With one word everything changed in the final minutes of Orphan Black’s season three finale when it was revealed that Susan Duncan, wife of Professor Ethan Duncan and one of the main creators of the clones who have spent three seasons fighting for their lives, is alive. And not only alive, but in a room with Rachel, the clone that she raised as her own daughter.
The mother of a twist came at the end of a season finale that seemed to be more interested in raising new questions than answering old ones. In addition to the revelation that Susan Duncan is still alive, we learn that Neolution, the scientific movement that terrorized the clones in season one under the tutelage of the now-deceased Dr. Aldous Leekie, was secretly behind nearly every major plot and threat of the past two years—even though we’ve barely heard its name uttered since season one.
The future of Project Castor also remains unclear, with Helena having brutally killed Rudy and Dr. Coady either apprehended or dead, her formerly loyal Castor clone Mark having betrayed her by joining sides with Sarah and her Project LIDA sisters. But no death was as gut-wrenching as poor Delphine’s, the preternaturally gorgeous badass who had been heading the research that could save the clones from the illness that threatens to be their demise.
Not that it was all blood, shock, and tragedy. The finale featured another delightful gathering of all the clones played by Tatiana Maslany in one scene. A technical feat rivaling last season’s dance party, this time it was a celebration dinner to toast Allison’s election win.
And then there was the episode’s last moments, in which Sarah, Mrs. S, and Mrs. S’s mother, the clone original, all traveled to Iceland to reunite with Sarah’s daughter, Kira.
If you do not watch Orphan Black, not one word of this makes sense to you, and probably could not be more confusing. But for obsessives of BBC America’s sci-fi masterpiece, it’s the tangled web of plot twists and revelations that they relish getting entrapped in.
To help unravel it all, we talked to Orphan Black’s co-creator Graeme Manson to explain what this all means, and what’s in store next for Clone Club.
The big shocker, obviously, is that Duncan’s wife—Rachel’s mother—is still alive. At what point did that twist start brewing in your mind?
Probably early in the season. We decided that’s where we’d like to put Rachel. We thought it would be interesting to put Rachel with her adoptive mother and open up yet another window on the clones’ real story.
And we learn that Rachel’s mother is a Neolutionist. Neolution has taken a back seat to other plots and organizations this season. Because of that, because it’s not been at the forefront of audience’s minds, were you nervous about making it such a major part of the finale?
It’s taken a back seat for a couple of seasons. It’s really doubling back to our first season, then, to what we first saw with Neolution, with Dr. Leekie and his pop culture science. So it’s now been revealed to be something much deeper than that. And it’s cool that we can go back to the beginning of our series to investigate Neolution again.
And I’m sure that Rachel’s mother being a Neolutionist complicates things for Rachel. It may not be an entirely happy reunion.
Yeah, Rachel’s essentially behind the curtain, which will prove to be interesting.
It was interesting that rather than end the episode on the cliffhanger shocker of Rachel learning that her mother was alive, it ends with the reunion between Kira and Sarah, Mrs. S, and S’s mother, the original clone Kendall. Why end it on that more heartwarming note?
We really liked that it was showing what Sarah had achieved. The four generations of her untraditional family there. There’s her clone original, her stepmother, her daughter, and herself. There’s also her reuniting with her child while Rachel meets young Charlotte on the other end.
The original clone—there’s a lot going on there. She’s S’s mother. She’s the original clone because she absorbed her twin and has male and female DNA. Now Sarah is S’s stepdaughter but also her aunt. That’s a lot going on. When did all that come together for you, and were you worried that it might be too much or too confusing?
It’s kind of a puzzle of storytelling and scientific revelations, just in that corner of the show. It’s something we really like to do, find those real science revelations that you kind of pick apart and then say, “Yeah, it makes sense.” It makes some scientific sense, with a little spin into science fiction. That’s the fun of it. The science kind of works, you know?
I love that it brought Mrs. S further into the fold. Now she’s more implicated in the whole clone life than she even was before.
Yes, definitely. I think Maria [Doyle Kennedy, who plays Mrs. S] had a really good season this year. She was rewarded with personal revelations at the same time that Sarah was, which is nice because their mother-daughter relationship is a chosen bond, or an adoptive bond, which is another interesting spin on it. The fractal aspect of this family is something that we really enjoy.
You bring Felix into that conversation too, the adoptive family. The family bond between he, Sarah, and Mrs. S is so strong. But I often wonder why, given all the danger he’s put in, he sticks around. Why doesn’t he ever say “I’m done” and leave?
Well, it’s a strong sibling bond and a strong family bond. He’s adopted, too. We’d like to explore more of Felix’s real story.
Is that a plan for season four?
It may be. We’d like to take Felix on his own journey. Not sure what the journey is yet, but, yeah, we would.
Another big question from the finale is whether Project Castor is over now.
No. You know, Mark is still out there. Mark may be the one brother who’s earned himself the right to call himself our brother. And it’s safe to say that Ari Millen will be back next year.
And what about Dr. Coady. Are we supposed to believe that she died? Or is she still out there?
Hmm… I think she could still be out there… (Laughs)
Talking about deaths—god, Delphine! I loved Delphine so much. Why did she have to die?
It was a strong story choice that sprang out of the promise last year that she made to Cosima. It was a journey that we all agreed we were going on.
Her last line, “What will happen to her?” There are a few questions there. Who was she referring to? Who was she talking to?
Well, that’s the mystery. But she was surely talking about Cosima. To me, it was super heroic to treat that character and complete the character arc. It was one that Evelyn Boucher was 100 percent behind. We really salted that journey together this season. It was a great performance and the proper kind of ending for our show.
What will that do for Cosima? She already has so much hardship. She’s deathly ill. She’s had such a tortured relationship with Delphine. How will losing Delphine now affect her?
I’m really not sure yet. (Laughs)
Fair enough. (Laughs) So let’s move on to the dinner table scene, then. Fans love watching those scenes where all the clones are in the frame together, especially when it’s a joyous moment, which is so rare in this season. Are they as much of a joy to shoot as they are to watch? Because I can imagine that, logistically, they can be a bit torturous.
Well, they are torturous in terms of what it takes to shoot them. That took two days to shoot that scene. But that scene in particular—the clone dance party was a lot of fun, too, to create, even though it was tedious. But that was just Tat, Jordan, and Skyler. This was Clone Club. This was all the actors. We never get to put all the actors together with Tatiana’s clones, so it was a lot of fun for the cast to do that scene—everybody to be in a big technical scene like that. That was technically raising our game, putting other characters in that shot.
I don’t want to let you go before talking about Helena. She’s made huge strides this season transitioning from the monster she was created to be into a more human, softer person—albeit one who is still a killer. And now she’s pregnant. How much will her pregnancy come into play next season, and how will that affect this softness and this humanizing?
You know, again, we’re still in the very early stages of the writers’ room for season four. But I love the fact that Helena is pregnant. It’s just a great journey. But also, this is the second child of a clone and her offspring is potentially very important. So even a domestic Helena is still a dangerous Helena, I would say.