The first episode of the final season of Orphan Black is upon us. Co-creator John Fawcett said the beginning of the end feels like Orphan Black without feeling like Orphan Black. I agree.
The setting is new, the stakes are higher, but the excitement and the humor and the tension are the same. The beauty of the sets, the mind-boggling clone interaction, the winks and nods at fans, they’re all there. But everything has changed for our girls. We pick up right where we left off; Alison and pregnant-with-twins Helena are camping with Donnie in the woods, Sarah is bleeding alone on an island, Rachel has snapped, Cosima is in a mystery campground. They’re all in brand new positions, forced to be new versions of themselves, while still being true to their core.
Every season this show has kept its center but shifted and molded and grown and morphed into something entirely new, and The Final Trip is no different. In some ways it feels like something totally unexpected, in some ways it feels like exactly where we were going all along.
I don’t want to spoil you on what’s coming, but I want you to get excited with me. Here, I’ll tell you a few random things that I guess are technically light spoilers but are going to read basically like a redacted document.
+ Six Leda clones appear in the first episode.
+ Cosima is in a YURT at the start of the ep. A yurt!!
+ Art finds himself partnered with someone…interesting, to say the least. Maybe “tethered to” is a better phrase for it.
+ Felix made me laugh out loud at least one time.
+ Loons play a bigger role than one would guess loons would ever play on this show.
+ At least two sestras have scenes involving sticks.
+ Despite it being one episode, and the first at that, some questions are answered, some storylines are tied up, more questions are posed, more storylines are set up.
This week I had the extreme honor of attending an Orphan Black premiere event at the Split Screens Festival, where we got to watch the episode on the big screen (the only thing better than multiple Tatiana Maslanys on your screen at the same time is multiple larger-than-life Tatiana Maslanys on your screen at the same time…followed immediately by IRL Tatiana Maslany). After the episode, the cast and creators came out for an amazing panel — one of the last they’ll do all together, Jordan Gavaris noted, choking up. At one point, a girl in the audience told the story of how Cosima and Delphine helped her come out and live her best life, making Tatiana and Evelyne Brochu tear up and ultimately laugh and clap proudly when the audience member thanked them for leading her to become her “gay ass” self.
Afterward, I was invited to a BBC America after-party, held at what can truly only be described as Club Neolution. A man with one white eye lead me down a long tunnel, with phrases like “I’m not one, I am a few, no family too, who am I?” scrawled across the walls, and all of the clones’ voices echoing throughout.
I entered Club Neolution, where I was handed a glass of wine and found myself in a room, quite literally elbow to elbow with John Fawcett, Graeme Manson (the show’s other co-creator), Jordan Gavaris (Felix), and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Mrs. S.). Over a small balcony, I could see a dance floor that lead to a stage, where, when the Water Prayer Rasta Mix started playing, women dressed as clones recreated the Clone Dance Party. Next to that stage I saw Tatiana Maslany, smiling her shining smile, laughing away with friends and fans alike.
Honestly just standing there watching this all unfold would have been enough. I was hobnobbing with the creators of Orphan Black, THE Tatiana Maslany was in my field of vision, I watched Evelyne Brochu (Delphine), Kristian Bruun (Donnie), and Calwyn Shurgold (Hell Wizard) take a frowny-face selfie on the stage. At one point Evelyne was dancing in place while twirling her hair as she talked to a friend two feet away from me. I was in Orphan Black heaven, and I could have stayed in one spot and been happy as a clam all night.
But somehow — maybe it was partly the wine, maybe it was partly knowing that this was The Final Trip and possibly my last chance — I worked up the courage to make my way over to Tatiana Maslany and say hi. I told her I had been writing recaps of Orphan Black for the LGBTQ+ community for years, and thanked her for her continued support.
Part of me wishes we could have talked longer; I would have wanted to know how she was feeling, having finished filming, getting ready for the final season to air. I would have asked what she was excited for in the future. Our conversation was short, but we met eyes, we connected for a moment, and I got to thank her. Hopefully she knows how deep my gratitude — all of our gratitude — runs.
As Tatiana got pulled away by someone else, she looked back at me and smiled. “It was nice to meet you.” It’s a pleasantry, but it sounded sincere. And it felt like a neat little bow on the most perfect gift I could have hoped to come from this night.
I know recapping TV sounds like a dream — and it is; it was my literal dream, and now I live it — but I would be lying if I said it was easy. Some weeks it is! Some weeks the words pour out like water from a faucet. And some weeks it’s like sharing a bit of my liver; it’s part of me but it doesn’t really cost me anything. But some weeks are harder. Some weeks it drains more than that. It’s hard to explain. Those weeks always end up being worth it, but it can be exhausting on a deeper level than the physical. But this invite was BBC America thanking me for cover the show for the past four years, and I truly felt appreciated.
When I started recapping Orphan Black, I had no idea what it would become. It was just a weird little sci-fi show I loved; would it be around for years, or would it be misunderstood and lost in the shuffle of the mysterious “peak TV”? But what it became was ground-breaking. It’s one of the few shows to cover all four letters of LGBT at once, it puts and celebrates women at its center, it’s dark but smart, and it lets each character be complicated and messy and real. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I was in awe of it constantly. (And I don’t have to remind you how mind-blowingly talented Tatiana Maslany is.)
When the website I was writing recaps for unceremoniously dumped all its freelance writers, the first thing I thought was, “Am I losing Orphan Black?” (Also Wynonna Earp, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Orphan Black had become such a huge part of my life, writing recaps included, and I didn’t know what my life would look like without it. I met so many of my very best friends through the fandom, and writing about this show changed the trajectory of my life and career. It raised the bar for me, writing-wise, and I find myself constantly rising up to try to reach it. I saw parts of myself that I had never seen represented in Cosima — even little things, like talking with her hands or being consistently late — and my sense of self had become somewhat wrapped up in the show. What’s more, I got to hear a small fraction of the stories from people whose lives were also changed by this show. It’s a rare and beautiful understanding of the power of fiction we share, and I feel so grateful to be able to continue that sense of community here at Autostraddle.
I’ve had some of my favorite conversations with some of my favorite people about this show, and I look forward to continuing on in this vein. I can’t wait for you all to see the episode, and recap the episode, and talk about the episode with you in the comments of that recap. We have four years of references and inside jokes and theories to discuss, so let’s go on this wild ride together, one last time.
The new and final season starts this Saturday at 10pm EST on BBC America, and you’ll find my recaps right here on Autostraddle dot com on Mondays.
Honestly Valerie, I don’t know you are alive and functioning.
Orphan Black is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I’m excited and nervous and sad about the final season. Mostly I’m really glad they knew it was the final one going in so the writers could do it properly! I’m very excited your recaps are going to carry us through to the end, Punky.
I’m glad it was their decision, but I’M SO SAD IT WAS THEIR DECISION. This would have been the worst show to end unexpected so I am glad they’ll tie it up but I still don’t know what my life will look like without this show.
SESTRA. I’m crying, it’s fine. I just can’t wait to see how it ends and I can’t wait to read your words about how it ends and I AM HAVING A LOT OF FEELINGS OK
Love you, sestra. Thanks for being the Sarah to my Cosima. The show ending will never change that. <3
One correction: Calwyn Shurgold plays Hellwizard and Ari Millen plays the Castor clones! And wow what a beautiful frowny face selfie that is. Such talented people, all of them.
That was my fault!
My best friend is getting married tomorrow. Their plan for the wedding night? Orphan Black.
Will they marry me, too?
These eps usually take awhile to be available for purchase on Amazon…so don’t mind me, I’ll just be the one commenting on your recaps three months late, BUT I’LL BE THERE
I look forward to it!!
I’m both excited for the new season and for your recaps. I only started watching Orphan Black a year ago, enabling me to binge-view the first three seasons, but I made a little ritual out of visiting AfterEllen’s archives and reading your recap after each episode. I especially remember the one about Sarah turning out to be bi, and your analysis of the music on the show (it might have been the same recap, actually). You definitely made the already fantastic experience of watching this show even better.
Ahhh thank you so much! That means so much to me! Can’t wait to go on this final trip with you. :)
I’ve been counting down to June 10th.
I actually bought the Season 1 DVD set with the sole purpose of loaning it to others, to get them started.
Orphan Black is the show I mention on my ok Cupid profile.
Sometimes, I’m sitting in front of the TV, eyes wide open, and think, “They did. They went there. They did that. How absolutely awesome.”
You know, amidst the Sci fi and the cushion grabbing action, this show is about family like no other.
It’s about the love of your chosen family conquering science and ambition and I don’t know what’s timelier than that.
Also, if anyone is reading this, Thank You, Orphan Black for the quirkiest and most flawed and lovable characters out there.
And also, Thank You for bringing Delphine back from the dead, and then plastering her and Cosima holding hands and canoodling all over my Facebook feed.
I really love this show and I’m sad it’s ending but I can’t wait for your recaps. This was a beautiful post, Starshine.
Thanks, friend. <3
You guys. I am about to implode. I’ve been waiting for this for so long. I’m just..I can’t. Words. I have none.
I CANNOT WAIT.
Orphan Black is my very favorite show and while I’m very sad it’s ending and this era of TV is over, I’m also so thankful it’s ending now on it’s own terms. Every other show I’ve loved in my life either got cancelled too soon or stuck around long enough to end up ruining everything good it ever did. I can’t really think of a show that should have lasted more than five seasons anyways. This is a sad time for me but a happy one too.
Great article Valerie! I love this show and its characters so much, it’s going to be really hard to watch it end. It’s unusual that I love and care about so many characters in one show. The creators and actors truly created something magical and rare. I’m really looking forward to reading your recaps for this final season!
I am really looking forward to your recaps. I’m sad the show is ending, but I’m grateful for the amazing characters and storylines it has given us. For me, Orphan Black also means the start of some amazing friendships, and meeting my girlfriend, so however it ends, I’ll always be happy I decided to start to watch the show four years ago. (I kept seeing these crazy gif sets on Tumblr about people impersonating each other so I HAD to see what that was about.)
I’m so incredibly jealous you got to be in the same room as Tatiana and Evelyne! I would have absolutely embarrassed myself by declaring my love to EB but it sounds like you stayed cool.
I’ve waited SO long for this final season and I’m so excited to see how it wraps everything up! Hoping it will age like Six Feet Under (my all-time favourite show that also chose to end after 5 seasons and did amazing justice to its characters).
I just finished the first episode and WHAAAAAAAAAT. I knew I should have rewatched season four. I totally forget what the hell is going on. But DAMN it’s still good to have these ladies (this one lady…) on my screen again. Valerie, I can’t wait for your recap to hopefully explain some of this shit to me.
I am both beyond excited and so sad that this will be the final season. I came into Orphan Black a little late so binge watched 3 seasons and have rewatched all 4 since. The women centered storylines and the way the sestras are put to the forefront in the physical blocking of the show feels finally…natural.
It reminds me again of how much shit there is on TV and how many stereotypes are played out on other shows.
This show allows all these characters to be real and complex and gritty and so perfectly imperfect. Human, like the rest of us.
I have such a love for this show and i can’t wait to do the recaps with you all.