Orphan Black Recap, Season 5 Episode 8: ‘Guillotines Decide’


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Photo: Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA
Orphan Black

Orphan Black

Guillotines Decide
Season 5

Episode 8

Editor’s Rating

5 stars

“We do what we can, each of us in our own way. And we do it for each other, chipping at the devil, until he’s done.”

It’s tragic that this line still resonates months after it was written, but I definitely needed it coming from our punk mom in her final, heroic hours. My notes for this episode have so many expletives and excessive punctuation, I don’t know if I’ll ever recover!

As I mentioned last week, the final season has felt sluggish, but “Guillotines Decide” shows us how powerfully that pace can unfold like a grisly, slow-motion car crash. As we watched, we were powerless to stop the horrors that crept up on our beloved Leda family. It makes sense that director Aaron Morton is primarily a cinematographer, as every lingering frame of this week’s episode overflows with a sense of foreboding, each scene almost daring us to guess to which character we ought to be saying our good-byes. To say nothing of this Blade Runner meets The Americans meets Mad Men magnificence:

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Photo: BBC America

Yes, that’s Siobhan and a recovering Rachel in a motel room, where Ferdinand — who, unfortunately, was Siobhan’s other informant — has sequestered his BDSM queen after rescuing her from Westmorland’s lackeys. Lest we forget, Ferdy stomped a woman to death recently, but he’s now provided the final piece necessary to bring down Neolution by delivering Rachel and her cornucopia of receipts safely to them. (Rachel calls him “the only man who ever really loved [her],” which is sad, not only because she evidently can’t tell the difference between love and fetishization, but also because she calls him “daddy” a few too many times.)

Alone with the prodigal clone, Siobhan finally reveals the whole picture: Although the Neolution board has lobbied governments worldwide to pass laws requiring people to submit DNA samples — presumably to have access to a wider diversity of genetic material — Dyad and its affiliates have constructed a commercial behemoth that will allow it to sell “curated” evolution to the one percent. Once this is deployed, Coady’s Castor disease will be weaponized en masse to sterilize “the rest of us,” thus making Westmorland’s (and Hitler’s) dream — and our dystopian nightmare — a reality.

Rachel knows this well, and before discovering she was the subject of a biosurveillance trial, she probably didn’t have a single damn to give about its execution. Now, she realizes that this apocalyptic capitalist scheme will produce thousands of lives like the one she led at Dyad, lives that only exist to serve the sick whims of rich white guys, and she decides that’s morally unacceptable. Mostly, though, she just wants hella revenge.

The Neolution board, meantime, has been entirely too distracted by the fallout from her email uncovering P.T.’s fraudulence to take much note of anything else. Its surviving members are practically begging to be extorted: When Van Lier explains the rest’s absence — “Suicides,” he says, as casually as one might say, “Traffic” — Ferdinand delightedly crows, “It’s Neolution Black Friday!”

Ferdinand understands Rachel’s megalomaniacal thirst for vengeance, of course, which is why he makes such a perfect pawn, one that could distract the board with his arrogant dance, waving around an empty thumb drive he thinks is a copy of Rachel’s backup evidence file for long enough to get the real documents uploaded and leaked to the government and press. (Including evidence of bribery, as well as “key patents in six areas” — food, pharmaceuticals, cloning, gene editing, gene sequencing, and biosurveillance.) But it’s his inability to ever grasp the pain of her entire existence that finally pushes Rachel to betray him and his vision of presiding over a “dynasty” of “obscene wealth,” in favor of Siobhan’s vastly humbler offer: “Give yourself a chance to be truly free.”

Meanwhile, Felix and Adele have returned from Switzerland, bless them, with “a shit mountain of cheese” (actually, bless them twice). Felix suddenly has an art opening — possibly due to some quick thinking he did in Geneva with this gallerist he wanted to impress? — and everyone decides to take the night off to support one of their favorite boys. Well, everyone except Siobhan and Delphine, who are busy doing the Rachel/Ferdinand deal behind Sarah’s back (she’d be furious, considering the whole “murdered her sister” bit).

Donnie bartends and Hell Wizard dons his best THE FUTURE IS FEMALE crewneck sweatshirt to DJ and partake in some light rapping (help). On the way over with hors d’oeuvres, a suspicious Sarah confronts Adele, who lets the Ferdinand thing slip, but all seems to be fine once S arrives to explain that the maneuver was successful. Cosima and I both started sobbing when she and Delphine clicked “send” on those documents (The Guardian?! After all Vulture has done for you?!). They’re officially, if not yet logistically, free of Neolution’s exploitation.

But first, Siobhan Sadler, one of the most casually badass characters to ever grace a television screen, must attend to some unfinished business. Though the hope was that the board kill Ferdinand after realizing he didn’t have the evidence needed to extort them, Ferdy would never go down without first raging about being defeated out on a woman. He tries Rachel at the motel, but of course, it’s no fun when the girl you’re strangling kind of wants to die anyway! Still furious, he heads to Siobhan’s, where, after preparing a tearful note and arming herself with a 9-mm, she abandons the party to meet him. Her plan is not perfect, but Siobhan Sadler always does the extra credit: After they’ve both laid down their first set of weapons, Ferdinand reveals he found one of her hidden guns and shoots her in the heart — but he overlooks the second weapon, hidden in a chair, until it’s in her hand and opening his jugular. At the very least, she gets to watch the life drain from him completely before clutching a photo of her “chickens” and letting go herself.

Like I said: I was not okay, I am not okay, I will never be okay. But now Helena is in trouble. And Clone Club? We have to keep it together for the bebes.

• Taking Ira’s turn in the tragic redemption round is Gracie, who has a change of heart and lies to Mark about finding Helena through her nun mom. However, Mark sees through her and tells Coady, who sends the inexplicably merciless Detective Engers to locate her phone, track them down, and kidnap Helena. But first, she’s got to shoot Gracie, a teenage girl kneeling unarmed on the floor of a convent, execution-style, for her sins. Religion … might be bad?

• Props are owed to James Frain, who has now played several violent misogynists — chief among them Ferdinand and True Blood vampire rapist Franklin Mott — yet somehow continues to delight me each time he returns. Maybe that’s a personal problem, but I’m inclined to chalk it up to some seriously magnetic screen presence. Considering he’s slated to appear in Star Trek: Discovery as Sarek, it’s an especially great quality, because who wants to hate Spock’s dad?

• Felix’s art is … just a bunch of Leda portraits? (I mean, I like them, but it seems like putting a family photo album in the MoMA.) Anyway, he winds up recruiting Alison, Cosima, and Sarah for a last-minute, smoke-and-mirrors performance and manages to impress the aforementioned gallerist. Kind of meta, but Felix sells his art, which is what matters. Felix deserves everything, including the coroner.

• Cosima and Scott are growing their stock of the Leda cure, which hopefully will give us a feel-good ending: the sestras, setting off together to inoculate the rest of the Ledas, wherever they may be.

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