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Orphan Black – S5E8 – Guillotines Decide

Previously on Orphan Black, “Gag or Throttle”

Oh, chickens. That was a rough watch. Siobhan Sadler, the secretive but loyal, compassionate but calculating, mother of Clone Club, is gone. The work she managed to accomplish before her death was invaluable, but her path to achieving it may have been the exact reason for her downfall. Siobhan’s mysterious second source in Neolution, the one Orphan Black was keeping under wraps until the “right” moment was, regrettably, Ferdinand. And, even more regrettably, he’s the one who got the upper hand on her.

Images: BBC America

Siobhan knew the risks involved in working with a cold-blooded clone murderer – it’s no wonder she was hiding his identity from Sarah – but she also knew he was the key to Rachel. Siobhan has been playing a game of risk vs. reward since the series first began; it was always in service of her kids’ wellbeing and this time was no different. If the price she had to pay for taking Neolution down once and for all was her life, she made her peace with that. At least, for both her sake and ours, S witnessed the death of Ferdinand by her own hand, before the bullet in her chest took her, too.

“At least” was something I found myself saying multiple times throughout “Guillotines Decide.” It was as if the episode was constantly course correcting, finding a way to make the absolute best of its inherent flaws. Felix’s out of nowhere art show was an obvious plot contrivance, but at least he was back on our screens. How he managed to empty his entire loft and organize such an impressive event all in one afternoon, with only Alison and Donnie to help, is anyone’s guess. Jet lag be damned, am I right? It was all a bit of impractical TV magic, but at least it led to one of the most beautiful moments in the series to date. Felix’s speech about his upbringing, his “galaxy of women,” was so powerful. It was a fitting final moment for the orphans and their adoptive mother that was heartwarming on the first watch, and one that’s bound to be absolutely gut wrenching on every subsequent viewing.

Siobhan’s death was heavily telegraphed from early on in the episode, but at least OB was providing the proper sendoff her character deserved. The teary letter-writing scene was an obvious signal that something awful was just around the corner for our beloved S, but a careful viewer was bound to notice more. The shot that lingered on S’ face after a kiss on the cheek from Sarah – one of the few (only?) times we’ve seen this level of affection between them – and her much too relaxed attitude throughout the episode were some fairly bright red flags, too. Siobhan’s considerable presence in the episode should have been enough to tip us off that this was her swan song, but, again, it at least allowed for some very significant moments.

The first of which was her final scene with Rachel. If anyone was going to form anything resembling a bond with the one-eyed clone, it’s no surprise it was S. She shows Rachel a kindness that almost no one else has, in assuring her she’s done the right thing, no matter how difficult. Even Ferdinand, who Rachel genuinely believed loved her, chose the possibility of “dynasty” and “obscene wealth” over Rachel’s happiness. She made it clear all she needed was the destruction of PT to be content and share a life with him, but he was blind to her pleas. This moment of connection (however loose) between the two women, is most certainly part of the reason Rachel is later compelled to warn S that Ferdinand is after her. Perhaps it will also be a catalyst for Rachel to continue helping her genetic sisters.

The second scene was S’ confession to Sarah, Felix, and Art that she’d been working with Ferdinand, but that the work had secured the clones’ freedom from Neolution. Despite their mostly wordless reactions and collective states of shocked but smiling calm, that all-too-short moment between the four of them was bursting with a kind of pure joy we rarely experience on OB. A bliss that this adoptive family has been deserving of for so long, and, in hindsight, will surely be treasured for years to come.

There is an aspect of “Guillotines Decide” that could not provoke an “at least” reaction, and it’s one that doesn’t currently sit well with me. After four and a half seasons of fighting the individuals and institutions that sought to take agency and autonomy away from our Clone Club, they wound up having very little to do with the massive, final blow against Neolution. Technically, the poor-excuse-for-a-human Ferdinand played a bigger part than Sarah, Alison, or Cosima. Even Adele was more involved, while S was keeping Sarah at arm’s length and Alison was off finding inner peace through tattoos. Sure, Cosima was the one who provided proof of PT’s true identity, but that information came to her through Ira and Susan.

Clone Club has always been about more than just the Leda sestras, and the community they’ve built with friends and family has been essential to staying alive and well. But this particular win feels slightly less meaningful because they had so little to do with it. Still, it’s impossible to ignore how emotionally affecting, and perfectly paced on Tatiana’s part, Cosima’s laughing to sobbing breakdown was. Her sudden release of those years of pain and suffering was undeniably profound. It’s a shame it comes with the caveat that someone else attained this new freedom for her.

If I had to venture a guess, I’m almost positive the final two episodes will provide a retrospective “at least” moment. At least they saved Helena and her bebes. At least Helena brutally murdered PT and Coady. At least they have the Leda cure. At least Alison grew her hair back out. At least Hell Wizard never “rapped” again. The one thing I know for sure, is the heartbreak of losing S is going to hit us at least twice more: when Felix and Sarah find her goodbye letter, and when they tell Kira the news.

Final Thoughts

  • Poor Gracie, she tried to do the right thing, but it got her killed and Helena captured. Mark better smarten up after he learns Gracie is dead.
  • Who could have ever guessed that Helena would be the clone who needed saving? I wonder if she’ll hallucinate any talking bugs while being held captive this time.
  • “I’m not going to micromanage you, Donny. Is that what you’re wearing?” Oh, Alison, there isn’t enough purple hair dye in the world to ever truly change you. And that’s fine by me!
  • Sarah hustling Adele for information was hilarious. I still have my reservations about Felix’s bio sister, and I was not here for her attitude towards Sarah.
  • I always forget how much I like Art. I loved the small moment between him and Sarah, looking at the painting of Beth. I hope he’s around for the final episodes.
Orphan Black S5E8
  • 7/10
    Plot - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Dialogue - 7.5/10
  • 9.5/10
    Performances - 9.5/10

"Guillotines Decide"

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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