of M.K. (Maslany) in a fit of entitled male rage.

Rachel may claim it’s a “new day” for the clones, but this episode underscores that it’s just the same day, different week for Sarah et al., as they all continue to squirm beneath the heel of an oppressive patriarchy.

Joining us to discuss these issues, and break down all the major plot points in “Clutch of Greed,” is Orphan Black co-executive producer Jeremy Boxen, who wrote the episode.

You came over from another great show, Killjoys. How did you land on Orphan Black?
Jeremy Boxen: I have known Graeme Manson for a long time. We first worked together on a show called Endgame, which was shot in Vancouver. It starred Shawn Doyle as a Russian chess master with agoraphobia. So we’ve been friends since then, and this is the first time that our schedules lined up and I was able to get onto Orphan Black. I think we’ve both been trying to get me on it for a while, so this year, the stars lined up and I was able to jump on board, which is really exciting, because obviously it’s the last season, and we’re able to do some really satisfying things with it.

Is there extra pressure coming onto a show in its final season, especially one as beloved by fans as Orphan Black?
Yes, there are always different pressures with every season of television. With Orphan Black, there was pressure to get it right, but it was a thrilling kind of pressure because so much excellence had come before, and all we were trying to do was live up to that excellence and satisfy everyone who loved the show. So it was really a welcome challenge.

We finally meet the mysterious P.T. Westmoreland in this episode, and he looks like a normal Victorian gentleman. Was there much debate about what a 170-year-old prolongevity pioneer would look and act like? 
There was a lot of discussion about it, but Graeme came into the room with a clear vision already in mind of what he thought P.T. would actually be—which was a throwback who was clinging onto the vestiges of Victorian society where he’d come from. So there’s this air of theatricality about him, this air of Victorian science, and a certain charm that P.T. Westmoreland had to have to really be at the top of Neolution and pull the strings in the way that he does as a puppetmaster. And also the hunt for an actor who could sort of live in both worlds—that old Victorian science world but also exist in the present in a very grounded way. So I’m thrilled that we got Stephen McHattie to do it.

I loved Cosima’s conversation with him, including the story about the cheese and the cow. Where did that come from? 
The bulk of the conversation came from our group work, like most of the things on the show, but I was very pleased that I was able to work in the poem about the cow, which is a little Arthur Conan Doyle poem that I had found by chance, because my spouse was in a book club and the book they were reading at the time was a graphic novel about Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace teaming up to create a steam powered computer in Victorian times [“The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer” by Sydney Padua]. So it was a very steampunky, kinda funny, heavily researched novel, and as part of the research, in the foot notes, this poem was listed. So I was like, ‘You know what? There’s a confluence of Victorian science and imagination that’s perfect for someone like P.T. Westmoreland.’

Cosima made the decision to stay on the island and ‘follow the crazy science,’ like Delphine told her to. What is that going to mean for her?
Well, obviously his science is very intriguing, and it’s attractive, but from my point of view, I would say that Cosima is always interested in helping her sisters and the rest of the world. So there will always be that interesting tension between being able to do good in the world and being drawn into some science that is perhaps unpalatable and that’s sort of the brunt of the season, as she gets closer to P.T. Westmoreland and deeper into his science, the question is where will she find herself and what choices will she make at the end of it?

Rachel also recently met P.T. Westmoreland and seems very changed by the experience. What is going on with her?
You know, what can you say about Rachel? She keeps her cards close to her chest and the extent to which she has bought into P.T. Westmoreland’s vision and power versus the long game that she’s playing is something that only Rachel knows. I believe that will continue to play out through the rest of the season in surprising ways.

Ferdinand does not like Rachel’s new Zen-like vibe, and takes out his rage on M.K. Why was the decision made to kill poor M.K.?
Very early on in our discussions for the season, we came to the realization that M.K. would be dying for a number of story reasons and character reasons, and it made sense for that to happen at the hands of Ferdinand because of their ugly history together that was still left unfinished. So apart from the story reasons for that to happen, there’s a very personal, emotional reason for M.K. and Ferdinand to come together in that way and for Ferdinand—because of everything else that he’s going through—to act so horrifically. And the tragic result is something which will have some ripples throughout the next few episodes.

M.K.’s death was shockingly violent. 
Orphan Black is not a show that traffics in violence for violence sake. It all comes from character and scene. So the horrific violence we see on Ferdinand’s part is really an extension of the awful power structure in which the sisters find themselves, the patriarchy, and a lot of male control and a lot of male violence. So Ferdinand killing M.K. is a very concrete example of the kind of danger in which the sisters find themselves.

It certainly reminds viewers of just how dangerous Ferdinand is. 
It really does, and it gets to the reality behind all the fun we’re having, which is the patriarchal power struggle that exists really has the potential to result in horrible violence.

Kira makes the major decision to defy Sarah’s wishes and spend time with Rachel in hopes of learning why she is the way she is. How is Sarah going to handle that going forward? 
That’s one of the questions—what are we going to see from Sarah? Because this is really what we had fun doing this year, was charting Kira’s agency as she really comes into her own. She’s just growing up and taking control of her own life and asserting her own wants and needs. So that’s a new challenge for Sarah for sure, and we thought it was important as we’re dealing with various structures of power but also generational structures and how knowledge and wisdom is passed down from one generation to another, particularly in a matriarchal fashion. So one of the questions for the season is how does Sarah negotiate with all the women in her life, and in this case, her daughter, who is coming into her own?

It was so great to see Delphine and Mrs. S finally begin working together! Although, I thought Delphine was supposed to be in Sardinia. How did she get to Toronto? 
The thing to keep in mind with these two is they always have more cards up their sleeves then we think. Out of anybody, these are two characters who are really playing the long game, so it’s going to be very interesting to see what they’re cooking up, and when it comes to light for everybody else, how it fits in with the story at large. But like you say, it is pretty juicy to see them working together, and it’s going to pay off in some very interesting ways.

And in terms of the practicality of Delphine getting around—she’s magical, isn’t she? [Laughs.] She has the skills to appear where she needs to be, I would say.

What was your favourite scene of the episode? 
I really liked the one-shot clone switcheroo scene with Sarah and M.K. It was a thing of beauty to see them rehearse and see it come together, the way that Kathryn [Alexandre] and Tatiana acted together in the scene and rehearsed it and really blocked it out.

I was able to be there for it; we workshopped it to make sure all the dialogue fit in the right place and all the emotional beats landed. And on a technical level, it was very difficult to pull off, and for me coming onto Orphan Black for the first time, it was really fascinating for me to watch how technically that everybody put it together, from the crew running around and shooting the scene with the Technodolly to how things were stitched together in post-production with the CG and making it all very seamless so that the drama really popped and nothing else got in the way of that.

What can you tease about the rest of the season?
I’m really looking forward to the fans being able to live with the characters in the moments that we get to spend time with them in ways we haven’t seen before, either through flashbacks or interesting scenarios. This season really is a season that allows us to spend time with the characters in a very intimate way and everybody gets their big emotional moments. So I think fans are going to be pretty satisfied by the end of it, no matter who their favourite characters are.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.