TV: Orphan Black (Season 5)

I gradually grew disinterested by Orphan Black in its middle seasons. Even so, Tatiana Maslany and the crew had earned enough good will that I decided I needed to see this one through, and I was glad I did. The fifth and final season doesn’t restore the show to its initial heights, but does a commendable job of bringing closure to its vast roster of characters, restores a sense of forward momentum and coherence to the narrative, and delivers the series to a good resting place.

The Clone Club (Maslany, in a consistently excellent, multiple-role tour de force) is still embroiled in conflict: primarily with the the Dyad Corporation, and also with the legendary, secret founder of Neolution, P.T. Westmorland (Stephen McHattie). Westmorland has set up shop on an island off the coast of the Canadian mainland. There, a town of loyal followers—seeing him as their potential savior, promising to cure them of their every physical ailment—has grown up around him. Sarah Manning and her fellow clones and allies, aided as usual by her brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and mother Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), still don’t how many Leda clones are out there, or how to save them. They do know that Dyad and Neolution have way too much interest in Sarah’s miracle daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler), and designs on exploiting her genetics for their own purposes. Together, Sarah and the crew labor to solve the scientific mysteries of their origin and end the conspiratorial threats posed by Dyad and Neolution.

After Orphan Black’s stunning first season, the show went gradually downhill, losing its narrative way and leaning far too heavily on fan service and shock value to sustain interest. Fortunately, the performances and production values remained high throughout, making it an effortless watch, if not as compelling. The series’ final year doesn’t eliminate all its characteristic flaws, but it does generate much needed plot momentum down the home stretch, an escalation of events that ties a string on every plot thread and brings virtually every supporting character back onto the dance floor for a final spin. If it doesn’t exactly stick the landing, it does effectively say goodbye to the world. Overall, a once-great show ends well, and will linger long in the memory thanks primarily to Tatiana Maslany, who may have delivered one of TV history’s most remarkable sustained performances.

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