Aug. 12 was a terribly sad day for fans of the Canadian television series “Orphan Black,” as its final episode aired and its five-season run ended.
The TV show follows young woman Sarah Manning, as portrayed by Tatiana Maslany. Manning returns from a 10-month trip during which she left her daughter in the care of her foster mother.
In the first scene of the series, Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her, and she soon finds a group of women who are her clones. This means that not only does Maslany play Sarah, but she also plays every single one of the clones on the show.
The multiple roles played by Maslany, however, do not falter the show at all. In fact, the Canadian actress does such an amazing job making all the characters so distinctive that she won an Emmy for her role in 2016.
What makes “Orphan Black” so revolutionary is that it takes common tropes that female actors do not usually get to play—like a trained assassin, a soccer mom or a science geek—and places them all in the same room. They interact with each other, which showcases the nature versus nurture debate; even though the characters are genetically identical, they all have different personalities.
The show focuses on fully forming each character so that the viewer can see the strength in each and every woman. Additionally, to make a statement about the traditional roles available for women in television, the men in this show are purposefully underdeveloped in the beginning of the series.
“Orphan Black” also normalizes LGBTQ+ characters and their experiences—not a single character has an identity crisis about their sexuality in the duration of the show. For example, when Delphine, a woman who works for the Dyad Institute that created the clones, falls in love with Cosima, one of the clones, she mentions she’d never thought about her sexuality before. Yet she follows what she feels, turning their relationship into the main romance of the show.
The veteran series has received a lot of reception during its four-year run. The Guardian called “Orphan Black” television’s smartest show. Also, scientific and academic literature has already been written about the debates explored on the show.
Scientific literature is looking at the ethics of cloning and the possibilities of differences between those with identical genetic material. The philosophical and personal ramifications of such cloning experiments, too, is being examined.
“Orphan Black” is about the families we are born into, but also the ones that we choose. Sarah always runs away from responsibility, but the final episode of the show is incredible because viewers see growth in Sarah’s character, as she opens up just a bit to the possibility of happiness with her family of sisters.
She is not entirely happy at the end of the series, but we get one moment of semi-optimism and hope in Sarah, as her foster brother and daughter accompany her for a day at the legendary “shite beach;” that little moment signifies the change Sarah needed to grow throughout the series
Ten to 15 minutes of the last episode show the women fighting back against the people behind the experiments that created them in the first place. The episode leaves the audience to watch the characters—who they have grown to love for five seasons—adjust to what life can be like without so many fights taking up all their time.
After five seasons, viewers really did grow to love these characters, so much so that in the eighth episode of the fifth season when we get to see these characters happy, it is perhaps one of the most moving moments of the whole series.
The writers of this show could have made so many different choices, but fans are thankful that they chose to pursue the harder and more unusual plot points and character arcs. “Orphan Black” is a treasure, and it seems impossible that anyone could watch it without being changed in some way.u