The Final Trip: Orphan Black 5.02: “Clutch of Greed”

There’s a funny thing about final seasons when you know it’s the final season: everything has a certain heightened tension and danger. Because you know it’s the final season, anything can and will happen, and as viewers, we can no longer rely on the excuse that our favorite main characters will survive because they’re the main characters. Sure, we can tell ourselves they have to maybe make it until the final episode, but with a show like Orphan Black, that’s not much of a comfort. Each season is only ten episodes, and now, with “Clutch of Greed” over, there’s only eight left.

Orphan Black has always been a show that’s packed a lot into each episode, so much that even while binge-watching you can feel like you’ve watched more story than simply ten hours’ worth. So it’s no wonder the final trip already feels fast and furious, and it shouldn’t be a surprise when those heightened moments of tension turn into real moments of danger that have lasting consequences.

Needless to say, “Clutch of Greed” delivered. As I mentioned last week during “The Few Who Dare,” I won’t be posting a true recap so much as my own reactions to the episode. Also, there will be spoilers for the entire series up to “Clutch of Greed,” so if you haven’t caught up, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Now, are you ready to discuss the already-controversial “Clutch of Greed”?

I have to say, “Clutch of Greed” was a really, really meaty episode, and I’m going to tackle it from my smallest to biggest observations, because bigger observations aren’t going to be like the soundbites like last week.

  • I’ve got to give a shout-out to the special effects team this week. Truly, the best work is when you don’t realize special effects are at play. I have the advantage of getting the “Inside Orphan Black” episodes from iTunes with my subscription. For “Clutch of Greed,” they talk about how the scene where Helena stabs the neonatal doctor with a giant freaking needle was all digitally done (for the needle), and I was super-impressed (with the acting, with the effects, everything!). Also impressive was the long camera shot where we actually get to witness a clone-swap between M.K. and Sarah (one pretending to be Rachel and the other taking the mantle). It’s a great effect, because you’re not thinking about how it’s the same freaking actress swapping clothes with herself in that single scene. You’re just not. The tension is too high, you’re too concerned about what’s about to happen, and as always, you’re too convinced you’re watching two different people. Well done, Orphan Black special effects team. Well done.
  • I’m intrigued by the idea of Delphine and Mrs. S teaming up. Apparently there’s a secret Delphine wants kept from Sarah and Cosima (and I assume Alison and Helena as well). At this point, I can’t imagine what it is, but what an interesting alliance: two women who we’ve distrusted at various points in the show, but two women who always seem to put the best interests of their specific clones first. Of course, they may not always make the right decisions (case in point: Mrs. S turning Helena over to Castor), but they love their girls. Yes, this could be interesting, so long as it isn’t a red herring that doesn’t get resolved. After all, we only have eight episodes left.

  • We finally get to P.T. Westmorland, aka the old coot. Rather, Cosima does, and it’s an odd, unnerving scene. On one hand, he all but tells her the cure is working, and gives her carte blanche to use his labs and whatever she needs to further pursue that cure to save herself and her sisters. But in that very same scene, he compares her to the cheese-mites in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s poem, “A Parable,” by telling her that her focus is as short-sighted as the cheese-mites’ debate with where cheese comes from. The implication is that once she realizes this, she might consider the cow, aka, she might consider that he, Westmorland, has more to offer than she can even imagine.

All right, we’re getting out of bite-sized commentary and now we’re examining the driving plot of “Clutch of Greed.” Backed into a corner by Rachel and Ferdinand, Sarah plots with Mrs. S and Felix to connect with M.K. to flee with Kira into hiding.

Oh, Kira. This was a hard episode for her. From the start, you can tell she just wants things to be normal again. She wants to go back to school. She wants to trust Rachel. I had a bad feeling with Mrs. S, Felix, and Sarah started plotting to run as soon as they got home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop with Rachel too, but wasn’t the offer, well, sensible? Anything Dyad discovers would be theirs, of course, but Kira herself is still Sarah’s daughter.

But Kira is growing up. Last season, she started acting out, and it makes perfect sense why. In Orphan Black time, she’s discovered she has a multitude of aunts, she’s been hit by a car and healed miraculously, and she’s met, lived with, and then yanked away from her father. She’s been on the run. She can hear her mother’s sisters. Season four showed her acting out, revealed that connection to the clones and had her confessing to a strange dream of Sarah on fire (although in hindsight, maybe that was a premonition of Kendall?). Is it any wonder that she protests when Sarah says it’s time to run again? Is it any wonder she outright screams and refuses when she feels M.K. die? She wants to know why she’s different, and I don’t blame her.

Yet my heart ached for Sarah in that moment, and the moments after. Mrs. S standing by Kira’s decision to choose what to do with her own body (which is important and a major theme of the show), but that sense of the family choosing what Kira wanted over what Sarah wanted for her was hard to watch. Sarah’s trying to protect her family, but running is the only thing she knows. Cal Morrison (Kira’s father, whom I really want to come back) asked Sarah in season two: “Can’t you stop running for a minute?” She has to stop now.

But oh, the acting in these scenes, especially when Rachel came to pick up Kira. Everyone’s face was a picture of grief, but as always, hats off to Maslany, who played Sarah’s heartbreak against Rachel’s smugness to perfection.

Now, we’ve got to talk about Rachel, Ferdinand, and M.K. Here’s where we’re gonna get MEATY. Fasten your seat belts, folks, cause it’s super-spoiler territory time.

Do you all remember toward the end of season four when Rachel returned briefly from the island to take over Dyad from Evie Cho? She reunites with Ferdinand, and he’s really wanting to reunite with Rachel, if you catch my meaning. However, Rachel hasn’t been with him since her injuries, her reconstruction and her therapy. She tells him she can’t, she’s not interested, but he presses her, and the look she gives him is the look girlfriends and wives have given their partners everywhere when pressed for sex they just aren’t interested in. That look says, If I do this, will it shut you up? Cut to the next time we see them, Ferdinand is tied up on the bed, happy as a clam because he thinks things are back to normal, but Rachel’s clearly going through the motions. She doesn’t even care that Ira’s interrupted them.

Now, cut to her and Ferdinand’s scene together here: clearly, she’s trying to win him over to her new way of enlightenment, of meditation. She’s trying to show him a new way, and he just wants her to hit him, because that’s what he wants. That’s how they used to connect, when Rachel needed to be in control. When it becomes clear that’s not going to happen (she even explains why), he gets up and gets dressed, stating this isn’t going to work, so Rachel (she’s actually disappointed here!) gets up and gets dressed too, and it’s back to business.

There are other clues too that there’s trouble in paradise, when Rachel asks him if he minds working for Neolution, and he waves it off as having specific issues with a specific member of Neolution. Remember the season three finale: he throws a member of Neolution in the acid bath and says after, “Ugh, they’re like ticks, you never know when you’ve got one on you!”

And let’s not forget that specific conflict between Ferdinand and M.K. in Season Four. The conflict that Ferdinand survived only because Mrs. S and Sarah arrived just in time to save him.

Now, let’s talk about this week’s shocking death.

I’ll be honest: M.K. isn’t exactly a major character. I saw one post call her a fan favorite and I was like, “Really?” I mean, I’m sure M.K. has fans. What clone doesn’t? But when we’re looking at the calculus of a final season and we take into consideration that the final season means people have to die, it makes perfect sense to start off with, well, expendable characters. That they brought M.K. back only to kill her within one episode felt a little quick to me, yes. More to the point, the fact that Kira ended up NOT wanting to go with Sarah meant that M.K.’s sacrifice (such as it was) was for nothing. She arranged this whole escape, and it didn’t even happen. Sarah, Mrs. S, and Felix should’ve just asked Kira what she wanted, listened to her, avoided the mess to begin with, and M.K. would still be alive. More to the point, M.K.’s reasons for not following the plan felt weak and hollow. So she was tired because of her illness. Yes, that’s a real-life legit reason, but this is TV: we needed a more compelling, urgent reason she didn’t stick with the plan. A more compelling, urgent reason for Sarah to go after her. Because if Sarah had stuck with the plan despite M.K. deviating from it, then Ferdinand would’ve followed Sarah to Mrs. S and Felix and Kira, and that would’ve ended in disaster.

So was M.K.’s death necessary? From the sense that Sarah was being followed? Well, sure, the diversion was certainly necessary. I wish there’d been a stronger reason for M.K. not following the plan. I also wish that M.K. had left with Sarah, because why the hell not? M.K. stayed to distract Ferdinand and give Sarah a chance to escape. What happened next, well, let’s just say it was both better than what I thought would happen and yet somehow worse.

What I thought would happen: given Ferdinand’s sexual frustrations and his comments that the Rachel cosplay was inspiring a volcano inside him, I was SUPER SCARED about a sexual assault/rape scene for M.K.. Surely, the Orphan Black writers wouldn’t do that, would they?

They didn’t. In a somewhat awkwardly-written scene where Ferdinand is playing out two revenge fantasies at once (Rachel’s betrayal of him; M.K.’s humiliation of him), he basically fucking loses his shit (which should surprise NO ONE who’s been watching the show; again, see the season three finale), and in the process of losing his shit, he stomps on M.K.’s chest. Then he just keeps stomping, killing her brutally.

It was shocking. Like, truly shocking. Guys, I watch The Walking Dead. I watch Game of Thrones. This was shocking. It was shocking because Orphan Black has always been careful with its clone deaths. We lost Beth and Katya in season one, but since then, other clones have died off screen, clones we don’t have relationships with, clones we don’t know.

But we haven’t lost a core member of the Clone Club, and honestly, we still haven’t. M.K. was just introduced to us in season four. Earlier, if you’ve been reading the comics. She fell off the grid once she got Ferdinand’s money, and only came back into the fold this episode. If she’d survived, she could’ve become a fully-fledged member of the Clone Club, because didn’t Sarah just promise M.K. was one of them now? But she wasn’t. And a person could argue we still have more “disposable” clones to go through yet: Krystal, for example (don’t get me wrong, I adore her), or even Tony, who’s had far less screen time than even MK.

Yet I’m arguing semantics. It was still hard to watch. And listen to. I was stunned. I wasn’t surprised that it was M.K. getting the axe. Story-wise, it made sense. But I’m still questioning whether or not it needed to happen (Ultimately, I think it did, because something drastic needed to happen to make Sarah stop running), and whether or not it needed to be so brutal.

Well, this is Ferdinand. And we’ve seen him snap before. We know his history. We know he shouldn’t be trusted, no matter how tame a lapdog he appears when he’s on Rachel’s leash. I don’t believe he’ll be the ultimate enemy this season (that’s gotta be P.T. Westmorland, right? Or maybe ultimately Rachel?), but I do hope there’s more resolution to his actions than Rachel cutting him loose from Dyad. He did, after all, defy her orders; he defied the orders of Westmorland, who didn’t want a hair on a clone’s head harmed, and what Ferdinand did was with excessive force.

There’s been a lot of talk online about whether or not Orphan Black crossed a line with M.K.’s death. Honestly? What do people expect? If you’ve been watching the show from the start and you know it’s the final season, I have to ask: what is the line? The season four finale set things up that it’s not going to take the usual shenanigans of the Clone Club to make it; and so far season five is proving that it’s going to take a helluva lot more to survive. They need to be smarter than they were before. Clone swaps aren’t enough anymore, because the enemy is on to them. Rachel is thinking long-term now, and the rest of the clones need to think long term too if they’re going to survive whatever is to come.

I don’t know if it was really M.K.’s time to die.  I do know that it’s the final season, she was a loose end, and it needed to be tied up, and why not use her character for the greatest emotional impact? It’s hard to cry misogyny in a show that’s led by a woman with a supporting cast surrounded by multitudes of women. One woman was just killed by a very angry man. That does not make the show misogynist, but it might make the character who did it misogynist, and that’s not a bad thing. That exists in the world, and this season is all about protest and battling those boxes patriarchy sees fit to stick women into.

Not every woman is going to survive that fight. There’s only eight episodes left, and M.K. isn’t the only character who’s going to die. I daresay she won’t be the last clone to die. It was a shocking death, but despite the fact we’ve only known her since season four, it was also moving; Ferdinand’s placement of the sheep mask on her stomach was a testament to that (but it does not condone his actions).

Until the final episode ends and we see the final shape of the season and the series as a whole, it’ll be hard to say what was truly necessarily and what wasn’t. But so far, the final season is doing what it’s meant to do, and that’s keeping me riveted to the screen.

How did you feel about 5.02 “Clutch of Greed”? Are you ready for tomorrow’s episode on BBC America @ 10:00 pm EST? I plan on being back here next Friday, June 30th to discuss “Beneath Her Heart,” giving you nearly a full week to watch and re-watch as your heart desires. In the meantime, tell me how you’re feeling about the final season so far, and tell me how you feel about M.K.’s death!

All images courtesy of BBC America.

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