Warning: This post contains spoilers for the “Manacled Slim Wrists” episode of Orphan Black.
And another one gone, and another one gone — another one bites the dust. Orphan Black‘s final season body count continues to climb as Susan Duncan joins her clone children Januz and M.K. in the show’s graveyard. The elderly matriarch of the Leda line has stared the Grim Reaper in the face before, must notably following Rachel’s insurrection last season, but this time the hooded figure appears to have claimed his prize, aided and abetted by Virginia Coady and P.T. Westmoreland.
On second thought, strike that and reverse it: Virginia Coady and John. You see, there is no P.T. Westmoreland. The bombshell revelation at the heart of “Manacled Slim Wrists” is that the supposedly 170-year-old founder of Neolution is actually a collegiate contemporary of Susan’s. Not only that, but this has been her idea all along; John merely became the face (and myth) of the movement because of good old fashioned 1960s-era sexism. This twist essentially establishes Susan Duncan as the Peggy Olson of the show’s pre-history: She was always the smartest person in the room, but the men got all the credit. “With fortune and fiction — that’s how the patriarchy works,” Susan herself says, resignedly.
Now, after 50 years of standing in the shadows, she sees what enabling John hath wrought. In an attempt to prolong his life in the way his alter ego supposedly did, the Westmoreland impersonator has been pumping the blood of the sick young children that inhabit Neolution Island’s shantytown into his own failing body. If Susan has turned a blind eye to John’s transgressions before — mainly because she’s been complicit in them — this is, at last, a bridge too far. So with the aid of Ira and Cosima, she sets about spiking his concoction with a fatal drug, enlisting the reluctant aid of John’s designated young helper, Mud, who still pledges blind allegiance to her master.
Perhaps sensing something is amiss, the man picks that exact moment to bestow a rare compliment on his distraught servant. “You have been a great comfort,” he tells her, a kind word that causes an immediate change of heart in Mud. The girl goes directly to Virginia and tattles on Susan, thus signing the older woman’s death warrant. It’s Ira — who isn’t in the best of health either, as evidenced by his bleeding nose and glitchy mental state — who eventually discovers her sitting prone in a wheelchair, the spiked drug cocktail dripping into her arm. At least part of their plan worked: Cosima and Charlotte have made it off Neolution Island and are headed back for the mainland, leaving behind a population that’s learned the truth about the fake deity in their midst and are ready to burn the place to the ground.
While these seismic events are going down across the water, Sarah, Mrs. S, and Kira put their little con game into action, with Kira feigning illness to delay her next appointment at Dyad. But Sarah can’t be a homebody the entire episode, not when Krystal wiggles her well-manicured fingers and drags her into a side mission that turns out to have major consequences. See, the “beauty products truther” has inadvertently stumbled upon a Dyad plot to use mass-market creams and make-up as a delivery system for its all-important LIN28a gene, and the company is enlisting the help of industry leaders like Leonard Shipp, owner of Bluzone Cosmetics. Krystal and Len happen to share an intense physical attraction to each other, so a date is hastily arranged with the purpose of gathering intel.
At first, the two can’t keep their hands off each other (by the way, Len is played by Tatiana Maslany’s real-life boyfriend, Tom Cullen, so all this making out couldn’t have been too much of a hardship for them), endangering the surveillance attempts of Sarah and Art. But Krystal’s no pushover; confronted with hard evidence of Len’s betrayal in the form of a highly experimental skin cream that causes hair to fall out, the beautician kicks the guy to the curb with a swift kick in the balls. It’s a move that even impresses Sarah, whose antipathy towards Krystal is well-documented. Who knows? Maybe Krystal will finally score an invite to the next Clone Dance Party.
Onto our clone power rankings, from which Alison will remain absent for the third week in a row. Based on next week’s teaser, though, the suburban warrior will finally be returning from her “me time” as a changed woman.
Krystal’s penchant for falling “ass backwards into something big” may frustrate Sarah to no end, but it’s a skill that reaps big narrative and comic rewards in this episode. Cullen’s cameo is as big a treat for audiences as it must have been for Maslany.
While Cosima’s jailbreak wasn’t a total success — with two of her accomplices left behind to die — at least she and Charlotte are temporarily free of Neolution’s clutches. And continuing the Frankenstein theme from last week, Neolution Island’s visitors are in the process of smoking out the monster in their midst from his castle.
“Is she necessary, because she’s so rude every single time,” Krystal initially complains of Sarah’s presence on her mission to entrap Len. While Sarah’s rudeness doesn’t exactly go away, she does prove her necessity to the operation, providing helpful pointers that her clone sister appreciates, even when she ignores them.
Perhaps out of overconfidence, Rachel completely falls one of the oldest tricks in the book: Kira’s “sick kid” routine. (For what it’s worth, Ferris Bueller would approve of Kira’s method performance, complete with well-timed vomit.) And while her suspicions are aroused by the end of the episode, she’s bought the rebel clone alliance some crucial time to continue their empire-overthrowing plotting.
Non-Clone MVP: Susan Duncan
It may be a case of too little, too late, but at least Susan tried to make up for her past crimes by exposing the man she’s enabled for five decades as a fraud. Even if Westmoreland survived this encounter, the community he’s built is collapsing all around him.
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America.
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