Orphan Black EPs Talk 'Quieter' Series Finale, Helena's Birth Scene, [Spoiler]'s Unhappy Ending and Movie Hopes
Warning: The following contains spoilers for the very last episode of Orphan Black. Proceed at your own peril.
Clone Club finally got a taste of freedom during the Orphan Black series finale.
After taking care of the heavy business of birthing Helena’s babies and killing both P.T. Westmoreland and Dr. Coady, thereby breaking Neolution’s hold on them, the sestras were left to try to acclimate to normal life. While some took to it better than others — Helena seemed to adapt surprisingly well to new motherhood with twin sons Arthur and Donnie — others found themselves struggling. Still shaken by Siobhan’s death, Sarah was plagued by old insecurities and her shortcomings as a mother. But after a sweet chat with Helena, Alison and Cosima, Sarah ditched her plan to sell Siobhan’s house and run off with Kira. Instead, the hour concluded with her and Felix taking Kira to the beach before fading out on a shot of Siobhan’s home.
After five seasons of crazy “OMG!” plot twists, the creative team felt strongly that a “smaller, quieter” series ender was the way to go. The second half of the hour was meant “to say, ‘The bad guys are done. The bad guys aren’t the show,’” co-creator/writer Graeme Manson shares. “If our sestras win, we need a little bit of time to see the repercussions of that, and to give Clone Club the hope and the heart that they deserve, and that the sestras deserves.”
Also in the finale: Cosima and Delphine set off to cure the 270+ clones around the world — an idea that could lead to more Orphan Black stories one day, Manson and co-creator/director John Fawcett tell TVLine in the following Q&A.
Below, Manson and Fawcett reveal the last-minute tweak they made to their swan song and explain why Rachel was left out in the cold, even after giving up a list of all the clones’ identities and whereabouts.
TVLINE | You could divide this finale down the middle into two halves, the first part dealing with plot and the second with emotion. What was the thinking behind that structure?
JOHN FAWCETT | That was kind of always the plan, in terms of the way we had thought about the finale way back when we were originally talking about it. We knew that we were going to need the last two episodes as like a two-parter, and in some ways, Episode 9 was going to do a lot of the heavy lifting in regards to the plot and the run-and-jump elements of the show. We wanted to wind up that action early on in the finale so that we could make this jump forward in time and be with the characters in the future. That was something that we always, always wanted to do, and that we felt was important. And in some senses, then, it makes the finale a kind of smaller, quieter episode. I think both Graeme and I felt that was necessary, that it really boiled down to the characters and where the characters were going from here, and where they are three months from now.
TVLINE | The final image of Sarah and Felix taking Kira to the beach and then that empty house: It was a sweet, quiet note to end on. How did you land on that particular closing moment?
FAWCETT | I think, actually, that was kind of a Graeme-ism. We struggled with that a lot. It was like, really, “What are we going to close on? What’s going to be the final image?” Sarah has gone through a lot. She’s lost her mother, she’s feeling a little f–ked up, obviously, three months in the future, having spent so much of the last five seasons just fighting against oppression and battling enemies. [She] is now left with no one left to fight, and is uncomfortable in her own skin again, and doesn’t know what to do without her mother. You can see that the old Sarah is creeping in now. All those old insecurities are coming back, and that feeling of wanting to run is with her again. And she doesn’t. She’s held up by her sisters at the end and doesn’t run… I think those final images of the house, that is everything we wanted the show to be about.
TVLINE | When did you know this would be how the show would end? Did you always have this ending in mind, or was it something that evolved over time?
FAWCETT | We knew we were going to wind up with P.T. Westmoreland at the end. We knew that the story was really going to come down to Sarah and Helena, and that we were going to birth these babies under duress, in the most awful conditions, in the most awful place that we could. And that we were going to defeat our bad guy. There were some last-minute changes within the season. Since Season 2, Graeme and I felt that this ending would actually take place on the island, and we switched gears. We actually wrote that draft of Episode 9, where they went to the island, and then backed up on that and wrote like crazy and changed it during our hiatus to bring the bad guys to us. What we realized we were missing in that ending [was] all of our other actors. We were missing Scottie and Cosima and Art, and putting Sarah and Helena alone on the island just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. So we backed up on that. But other than that, I feel like we shot the finale that we had talked about three years ago.
TVLINE | As you said, this was a very contemplative and emotional finale. Were you ever tempted to go with a more twisty ending?
MANSON | I felt quite strongly that this was the way to end it. This is a show that keeps audiences on the edge of their seat. Every episode, we tried to twist, twist, twist… It’s part of the veneer of our storytelling, but it’s not the most important part of the storytelling. We’ve often said to ourselves, particularly Tat [Maslany], “Gosh, I wish we could do more episodes like that, that slow down a little.” But we have this hard-charging formula that really works for us. … We didn’t want to rely on a big plot twist to wrap up the series. We wanted to rely on the hearts of the sestras and the deep themes of family that we’ve built up.
TVLINE | Talk to me about filming that birth scene. It looked very difficult on an emotional and technical level.
FAWCETT | Yeah, it was. One of the things that I’m most proud of about this show [is] certainly the technical accomplishments that we’ve achieved, and that we’ve constantly pushed ourselves to try to do better and to try to make clone scenes that people hadn’t seen before. This was certainly one of them. This was extremely challenging from a technical point of view. And very, very hard from an acting point of view because, as you can well imagine, it’s so technical [that] it’s often very difficult to get it right on the first take. Or the second take. Or the third take, for that matter. And so, for Tatiana to be in that emotional place consistently from take to take until you actually get it right is so hard.
And those birthing scenes down in the basement were the very last scenes that we shot of the entire show. They were the last two days of shooting. It’s emotional, not just the content of the scenes, but the state on set, and where everyone was at was just a very emotional place. So in some ways, obviously, it worked well for the scene. But it was hard, and it was challenging.
It was really important for me to try and get Sarah and Helena together with two babies in a complicated techno-dolly shot. As soon as you add little, tiny babies to that, that makes it even that much more challenging. But I’m proud of that sequence. It really has the emotional power that I always imagined that it needed to have. I’m very proud of how those scenes work and how the cross-cutting between Sarah birthing Kira with Siobhan present — that was always in my mind as the scene that the series was all going to come down to.
TVLINE | Rachel is still the outlier. Would having her bond with the sestras and going inside the baby shower have been one happy ending too many?
MANSON | Yeah. We discussed it, and I don’t think anybody thought that Rachel could walk into that room. Sarah would not allow it. She’s not that benign. [Laughs] That’s too much character change, and that’s too tidy a ribbon to tie on it. We really, really enjoyed Rachel’s arc series-wide. But season-wide, to me, it was great. I really liked Episode 7, [which allowed us to] look beyond what we know about Rachel and understand the deep wounds in Rachel, understand why she finally turns toward her sisters. But to have her sitting there at the end with our four sisters, that’s definitely a bridge too far. She’s redeemed, but not forgiven.
TVLINE | Was there one clone in particular that was very difficult for you to say goodbye to? For example, Tatiana [Maslany] told me she had such a visceral reaction during her final scenes as Alison that she got a nosebleed.
FAWCETT | It was probably Alison for me, too. That was absolutely the hardest one to wrap. I’ve been very close to that character from conception. [Alison’s] last scenes, I had to do a really weepy phone call where it was just her on her own, and [Tatiana’s] nose started to bleed, and she was crying, and there was snot and blood. “Oh my God, I have to cut.” [Laughs] And Tat, of course, was like, “Why are we cutting? This is great! I was trying to incorporate it into my performance.” And I was like, “Tat, there’s blood everywhere. It’s not worth it.” [Laughs] She’s that kind of actor. She just wants to stay in the moment.
MANSON | For me, it’s going to be Sarah. At times, my favorite clone’s been Cosima, and I’ve loved Helena and Rachel. I love them all. But at the end of the day, Sarah is my nemesis, too. Sarah’s the one that I had to spend the most time with. She’s the most difficult character. She drives the plot. I’m like her Felix. [Laughs] While I feel battered and bruised, I’ll stick up for her. I’ll miss her terribly when she’s gone. I really will. She’s my surly sister.
TVLINE | We learned in the finale that there are 274 total clones. Would you like to explore some of these other clones’ stories in some format?
FAWCETT | If I was going to imagine another season for Orphan Black, following Cosima and Delphine was where I wanted to go. I wanted to go with them and to find these other women. I wanted to see what these other women were like. I wanted to hear these stories that these other women had. That, to me, felt like there was certainly more to imagine there. At the end of this season, you really feel like they’re out on their journey around the world, and that they’ve got this list and the list is life, and they’ve got their inoculations, and they’re world travelers now. I love what that feels like. If I were to pick this up and continue, that’s certainly something I would be interested in.
MANSON | We just need to give these characters a break for a little while. But obviously, there’s tales to be told there, even if they’re told in the comic books or something. I do believe that someday we’ll come back to these characters. We’re still interested in a movie. I’d be interested in returning to this world if Tatiana was in it.
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