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Orphan Black – S5E7 – Gag or Throttle

Previously on Orphan Black, “Manacled Slim Wrists”

It’s nearly impossible to walk away from the most recent episode of Orphan Black and think of anything but its final moments. They were a real doozy; the kind of scene you impulsively cover your eyes during, but feel compelled to continue watching through the slits between your fingers. It’s not that OB hasn’t delivered shocking bits of gore in the past, it’s that this incident takes the cake. Watching Rachel dislodge her biotech eyeball, pull it out of its socket, and brutally sever its connection to her head, using the jagged edged stem of a broken martini glass, was disturbing, gruesome, and pretty damn awesome.

The visual effects were all too real, the music – which was excellent throughout this episode – was perfectly sinister, and Tatiana sold every emotion Rachel was feeling from extreme pain, to utter grit. What’s most impressive, and also a little jarring, is how easy it was to root for Rachel in that moment. Despite the many unspeakable things she’s done, there was a sense of satisfaction in seeing her make this move against PT. The enemy of your enemy is your friend, at least sometimes. Couple the eye gouging with her decision to let Kira go home, and it seems Rachel may be on the path to redemption. Whether or not that can be believably achieved with only 3 episodes left in the series, remains to be seen. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility, though.

Images: BBC America

In just one episode, OB managed to garner a fairly decent amount of sympathy for this long-time villain. “Gag or Throttle” took us through a few important memories in Rachel’s life, from her childhood, to her young adult years, and right up to her first meeting with PT. The arrangement of these flashbacks had an offbeat organization; they were presented out of linear order, appearing exactly when they connected to the present day story, which allowed the audience to feel very rooted in Rachel’s POV. Some of these flashbacks suggested that Rachel never had it much better than any of the other clones. She’s always maintained that being raised self-aware is what makes her special, priceless to Neolution. But in reality, the Neo suits and scientists felt as little towards her as they did any other clone.

Even the late Dr. Leekie, who Rachel naïvely considered a father figure, showed more empathy for a random clone than one in his care. In her twisted way, Rachel believed she’d done a good thing in murdering the clone to speed up research for the cure – kind of like a cat bringing home a dead mouse as a gift, much to the owner’s dismay – but she was only scolded for the behavior and pushed further away. In fact, Rachel has barely had any supportive or nurturing relationships throughout her entire life. Sorry, Ferdinand, you don’t count. The other Ledas may have been in the dark about their true biology, but at least they had the chance at families, friends, and love. Rachel might have known about her secret medical file and ID number, but she was kept at arm’s length regardless. Until, of course, she finally met with PT.

Rachel’s slightly more benign, calmer attitude during this season was from a place of actual happiness, and not a fake-out in the slightest. “Gag or Throttle” revealed that, during her meeting with PT in the premiere, Rachel was given a document emancipating her from Neolution. Perhaps more importantly, she was also given the parental connection she’d be longing for, when the old man said he considered her a daughter. Unsurprisingly, this was a fake-out. PT still has a file and ID number for Rachel and he still wants to examine her, though under the guise of testing the cure’s short-term results. If that had been the extent of PT’s duplicity, Rachel’s loyalty may not have wavered. From the moment she discovered he’d been using her biotech eye as surveillance, though, it was pretty clear she had been pushed too far.

In retrospect, Rachel’s heavy drinking throughout the latter half of the episode takes on a much greater meaning; an easy way to self-medicate for what was to come, without raising any suspicion. In fact, her entire, cleverly executed plan can be further appreciated in hindsight – specifically the setup in sending Frontenac after Sarah, giving Kira the sedative, and the feigned meditation. As soon as Rachel returned to DYAD, her scenes were bursting with suspense, perfectly punctuated with the ominous music mentioned earlier. It wasn’t until she texted Art to warn Sarah and S, that Rachel’s decision had become clear. What remains blurred is the line between Rachel setting Kira free for altruistic reasons and her more selfish desire to defy PT, and which side of that line she aligns with most.

It could be argued that Kira’s tactics actually had an impact on Rachel. The friendship bracelet and the kind touch of Kira’s hand when Rachel was nervously picking at her fingers, could be the closest things Rachel has ever had to genuine human compassion. It’s clear from the hallucination of her younger self that Rachel saw the parallels between her own childhood and the one Kira was in danger of having. And it’s impossible to dismiss the vitriol in Rachel’s voice when she replies “all of them” to Kira’s question, “who hurt you?” Which, by the way, was equal parts hilarious and touching.

Nevertheless, there’s a very good chance Rachel still wants the power of Neolution, just with its founder and psycho sidekick scientist out of the way. At this stage in the game redemption seems like the more favorable path in terms of narrative, though. Mrs. S’ warning that Rachel would someday find herself needing Clone Club has already come to pass. Without Cosima, she wouldn’t have been able to give the Neo board members the scoop on PT’s actual identity. Here’s hoping Rachel has truly started seeing things in a new light.

Final Thoughts

  • Last week I talked about how the lack of Alison (and a few other characters) was starting to feel like an oversight, but her return this week wound up being a little bittersweet. While I’m happy to have her back in the fold, her scenes felt very disconnected from the main plot, and I found myself mostly bored while she and Donnie were on screen. Her transformation isn’t completely believable, either. Part of me hopes she’s truly found happiness and an improved sense of self, but new hairstyles and tattoos can’t change what’s inside someone. Something in her tone of voice when she corrected Donnie about her tattoo tells me the old Ali isn’t gone, which is fine by me. By the series’ end, I hope she can embrace who she is and find some peace with it. Liver Deep, Alison, liver deep.
  • I don’t believe Ira is dead. You know the TV rule: unless you see the body, don’t give up hope. I also don’t believe Mark is going to sell out Helena, at least not after he learns the truth about Coady and PT. I’m still hoping for a happily ever after for the final two Castor brothers.
  • Cosima and Scott’s reunion was an unexpectedly beautiful moment that got me completely choked up. I had forgotten how much I like watching those two work together. 
Orphan Black S5E7
  • 8.5/10
    Plot - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Dialogue - 8/10
  • 10/10
    Perfomances - 10/10

"Gag of Throttle"

Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kristian Bruun, Kevin Hanchard, Skyler Wexler, Josh Vokey, Ari Millen, Evelyne Brochu

User Review
5 (1 vote)
About Jasmin George (185 Articles)
An avid reader of TV Guide in her youth, Jasmin has been a fan of all things television since she can remember. She’s very passionate about story, especially the kinds that use cameras and actors to convey them. When she doesn’t have her eyes glued to the tube, you can find her listening to podcasts or reading reviews about, well, TV. Yeah, Jasmin might have a slight addiction but she’s perfectly happy to coexist with it.
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