Bots vs. Clones: Orphan Black Season 4 Finale, “From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths”

Yesterday’s announcement that season 5 would be Orphan Black‘s final season lent extra significance to last night’s season 4 finale. That cliffhanger—which put the Clone Club in a much more tenuous position than last year’s dinner party and Iceland trip—needed to set into motion the final arc of Project Leda finding out just who exactly is behind their creation. Along the way, we saw clones have bursts of brilliance, get sidelined, and claw their way back to the top. Plus, an honest-to-god Clone Swap!

Spoilers for Orphan Black 4×10 “From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths.”

On a wider level, Yerkes worked to establish the utility of primates for interpreting the place of human beings in scientifically managed corporate capitalism—called nature. His investigations in mental and sexual psychobiology included designing tests for all aspects of mental functions in organisms ranging from daphnia and dancing mice to psychopaths, soldiers, and corporate managers.

—Donna Haraway, “The Biological Enterprise: Sex, Mind, and Profit from Human Engineering to Sociobiology” from Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature

That’s a cheeky interpretation of the final selection from Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, but very fitting to describe Rachel’s trajectory this season: She started as something of a lab rat, recovering under Susan’s watch and adjusting to her new eye, and look at her now. This episode was Psycho Rachel’s game all the way; everyone else was just pawns on a Descent board, sharing water bottles (or vials of the cure) when they could and otherwise trying to eke out survival on their own.

Orphan Black 4x10 season 4 finale "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" television review

Photo: Ken Woroner/BBC America

Clone Count: 8

Cosima creates the cure! Which also happens to be Susan Duncan’s baseline to restart the human cloning program, so she and Rachel double-cross poor Cos. Except that Rachel also screws over her mother and tries to murder everyone else even after she’s already won—including poor Sarah, who bravely and stupidly flew to the Island of Doctor Moreau without backup. Thankfully, Charlotte gets Cosima out of the compound before Rachel starts her The Shining spree, and Ira is forced into giving what intel he has. Alison and Helena are hardcore camping with Donnie, and while Alison wants to help, she’s more incapacitated than her pregnant sestra: “I’ve got the runs, but I’m packing heat.” Not the best season ending for those two, but this finale was clearly Sarah versus Rachel.

Orphan Black 4x10 season 4 finale "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" television review

Thank god we get a little levity from the newest member of Clone Club, Krystal! Yep, she’s technically been initiated, though hilariously she refuses to believe that she and Sarah are clones. (“And even if you could drag a brush through that hair, she looks like a 7 on a good day, and I’ve been told I’m a 10.”) She’s got some much-needed intel on Delphine and Neolution’s Dr. Van Lier, however, even if she’s completely wrong about the global conspiracy involving Estee Lauder. Her tip leads to one of the finale’s few delightful moments: Sarah Clone Swapping as Krystal! Which was especially fun because we found out at the same time that Van Lier did. This may have been Sarah’s best impersonation yet.

Orphan Black 4x10 season 4 finale "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" television review

Cure and Creation

I’ve gotten pretty exhausted by all of the double-crosses coming from Neolution this season. I know that Susan and Rachel didn’t want to have to work with Project Leda and only did so in total desperation, but it almost felt cartoonish for them to upend the Clone Club’s plans every single time. Unless it’s meant to be realistic, as a reminder that some people don’t magically change sides or alter their entire worldview just because of a handful of lives hanging in the balance. As Susan tells Cosima, “We learn from our mistakes”—intentionally distancing Cosima with her sickness, Ira with his glitching, and Charlotte with her leg as non-people, as unfortunate flaws of an ideal she’s entirely focused on bringing into being.

Too bad she doesn’t consider how flawed (in a very different way) her own daughter is.

There’s Always a Bloody Board

Neolution is scary, dudes. That selectively-light table in the center of a dark room was like something out of a Bond movie or something equally stylistic. Poor Evie Cho should have just signed over the BrightBorn technology—though what the board will do with it, short of grinding it up into breakfast cereal, is beyond me—instead of clinging to her pride. I’m surprised that it took her by such surprise when they activated her cheek-bot to kill her. She must have known that they had a kill switch on her, but perhaps she thought she was too valuable to be dealt with in such an ignominious manner, complete with creepy send-off:

Dr. Van Lier: Technology is subject to natural selection, too, Evie. It changes. It adapts. You’re an engineer, you know that. Shh, shh. You built it. Let it take you.

Orphan Black 4x10 season 4 finale "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" television review

Pro-Clone Breaks Bad

Rachel: Evie had no baseline. And Susan has no balls. […] If we want to see if our rats’ tails will grow back, we damn well cut them off!

Damn Rachel, that’s cold. But you expect no less from a clone who has had to fight in every scene this season to return to her former self. And despite my horror at Rachel’s master plan unfolding, I was weirdly proud to see her stand in front of the board, her posture and pitch saying You see me only as your product, but I’m my own person. She wants to put the bots in clones, which means creating more Ledas and Castors first and then treating them like the dancing mice they are.

Rachel’s plan of attack is impressively thought out: 1) Get the board on her side, and her side only. 2) Have Ferdinand hold Mrs. S and Kira hostage with a gun. 3) Murder Susan. OK, that last one was not as coldly calculated as the others. Unless you consider that she was simply going along with her vision—to behead Leda, the mother swan.

(Side note: Did anyone else feel a little unsettled by that Rachel/Ferdinand sex scene? He tries to goad her into getting all domme-y like she used to; she tells him that “I can’t feel much of anything anymore” because of her recovery; he is unsympathetic, and ultimately pushes her to slap him. She even looks resigned as she tells him to get on his knees. Sure, she gets off on it mentally, as he knew she would after he was enough of a shit, but if she can’t physically enjoy it, it seems like he forces her into being a role he misses instead of respecting that she’s still relearning her own body.)

Orphan Black 4x10 season 4 finale "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" television review

Power Does Not Equal Free Will

Rachel: And when the laws change, who will you choose as the first face of human cloning?

Perhaps my hope/prediction from last week wasn’t so far off—could season 5 bust Neolution wide open and reveal the existence of Project Leda to the public? It would be an excellent way for the show to go out.

I don’t blame Susan for trying to appeal to Rachel’s reason, to remind her that she is not safe within Neolution. Because from what we’ve seen this season, the board will have no problem sticking with Rachel for as long as she’s useful and then eliminating her like every other troublesome Leda clone. But this was brutal, perhaps more so than any of the stab wounds:

Susan: For all the joy and insight your sisters have given me, for every Sarah, every Cosima, I regret making you.

Oof.

Watching Rachel go after Sarah was something like… well, the only example I can think of is (weirdly enough) The Great Mouse Detective, when Ratigan is all puffed up and crazed, chasing Basil along the clocktower in the rain. I know that Rachel has always been a baddie in her corner, but so much of the past few seasons it was Rachel versus Helena, only to discover that they’re twins, and mirror images, no less. Now that the two can have sweet phone calls telling each other to stay safe, I guess we had to give Sarah a new nemesis. I look forward to watching these two spar in season 5, though right now I’m really worried about Sarah limping in the cold.

Orphan Black 4x10 season 4 finale "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" television review

Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg/BBC America

I Finished Our Homework

But while Sarah is shivering on the beach with no help in sight, Cosima and Delphine are reunited, and it’s so lovely. After Sarah’s dramas with Paul and Cal last season, and despite the bizarre sweetness of Alison and Donnie’s monitor-turned-genuine-partner relationship, I love that this show’s most beloved ‘ship is between two women. When Delphine ran to embrace Cosima, I misted up; I melted at a delirious Cosima saying, “I finished our homework” (and cheered that she was able to steal the cure!). And while it was such a cliché for Delphine to strip down and keep a hypothermic Cosima warm, it felt authentic for them. They were separated by so many ideological issues last season, and there’s no indication that they’ll completely be able to mend things, but in that moment, Delphine was giving Cosima what she most needed: the warmth of another body.

Orphan Black 4x10 season 4 finale "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" television review

Photo: Ian Watson/BBC America

The Eye in Neolution

Happily ensconced back at the compound, having patched up Susan (yay) and trapped her in a wheelchair (that’s dark), Rachel is finally cracking the spine on The History of Neolution. And what’s this, the author is here to sign her book for her? Yep, P.T. Westmoreland (who created her eye, no surprise) has been alive since writing the book in, oh, about 1880. How is this possible? Is immortality Neolution’s other side project after cloning and genetic modification? Who’s at the door? Taking guesses now on whether Westmoreland is going to be an entirely new character or someone we’ve already seen, lurking undercover. For some reason, I really want it to be Scott; I’ve always gotten a vibe that there’s more to him than he lets on. What do you guys think?

Orphan Black 4x10 season 4 finale "From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths" television review

Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg/BBC America

Other Thoughts

  • Of course Krystal’s ringtone is “Warrior.” And her little crush on Art is cute/disastrous, too.
  • Susan’s look when Cosima hugged her summed up how surreal that moment was: knowing she’d betray the clones, yet at the same time having a version of her daughter show some small form of affection.
  • “He has his socks on.” The fact that that is what most throws Ira about finding a lingerie-clad Rachel choking Ferdinand with her cane was wonderful.
  • I didn’t catch all of Delphine’s conversation with The Messenger, but it sounds like she and Cosima are supposed to go ix-nay on the ones-clay with the villagers. What will happen if Sarah limps in and suddenly there are two identical women in the camp?
  • I loved Felix’s subtle Clone Club art and totally want that as a print and/or T-shirt.
  • Ten more episodes! Gotta think of some sort of cool countdown for next season’s reviews.

Natalie Zutter is seriously coveting those classy villainous blouses Evie and Rachel were rocking this episode. Share your Orphan Black season 5 predictions with her on Twitter!

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