Orphan Black is an odd show. It suffers from an X-Files problem of too many overlapping conspiracies to keep track of at times, but as they’ve headed into their final season there’s a renewed sense of direction. One of the central questions of the series has been what does it mean to be human? To be a person? To have an identity? We’ve seen all the clones struggle in various ways with the knowledge that they are one of a set of genetically identical individuals. They are all distinct, but it is to the credit of Tatiana Maslany that there are threads connecting them, no matter how disparate their personalities and lives. Not so similar as to be indistinguishable, but the kind of connections you’d expect in siblings. The one clone who has always held herself apart, though, has been Rachel. And she’s who we spent a lot of the episode with.
(Spoilers for Orphan Black Season 5, Episode 7 “Gag or Throttle”)
The story of Rachel has been told in bits and pieces, but never as completely as it was tonight. As a self-aware clone, she has known that she was basically an experiment in progress since she was six years old. She’s known about the other clones too. She heard when they got sick, and saw that she had to go through tests afterwards. She assisted in research into the Leda weaknesses, and was expected to somehow remain objective through all of this. In return, she was promised total honesty and transparency. Rachel did not remain objective, and none of her parental or mentor figures have ever been truly honest with her. The only people in her life who ever have been truly honest with her are her sisters. This past week, that knowledge and understanding came crashing down around her as she was asked to be complicit in destroying Kira Manning’s future and discovered that despite multiple assurances to the contrary, and even a signed contract, she was still being monitored.
The unraveling of Rachel as she worked through understanding that the people she trusted were using her own body to betray her, and that she was being asked to put a child through that same torture, was one of the best pieces of acting Tatiana Maslany has done on the show. Rachel veers wildly between clipped, controlled speeches and orders and slopping more and more gin into a tightly-clutched martini glass. The call with Sarah was probably the most agonizing part as you got the sense she wanted to warn Sarah that everything they were saying was being seen in real time, but couldn’t without tipping off the very people she was trying to hide from. As she spiraled further away from understanding her world, she still took the time to make a corporate power play, save Kira Manning, and drink one final bone dry martini before taking the horrific and inevitable step of asserting her freedom by gouging out the camera that was her eye. She was still Rachel, she is still Rachel, and without the resolve born from a life of fighting for herself constantly she would not have made it through that night.
“And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.”
Rachel has claimed her life as her own. Finally and truly.