Orphan Black (S5E4) - Let The Children and Childbearers Toil (Review)

Each episode of Orphan Black's fifth and final season has been better than the last; The Few Who Dare (B+), Clutch of Greed (A-) and Beneath Her Heart (A) have all helped build a running momentum that suggests The Final Trip could be as unrelenting moving forward as ever, demonstrating just how to take your final season out on a high. Fourth episode, Let The Children & Childbearers Toil interrupts that pace somewhat, stalling with an episode that, while still a solid 45 minutes of entertainment, stumbles a little.

With Alison out there finding herself and Helena cooked up in a covenant, it is left to Sarah to try and piece together the remaining mystery (most crucially, discovering what Rachel is doing to Kira) and Cosima to uncover the secrets on Neolution Island. Deciding Sarah and Kira need some time apart, Mrs S whisks her foster daughter off to complete a hustle in order to gain access to a key player in the Neolution, with a number of familiar faces crossing their path on the journey.

Let The Children & Childbearers Toil is a little furstrating; it provides answers and clarification to some of the over-arching mysteries of Orphan Black, but it never quite musters greatness or satisfaction in ticking them off the list of 'things to do' and struggles propel the series forward any. The episode instead operates better from a thematic standpoint. When Kira reveals she has been cutting her arm to witness the speed of her healing, it reminds us of her anomaly that has come to the forefront this season and hints at the implications Rachel's experiments could have moving forward - but it is quickly relegated and we move on to chase something (or someone) else. Later, when a returning face makes an important reveal, two other characters in another part of the world discuss the repercussions of it; it is lazy for Orphan Black to take this way out, and causes the episode to stumble somewhat.

Episode four crams in a lot really, emphasised by the otherwise focused and streamlined developments of the Hendrix clan last week. This week, we are spread between Sarah and Mrs S; Felix, Kira and Adele; Cosima and the Neolution Island; and Ira and Susan Duncan - we are racing and chasing to wrap this season up, struggling to manoeuvre between the various narrative branches. It's a Catch 22: we need to conclude everything as we approach the finale but we want to spend substantial time with each of the various set-ups, meaning extra time has been surrendered for tie things up and cover all basis. It will surely benefit the season as we head in, considering the multiple layers now, but it delays the pace in the present.

But, for the most part, there is a lot to appreciate with 5x4;  it is a treat to see Mrs S in the limelight and watching her hustle her way through this episode is thrilling. Maria Doyle Kennedy is such a talent and to see her shine makes her otherwise supporting capacity on the show absolutely worth it. Mrs S and Sarah's relationship has always been a captivating one and Kennedy and Maslany play that angle for all its worth here, with a final comment from Sarah about trust captivating one of the series' themes beautifully and rewardingly. Sleuthing and detective work from this part would make an excellent spin-off, if that's something the show-makers wanted to consider...

A scene between Sarah and Helena is the easy standout of the episode though. While the latter scenes  of late between the pair (the road-trip and dinner party, spring to mind) are more light-hearted and frothy, this one is riddled with a darker tone than we usually expect, only reinforcing my suspicion that one of them won't make it out of The Final Trip alive. As a good portion of the episode does anyone, it simply takes a step back to breathe and reflect on the familial bonds between members of the expansive sisterhood. Ignoring the looming likelihood that neither will see the of day after the series finale, this is the episode's highlight, providing a beautifully shot, written and performed moment that will standout for its wholesome consideration of the twin's connection.

I'll hold my hands up there and say that I'm not sold on Mud yet, and the Neolution Island mystery that comes with it. It is certainly enigmatic and bewildering but you cannot help but be more engaged with what is happening on home soil - it takes away from what I'd argue is the more important element of the narrative and feels like a slight drain on the focus. Revival's resident beast reveal felt surprisingly unimportant (and predictable too), lacking the vigour and excitement the reveal deserved - hopefully they'll wrap this strand up relatively quickly, cracking on with the most interesting side of the science. Cosima though, bless her sneaky soul, is doing her best to keep us engaged for now, and with Delphine's return to the island next week teased, it should pick up some steam finally.

Tonight marks the return of THREE familiar faces and it's unlikely it is the last we will see of any of them. The first returnee has already been shipped off to Switzerland (will this show ever run out of places to send characters when they need to reshuffle the focus a little?) and the second steals a visitors pass that will surely play a role later down the line. Despite initial skepticism, that second returnee actually features a stronger link to the show's rich tapestry that given credit for; it could unearth some terrific information moving froward, particularly surrounding P.T. Our last familiar face belongs to Susan Duncan - back revealing her close ties to Mr Westmoreland and the scheme - and we are as confused about her loyalties lies as ever

And while I remember, I feel that Ira is an undervalued member of Clone Club. That knowing look at the end of Let The Children and Childbearers Toil suggests he may be emerging from the shadows, finished with yearning over his mother/lover, once and for all. Of all the Castor clones Ari Millen has played, Ira is probably my favourite so it is a relief to see him with the potential to do something interesting, away from the control of Susan Duncan. Speaking of the younger Duncan, a Rachel-less week at this stage feels like an odd decision but it does remind us of the power she holds over this world. Whether coincidentally or not, episode four carried smaller stakes with 'Uber Bitch' out of the frame. Dare I say, I missed Rachel Duncan (and Helena/Alison even more).

Tonally, this episode provided major Torchwood vibes, especially when focusing on Kira's anomaly and self-healing abilities that have stuck with us from season one. Genetic and familial ties takes a central role in this episode and the breakthroughs we do make regarding the origins and set-up of the cloning experiment provide a means to an end. Even with my quibbles about the episode, they use the time as effectively as possible considering how much ground they are required to cover. Let's hope Orphan Black returns to its sensation heights next week, just as we reach the halfway point of the final season.


Full review coming next week...