TV Review | Orphan Black | Season 5 + Series Overview
Season summary: Everything comes to an end as the true instigator of everything we've seen steps out of the shadows to finish things no matter the cost in lives.
And so Orphan Black comes to an end, including a joke about the title being weird which works because... well, it is a weird title. Yes, the clones are orphans, but - as Alison is eager to point out - they're not black. Still, it does sound very much like a military operation or some kind of illegal experiment though, which is a perfect fit for the season and the show as a whole.
Things are a little more focused this time around, although I think this is simply due to the fact that there was a set ending approaching and they had to prune the branches. There are a lot of twists and turns in these ten episodes, including some shocking deaths. Not because the characters are killed off, but because of how off-hand they feel.
There was such a large cast built up by the time of this final season that not all of them got a chance to shine. It's especially bad when old characters are brought back and then removed from the equation for no real reason other than to tie up loose ends. I won't spoil the who, how or why, but it does feel a little comical at some points.
It just seems so unnecessary when there's so much to get through in what is already a packed season, which means certain characters like Felix and Delphine flit in and out of the story as and when required. I get that Orphan Black wants to focus on the sestras and their relationships with each other, but they wouldn't have got this far without those around them.
On the other hand, I was glad to see Kevin Hanchard's Art Bell get a more prominent role this season, which I love after seeing him become a walking plot device at times before now. I have seen some people say that he was treated like female supporting characters usually are in other TV shows, there as backdrop and little more, but I can't agree.
Him, Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) are three very distinct characters with their own depths, the story just isn't well-written enough to keep them all involved as much as their talents truly deserve. This sounds like a lot of praise for the men, doesn't it? Maybe a little out of place for a show so centred around women?
'Blame' Tatiana Maslany for that. Honestly, I have no idea how she hasn't been showered with work following this show. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with the people casting movies and TV shows these days? Maybe (hopefully) she'll turn up in the MCU at some point because it feels like they're approaching critical mass, and it'll give a wider audience the chance to appreciate her talents.
I was going to say 'gifts', but that feels wrong - like it would diminish the effort that went into making each of the clones as unique a character as any of the men mentioned above. Maslany is terrific and I can't imagine how much work she had to do in each scene featuring multiple clones, which happens with what seems like far greater regularity this season.
As for the finale, that's all about Maslany and she absolutely bloody deserves it. It's not a perfect episode, with the series-long plot ending in a pretty damp squib, but that's what the rest of the season was really about. This episode is about Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Helena - as well as all the other clones we met along the way - a tribute to Tatiana if you will.
There have been so many wonderful women portrayed by Maslany in this series that it beggars belief that they can all be so different. It's not just in appearance either, but mannerisms and body language too - she deserved the Emmy she won for this show and this season highlights her skills as an actress even more so than any of the others.
She's helped enormously by Orphan Black absolutely racing to the finish line, providing all the urgency the show required for this final season. It doesn't always work, with the previously-mentioned branch clipping stuffed in for the sake of it, plus the true antagonist of the entire series suffers as a legitimate threat thanks to not getting to spend too much time with him.
It also paints the previous seasons in a bad light too, with season 5 having so much stuffed in it when the middle three seasons felt like constant wheel-spinning. I don't know when the creative team behind the show learned that these ten episodes were all they were going to get to wrap things up, but it feels like it must've been pretty close to the start of production with how much is jammed in.
Orphan Black's fifth season is one of the show's best, although that's partially due to how much action is crammed in to wrap things up and provide some sort of closure for every character they could realistically bring back. Maslany is yet again the star of the show and surpasses herself with multiple award-worthy performances across the season.
This is going to be a little shorter than I originally planned, because I think that I've made my criticisms of Orphan Black as a whole clear across the reviews of the five seasons we got. Considering that one of those criticisms was about how repetitive everything was, I don't want to be guilty of that same flaw, do I? Unless it's praising Maslany of course - there can never be enough of that.
The show's biggest problem is that there wasn't ever enough story to fill fifty episodes - more like half of that. Honestly, I imagine most people would very much enjoy the final season, but then stop and think: so, what was the point of all the other stuff? And believe me, there's too much 'other stuff' to list here without regurgitating half of what happened across seasons 2-4.
This is a series that I did enjoy overall, but I probably wouldn't ever watch again. Now I know how it all ends, it'll be even more frustrating to sit through meandering, meaningless subplots than it was the first time. I love a lot of the characters, but some of the stuff they have to go through just to keep them involved is a little ridiculous at times, especially when it happens a second - or third - time.
I still think the best example of what Orphan Black could've been were the flashbacks to Beth trying to deal with everything in season 4. Having the restrictions of being a police officer while having greater access to investigate what's going on would've been very interesting. On the other hand, Sarah's rather fuzzy back-story contributed to some of the show's looseness.
Orphan Black was filled with sources, secrets, corporations, cults and groups, in addition to factions within those groups just to keep things far more complicated than they really needed to be. The final season, and the final episode especially, showed that they shouldn't have bothered - we were here for the characters, especially those played by Maslany.
The show was at its best when it focused on the women and their struggles with the world against them, not the pile-up of conspiracies. Unfortunately, Orphan Black too often lost its way and was more interested in stacking secret groups up and playing them off against each to the extent that the women were shuffled off-screen when needed to suit the plot, and that was a shame.
The clones should've been kept front and centre, with the story made to fit around them. Instead, it felt like Orphan Black was treating the women as disposable chess pieces at times, being pushed around to fit what someone else wanted - and I'm pretty sure that wasn't what those behind the show wanted.