During the last week, I’ve had numerous conversations about this season of Orphan Black and whether or not it has lived up to the hype that surrounded it. The only problem with Season 1 was just how good it is — which, of course, isn’t a problem at all — because it meant that Season 2 had to fight to live up to that reputation and to keep things both fresh and shocking while still having a narrative that actually makes sense, instead of just science-y words thrown onto a script. But with all the build-up and mythology, the greatness of Season 2 hinged directly on its finale.
“My name is Sarah Manning and this is my unconditional surrender,” Sarah states toward the beginning of a disorientating and surprise-filled season finale. She’s subjected to a rough examination with loads of personal questions and then is informed that Dyad wants to harvest her eggs. She signs them away in exchange for her daughter Kira. But she can only see Kira on a screen, first interacting with Rachel and then with Cosima (which is actually really adorable and I love how great Cosima is with children, even if it’s heartbreaking to watch considering her circumstances). Cosima, by the way, has a new doctor because Delphine is no longer allowed to work with the clones but her health status doesn’t seem to be improving much.
There is so much happening in this finale that it’s a little hard to parse it all. Ethan Duncan is in that creepy room watching home videos of him and Rachel. He refuses to give up the key for the synthetic sequences and Rachel refuses to cure Cosima until he does. Neither will budge, and Ethan kills himself with spiked tea. “You can’t leave me again,” Rachel cries as she breaks down.
Then a pissed off Rachel visits Sarah, who is now strapped down to a gurney and being told she’s having an oophorectomy — a surgical procedure to have one of her ovaries removed — even though she didn’t consent to it. Rachel demands to know the sequences but Sarah doesn’t know them so Rachel destroys Kira’s bone marrow. Christ, Rachel. Sarah uses a fire extinguisher helpfully rigged by Cosima and shoots a pencil directly into Rachel’s eye which is very, very gross but allows her to escape.
There are a lot of returning characters in “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried.” Cal suddenly shows up at the door having figured everything out — Dyad, the whole clone thing — and at first, Mrs. S doesn’t trust him but Felix vouches for him. It turns out they both have an insider at Dyad and at working on helping Sarah.
Helena has a big role in this episode, too! She returns after running away from (and burning down?) the ranch. She’s heart broken because of Jesse, the truck driver she hooked up with a few episodes ago, and even still carries around his hat. She gets some much-needed cheering up when she finally meets the rest of her sisters and reunites with Kira, which Helena is especially excited for (also note: how she rubs her stomach throughout the scene). What follows is possible my favorite Orphan Black scene ever, or at least in the top three: an impromptu dance party with Cosima, Alison, Sarah, Helena, and Felix. It’s a much-needed release for all of them, particularly the four sisters, to just calm down and have some fun after all the shit they’ve been through. They’re so happy in that moment but it’s also just a reminder that the happiness isn’t going to last. (Also, I love how Tatiana Maslany differentiates the way each sister dances.)
Soon after, Helena is wandering around when suddenly a sack is thrown over her head and she’s kidnapped, then shoved onto a plane with a group of military men. “Sarah will never forgive me,” Mrs. S says and no, Sarah won’t, and neither will I.
Meanwhile, Sarah is visiting Marian, Rachel’s boss at Dyad, and meets Charlotte, an eight-year-old and Kira’s aunt. We learn that they’ve made 400 attempts to clone more but Charlotte is the only survivor. The biggest reveal? While Dyad was focusing on female clones, the military was focusing on male clones with Project Castor. Taking it a step further? The male clones are Mark (who has just married Gracie). What the hell is going on, Orphan Black?
I commend Orphan Black for the fantastic second season because even with the slight missteps, it was still overall one of the best seasons of television this year. It didn’t exactly meet the quality of Season 1 — but that’s basically impossible — but it’s very close. “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” was definitely a great finale with a jaw-dropping ending but now the show has to figure out what to do with all those bombs it dropped.