Origin stories: it’s the gift that keeps on giving for character development. Orphan Black finally treated us to the long overdue backstory of Helena. In fact, it took us all the way back before she had ever met Sarah and the main LEDA clones we’ve come to love. It answered questions we’ve been waiting on, like the reason for her red eyes and bleached hair. But, did we really need this realization during the penultimate episode of Orphan Black’s run?
“One Fettered Slave” was the last hour before Orphan Black starts their upcoming series finale chapter. After everything that has happened this season (and the entire run), things should be ramping up now to close off the story. And with the most recent episodes, the show has been doing that with one great episode after the next. However, the Helena origin story flashbacks didn’t feel like a necessity for the ninth hour of the final season. Why wasn’t this included in the first season when she was the villain? Or during the storylines when she was being held a prisoner and needed her Sestras? The inclusion of her origin now, I think, could be summed up as a rush job – someone forgot to include it earlier and realized it needed to be done before it was too late. Ultimately, it showed in the final product.
Why wasn’t the younger version of the LEDA clones (Charlotte) used as young Helena? Helena is a clone and she’s supposed to be a twin to Sarah – everyone should look alike. Back in Season 3, young Rachel was shown (the same actress as Charlotte) at a young age; if all the LEDA characters are clones, young Helena should’ve been the same actress to keep consistency. This may be due to age and timeline as the Charlotte actress is now older, but this threw me off enough to wonder if this was a calculated move or a simple canon mistake.
That’s not to say the new Helena did a bad job. In fact, she did really well to capture Helena’s mannerisms and habits. I’m not the biggest Helena fan – I still believe she should’ve stayed dead at the end of Orphan Black season 1 (but that’s another discussion). These scenes, however, did make me feel more for her. She’s struggled a lot over the years; the worst is by far the bleach scene. Seeing young Helena’s head dunked into the tub explains why her eyes have always been red. The nun who did that to her is a monster! Though, my favorite Helena origin moment is when she started the angel wing mural on her back. In the past I had wondered if someone else had done that to her, but it was herself who made the first few cuts.
Even though I stand by my stance above about season 1, I am happy the Orphan Black writers have given Helena a great redemption story. She’s changed so much since the beginning and has tried to make up for her mistakes by helping her Sestras. My heart broke when she attempted suicide to create a better life for her fetuses. On the other hand, I didn’t believe she would be written off this way, so her surviving the suicide attempt wasn’t totally surprising. There’s a lot of fight left in Helena and if she’s going down, it’ll be in the series finale. She would go out as a hero and a mother.
The theme of mother and child played heavily into “One Fettered Slave”. It started the episode strong with Mrs. S’s funeral and ended with Helena’s labor. I’m glad we learned what Mrs. S wrote in her goodbye letter; it would’ve been a shame for the series to go out without discovering what she said. Coady is still the worst mother on Orphan Black – I couldn’t believe she killed Mark because of P.T. She helped raise the CASTOR clones and now they’re all dead; her legacy is gone and it was all for nothing.
With Mark’s death, this means the CASTOR clones are gone. I’m on the fence about this turn of events. We’ve spent three seasons with the CASTOR clones and their pairing with the LEDAs that it’s a shame for them to be extinct now. Though, in hindsight, should this storyline have ended back at the end of season 3 instead? Sure, we were introduced to Ira in season 4 (whom I liked) and we had a loose end with Mark, but the CASTOR clones didn’t serve a major purpose later on. For Coady to simply wipe them out before discovering a cure seems like a missed opportunity in the long-run.
P.T. Westmoreland is getting desperate and I think we all need to be worried going into the Orphan Black series finale. He’s going to do whatever it takes to get Helena’s babies and the cure to live forever. Everything from him pulling off his fake wig to the menacing scene in the abandoned building with Coady shows perfectly his descent into madness. I’m glad the Orphan Black writers are tying up the loose ends with Neolution, P.T. and the board. Having it explained that they’re all dying one-by-one is putting some resolution to the enemies who have caused trouble in the past. I hate loose ends when a show has finished, so this is making me happy.
“One Fettered Slave” delivered on another clone-centric episode in Orphan Black’s final season. We got Alison’s flashback episode, we had Cosima’s, and now we have Helena’s. Was it totally needed in the near final hour? Not really, but it was nice to learn more about one of our favorite clones and see her journey to the final episode. As the CASTOR clones have shown, not everyone is going to survive this battle. We need to prepare ourselves. I’m excited to see the series finale, but I’m not ready to say goodbye.