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‘Orphan Black’ Series Finale Explained

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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Saturday’s series finale of BBC America’s Orphan Black, “To Right the Wrongs of Many.”]

It’s taken five seasons, but Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) and her sisters finally finished off Neolution and the crazed scientists behind the clones’ creation on Saturday’s series finale of Orphan Black. In fact, the entire battle wrapped up with a birth, a death and the clones finding their ultimate freedom within the first 30 minutes of the episode.

That left plenty of time to explore the theme of freedom and what it actually meant to Sarah, Helena, Cosima and Alison as the show jumped forward three months in time to a happier place where the family could finally celebrate being together.

It was a happy ending not often seen these days on television, and one that creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson always had in their heads when they first began developing this show more than a decade ago. THR caught up with the duo to get their take on wrapping up the cult-favorite show, inserting one final Easter egg for fans and how the Clone Club might live on in the future.

How did this finale change from the one you had in your heads when you started out?

Manson: We’ve been running around with a pregnant Helena for two or three seasons now so we knew the birth was going to be a huge element of the finale. But we did make this decision that there was going to be a three-month jump in time; the truth is that John and I had something similar in mind for quite a while when we were always thinking about our finale.

Fawcett: We really knew that what everything was going to boil down to was that we really wanted the climax of the story to revolve around Sarah and Helena, the two twin sisters and that there would be a dramatic, dangerous birth. In broad strokes, that was kind of always where we were driving. We also knew we wanted the finale to wind up the plot fairly early on so that we could spend a good chunk of the final show with the characters and make this jump in time and be with them in the future and see where their lives have progressed to now that they’ve won their freedom. We knew that this final episode would be more of an emotional departure than a really big action-filled episode.

What was the inspiration behind the meta scene where Helena reads from her book, Orphan Black?

Manson: That was John’s idea originally, that Helena would be journaling this year. And then it became that the snake would sort of eat its tail and we would loop back and name the series and share a few gentle laughs with Clone Club about the name of Orphan Black, everybody saying what a dumb name it was. John and I heard that endlessly when we started this show. So it was a little gem that John wanted to take further; he really wanted Helena on a book tour.

Fawcett: I wanted her to get a publishing deal, but a publisher would only print it if they printed it as science fiction.

Manson: They’d never print it as a biography.

With all of the happy endings, why not bring back Helena’s love, Jesse (Patrick J. Adams)?

Manson: We love Patrick and we had so many things that we could have done with the finale and so many things that we wanted to see, but in the end it was important to focus on our girls and on them as a group and to not dilute that too much.

Fawcett: We always felt that Helena did not need a man, that she needed her sisters more. It was nice to give Helena that lovely little romance, but it’s a little too tidy to say he’s going to come back and they’re going off in the sunset to drive tow trucks together. It’s more important that Helena is embraced by her sisters and she’s going to raise her children with her extended family.

Manson: It was always important to us to feel like that character, after the journey she’s been on and where she ends, and as kooky and crazy as she’s been, that she’s going to be a great mother and those kids are in great hands because they’re with a mother who’s going to look after them.

Were those twins always going to be boys?

Manson: No. We left it wide open. We were trying to figure out what we liked the best. I don’t think we really decided it until halfway through the last season. There was something about knowing these boys are going to be brought up by this family of women that they will be progressive men. That they will be raised right, that they will respect women and that some of the evil patriarchal things that the show has worked so hard to expose, those things that we vilified, we can now feel safe about a new generation of men being raised by these women.

Fawcett: And then it was about what do we name them. Graeme just killed it by naming them Arthur and Donnie. That was a really moving moment, discovering that Helena named her two boys after those two men. I remember Kristian Brunn, he didn’t read the script until the table read. And when he read that he just started bawling. It was an incredibly moving moment when he realized that Helena had named one of her kids after him.

Was there ever any genuine talk about killing one of the core four clones?

Manson: We pretty much knew that the main four would make it. Rachel was a different story and we debated long and hard about it. John was adamant that his girlfriend Rachel would have to survive and somehow be redeemed. We worked really hard at Rachel’s story and that was absolutely the right decision to keep her around too. It was a very interesting journey for that character and ultimately it says a lot about the sisterhood itself that Rachel redeems herself in this way. It’s not too saccharine. She’s not exactly accepted but she certainly redeemed herself.

Fawcett: Tonally, and it sounds silly, but we just wanted to have a happy ending. We wanted a hopeful, optimistic ending with our characters that we’ve spent so much time with. That was the driving emotional mood, was to end in a place of optimism.

How much did you want to push yourselves with that final group clone scene in the backyard?

Fawcett: That scene was incredibly important given fan expectation. That’s a big, difficult scene to get right. Every day on the set there was this pressure of expectation of what it was going to be. Those last scenes, the scenes in the backyard with the four of them and of course the clone birthing scene were probably the most emotional and most difficult to do just because it was the end. It was really the end of these characters that we love so much.

Manson: We were really pushing those scenes; they were long scenes. The birthing scene is a long scene. Maybe not as long on the page as it is on screen. And the scene at the end in Alison’s backyard, that was also a long scene. It was a high wire act for Tatiana and Jordan Gervais and for Kathryn Alexander particularly. And the rest of our doubles actually, because it’s a four-clone scene.

Fawcett: From a technical point of view, once you’ve done clone dance parties and clones birthing babies and big dinner table scenes, it’s actually fairly straightforward to just sit down four girls and have a conversation. It’s all about the performance at that point. Every day we were wrapping a new character. That backyard scene was the last time we saw Cosima. When we called cut, that was the end of Cosima, never to see her again. And it was sad. We had a whole whack of days like that.

At this point, how much serious talk of a spinoff or movie has there been?

Manson: Orphan Black began in 2001 as a feature film concept that John and I came up with and we could never contain this crazy universe in a single movie. Maybe now we can. Maybe now that we spat out a bunch of story on TV, maybe there is a concept that would support a feature. At the moment we’re resting, we’re going to let those characters rest a while. I have a feeling they’re going to come back to haunt us in the best way.

Fawcett: I believe that. For so many years this has been not just Graeme’s and my baby, but a lot of people’s. It was a project born of passion and excitement and just awe. It’s dramatically changed everyone’s life and I really hope people will continue to discover the show and that it will find more audiences in the years to come.

Manson: We both have a lot of fate in Clone Club, in this family that’s grown up around the show. We just wish them the best and hope they make art and science and create their own families and continue to support each other and continue to celebrate the most important theme of the show, and that is that there is strength in diversity. Especially at this time, I hope it resonates and that people carry that residue forward.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below. Twitter: @amber_dowling

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