The Many Faces of Tatiana: The Orphan Black Finale

June 23, 2014
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After ten break-neck episodes, season 2 of Orphan Black has drawn to a close. As with every episode of this show, we are left with many answers, and with many more questions left hanging. Amid the action, intrigue, back-stabbing and barefaced lies, the emotional core of the show remained with the remarkable clone-women at the center of the story. As with every episode, we are treated to some moments of clone-style brilliance, the likes of which only Tatiana Maslany (and a team of special effects technicians) could give us.

Although rarely is there an episode that doesn’t showcase Maslany’s skills, the finale especially highlighted the differences of each clone. After a season of excellent character arcs, Alison fades into the background while Helena, Cosima, and Sarah take the focus, interacting with each other and the ever-present Felix and Kira to remind the audience that this show isn’t entirely about fictional science and thrilling set-ups. The clones are often seen interacting in the same frame, a trick of green-screen technology and old fashioned body-doubles. However, given the contentious relationship of the violent Helena with the rest of the clones, it is not often that the four main women come together at once. But what better time than the finale for such a reunion?

Having reunited Sarah and Kira, the four clones celebrate by gathering together for an impromptu dance scene. The scene is surprisingly long and lingering, given the generally quick pace of the episode. The weight of Cosima’s increasingly visible illness hangs over the group. The tension in the scene is palpable as she slips off her oxygen mask and slides on a record, starting the dance party. It seems as though this is a last hurrah before her seemingly inevitable death (although a glimmer of hope is visible before the end of the episode in the form of a miraculous touch from Kira).

This scene serves to heighten the sense of impending doom around Cosima’s health, yet it also works to demonstrate Maslany’s exceptional talent and the work that goes into creating and performing these wildly different women. It’s hard to ignore the technical expertise that goes into splicing each of her takes together to form one cohesive scene. Not only was this scene a notable standout in an already exceptional episode, it’s been the focus of much of the talk surrounding the episode. An official behind-the-scenes/making-of/extended sequence was posted on the same day the episode aired, highlighting both the technical and performative complexity of filming such a scene (see the clip embedded above).

Sarah and Cosima discuss the clones

Sarah and Cosima discuss the clones

Later in the episode, while laying in bed talking, Cosima explains her nautilus/fibonacci tattoo. Sarah remarks “God, we’re so different, all of us.” Meta-praise aside, Maslany demonstrates how each woman is their own separate entity, a unique person with their own style, voice, mannerisms, movements and, of course, their own dance moves. The restrained Alison, the bar-shuffling Sarah, the club-savvy Cosima and the awkward and energetic Helena all perform their own style of dance in unison, highlighting all the differences even as they all join together for what seems like the last time.

This focus on Maslany’s abilities, so close to Emmy nomination time, seems like a savvy move on the part of showrunners Graeme Manson and John Fawcett. Last year Orphan Black received no Emmy nominations. Although this is not unusual for a science fiction show, there was general disappointment on the part of fans and critics at this snub. This isn’t to say that Maslany’s work has gone unrecognized; she has received a handful of awards for her role(s), including, most recently, her second Critics’ Choice Television Award. Yet many people are eagerly awaiting the upcoming release (Thursday, July 10th) of Emmy nominations to see if Orphan Black is acknowledged – or if Maslany’s work is once again acknowledged only by her clones.


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