A Look at Orphan Black- Season 5, Episode 9: “One Fettered Slave”

We call this the Helena episode.

The episode begins with a flashback at the convent as a young Helena scarfs down chocolate in one of the offices. When a sister comes in and begins pleasuring herself, genius Helena decides to walk over to her.  The sister slaps Helena and then later dips her whole face and hair in bleach.  Helena begs Sister Irina for help, but Helena still ends up submerged and later locked in a close.

We call this an origin story, folks.

In the present, Sarah and the rest of the family and friends bid farewell to Siobhan. Felix then reads off S’s final letter, telling them that death is nothing at all, but she’s slipped into the next room.

As for the others, Delphine is in France, so Cosima is left having a video call with Alison.  They’ll be able to go over tomorrow since today is for the immediate family. They figure that Sarah hasn’t cried yet because she’s trying to stay strong for Kira. Makes sense.  Alison doesn’t think it’s right that Sarah always has to be strong, but the others will be there to pick her back up.

Over at the house, Sarah watches some news on the Neolution scandal going public. Even Art’s turkey chili can’t stop Sarah from thinking that Rachel is behind all of this, though S didn’t believe Rachel.  Art tells Sarah that S’s sacrifice was for all of them, as Neolution threatened everyone.  So whatever Sarah needs, Art will be there.  Then, Sister Irina arrives and gives Helena’s journal to Sarah.

Helena, meanwhile, awakens and finds herself surrounded by Mark, Dr. Coady, and a few other physicians.  The episode then flashes back with Helena being freed from the closet by, of all people, Tomas, who promises to take care of Helena since she’s apparently very special.

Clone Club assembles to discuss Gracie visiting Helena.  Scott figures that Helena was kidnapped just as her babies are coming to term, so Westmoreland can take advantage of her children’s blood.  And last time Gracie was involved, she sold the clones out to Virginia Coady.  Since Cosima’s not on the island, obviously she doesn’t know what’s going on over there.  But Rachel may.

Sarah is to stay with Kira, so Art and Felix go confront Rachel.  She apologizes for S’s death and, when told to turn around, reveals that her eye socket has been sewn. Felix tells Rachel that Helena has been taken to the island, but Rachel doesn’t believe that.

While Helena is wheeled into an underground facility, Simon takes care of Westmoreland, telling him that he should be cautious of an injection that he gives him. Simon is confident that Neolution will survive Rachel’s betrayal and those who are left will remain loyal to PT, who is bald, by the way.  He then joins the doctors in the operating room and is ready to see the birth of Helena’s twins.

Meanwhile, Sarah makes her way around the home and comes across memories of S, whether old clothing or growth charts on the wall.

Rachel tells Felix and Art that taking Helena to the island wouldn’t make since Westmoreland isn’t safe there now that the people have rebelled and abandoned him. And Rachel’s got a plane ticket, so she plans to run as well.  Helena, turns out, was taken four days ago, same time that Maddie went AWOL.  While Art and Felix leave, Rachel will be left in Scott’s care.

Felix checks in on Sarah to tell her that Maddie might have abducted Helena.  Indeed, Art spots Maddie in the precinct, but also learns from Lieutenant Hardcastle that Interpol has taken over their two fresh Neolution murder cases.  And Maddie has said enough that implies Art is involved.

Rather than wait for a natural birth to begin harvesting the cells, Westmoreland tells Coady to cut out Helena’s babies, even though Coady warns him that a C-section could lead to unpredictable results.

The episode then flashes back to a young Helena playing with a makeshift dollhouse and telling Tomas that the copies walk the earth, while the original is at home with God.

Helena awakens just as Coady tells her that she’s about to begin the process to induce labor, though Helena is uncertain if her babies are ready.  Helena taunts Coady, calling her Westmoreland’s lapdog, but regardless, contractions are about to start, so Coady warns Helena to not make this any more difficult.

Art rejoins Felix and tells him that two Neolution board members have been found dead, as if Neolution is covering their tracks.  Hardcastle wants Art to keep digging.  He calls Cosima and Rachel, who cross-examine the dead or missing Neolution board members. All but three are dead.  One of the remaining alive is Hashem Al-Khatib, the money man who may know Westmoreland’s plan  So now to find Mr. Al-Khatib.

Though Coady believes that eliminating the Neolution board won’t help much, Westmoreland is confident that the fountain of youth will still provide protection. PT wants Mark put down, even though he’s the sole remaining Castor.  This, Coady does not like.

Mr. Frontenac speaks with Al-Khatib, whose assets have been frozen and revoked.  He tells Frontenac that he’s told Interpol nothing, just acting on the advice of his counsel. Before Simon can kill Al-Khatib, in enter Felix and Art.  A calm Simon rises, but before he can fire, Art shoots and kills him first.

He calls Sarah, who doesn’t want this falling on him, even though he’s already included in the Neolution investigation.  All that matters now is getting Helena back.  Al-Khatib, meanwhile, will be brought to Rachel.

Virginia prepares and injects Mark’s final treatment just as he talks about his future with Gracie.  Mark begins to feel drowsy, so Virginia instructs him to take a nap.  With that, Mark bids his mother good night and drifts off.

Then Helena’s contractions begin.  Virginia enters as she and the other doctor walk Helena through the breathing.

Contractions also induce flashbacks, as we cut to a younger Helena on her knees before a cross while Tomas hands her a blade, telling her that she is ready to begin to take care of the dirty copies that pollute God’s original.  Helena will cleanse these perverted ones from the earth, and she begins with one that she eliminates in a church. But she’s shocked to find that the woman she murders looks exactly like her.

Later, Tomas tells Helena that she is the original.  Her body was copied, but not her soul.  Helena buys into this notion that she is the light.  She later takes a straight razor and runs it up her back.

In the present, Helena says that she’s not special, but just a copy like her sestras. Whatever happened to Virginia, Helena doesn’t want that happening to her.  But Virginia knows that Helena killed her sisters, so what kind of mother could she be? With that, Virginia leaves.

Al-Khatib is brought before Rachel and maintains that he knows where Helena is being taken.  Felix gets a call from Sarah, who senses that Helena is in trouble and that her babies are in trouble.  Short on time, Art is ready to kill Al-Khatib, so Al-Khatib reveals that the one with the biggest target on their back is Rachel.  Sarah is all ready to give up Rachel.

Because these doctors are morons, they actually leave Helena alone, giving her time to grab a small pair of scissors and begin cutting through her restraints.

Virginia tells PT that Helena is only an hour or two away.  PT wants Coady to stay by Virginia’s side and insists that euthanizing Mark was a necessity.  Virginia, though, decides to go for a smoke.  Then Maddie arrives with Al-Khatib on the phone, meaning that Frontenac must’ve screwed this one up.  Al-Khatib tells Westmoreland that he has something of greater value than him.

So Maddie heads to the drop spot and finds a bound and gagged Rachel- of course it’s Sarah- in the trunk of a car that has a tracking device inside of it.  Sarah will have to stall for time.  As Maddie leaves, Art follows not too far behind.

Helena speaks to her babies, telling them that they deserve better than her and that they won’t be an experiment.  She’s prepared to set them free, and with that, she shoves the scissors into her wrist and begins to bleed out.  Oh, but this episode isn’t over, so let’s keep watching.

Art finds the road Maddie is traveling has led him straight to DYAD, which you’d think Neolution would avoid since it’s been swarmed by investigators since S outed Al-Khatib. Rachel realizes that Helena has been taken to the old DYAD wing, which was supposed to be closed.  It’s a converted asylum that is pretty much impenetrable, but Hell-Wizard worked security, so he may be able to get them into that wing.

So Sarah is brought before Westmoreland.  She asks about Helena’s birth, but Westmoreland tells her that she gave all that up.

Virginia and the other doctor find Helena still bleeding and try to keep her alive. Westmoreland, meanwhile, does indeed talk on and on, taunting ‘Rachel’ about how she writes letters to her birth mother.  Rachel then calls PT ‘father,’ which she’s never done before.  When he’s close enough, PT removes the wig and eye patch.  Sarah slashes at PT’s neck while Maddie enters and restrains Sarah.

PT takes Sarah’s gun and prepares to shoot her, but Virginia enters and informs PT that Helena needs a compatible transfusion.  Good thing Sarah is here.

Outside, Scott and Hell-Wizard enter DYAD and get to work while Virginia straps up Sarah and begins transferring her blood to Helena.  Then Virginia gets her tools ready. Even though Helena has lost too much blood and Virginia was originally against a C-section, she now has no choice but to cut Helena open since she’s not conscious to deliver.  Helena soon stirs back to life.

Hell-Wizard manages to get a security door open so Scott can head downstairs and open a restricted door to let Art in and trigger a security alarm at the same time.  Art tells Scott to leave while he heads downstairs to take care of this himself.

As the alarm carries downstairs as well, Helena’s contractions begin.  When Virginia is close enough to give her water, Helena slams her head over and over again.  As Sarah helps Helena up, her water suddenly breaks.  Babies are on the way.

It’s interesting how Sarah is often at the center of everything happening in Orphan Black, yet she’s often not as interesting as her sisters.  Now there’s plenty of great things about Sarah, sure, but there’s just as much material to mine from the other clones.  And as we’ve seen with Alison and Cosima, this show does great things with its other players and Maslany continues to give great depth to each performance.

Helena has spent the bulk of this season on the sidelines and even when we’ve seen her, the appearances have been brief.  And yet, more so than Sarah, she feels more central to the plot at this point now that she’s about to give birth.  Sure, Kira was the target for PT and Rachel, but there’s just as much in the fountain of youth to mine from Helena’s babies.

So I like that even though this episode could just the show’s way of bringing Helena back into the fold for the finale, it makes sense from a storytelling perspective since Westmoreland is still looking for blood to siphon, and with Kira out of reach, he can get his hands on a clone who is about to produce not one, but two children.  It’s a nice way to tie Helena’s pregnancy into the larger story and give her more purpose this season.

That said, I’m not the biggest fan of getting Helena’s origin story this late in the game. One, we know most of this already, but two, it would’ve been nice if certain aspects of Helena’s origin remained shrouded in mystery as opposed to putting it out there right before the series finale.  It’s not bad, just not necessary, though I did enjoy the moment where Helena realized she was being trained to kill the other clones.

I also appreciated the connective tissue between the younger Helena being duped into believing she was the original and worth more than she knew, played against present-day Helena accepting that she’s isn’t special.  She’s done plenty of terrible things and been manipulated by many, but she’s done a lot of good not just for herself, but for the clones whom she’ll do anything to protect them.

And that includes the babies that would come after her.  It was a risky move that Helena would try to kill herself.  First off, no way in hell would the show kill off a major character so soon after Siobhan.  But second, this move makes sense from a character perspective.  As someone who has been manipulated throughout her life, she refuses to have her children subjected to the same hell she’s suffered as a fettered slave.

Admittedly, if Helena had been successful in killing herself, sure it would’ve spared her babies the same torture she endured, but it also would’ve been a surprise double-whammy for the show to take.  Not only did we just lose Siobhan one episode prior, but then we’d have lost Helena by a decision that she made.  But no way the show would go that dark.

No, we have to create conveniences, and this is one of my issues with this episode. Things seem to happen just of coincidence instead of organically.  Sarah’s disguise as Rachel- seriously, there’s no point in her pretending to be any of the others anymore- was exposed just at the moment Helena needed blood, and the perfect candidate just happened to arrive.

Art shoots and kills Frontenac just after learning that he’s been named in this ongoing Neolution investigation, so just after learning that even more people are watching him, he kills someone.  That’s not going to help his case.  Having said that, I do like the idea of Art losing control.  He hasn’t had a ton to do his season, so even though it’s so close to the end, it’s a nice change of pace that gives him some much needed energy.

A lot of the supporting cast is getting more to do at this point, and I’m pleased with that. We’ve seen the likes of Felix, Cosima, and Alison do their part, but folks like Scott and Hell-Wizard are just as integral to the team, so I appreciate everyone having an opportunity to play their part as we approach the finale.  Bit sudden that Delphine is in France so soon after S’s death, though.

Westmoreland is letting me down as a villain.  What started off as a mysterious man with a lot of intrigue about him hasn’t left me with the same impression that I got from a Dr. Leekie or even Rachel.  His secret’s exposed, he’s looking worse for wear, and like Susan, I imagine that telling Coady to kill Mark could’ve been the turning point to potentially make her turn against him.

Plus, even though Virginia may have more aligned with PT than Susan did, she’s not just following orders without question.  She challenges Westmoreland on his decisions and even when told to kill Mark, she doesn’t just get back to business and we see that she’s conflicted about being brought back into the fold, despite her usefulness. And she does ultimately end up saving Helena’s life.

With the penultimate episode now done and everything about to come to a head, Orphan Black dug a bit more into Helena’s backstory and gave her much more focus than she’s had all season.  But now she’s reunited with Sarah and with babies on the way, it’s time to wrap things up once and for all as we head for the series finale.

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