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Orphan Black 510: Co-creator Graeme Manson on the ending he always envisioned

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen Orphan Black Episode 510, “To Right the Wrongs of Many.”

“I survived you. We survived you, me and my sisters, together.” —Sarah

In the end, Orphan Black‘s Big Bad, dying eugenicist P.T. Westmorland (Stephen McHattie), was dispatched less than halfway through the series finale, his self-important, patriarchal sputterings cut short when Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) smashed an oxygen tank into his skull. Then the show turned its attention to what really mattered: the enduring sisterhood of Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Helena.

After five seasons of trauma and loss, the clones were given a relatively happy ending. A six-month flash forward showed that Helena was raising her twin boys with Alison and Donnie (Kristian Bruun), Cosima and Delphine (Évelyne Brochu) were traveling the world to cure hundreds of Leda clones (with a list given to them by Rachel), and Sarah was struggling to raise Kira (Skyler Wexler) without Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy)but finding strength and comfort in the support of her diverse group of sisters.

According to Orphan Black co-creator Graeme Manson, it was the ending he had envisioned when he originally pitched the series to BBC America several years ago. “I think myselfand all of uswanted a happy ending,” he says. “We wanted enough time to take a breath, come back and see what freedom meant to these sestras we’ve come to know so well.”

That the sisters defeated Neolution by banding together and embracing their differences also means a lot to Manson. “You know, a show about clones that at its core is about diversity, there’s something ironic and beautiful in that premise,” he says, “and to pull it off is kind of still a little bit flabbergasting.”

Manson joined us by phone to tell us more about the series finale, the show’s influence on Canadian television and what he plans to do next.

Overall, Orphan Black’s ending was happy and hopeful, with all the core clones surviving. How important was it to you that all the main sisters make it to the end?
Graeme Manson: I think it was very important. Behind the scenes, our four core sisters were off limits. It would come up once in a while, like when we needed to do something dramatic, like to kill someone, but then it would be like, ‘OK, who? Are you serious? Are you gonna kill Alison? Are you going kill to Cosima? We’re going to have to carry that?’ So in our minds those four sisters, including Helena, were safe. But then Rachel’s head was on and off the chopping block right up until early this season, but we made a decision that it was dramatically more interesting, and it would be a deeper and more interesting journey for Tatiana to play this sort of partial redemption of Rachel.
You’ve said that you knew the way you wanted to series to end when you originally pitched it, yet I understand that you made some fairly significant changes—such as moving parts of the action from the Island to Dyad—to the final two episodes. What was the reason for that?

Well, I would argue that they were, in fact, not major story changes really. Like the resetting of what we planned to do, closer to home, I mean the biggest thing [that moving the action from the Island to Dyad] did with the story is allow us to have the supportive characters play a bigger role. But it wouldn’t have made any difference. We would have come back and spent the final two acts at home anyway, we would have cut ahead six months after Sarah’s climax had occurred on the Island. So the change wasn’t actually that massive. What was difficult about the change was that it late in the game, and it was hard on production.

So that six-month jump forward was the ending you’d always envisioned?
I had a shape for the finale that jumped six months later, after the climax of it, after we dispatched the Big Bad, and I think myselfand all of uswanted a happy ending. We wanted enough time to take a breath, come back and see what freedom meant to these sestras we’ve come to know so well. And I think it was pretty early on in the season that we envisioned that Sarah was the stuck one. The brave woman who we’ve followed since she got off a train on the way home to steal her daughter and has gone through so much and has grown up and gained maturity and stepped into her late mother’s own shoes, that she would be the one who would still need to be carried over the line by her sisters. I think that was pretty solid pretty early. Quite honestly, we had large parts of the finale in mind since the end of last season.

I really appreciated that Sarah didn’t get a pat ending, that she still had some of the restlessness and rebelliousness in her that she’s had since the beginning. 
Yeah, she was in danger of being right where she was when we met her. She was in danger of taking Kira away again. She was in danger of running away. But over the course of this thing, Sarah has learned responsibility.

Meanwhile, Cosima, Alison and Helena seem to finish the series with a sense of peace and purpose. Beyond the flash forward you showed us in the finale, have you given any thought to how the clones will spend the rest of their lives?
That’s entirely up to the fans. It really is. You know, I have ideas on where we could pick up another story, but I set them free, too. I don’t sit around wondering what they’re doing today. [Laughs.]

Since you mentioned it, are there more Orphan Black stories to tell in the future? Could we see another series or a film?
Yeah. I think that there’s a chance. I think we all need a break from it, and I think the characters need a break. But we’ve talked about a feature. I’d love to think of that someday.

I was thrilled that Cosima and Delphine got a happy ending, which—as you know—is pretty rare for a lesbian couple on TV. Did you always envision them making it to the end, or were you at all influenced by the backlash the show received when Delphine was almost killed off?
No. The truth is that I think I really understood the ‘Kill Your Gays’ trope, perhaps more than a few people as we were driving toward the dramatic end of [Season 3], and I absolutely refused to have that character die. I was OK with a cliffhanger that we could claw our way back from, but I was 100 per cent against ever killing [Delphine]. I knew we were going to take heat even cliffhanging it, but as long as we could bring her back, I was willing to take the heat.

But bringing her back was very difficult. I mean it was pretty obvious what was going on when you realize that Évelyne Brochu was the lead in another series. I mean, I don’t know what all the hoopla was about. [Laughs.] I mean, come, look, she’s got another series, what do you think happened here? And the fact that she was carrying another series made it extremely difficult, but I was 100 per cent determined to bring her back, even though I knew that we would get her back very, very lightly in the next season. I made the case hard to our people, to the producers to keep the thread alive, and I made the pitch hard to Évelyne and said, ‘This is not the end. We want to bring you back. It’s the right thing for the show. It’s the right thing for these characters. You started the show, you’ve gotta end the show.’ And Évelyne really took it to heart, and we made it work.

What was the final scene that you filmed before wrapping the series?
The final moment was a piece of the birth with Sarah already wrapped. It was Tatiana as Helena and Art [Kevin Hanchard]. That final clone scene and that amazing birth were our final two days.

Was it very emotional for everyone?
It was four o’clock in the morning, and starting at about one o’clock in the morning, the cast started arrivingpeople that had long wrapped, crew who had been wrapped, people from past seasons, producers, network people. The number of people behind the monitors grew and grew until there were about 70 people behind the monitors waiting for that final cut. And it was super emotional. Everybody just stood in silence for a little while, and then people began to speak, there were testimonies. Maria Doyle Kennedy sang a song. And then we ate bagels with cream cheese and had champagne.

Orphan Black is credited with ushering in a Golden Age of Canadian television. What does that mean to you?
First of all, we’re thankful for coming up in the Canadian system and getting a show over the wall and being given the reins by our network and by our producers. And anything that we did to inspire others, whether that be business models or to inspire more confidence in the business or inspire more confidence in creativity, giving creatives full reign, that’s just great. We came up in Canada, you know? I’ve spent my whole career here. If it is true that the show has done that, then I’m very proud of that. You know, I’m certainly happy to see so many writers and actors that have come through the show going on to other stuff, and to keep the bloodline going I think is important to all of us.

What about Orphan Black makes you the proudest?
Oh, wow. I think it has something to do with wrestling this main character, Sarah, through this long journey and spending so much time with a character that formed the backbone of the show. And then working with so many incredibly talented women like Tatiana, like [science consultant] Cosima Herter. To have created a show that really did manage to break some molds as far as putting women at the centre and a show that managed to have a message underneath really fun storytelling and the action, edge-of-your-seat shit.

But that’s not as important as a show that’s main thrust, main messageespecially in this political climateis that there is strength in diversity. That’s a biological truth, and at its core, that’s what this show is about. You know, a show about clones that at its core is about diversity, there’s something ironic and beautiful in that premise, and to pull it off is kind of still a little bit flabbergasting.

What’s next for you?
I can only tease, but suffice to say that I’m continuing to explore some of the themes of Orphan Black in terms of science, citizen science, the limitations of science. I’m continuing to explore these themes with the real Cosima, Cosima Herter, with [series co-producer] Mackenzie Donaldson and with some other members of the Orphan Black family.

And so many people who have come up from Orphan Black are now onto their next things. Some of them are original. Some people have gone higher and further. I continue to be inspired by the themes and ethics and political stance of Orphan Black and continue to be super proud of everybody else and their own next steps, too.

Is there anything else you’d like to say now that the show’s final trip has ended?
Just a huge thank you from me and all of us at Orphan Black to Clone Club and all the supporters of the show.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.




Links: Forget Ratings. ‘Orphan Black’ Had the #CloneClub

From John Koblin of The New York Times:

Link: Forget Ratings. ‘Orphan Black’ Had the #CloneClub
“Orphan Black” never had huge ratings. A July episode on BBC America, for example, garnered just 645,000 viewers, ranking it 33rd among scripted cable TV series that week.

But what the show does have is the #CloneClub, the name its fiercely loyal fans collectively go by when they gather online. And BBC America has done everything it can to cultivate their dedication. Continue reading.

From Norman Wilner of Now Toronto:

Link: Farewell, Orphan Black: a series that managed to be everything all at once
The key to good television is that you’re drawn in by the premise and you fall in love with the characters, and I can think of few shows that prove this as well as Orphan Black. What started out as a murky conspiracy thriller with a nifty gimmick has expanded into something unquantifiable – a big, shaggy narrative mess that still feels, from moment to moment, like something electric and wonderful. Continue reading.

From Jennifer Still of Glamour:

Link: We’re Losing ‘Orphan Black’ Right When We Need It the Most
As Orphan Black winds down for good—the series finale airs August 12—it’s hard not to feel simultaneously empowered and a little depressed about saying goodbye. If ever there were a time when we need portrayals of powerful women who refuse to become victims to their own circumstances, it’s in the current political climate. Continue reading.



Orphan Black 510: Sarah faces down Neolution and her own demons in the series finale

This is it. The final episode of Orphan Black‘s final trip. After meeting dozens of clones—and almost as many villains—during Sarah Manning’s five-season quest for identity and freedom, it all comes down to Sarah and Helena. When we last saw the yin and yang twins, they were attempting to escape Dyad just as Helena went into labour. The finale jumps right back into that crisis, but, as series co-executive producer Alex Levine told us in last week’s postmortem chat, the episode will ultimately be more than just “run and jump/battles. We will get to see our sestras as they come to terms with life after the war.”

Here is what Bell Media had to say about “To Right the Wrongs of Many,” written by Renée St. Cyr and Graeme Manson and directed by John Fawcett.

Now in labour, Helena is forced to brace herself for delivery in the basement of Old Dyad. It’s a fight for survival as Sarah and Art struggle to protect her in a desperate last stand against Neolution.

And here are some spoiler-free tidbits we gleaned from watching the screener.

And where I did begin, there shall I end
Orphan Black started with Sarah’s discovery that she is a clone, and it will end with a look at who she is now, after enduring so much. As with the other clone-centric episodes in Season 5, expect some flashbacks and a cameo by a character from the (not so distant) past.

You gotta have Art
After being one of the most loyal Clone Club members for five seasons, Art plays a pivotal role in the finale and has some touching moments with the sestras.

A happy ending for Cophine
This is not a spoiler; it’s been telegraphed that Cosima and Delphine were going to be endgame from the moment that Delphine was resurrected from the “dead” in Season 4. Plus, the writers have told us as much in our chats this season. However, it’s still rare for a lesbian couple to make it to the end of a TV series alive and well, so it is worth noting and praising. Expect lots of heart-warming Cophine goodness in the finale.

They stick the landing
Orphan Black has been guilty of dangling story threads in the past—What happened to Marion Bowles? Where in the heck is Cal? Is Shay still wandering around Toronto with Delphine’s business card?—and some fans may quibble about a few unresolved plot details in the finale (don’t expect to learn why Kira feels the clones, for instance). However, the details of the conspiracy have always been less important than the emotional ties between the clones and their allies, and “To Right the Wrongs of Many” absolutely delivers on that front. There are several deeply moving character interactions, as well as a few unexpected ones, and the ending shot put a lump in our throats. So, stock up on tissues and some wine, and enjoy the final ride.

The Orphan Black series finale airs Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Space.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.



Link: Orphan Black creators promise ‘fantastic’ series finale

From Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly:

Link: Orphan Black creators promise ‘fantastic’ series finale
“In a way, it’s sad to see the end of the road, with all of our fans and Clone Club behind us. But at the same time, I’m just really excited to show the work. We’ve always been that way. It’s always really just dying to see people enjoy all of the time and effort and love that we’ve put into the show, so I think people are really going to like it. It is a great ending.” Continue reading. 



Link: An oral history of Orphan Black from the women who brought it to life

From Alicia Lutes of Nerdist:

Link: An oral history of Orphan Black from the women who brought it to life
“It’s kind of so ingrained in us, the stereotypes of how women have been portrayed, and because you’re so accustomed to seeing it, I never really thought about it in a broader sense and how that representation has affected my view of traditionally male and traditionally female roles and all of that.” Continue reading.