It started with two. When “Orphan Black” first premiered in 2013, there were two women at the center of the pilot episode’s inciting incident. Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) sees her double meticulously take off her shoes, set down her bag, and step off the train platform to commit suicide. Sarah then takes over that woman’s life for a time before learning that one doppelganger is quaint, but in reality, she has almost a dozen, who are clones of her and her twin sister Helena (Maslany).
Though the heart of the show was #CloneClub, and that included anyone who was on the side of the clones, helping them to get to the bottom of what was going on at the Dyad Institute and later helping to stop P.T. Westmorland (Stephen McHattie) the center was more often than not the two originals, carrying the thread from the pilot episode, even if the “who” evolved. So it is only fitting then that the series finale of “Orphan Black,” entitled “To Right the Wrongs of Many,” spent the first half focused solely on them: Sarah and Helena, “the only set of twins we ever had – fertile freaks” as Westmorland himself put it not-so-eloquently.
The finale episode opens on a flashback to a younger Sarah in the car with Siobhan (Maria Doyle Kennedy) discussing the baby she is about to have. Siobhan wants to make sure she knows she had options, but Sarah is determined to have the baby, steadfast in her belief about what is right for her, even if she has no idea how she will do it. This sums up Sarah’s plight throughout the series and the final hurdle she will finally have to overcome: when a tough task presents itself, she works doggedly to see the task through, without worrying about the consequences that may come later.
While Helena is in labor, first hiding from Coady (Kyra Harper) and then silently communicating with Art (Kevin Hanchard) on how to finally take Coady down, Sarah engages in a quick game of cat-and-mouse with Westmorland himself. He taunts her from behind a curtain, Oz-style, and she shoots blindly. Just when she thinks she got him and it’s over, he jumps her and smothers her with plastic medical sheeting. Sarah manages to get enough strength to kick him off of her, though, and she bashes him in the face once and for all. “I survived you. We survived you. Me and my sisters, together. This is evolution,” she says.
Helena finally makes good on fatally stabbing Coady, and with the two threats out of the way, she delivers her babies. Sarah arrives just in time to help her seestra through the process, encouraged by memories of her own experience in labor. Then she had Siobhan to guide her through, and now Sarah steps into Siobhan’s shoes and guides Helena. Helena’s twins are healthy boys, which sets up a nice symmetry to the show.
But “Orphan Black” does not end there because although the show started with two, it quickly became about so many more, and everyone deserves a proper send-off.
Alison (Maslany) and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) host a post-delivery baby shower for Helena, who is raising her boys in their backyard (first she names them Purple and Orange, telling them apart by their socks, but later gives them “the names of real men,” Arthur and Donnie). This provides the perfect opportunity to bring all of the beloved players together in a moment of celebration, though admittedly the show has set up danger at every corner so well over its five seasons, not even this party can come without an undercurrent.
For Sarah, that is one of grief. She is a woman not only mourning her adoptive mother but also someone who is faced with starting over without any clear direction. She went full steam ahead on her mission for the last few years, but now that the dust has cleared, she is still that lost girl who used to con and run. Though she’s studying for the GED, she realizes just how much her life was overturned by her discovery a few short years ago and walks out before taking the test, her old habits of running away resurfacing, self-sabotaging again. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I carry around all of these mistakes. I don’t know how to be happy,” she admits.
But this time, Sarah is surrounded by a family who won’t let her go or give up. And it doesn’t take a dance party but a much more poignant bonding session about shortcomings from the seestras that gives Sarah what she needs to truly move on. “That’s what we fought for, right? To be sisters,” Alison says to her.
Felix (Jordan Gavaris) further aids them by meeting with Rachel (Maslany) and finally getting the full list of Leida sisters – an astonishing 274 names. This provides a new mission, at least for some: Cosima (Maslany) and Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) begin traveling so they can inoculate each one – though they don’t reveal the full truth to all of the new clones they encounter.
Of course the series can’t end without one last underwear dance from Donnie, and Helena even finally finishes her book, entitling it “Orphan Black” (because, as Cosima points out, “we’re all orphans”). “My story is an embroidery with many beginnings and no end, but I will start with the thread of my sister Sarah who stepped off the train one day and met herself,” she translates from her native Ukranian. And as Sarah continues on, opting not to sell Siobhan’s house and run from the community she has built, it finally feels like she not only knows who she is, but also accepts who she is and is thankful for the things that led her to that place – for herself, for her seestras, for all of the other clones out there, and for the devout audience. After five seasons, two sets of clones, and countless casualties, that is the true happy ending.