A few weeks ago we reviewed Orphan Black for the last time. Religion played an important role in Orphan Black‘s worldbuilding, but the writers never truly moved beyond offensive religious stereotypes. In a show about bioethics, identity, and power, religion should have played a major role in creating diverse characters and showcasing different perspectives. After all, the show’s ultimate thesis was about women having the freedom to pursue their own definition of happiness and fulfillment through self-determination. Different versions of Christian religion and philosophy make an appearance in the show, but they’re never a good thing. In fact, religion ends up being a minor antagonist throughout the show.
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A Fond Farewell to Clone Club: Reviewing the End of Orphan Black
Luce: Well, guys, it’s been a long journey to the finale. Five years of twists and turns later, we’ve finally reached the end of the journey (or, at least, this journey) for Clone Club. But how did our favorite clones fare at this, the end of all things, and did they all make it through unscathed? Reviewing the end of Orphan Black is too much to take on alone, so I’m super glad to be joined by all of our faithful Orphan Black review team for this very last review.
Spoilers after the jump!
Orphan Black: “Manacled Slim Wrists” Review
We left last week’s episode with Cosima locked in Westmoreland’s basement and Kira determined to take a more active role in her family’s crusade against Rachel. So of course the clone we start out with this week is… Krystal? With only a few episodes left, it makes sense that she would come back to wrap up her plotline, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it quite so much.
Spoilers below the jump!
Orphan Black: “Ease for Idle Millionaires” Review
If two weeks ago was an Alison-centric episode, and last week was mostly-Sarah-plus-everyone-else, Cophine fans can rejoice this week. “Ease for Idle Millionaires” showcases Cosima working out just what’s going on behind the scenes at Camp Revival, and the answers are horrifying. The last few seasons of Orphan Black have been too complex for its own good; it’s hard for the un-obsessive viewer to keep track of all the plot threads. Luckily, this episode stays fairly straightforward in its reveal of P.T. Westmoreland’s nefarious plans, allowing more time to consider what they mean for Clone Club.
Spoilers after the jump.
Orphan Black: “Beneath Her Heart” Review
Welcome back, Clone Club. This week’s episode is centered almost entirely on Alison. During the last few seasons, Alison’s plotlines have functioned more like comic relief than anything else. She’s a sparkly, suburban foil to her darker, more serious sestras, and it’s easy for all of us (including the viewers) to not take her seriously. This episode changes that. Because it’s the final season, we’re actually getting an Alison-centric episode that explores the depths of her heart.
Spoilers, of course, for “Beneath Her Heart” below.
Orphan Black: “The Few Who Dare” Review
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: this season’s titles come from the fiery-badass poem “Protest” by Etta Wheeler Wilcox, which y’all should read. Really, it’s short.
Done? Cool, let’s get on with the show. This week’s premiere picked up pretty much right where the Season 4 finale left off: Sarah injured, Cosima reunited with Delphine, and everything happening so much with Alison, Donnie, and Helena.
Spoilers after the jump!
Westworld, Sadism, and Humanity
HBO continues to set a high bar in its primetime drama, and the new sci-fi drama Westworld is a strong addition to their lineup this fall. With cinematic production values that match or exceed Game of Thrones, there’s no doubt that the network has made a real commitment to this reboot of a relatively obscure 1973 movie, starring, of all people, Yul Brynner.
Westworld isn’t a sweeping epic, like Game of Thrones, but rather, a more thoughtful, existential work more in the mode of The Leftovers. It shares some common DNA with Orphan Black and Dollhouse, pushing through the boundaries of humanity in a world where technology is showing them to be soft.
Orphan Black‘s clones challenge a basic sense of human autonomy: Sarah and her sestras were made in a lab, from their carefully-coded DNA on out. They are copyrighted and patented intellectual property, reproducible by their owner. Their rebellion over the course of the series is, in part, about taking back self-ownership. Dollhouse was the converse: its featured technology did not create new bodies, but customized the minds and personalities of the individuals in its clutches. While the clones seek to reclaim their engineered bodies for their individual minds, the dolls of Dollhouse seek to regain ownership of their engineered minds.
Westworld, essentially, does both: its robotic characters have artificial minds in artificial bodies, beyond the fractured humanity of its predecessors. What self can there be under such circumstances? And how can the viewers navigate these uncanny representations of humanity?
Trigger warnings for rape and rape culture below, as well as spoilers.
Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Orphan Black and Missing Religious Voices
Once upon a time, years before we came to the city that’s Not Officially Toronto But Come On, It’s Toronto, a woman had two children. As a fugitive from a dangerous secret organization, she had to give them up. One, she decided, to the church, and one to the state. This is the origin story for the two primary protagonists of Orphan Black. Sarah Manning went into foster care, while her sestra Helena went to an orphanage run by nuns in Ukraine.
Helena gets indoctrinated into the Proletheans, an ambiguously Christian sect that serves as one of the major antagonists in the series. The religious motifs around the Proletheans make them terrifying, both with Helena as their assassin and as their prisoner. However, the show misses an opportunity to really dig into the theology of the Proletheans and doesn’t truly engage with any number of religious objections to the biotechnology the show presents as being in our immediate future.
Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: WASPs and Clone Club
Season 4 of Orphan Black gave us a bigger taste of Alison’s religion. Alison is the stereotypical suburban soccer mom, a “type A” personality decked out in pastels. She’s a W.A.S.P. who stands in great contrast with her darker and edgier sisters Cosima, Helena, and Sarah. It’s no wonder that Alison is the clone with the most pronounced religious beliefs. Sure, Helena was raised by harsh Ukrainian nuns, but their religion hasn’t really been delved into by the show. Alison, on the other hand, wears a golden cross necklace and is often shown attending a Mainline Protestant church with her family. Her religion was involved in many minor scenes of this season, and she could be the doorway to a very different kind of religious representation in our scifi media.
Orphan Black: “From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths” Review
Hey there, Clone Club! What a finale, am I right? Well, it was action-packed, to say the least, and we don’t know if everyone’s going to live to see much of Season 5. Still, with the official news that Orphan Black’s fifth season will be its last, it’s a good episode to begin the beginning of the end.
What do I mean? Read on, sestras. Spoilers for Season 4 and the finale below!