Orphan Black – Season 5 (2017)

Over the course of four previous seasons, even with only ten episodes apiece, Orphan Black managed to weave a web of controversy, conspiracy, and intrigue that involved numerous corporate schemes, scientific breakthroughs, and a lot of distrust. For their final season, it seemed like it would be an arduous task to bring all of these plot threads together and wrap them up nicely while still telling an interesting and emotional story.

I was pleased that the writers managed to pull off this task. Each of the main characters received closure and had time dedicated to them, even with only ten episodes. There were very few loose ends left, aside from those left purposefully open-ended. The one question that I did wonder about was what happened to Kira’s father? Somehow, though, I had it in my head that he had been killed offscreen in the previous season, so I did not miss him too much. However, upon looking back, I realise that he wasn’t officially killed off. Oh well, I guess I will stick to my theory.

Ultimately, the story circles back to how the main characters have become a family. They thus want to fight to protect that family from corporate interests who do not see them as people. This is the season where we find out who the “man behind the curtain” is who initiated and controls all of the experiments related to cloning. I do find it intriguing that in the course of these experiments, there was little thought put to the fact that they were creating people. People, unlike any other organism, cannot be patented or owned, at least not in North America where the story is set. Even if a corporation could be said to act as parent-guardians for minor children, once the cloned individuals reached adulthood, they could not legally be considered property. Yet the writers of the story manage to create situations where we genuinely understand why the clones and their creators continue to have a lopsided relationship. We entirely forget the legal aspect. The whole operation exists outside the law and just barely within the realm of scientific possibility for it to feel absolutely real.

There are lots of parallels to questions of reproductive rights – and in this season, the question itself actually comes up as lead character Sarah’s pre-teen daughter, Kira, is taken by the corporation to have her eggs harvested against her will. The thought is abhorrent to the audience (I hope), especially as Kira’s family does not consent, Kira cannot consent herself, and even if either of them could, there is the question of why should a corporation feel that they have the right to a young girl’s eggs merely because they created her mother? Putting it another way, would a grandparent feel that they have the right to do whatever they please with their grandchild, even over their child’s objection? Could a pre-teen child have any idea of what they wanted for their future? The idea of a woman selling her eggs for money is not science fiction anymore, but it is certainly controversial.

The story manages to avoid being too bogged down in these questions, however, and instead focuses on the human element of the characters. It is a quick-paced season that manages to have slower, drawn-out moments when they are needed. The finale episode devotes half an hour to wrapping up the surviving characters’ lives, showing at once that life goes on but old issues still remain. We are left feeling satisfied. While the story took some odd twists and turns in previous seasons – whole subplots could have been eliminated without changing the overall story – it ended neatly.

It ended in such a way that while I will miss the characters, I won’t feel like I miss the show. It is short enough to rewatch, skipping those nearly irrelevant episodes, and a novel-like story in five parts. Would I be interested in more adventures? Possibly, but I like the way the series ended. Any further stories would have to be carefully written. I cannot see a way to include all of the characters that viewers have come to love, and without all of them, anything new would feel somewhat empty.

Perhaps a Christmas special down the road would be interesting…

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